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Thinking without language?

mithomps at indiana.edu mithomps at indiana.edu
Wed Nov 24 15:56:25 EST 1999

"Peter T. Daniels" wrote:

> Larisa Migachyov wrote:
> > Well, I don't think that the notes enter into that; by then, the notes and
> > finger motions become close to automatic.  There are some verbal thoughts
> > of the "Oh no! I can't believe I missed that note!" variety - but in order
> > to play well, one has to feel the emotion that one is playing, and let the
> > music flow through one's mind.  I can't explain the kind of thinking
> > involved - but it is definitely thinking, and definitely wordless.  (and
> > not on the note level).
> Speaking of which, both piano-playing (anything-playing, probably) and
> really good typing involve finger movements that are much faster than
> can be accounted for by the speed of neural messages traveling all the
> way from the brain to the fingers. No verbal thought there!

Or, for that matter, the rapid movements of the muscles in the vocal tract itself
during speech.  (I'm sure you were working up to that.)  That means that speech is
organized neurologically / cognitively in broad terms like other highly complex
ordered ensembles of muscular movements that have to be gotten by training, and so
even thinking for speech can be said on one level not to be "verbal thought."  Thus,
your conscious mind plays a supervisory role, as it were, triggering when necessary
muscular systems via lower level cognitive structures (lower level, of course, in
being closer in processing terms to the triggering of nerves to the muscles).  Of
course, with speech you have much more intermediate processing (syntactic, lexical,
morphological, and phonetic).  You might just turn into a stratificationalist yet!

Mikael Thompson

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