Does the study of language help in our understanding of human nature? And does what extent does language affect our minds? These questions travel through the history of humanity, presenting a more profound approach to Western thought. In the past generation, people were more self-conscious, with a reduced compartmentalized mind than the current population.
As such, the nature of languages, the respires in which language echoes the human cognitive process, or shapes the flow and character of thought were though as topics of study by gifted amateurs. Hence, it was left for those with a variety of interests, points of view, and intellectual background.
However, in the nineteenth century and through the twentieth, linguistics, psychology, and philosophy has tried to take separate routes in the classical issue of language and mind, which has continuously reappeared many instances. It has not been successful as the subject has repeatedly served as a link between these diverging fields, giving direction for their efforts. In the recent decade, there have been numerous signs that this diversion is coming to an end. There is no longer the absolute war for each to prove their independents as new interests have emerged that call for shared knowledge. Today, for instance, there is a particular branch of cognitive psychology referred to as linguistics – more than anyone would have imagined years ago.
All this is very encouraging. The study of language has a considerable part to play in understanding how the human mind works. There are constantly growing new approaches to the subject of human language as it defines human behaviors. For instance, linguistics, the study of language, requires that the learner be very patient in observing the behavior of their subject. In many cases, the study of traditions instruction of language does not conform with the understanding of a new language.
This is why students are often faced with mental challenges of whether the new language is culturally wrong, and if perhaps the subject they are studying is giving incorrect information. Maybe the most important thing here is that one has to be as open-minded as possible about the other culture. Hence, the first step to understanding language is to assume that every language culture is correct. This of necessity means language, to a large extent, affects the mind of a people.
One of the best places for the study of language and mind is through the works of past scholars. There have been many authors who have sort of discovering the link between these two, all concluding that perhaps there is nothing the mind can do without a proper language of information. Hence, it becomes undeniable that language, indeed, contributes largely to the mental growth of an individual.
And perhaps a great place to start this subject would be in the works of the Spanish physician Juan Huarte from the late seventeenth century. Huarte published the widely translated nature of human intelligence. And in his wonder, the word intelligence “Ingenio” seems to have the same Latin origin as others meaning “engender” or “generate.” Hence, he said, such a word gives clues to the nature of mind. Thus, one meaning may evoke two generative powers in a person; one in conjunction with beasts and plants, and the other, participation in spiritual substance. In this definition, “wit”(Ingenio) stands for a generative power, which leads to the understanding of a generative faculty.
Obviously, Huarte may not be very good with his etymology. But there is a great insight that we cannot ignore. He goes on to differentiate the three levels of intelligence. He terms the lowest as “docile wit.” But he and others like Leibnitz wrongfully links this level to Aristotle, saying that there is nothing in the mind that does not come from a sense transmission.
Hence, the mind only perceives what sense tells it to. The next level is the normal human intelligence, which extends beyond the limitation of empiricist behavior. In this level, the mind is able to “engender within itself, by its own power, the principles that hold knowledge. Normal human thoughts are able to produce many concepts they have never heard, spoke of, and invent things neither that there masters nor anyone else mentioned. What this simply means is that basic human intelligence has the ability to, and can acquire knowledge through its own resources. It could perhaps come from the data of sense but goes ahead to create a cognitive system based on the concepts and principles emerging from independent grounds. Thus, the mind can generate new thought and device the best ways of expressing them beyond any training.
Huarte’s third kind of mind is “by means of which some, without art or study, speak such subtle and unsurprising things … never before seen, heard….” In this context, he is talking about real creativity that involves imagination beyond average intelligence, which may, as Huarte thought, involve some “madness.”
Huarte argues that the difference between docile intelligence, which agrees with empiricist maxi, and normal wit, which tap into capacities, is the difference between people and animals. Even though he was a physicist interested in pathology, he discovered that the worst disability of intelligence that can affect humanity to the lease to the three levels. And in such a state, man is compared to a eunuch – unable to breed generations – where true education may not be possible.
Huarte’s approach is quite helpful in discussing “psychological theory” that came in the subsequent era. In a later thought, he used language as a parameter of human intelligence about what separates humans and beasts. He specifically emphasized the creativity of normal intelligence, concerns that dominated the world of rationalists and linguistics.
The rationalist theory of languages intended to prove a rich insight and achievement that emerged as part of the challenges with other minds. And over the years, scholars in psychology, philosophy, and linguistics have worked closely to discover what lies under language and mind. Theories have been proved, all touching on the role of language in intelligence. And the simplest example could perhaps be drawn from how the literate differs from illiterate.
May 15, 2020