Can you think without language?

6.500 languages currently in existance.

Everyone (I assume) has that voice in their head when they're thinking.

What if that voice isn't there? Do you need it for thought?

Can thought exist without language?


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Most Helpful Guy

  • Yes. Words are just a shortcut - they are a way to represent a concept that is in your mind in a way that is clear to other people. If I am just thinking of something in my mind, I can be thinking it, but have no way of sharing that thought with you. By developing a way to say "chair" I can start to share some of the concepts in my own mind with you. I can then start saying "black chair" all the way up to "black office chair with a low back, two plastic arms, and a central adjustable base under the seat that then branches into 5 wheels". The more words I use, the more the image in your mind becomes aligned with the image in my mind. You will picture a chair when you read that, you will stop thinking about the words themselves. They are just a conduit to transfer something I am thinking to you, so you can think about it too.

    Without language, I would still be able to understand the chair I am sitting on, and think about it. I simply wouldn't be able to transfer those thoughts to you. My brain is my computer. Your brain is your computer. Language is the internet, connecting the two ;)

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Most Helpful Girl

  • Well, I like to believe people in the Stone Age were actually capable of thinking without the use of a language.. No idea how they would have survived if they hadn't been thinking.
    And yes I think I personally, as a visual person, think in images rather than words anyways.

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What Guys Said 15

  • yes and no. this is a really interesting question. we have have 6.5k languages as you stated. that means more or less 6.5k versions of any given thing. language is just a symbol for what something is. so when you take away the verbal equivalence like "tree", you still have an idea of what that object is. however, verbs, adverbs and adjectives are more conceptual than something you can really point out and sentence structure will be dumbed down, probably, but the idea of it is still there to the mind. if i see someone running, i still know what it is even if i don't know what it is. ya feel me?

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  • Think without language? the only way that is possible is if one uses instinct... then its just reflex... reflex is not communicated, its just built-in. Other than that... language is universal... even while thinking.

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  • Thought can exist without language bc babies who have not yet learned a language are still capable of thought. And even some problem solving skills. However once a language is learned it dictates thought. So at that point it is impossible to. think without language

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  • Yeah you can or we wouldn't have ever developed it. It makes it a lot easier to think logically but it is not required. It's like the difference between eating dead squirrel with your bare hands and eating a hamburger. One is just easier and more pleasant.

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  • Its possible however usging words allows your mind to think much quicker then if id had to use images nonstop :P

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  • I think it's not possible, even if I fantasize only about some images, but I still know what are they called :P

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  • That's a very good question :D
    I can't... I'm thinking in Dutch though I can also think in English or French.
    But thinking without a language is not something I'm capable of :-(

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  • I've thought of this many times, and the answer is yes, we use language as instructions, but basic thoughts are just that, if you think about moving your arm, you just do, no voice, just movement, just raw and basic thought.

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    • Thank you for asking an interesting and meaningful question.

      :)

  • They say that thinking with a voice is the ego and people who are enlightened don't think with a voice, but I'm so arrogant that my internal voice has a superior posh British accent.

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  • thought comes before the language definitely. if you study philosophy and neurology of language you'll see you preception of what you consider a language is too narrow compared to reality.

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  • Yes, though it would be much harder to function.

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  • I would assume you could think. When your a baby you dont really know language and you think, but not very deeply or as inteligent thoughts as if you did have a language. With language comes concepts and ideas.

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  • yes for sure.

    the way spirits communicate is more efficient

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  • I don't think complex thought is possible without some kind of language. Primitive urges, sure.

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  • I really dont think i can, honestly.

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What Girls Said 5

  • I often think without words. It's more like a mental image. So thoughts can exist without words. I only use words when I'm having a mental dialogue. I'm sure a lot of people think in images.

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  • Words allow for better analysis of the situation, but sometimes you get something without thinking a word. I think animals think without language.

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  • Language will always exist in some form though, always has. In your head you can see pitures rather than hear a voice. It'd be an interesting question for deaf people. Do they see hand signs, pictures, or do they have a voice in their head too?

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  • I hadn't thought about that before... I actually think in both English and Spanish haha._.

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  • no. you can feel without language though.

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