Do we think to speak, or speak to think?
This question of order between thought and language is much debated by linguists, psychologists, and philosophers. It is often compared to the chicken-egg question – it is very difficult to tell which comes first.
Personally, I find that it goes both ways.
When I think in my mother tongue, there are quite a few things I cannot explain in other languages because either there are no exact translations or there is a lack of the concepts or customs behind the thoughts. So, here, thought precedes language.
But when I try to tell to my people about, for example, how differently some things are done outside our homeland, I have all the words I need to describe, but they only sound gibberish to my people because either they have never heard of the words or they do not possess the capacity to follow the line of thinking. So, here, language precedes thought.
And then comes an added twist. My mother tongue is made up in such a way that we can make gibberish into words without understanding them! We have a set of alphabets, kind of like a phonetic writing system (I found out that they are technically called “syllabaries”), that can be used to spell words as we hear them.
We have many foreign concepts and customs to which we have tried to give word-for-word translation but failed to encode in them their meaning – they become more widely known for their phonetic spelling, but they remain foreign to our thoughts. So, here, we have language without thought!
Maybe it is not such a bad system. It can be thought that we are very open to what is unfamiliar to us, accepting them as they come, without forcing them to fit in our limited vocabulary and cognition.
But, on second thought, maybe it is a very poor system. It can be said that we are very ignorant of what is unknown to us, giving up too easily before giving our best effort to acquaint ourselves with them.
I feel deeply disappointed every time I see my people show an unfounded aversion to these phonetically spelled words. Just the other day, I heard a person call another who said “paradigm shift” spelled out phonetically tasteless. I thought it was extremely tasteless of this person to say so!
Maybe it is time we had a paradigm shift in the way we think about how we speak.
Maybe here, language must precede thought.
I have been trying to think of a way to make my long chains look better, but I must say I have not been able to improve my understanding of this element so far… I am in a serious need for a paradigm shift!!