From thoughts to sounds

Authored by: Wallace Chafe

The Routledge Handbook of Discourse Analysis

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415551076
eBook ISBN: 9780203809068
Adobe ISBN: 9781136672927


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A fundamental property of language is its ability to associate thoughts with sounds. Those who are producing language are experiencing thoughts. Those thoughts are somehow associated with sounds that pass through the air and strike the ears of listeners, whose brains then interpret the sounds with thoughts that partially resemble those of the speaker, or at least take some account of the speaker's thoughts. The resemblance can never be more than partial, because the contents of different minds are inevitably very different. New thoughts entering someone's mind are always interpreted in terms of thoughts that are already there. But language at least permits separate individuals to know something of each others’ thoughts, whatever use they make of such knowledge.

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