I read up on something interesting today and it made me think. Now, all of the topics I am about to go off on are ALL DEBATABLE. Please don't state the obvious such as, "Well, not everyone may think that."

Let's start from a subjective point.

What makes the human brain so special? The answer is most obviously "intelligence". Intelligence is a good thing. But does anyone ever consider what the benefit of intelligence is?

Evolution does not make investments that are long-term. When a child is born into a family with slightly greater intelligence than his/her siblings, that intelligence must translate into immediate benefits for that individual child. If that person doesn't have a better chance of surviving and reproducing, then the trait doesn't have a chance to spread through the gene pool.

So what does intelligence offer?

No one can argue that intelligence is bad. We all know it's a good thing. We all respect intelligence. It makes everything better. But there has to be something identifyable about intelligence that makes it so great. What is its exact function? What is one part of intelligence that we can understand and talk about without feeling as if we're talking about something as hopeless as time?

Language. It isn't a notion such as intelligence. It is a behavior, and not something one can brag about, really, since everyone has their own language. It's something you do, not really something you think about.

Language is actually a smoothly rampable trait. The opposing case is provided by flying, which has some steep steps in the sequence from walking to flying, steep steps that have been difficult to figure out. But language can smoothly develop from grunts to Shakespeare. Language was like a trail of breadcrumbs laid out in front of evolution's donkey: each step upward was obvious and quickly taken, even for a dumb *** like evolution.

So let's grant that language was the big driving force in the development in the brain. So what?

Consider the development from the human brain from birth to adolescence. During this time the brain grows a lot, and thought processes form. This is also the primary time for language learning. We learn our native language even as our brains are developing.

The point I'm trying to get at is that the language acquisition and brain development seem to be closely associated.

This brings us to a very, very old and debatable question: what is the relationship between language and thinking? There are two extreme positions, as there is in everything. The first is that language is identical to thinking. Heck, we think IN our language. The process of framing our thoughts in languages is the same thing as the act of thinking. Basically, "If you can't say it, then you don't know it!" The second extreme is that language is completely independent of thinking and that our thought processes proceed according to some mysterious inner process and, when completed, are translated into language.

These are the extreme positions, and very few are completely inclined towards one or the other. The truth seems to lie somewhere between these extremes. But where? The most this girl can say is that language and thought are intertwined. Many of the same neurons that process language are also used for conscious thought. It therefore stands to reason that the logic of the language that we learn in childhood will affect the logic of our thoughts. Let's make that our first conclusion. I'll come back to it in a bit.

Now if I may be so bold as to call this next part I'll talk about "The Logical Structure of the Universe". Unfortunately, I'm not about to reveal the logical structure of the universe, 'least until I get a copyright on it. Bill Gates is lurking out there somewhere anyway. But for the time being, I will talk about a single aspect of the logical structure of the universe: the division between object and action.

Everything in the universe can be perceived as either an object or an action. It's rather like the wave-particle duality in quantum physics that my brother is currently into: everything can be described as either a wave or a particle. Of course, some phenomena are easier dealt with as waves, and others as particles, but there's no fundamental reason why we must treat any given phenomenon as one or the other.

A star is a good example. A star is just about the biggest single object in our universe. There is nothing "objectier" (lorf) than a star. But, if I so choose, I can describe a star as a process. After all, can't a star be described by its processes? What about connecting the gravitational pressure inward, the radiative pressure outward, the energy generation in the core of the star, and the energy radiation at the surface of the star? They all determine the state of the star. Should they go out of balance, the star ceases to exist; in special cases where they go seriously out of balance, the star blows itself in a million tiny pieces. So, is a star an object or a process?

Let's go to the small side of the size scale. In fact, let's look at a hydrogen atom. That's an object, composed of an electron and a proton, right? Not necessarily. There's a complete equation for a hydrogen atom that defines the relationship between an electron and a proton as a "hydrogen atom". So, is a hydrogen atom an object or an action?

Now we get personal: let's talk about you. What are you, object or action? Are you nothing more than bone and muscle, blood and sinew? Or are you (excuse my lingo) homeostatic equilibrium, blood pressure, acetylcholine jumping across synaptic clefts, hormones from the pituitary gland entering the blood stream, and so forth? Even deeper into the subject, are you mind or body? Are you your physical body, or are you integrity, love, vulnerability, desire, and so forth? What are you?

In almost every human endeavor, this fundamental duality between object and action reflects itself. In software (which my father specializes in), we talk about data (object) and process (action). The hardware manifestations of these are RAM (for data/object) and the CPU (for process/action). A CPU with no RAM cannot function. RAM without a CPU does nothing but collect dust. Moreover, the duality reaches right into the structure of the program; any programmer can adjust any program to be more data-intensive (taking more RAM but generally running faster) or more process-intensive (taking less RAM but generally running slower).

The grand universality of object/action duality extends even further. In physics, don't we talk about boundary conditions (objects) and equations (actions)? In language, we have nouns (objects) and verbs (actions). Now we're getting a bit closer to the point.

Consider the following question: to what extent might a language emphasize nouns over verbs or vice versa? The answer is that this is a purely subjective matter; theoretically, a language might put a large amount of emphasis on one or the other, and it should still work just fine, because after all, the universe can be approached in either object-intensive style or action-intensive style and either way works just as well. Obviously, there are certain situations where an object-heavy style might be clumsy, just as there are certain situations where an action-heavy style wouldn't work well, but, in principle, you can do it.

And, in fact, we see that languages do embrace a variety of styles. There's an Australian language that is quite verb-heavy; the function of nouns is taken by gerunds. For example, in the Australian language, there is no word for "person" or "man"; instead, there is a term roughly equivalent to "human being".

Another example is provided by Latin. I've been studying Latin lately as part of my never-ending language interest, and the verb plays a much larger role in the Latin sentence than in English. It's not just that verbs are conjugated in all sorts of complicated ways; they're scattered around the sentence in all sorts of supporting ways. Consider this elegant pair of sentences upon which I stumbled:

"Verum si fieri non potest ut omnibus probemur, hoc interim me consolator ferbe probamur a probatissimus. Et spero futuram, ut quod nunc placet optimus mox placeat plurimus."

which translates to:

"If it is not my destiny to find favor with everyone, I am consoled for the present by the reflection that almost universally I am well regarded by those who themselves are best regarded. And I hope that at some not distant time that which now pleases the best of men will come to please the majority of men."

Now, let's go back to those two versions and pick out the noun parts and the verb parts. I'll underline the verbs and place the nouns in bold:

"Verum si fieri non potest ut omnibus probemur, hoc interim me consolator ferbe probamur a probatissimus. Et spero futuram, ut quod nunc placet optimus mox placeat plurimus."

"If it is not my destiny to find favor with everyone, I am consoled for the present by the reflection that almost universally I am well regarded by those who themselves are best regarded. And I hope that at some not distant time that which now pleases the best of men will come to please the majority of men."

The point of this exercise is that English is a more noun-heavy language than Latin. I will go even further and say that, as languages go, English is fairly noun-heavy. I can't substantiate this claim from direct experience with many languages (even though I've had much experience with many languages, who will ever believe a 14-year-old female about such matters?); perhaps some linguist in the readership may wish to comment on my claim. But I certainly have the impression that English puts more horsepower into its nouns than into its verbs.

Here's another demonstration of my claim: I went through the previous paragraph, counting all the words in the noun phrases and all the words in the verb phrases. I came up with 42 noun-words and 13 verb-words. Moreover, most of the verbs are pathetic weaklings such as "is", "have", and "puts" whereas the nouns boast such colorful words as "horsepower", "exercise", "linguist", and "impression".

The time has come at last to draw together the point of this thread. We have three main points to consider:

1. The language that you learn in childhood exerts a powerful influence on your thought processes.

2. Every language establishes a balance between its object-terms (nouns) and its action-terms (verbs).

3. English emphasizes its nouns.

The conclusion, then, is that all you native English-speakers out there have thought processes that are biased towards objects and away from actions. Isn't that interesting? I think so.

As far as we English speakers are concerned, a chair is an object with four legs, a seat, and a back. We don't consider it "something you sit in". We like describing things.

So, which do you believe more? Thinking is tied with language, or language is completely independent from our thought? Probably somewhere in between, right?