Language and Thought:  A State of Being Twins

“Our language can be considered an ancient city: A labyrinth made of up small streets and squares, old and new houses, along with homes added from various periods, which is surrounded by orderly streets and same types of houses, along with a great number of new towns.”

(Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations)

Manifestation and outbound expression of a thought come in sight over the language.  Language and thought: Plus, it would not be correct to establish a linear relationship of sequence between these two concepts.  Because they are virtually an integrated form of one another.  A thing that finds voice is a thing that has already been thought of as a design.  In a reverse order, what’s thought is an end product put forward over the language.  Just because of this reason, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), one of the unique philosophers of the 20th century, says “The boundaries of my language are the boundaries of my world.”. In this article, let’s focus on the thing that I call “a state of being a twin” between language and thought.

The ability of vitality called “language” is one of the most characteristic attributes that separate humans from other living creatures.  Thanks to language, we build a communal partnership, we virtually build a civilization and we communicate by the mediation of the language.  This is the extent of significance borne by the language, which is a ground for all that and has a pivotal position in its functioning.  Naturally, it is possible to include “sign language” in this scope as well.

Thought, however, is the entire set of the things that are uttered in its most general sense.  These two have a relationship of manifestation and not being manifested yet, rather than a relationship of sequence.  Of course, language is the emergence of the things/designs on people’s mind.  Just like the fact that a thing, which has not emerged, is not fully present; “raw” things, which are not put forward in various types and styles, are not thoughts in full.  For instance, just to make it concrete:  Saying “I have thought of it before” with regards to the claims put forward in a scientific study or even to a scientific discovery would not be a valid claim.  Even in its raw form, the saying “I have thought of it before” should have been disclosed and declared to public directly in a way that other people may understand as well.  Within this context, in his book titled “Nicomachean Ethics”, Aristotle, one of the two fundamental philosophers of Ancient Greece, says “If a person claims they are a good athlete, they should have participated in competitions held with other athletes, too.”. It means that it is pointless to say that “I’m a good athlete” without even competing in races.  Claims should somehow be involved in the process through common categories of testing.  At this point, language corresponds to the field of “testing” of the thought in a sense.  This is a process that turns insides out, and the other way around.

This direct relationship between language and thought makes societies even more sensitive on some issues that are uttered.  A thing that comes out through language is not just a set of meaningless voices; it is even naturally more than that.  It creates a wide, intellectual residue with all its capacity in its background.

For instance, expression of a derogatory word aimed at a specific gender or a group through language comes into existence as a distilled form of a thought that is in the depths.  Language is the final point of the transition from an abstract zone to a concrete zone.  That’s why, the things inside us (thoughts in its pure form) are always required to be more attentive and cautious during the process of disclosure (language that is revealed). While a “sound” inside us is an individual “commodity” before it is disclosed, its structure changes when it comes out.  It is now of a public structure, leaving its individual structure behind.  Therefore, its responsibility increases.

A flawless functioning of the relationship between language and thought in its ordinary flow seems to be standing at an important point in terms of quality and orderliness of life.  There is also a healing side in speaking, which means transferring “what’s inside you” to another mind, to another person that has the same feelings and capacity of understanding as you do.
Doesn’t getting healed through the mediation of others, or feeling better when you tell about something, which is called “pouring one’s heart out” in Turkish, mean feeling better? One must keep in mind that such deep-rooted idioms have backgrounds full of intense experiences. “Pouring one’s heart out” improves and enriches both the thoughts and the language.
With this background, being left alone and getting isolated are probably bad because of this fact.  When a thought fails to find a ground and a person to be uttered at, the process of thinking also fails.  For instance, it is clear as day that the way of life of a person, who lives away from people, in a wild area where nobody lives, would change, along with his way of thinking. Furthermore, it is highly likely that the ability to speak will also disappear in time.  As the ability to speak signifies a communal structure, it is possible to improve and sustain it only within a specific collectivism.  It can be said that thoughts find their essential channels through language, and language through collectivism.

Words, which are the concrete form of what we think, are fully connected to the natural surroundings. Each one of us is a product of our surroundings, we live and develop with it.  Or, depending on the case, we are wasting away as a consequence of the conditions of those surroundings.  A relief through thoughts and language is directly related to the “climate” that encircles both of these abilities.  It is obvious that both will shine bright when they find the opportunity to develop and thrive.

Z. Soner Dinç
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