1. The sign character of language. Language and cognition

In linguistic terms, sign languages are as rich and complex as any spoken language, despite the common misconception that they are not "real languages". Professional linguists have studied many sign languages and found that they exhibit the fundamental properties that exist in all languages.

Sign languages are not mime—in other words, signs are conventional, often arbitrary and do not necessarily have a visual relationship to their referent, much as most spoken language is not onomatopoeic. While iconicity is more systematic and widespread in sign languages than in spoken ones, the difference is not categorical. The visual modality allows the human preference for close connections between form and meaning, present but suppressed in spoken languages, to be more fully expressed. This does not mean that sign languages are a visual rendition of a spoken language. They have complex grammars of their own, and can be used to discuss any topic, from the simple and concrete to the lofty and abstract.

Sign languages, like spoken languages, organize elementary, meaningless units (once called cheremes in the case of sign languages, by analogy to the phonemes of spoken languages) into meaningful semantic units. This is often called duality of patterning. As in spoken languages, these meaningless units are represented as (combinations of) features, although often also crude distinctions are made in terms of Handshape (or Handform), OrientationLocation (or Place of Articulation), Movement, and Non-manual expression. More generally, both sign and spoken languages share the characteristics that linguists have found in all natural human languages, such as transitoriness, semanticityarbitrarinessproductivity, and cultural transmission.

Common linguistic features of many sign languages are the occurrence of classifiers, a high degree of inflection by means of changes of movement, and a topic-comment syntax. More than spoken languages, sign languages can convey meaning by simultaneous means, e.g. by the use of space, two manual articulators, and the signer's face and body. Though there is still much discussion on the topic of iconicity in sign languages, classifiers are generally considered to be highly iconic, as these complex constructions "function as predicates that may express any or all of the following: motion, position, stative-descriptive, or handling information". It needs to be noted that the term classifier is not used by everyone working on these constructions. Across the field of sign language linguistics the same constructions are also referred with other terms.

2. The relation between language and thought

A. Introduction - the connection between language and thought is profound. The majority of our everyday life involves the use of language. We tell our ideas to others with language, we “read” their responses and understand their meanings with language, and very often, we “speak” internally to ourselves when we process this information and make logical conclusions. It seems that rational thinking 1 unavoidably involves certain degree of the use of language. This connection seems so tight that, some linguists like Sapir and Whorf had to propose that thought is indeed utterly determined by language. On the other hand, some linguists hold that language and thought are two separate and independent entities. The differences in the syntactic structure and the lexicons available in different languages, for example, cannot possibly determine the way these people think. Thus we have thought in the very first place, and then language came in as a tool for expressing our thought. Still some others, not feeling contented with either version, proposed a third possibility, that language and thought are interdependent. “Language is a regular part of the process of thinking… It is not a question of one notion taking precedence over the other, but of both notions being essential.2 ” While the conclusion on this issue is not a simple this-or-that answer and cannot be easily drawn, this paper will nevertheless try to provide adequate evidences in linguistic and psycholinguistic studies and seek for a reasonable conclusion.

A variety of different authors, theories and fields purport influences between language and thought.

Many point out the seemingly common-sense realization that upon introspection we seem to think in the language we speak. A number of writers and theorists have extrapolated upon this idea.

B. Is thought dependent on Language?

Two views on the relation between language and thought. The traditional view claims that thought is dependent on language. The view is known as the relativity hypothesis. Its proponents: Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf. The strong version of the relativity hypothesis makes the following claims:
1) Speech production is fundamental for thought;
2) Language is fundamental basis for thought;
3) The language system per se provides specifics of one’s view of nature;
4) The language system per se provides specifics of one’s culture.

Counterarguments for the strong version of the relativity hypothesis in favour of the view that thought is independent of language: (John Locke – the view that thought is independent of language)
1) The two basic language abilities – production and understanding of utterances do not develop in tandem – speech understanding develops prior to speech production.
2) Speech understanding without speech production in handicapped children. Persons who are congenitally mute or have congenital spastic paralysis acquire a normal understanding of speech even though they cannot produce it or can produce it only laboriously or faultily.
3) One’s view of the world is not dependent on language.
- Same language over time and world view changes;
- Different languages, similar world view;
- One language can describe different world views;
- Multilinguals and world view.
Surface structure does not directly represent semantic structure.
For example: John and Mary are married.

Meaning is not linguistic in origin
Except for the minor case of onomatopoeia, the relationship between a word (its sound form) and its meaning is conventional, that is, the association between the sound sequence and its meaning has to be learned: it is not possible to know from the sound sequence alone what its meaning is.

Four ways in which we acquire the meaning of words:
1) A sound form is associated with an object, property or a relation in the world;
2) A sound form is associated with an idea or experience in the mid, e.g pain or happy;
3) The meaning of a word is learned through inference: we do not know the meaning of a word in a paragraph but we know the meanings of the rest of the words and we can guess the meaning of the unknown word from context;
4) An analysis of known component morphemes may suggest a meaning for the sound form – e.g. we know the meaning of primitive and the meaning of un as a prefix, so we deduce the meaning of unprimitive.
Only 3) and 4) provide meaning through he medium of language.
The strong version of the relativity hypothesis is rejected but not the weak one. In other words, language influences aspects of thought. Although language does not affect the nature of thought with respect to its basic categories, systems and operations, there are important cases where the use of language could be said to affect the content and direction of thought. How?
1) Language may be used to provide new ideas;
To note: a new thought may be conveyed through language but we have to bear in mind the fact that it is not the component ideas and relations which are new,: what is new is their unique arrangement. Novel sentences are created and understood on the basis of what a speaker already knows about the language in terms of its syntax and vocabulary. Knowing a language by itself does not influence thought, but the use of that language may indeed affect the content and direction of particular thoughts.
2) Language may be used to bring about change in beliefs and values;
We may hear new ideas through language that can change our world view.
3) Language may be used to assist memory;

Language enables us to preserve ideas and to build on those preserved ideas. Our thinking is stimulated by ideas we hear and read. It is language that allowed for the development of modern science, technology and industry. The thought processes of non-technological peoples have not been shown to differ in fundamentals from people of technological societies.

Source: Danny D. Steinberg 1982. Psycholinguistics: Language, Mind and World. Longman

B. Scientific hypotheses

The Sapir–Whorf hypothesis - in linguistics states that the grammatical structure of a mother language influences the way we perceive the world. The hypothesis has been largely abandoned by linguists as it has found very limited experimental support, at least in its strong form. For instance, a study showing that speakers of languages lacking a subjunctive mood such as Chinese experience difficulty with hypothetical problems has been discredited. Another study did show that subjects in memory tests are more likely to remember a given color if their mother language includes a word for that color; however, these findings do not necessarily support this hypothesis specifically.

According to the theory behind cognitive therapy, founded by Aaron T. Beck, our emotions and behavior are caused by our internal dialogue. We can change ourselves by learning to challenge and refute our own thoughts, especially a number of specific mistaken thought patterns called "cognitive distortions". Cognitive therapy has been found to be effective by empirical studies.

In behavioral economics, according to experiments said to support the theoretical availability heuristic, people believe events that are more vividly described are more probable than those that are not. Simple experiments that asked people to imagine something led them to believe it to be more likely. The mere exposure effect may also be relevant to propagandistic repetition like the Big Lie. According to prospect theory, people make different economic choices based on how the matter is framed.

C. Conclusion - evidences in psycholinguistics have shown that thought can exist without the presence of language. What this means is that language cannot be equated to thought. In addition, language is neutral to the thought which it conveys, it is merely a medium for transporting thought from one person to another, or as a tool for organizing and manipulating our rational thought. Language merely assists thought, just like a computer does to its user, and it can hardly be argued that they are interdependent. This is not to say thought is entirely independent of language, but its dependence seems trivial when we take other social and cultural factors into consideration.

3. Linguistic entities, mental entities and entities in the word

An entity is something that exists as itself, as a subject or as an object, actually or potentially, concretely or abstractly, physically or not. It need not be of material existence. In particular, abstractions and legal fictions are usually regarded as entities. In general, there is also no presumption that an entity is animate, or present.

The word is abstract in intention. It may refer, for example, to Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander; to a stone; to a cardinal number; to a language; or to ghosts or other spirits.
The word entitative is the adjective form of the noun entity. Something that is entitative is considered in its own right.
In philosophy, ontology is about the recognition of entities. The words ontic and entity are derived respectively from the ancient Greek and Latin present participles that mean 'being'.

4. The relativity hypothesis

The concept of linguistic relativity concerns the relationship between language and thought, specifically whether language influences thought, and, if so, how. This question has led to research in multiple disciplines—especially anthropology, cognitive science, linguistics, and philosophy. Among the most popular and controversial theories in this area of scholarly work is the theory of linguistic relativity (also known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis). An often-cited "strong version" of the claim, first given by Lenneberg in 1953, proposes that language structure determines how we perceive the world. A "weaker version" of this claim posits that language structure influences the world view of speakers of a given language but does not determine it.

There are two formal sides to the color debate, the universalist and the relativist. The universalist side claims that the biology of all human beings is all the same, so the development of color terminology has absolute universal constraints. The relativist side claims that the variability of color terms cross-linguistically (from language to language) points to more culture-specific phenomena. Because color exhibits both biological and linguistic aspects, it has become a deeply studied domain that addresses the relationship between language and thought.

The color debate was made popular in large part due to Brent Berlin and Paul Kay’s famous 1969 study and their subsequent publishing of Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution. Although much on color terminology has been done since Berlin and Kay’s famous study, other research predates it, including the mid-nineteenth century work of William Ewart Gladstone and Lazarus Geiger, which also predates the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, as well as the work of Eric Lenneberg and Roger Brown in 1950s and 1960s.

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