LINGUIST List 12.1927

Mon Jul 30 2001

Qs: Thought & Language, Linguistic Urban Legends

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>

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  1. FRANK BELSKY, Process of Thought/Language
  2. Mark_Mandel, "Linguistic Urban Legends"

Message 1: Process of Thought/Language

Date: Sat, 28 Jul 2001 22:07:35 -0700
Subject: Process of Thought/Language


Do we process thoughts in words? Seems unlikely to me, an untrained

Words are slow. We speak -- what 90 a minute -- read -- 300 - 600? We
must be processing thoughts much faster, it seems.. If I'm not
reading, speaking or phrasing in mind, where are words or symbols for
them, processed?

Example: Suddenly I feel as if I know. The occurence is a fraction of
a second I can't measure as it happens so quickly.

I say to the recipeint, "I know the answer."
It might take me ten minutes of speech to fully explain the thought that
I recognized in a fraction of a second. If I process words so slowly
when I speak or read, how can I be assured that I know all 2,000 words
that it takes to explain myself in a fraction of second?

I'm wondering if our conscious might concentrate on one cluster at a
time, while our unconscious can be grasping many more.

Hope I'm not sounding foolish or ridiculously elementary.

Yours truly,

Frank Belsky
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Message 2: "Linguistic Urban Legends"

Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2001 16:43:35 -0400
From: Mark_Mandel <>
Subject: "Linguistic Urban Legends"

Karen Chung's question about "arigatoo" and the replies it produced got me
thinking again about an idea I've toyed with before. Bart Mathias's reply
to Jonathan Lewis's earlier query, as excerpted by Lewis in LINGUIST List
12.1871, is exactly how I feel about this old story:

"Aaargghhhhh! No, no, no, no, no! How many times a year can this question
keep coming up without it becoming universal knowledge etc. etc"....

Unfortunately, un-knowledge is as pernicious as undead, and as hard to
kill. But the case may not be hopeless.

What do people think of setting up an on-line "Linguistic Urban Legends"
database, maybe in association with one of the existing well-known UL sites
like ? Though legends never die completely (especially on
the Internet), a reliable source of knowledge can control the damage, not
least by providing a reputable source of counterargument and supporting

I'm tempted to start it up, but I know my weakness: I would get more
absorbed in it than I can afford to, and I already have two or three other
time-sinks in my hobby life, let alone my work, house, and family lives.
I will, however, collate your reactions and summarize them to the list.

 Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist
 Dragon Systems, a Lernout & Hauspie company
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA :

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