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Thinking without language?

John Turnbull john at turnbull.org
Fri Nov 26 10:57:13 EST 1999

In article <7fk8n57bqp.fsf at faith.csis.hku.hk>,
Lee Sau Dan 李守敦 <sdlee at faith.csis.hku.hk> wrote:
>>>>>> "John" == John Turnbull <john at turnbull.org> writes:

>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?

And people think differently because of the languages they know.  My
experience has been that knowing one language one can express oneself
fairly well.  When I used three languages on a daily basis I would
sometimes need to switch languages mid-sentence to use a word in another

>    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.

I mentioned it as a possibility, and obviously I can't know how your
mind works.

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

I don't think so, and it's obviously pointless to ask for an example,
as by your definition you can't express it.

>    >> 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?

Do you really need to memorize the shape of a triangle?  Or is it just
a word in the language of geometry?

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