What role does language play in knowledge?

What role does language play in one’ knowledge of things?

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I think there is a evidence that language plays a very major role in intelligence, but not the central role. IIRC, language developed in humans around 60000 years ago. This is the exact same time that humans moved out if Africa and relatively quickly populated the entire world.
IMO, it is likely when the first true humans were created. And the soul played the central role and immediately language developed.

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Language in a certain sense is a kind of technology in that it is the primary infrastructure that allows knowledge to be transmitted. So as a language becomes more sophisticated the transfer of knowledge increases, both in quantity and in subtlety.


I am not for sure what you mean by languages being more sophisticated. It seems the level of advancement in human language has been roughly the same back to the beginning of recorded history.


There are many ways a language from very early tribal societies over 100k years ago can become more sophisticated over time: a wider breadth of tense and aspect; a wider selection of vocabulary; more grammatical flexibility and variety; mechanisms within the oral or written language for adding emphasis. As these features of language in hunter & gatherer societies developed, people were able to express themselves with more subtlety. Then there is also the expansion of genre, which would have happened at some point in early hunter & gatherer society for storytelling.


A crucial role. Presumably, the use of language is required for conceptual thinking. Also, the transmission of knowledge (testimony) generally occurs via language as the medium between minds. Just consider how much that you “know” that you received testimonially. Its essential role probably cannot be overstated.


How are you defining knowledge?

How are you defining language?


And don’t forget the written word. And that punctuation wasn’t used until the Greeks started using it. Ancient Hebrew didn’t even have spaces between words. Imaginetryingtoreadaparagraphwithoutbreaksbetweenthewords.


Is there evidence for that?

Did human language exist 100k years ago?

Perhaps 10000k is correct, I was typing based on memory.

60K seems very recent.

Any kind of organized hunting and social structure involves a rudimentary language, but a person might debate when something qualifies as “language” instead of a set of signals.

Also, despite lots of emotionally confused modern misanthropy that places animals such as dogs above humans, humans are on average an extremely peaceful species compared to inter-species violence among other higher mammals. Other primates, dolphins, cats, and dogs are extremely violent and extremely prejudiced towards each other. The human ability for peacekeeping implies some rudimentary level of language that goes way back.


There are suggestions that it goes back 500,000 to homo Heidelbergensis. But then again we need a definition of language. When does a limited vocabulary of meaningful but basic sounds become a language?

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Communication is important in every species. Most animals have verbal language. Written language is only human, and it allows the passing of knowledge across generational and geographic boundaries.

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A huge role. Languages encapsulate particular ways of perceiving and understanding the world, and a given language’s vocabulary and grammar provides more subtle and nuanced ways to articulate what we know.

As an example, Benedict XVI speculated that Christianity was propagated primarily via the Greek language because Hellenistic philosophy offered the most enriching socio-linguistic context for early Christian thought.

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Exactly! We need to have criteria for distinguishing specifically human language, which involves universal concept formation, from instinctive signals, cries and other animal forms of communication. Many of the hominids, including the homo Heidelbergensis, did not produce any evidence of human language that betrays abstract thinking.

Many animals, such as wolves and false killer whales, hunt in groups. You may call their signals “language” if you want, but they are far from being human languages. Animal sounds merely trigger an automatic instinctive behavioral response; instead, human words trigger concepts in the mind. And concepts are universal. For example, my concept “circle” applies to any circle, not just this circle or that circle. In human language words are symbols of universal concepts. The ability to use and manipulate symbols of universal concepts is one characteristic that makes human intelligence distinct from animal intelligence. No chimpanzee ever sits down to do algebra.

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But language nonetheless becomes more sophisticated.

Tangible nouns (person, place, and thing) would probably come first. Then verbs. Then adjectives. Then adverbs. When a person learns a new language the tangible aspects of the language are the first to stick: mostly nouns. Getting an intuition for grammar comes later.

More and more words are needed to add specificity to communication. An early language might have used the word for ‘sun’ to describe anything circular, but then they also might have used it to describe something warm, or something bright. A bit confusing without a larger reservoir of vocabulary to work with. In its basic form language would need to be ergonomic, so early people could convey ideas such as hunting, or gathering, or objects in nature, or the weather, or ways of conveying respect or disapproval. After that language could become more abstract.

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Chomsky addressed that question. Basically language consists of statements, not words. That’s why the parrots that have a vocabulary of 50 words, but have absolutely no language.

Chomsky is convinced it’s so unique the capability for language occurred with one single mutation.
Of course, Chomsky is an aithiest, so ensoulment isn’t an explanation for.him that’s acceptable.

Of course, true language will improve over time. But before there can be an improvement in language, there must first be concepts in the mind. Without concepts, there will be no improvement, just as there is no improvement when only instincts are involved. Instinct is not inventive. Each generation of brute animals does the same sort of thing in the same sort of way. A bird may make a nest with amazing skill, but it never invents a new way of making its nest. This is why animal language does not improve or become more sophisticated. In truth, true language only began to develop with the dawn of reason. All hominids devoid of reason or intellect gave no evidence of improvement in speech, nor evidence of true language.

True language is a system of signs or symbols for the communication of thoughts or concepts. The mere utterance of sound does not constitute language in the strict sense. The baby will cry when in pain, will laugh with delight, will coo with pleasure. The baby will utter sounds, but these sounds are not speech. Although the baby has an intellect, its intellect is not yet in adequate use, just as the baby has legs but cannot walk. Animal “sounds” are of this type. They do not constitute language in the strict sense. Animals do not converse. They chatter, but do not chat. On the contrary, humans use language to discuss and communicate truths, and by which they teach one another. This is why true language plays a huge role in the possession and expansion of knowledge.

I am aware that there are many fossils of hominids collected that date to 200,000 years ago. But did these hominids show evidence of true language or real speech? If not, then they probably were not humans. If all the evidence they showed was that they used tools, then that is not decisive evidence of human intelligence, because many animals also use tools.

Actually, I think that true humans did not exist on this planet earlier than 40,000 years ago, as evidenced by the existence of stone age art. But even this estimate might be too early, because there are also animals that show remarkably good artistic abilities. In other words, it is possible that stone age art had been produced by smart hominids that were devoid of intellect. For the existence of true humans, we need to see evidence of intelligence beyond the reach of animal intelligence, such as symbolic writing that is higher than simple sign language, or artwork that expresses design and creativity rather than pure imitation and mere pattern recognition.

Words are the symbols of concepts, and statements about concepts cannot be made without words. Therefore, the correct way to say this is that true language consists of statements and words.

Language is very important to communicating knowledge. However, a true language is dependent on a capacity for knowledge and having some basic knowledge from experience on which to build.

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I’d say yes. For example, a historian’s knowledge will be very much improved if he also knows other languages besides English. Even a simple language of Latin will help, since there are many historical documents written in Latin.

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