Language as an instrument of thought

Eran Asoulin

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Abstract

I show that there are good arguments and evidence to boot that support the language as an instrument of thought hypothesis. The underlying mechanisms of language, comprising of expressions structured hierarchically and recursively, provide a perspective (in the form of a conceptual structure) on the world, for it is only via language that certain perspectives are available to us and to our thought processes. These mechanisms provide us with a uniquely human way of thinking and talking about the world that is different to the sort of thinking we share with other animals. If the primary function of language were communication then one would expect that the underlying mechanisms of language will be structured in a way that favours successful communication. I show that not only is this not the case, but that the underlying mechanisms of language are in fact structured in a way to maximise computational efficiency, even if it means causing communicative problems. Moreover, I discuss evidence from comparative, neuropathological, developmental, and neuroscientific evidence that supports the claim that language is an instrument of thought.
Original languageEnglish
Article number46
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalGlossa
Volume1
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2016

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Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • function of language
  • communication
  • biolinguistics
  • narrow syntax
  • thought

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