Dichotomies of the Rational and the Linguistic


Osiatynski: I’ve read several times that we think in language but “feel” in nonlinguistic ways.

Chomsky: I know that it’s false of me, at least if “language” refers (in my case) to English, and I assume that it’s false of everyone else. I don’t think you would have any trouble at all in deciding that you are thinking of some event and then visualizing it happening with its consequences, and constructing a rational analysis of it without being able to verbalize it adequately in anything like its full complexity.

Osiatynski: You used the expression “rational analysis.” Do you believe that all our thinking is rational and linear?

Chomsky: I don’t think all thinking is a kind of rational structure. But I don’t think it is correct to identify the rational-nonrational dichotomy with the linguistic-nonlinguistic dichotomy.

Osiatynski: Can language be nonrational?

Chomsky: Yes; so those are two dimensions that do not correlate. It’s true that language is in a sense linear but that is as obvious as perceptual space is three-dimensional.

– Wiktor Osiatynski (ed.), Contrasts: Soviet and American Thinkers Discuss the Future (MacMillan, 1984), pp. 95-101

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