Piero Scaruffi(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"
Language Changes Minds
Language is a form of communication. The linguistic tradition focused on the mental processes of understanding language, thereby taking a “one-brain” view of communication. But communication, by definition, involves (at least) two participants, i.e. two brains. Communication (and language in particular) is a process between two brains. There is a neural process going on in one of the two brains and language is a means for that neural process to affect the neural process occurring in the other brain. Ultimately, “communication” is about one brain trying to replicate some kind of neural pattern into another brain. Language uses sounds (or written symbols) to induce such a mental replication. Those sounds (symbols) are structured in such a way as to interact with the neural process of the other brain and cause it to create a specific neural pattern (that’s what we call “understanding”). This is an error-prone process that requires a lot of interaction, due to the fact that each brain is slightly different. But the goal is to eventually transmit a neural pattern from one brain to another. That pattern could be a scene or a story, if we are “narrating” something, or it could be a belief if we are trying to “convince” someone of something, or a concept if we are trying to explain something. It is a pattern that already exists in our brain and we want to recreate it in the brain of our interlocutor.
Needless to say, this implies that brains are capable of changing their neural patterns based on sound/symbols. This is true of all species: bee brains must be capable of changing their neural patterns based on the dances of other bees.
Naturally, once the pattern (a scene, a story, a concept) has been copied in the other brain, it takes on a life of its own because it interacts with the neural pattern that already inhabited that brain.
This complex interplay of brains must provide some significant evolutionary advantage if it appeared and became widespread among all species.
As the US psychologist James-Mark Baldwin noticed, species capable of learning are better at evolving. If language is such an efficient tool for learning that shapes an entire system of thought in a few years, then it is probably useful for survival and evolution.
Ultimately, language creates minds. We not only speak, but also listen. The listening is no less important than the speaking: the speaking expresses our mind, but the listening shapes our mind.
Back to the beginning of the chapter "Language: Minds Speak" | Back to the index of all chapters