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Thinking without language?

Lee Sau Dan ~{ at nJX6X~} sdlee at faith.csis.hku.hk
Fri Nov 26 06:06:54 EST 1999

>>>>> "John" == John Turnbull <john at turnbull.org> writes:

    John> For me the words are in English.  I'm not fluent or
    John> practiced enough in other languages to think in those
    John> languages.  I would think if you are fluent in multiple
    John> languages then either all languages are present, or you may
    John> have a dominant language.

All languages are present?  No.   There are some words in English that
cannot  be represented  by simple  words in  Chinese, and  vice versa.
Simliarly,  there  are  Cantonese  slangs which  cannot  be  expressed
concisely  in  Mandarin.   Don't  you  know that  words  of  different
languages divides (sort of...) the world in different ways?

    John> It seems there are a few possibilities when you think
    John> visually, either the verbal part of your mind is generating
    John> words while other parts of you mind are generating images,

Then, tell me in which language is the verbal part of my mind working.

Mind  you again that  there are  often concepts  that cannot  (yet) be
expressed in words in any known languages.

    >> BTW, how do you define "word"?

    John> A unit of language that conveys meaning.  That is just off
    John> the top of my head, and I'm certainly open to suggestions.

That's not what I use when I  think, then.  Neither do I use words for
memorization.   Memorization the  shapes of  a triangle,  a  circle, a
cylinder, a  cuboid, etc. do  not require any  words at all.   You can
memorize some shapes which you can't name, can't you?

I can  often recall events in a  language-independent way.  Sometimes,
I'm even amazed that when I  replay past scenes in my mind, the people
in my mind can be talking  in another language that they weren't using
when  that event  was happening.   I.e.   my memory  about what  these
people said  is not language-dependent.  Sometimes, I  can even forget
in what language I learnt something from somebody.

Lee Sau Dan                     $(0,X)wAV(B(Big5)                    ~{@nJX6X~}(HZ) 
| http://www.cs.hku.hk/~sdlee                      e-mail: sdlee at csis.hku.hk |

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