Language and thought

A Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind (1999)
[Written in 1999. Still relevant, but references are not up-to-date.] If one asks about the relation between thought and language, people expect the issue to concern such matters as whether we think in language, whether creatures without language can "think", and the way language shapes our concepts. In my opinion, there is a much deeper question, which concerns the nature of linguistic communication. Philosophers and linguists standardly conceive of language as basically a means by which speakers convey the content of their thoughts to others. The question is whether that is a correct picture of linguistic communication. This is a question about the relation between thought and language because this standard picture of communication gives propositional thought a certain priority over language. If, as I intend to show, there are reasons to doubt the standard picture, then we cannot expect to make much progress with the more superficial questions without thinking about the nature of linguistic communication
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