I'm interested if there's a field of study, or some popular papers, that try to map the thought concepts/constructs that precedes (or succeeds) words, sentences and basically languages. Maybe as a sub-field in semantics?

If anyone can point me off in the right direction I would be grateful.

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    if you give a negative vote, please explain why Mar 30, 2019 at 10:20
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    Maybe psychology.stackexchange.com is a better place for this question?
    – prash
    Mar 30, 2019 at 10:33
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    This is a pure communication question, so I think linguistics is more suitable. But you're right that the distinction becomes more thin. Mar 30, 2019 at 10:45
  • Can you give an example? Then we might be able to help you.
    – Alex B.
    Mar 30, 2019 at 11:34

2 Answers 2


The problem with your question is that you use the word "precede", which on first reading suggests that you are looking for some evolutionary story. There is one sub-area of linguistics that speculates about the pre-history of language. My own speculation (the antithesis of Chomsky's) is that the crucial evolutionary spark was developing refined volitional control over articulatory muscles. Then we figured out what to do with it.

Alternative, you might be asking about domains of study that "logically precede" language, or which language depends on. That would be the areas of epistemology in philosophy, from a cognitivist perspective. It is part of the classical question of the nature of knowledge: what is a concept, and how is it different from a word? What is a proposition, and how is it different from a sentence? Cognitive psychology becomes important in guiding you towards a specific epistemology, since certain trends (the Fregean stream of thinking) tend towards an abstract mathematical characterization of concepts and propositions. Lakoff and Johnson are examples of cognitively-oriented theorizing about concepts and propositions.

There is unfortunately a widespread tendency for people to think that there is an underlying (universal) "language of thought" and natural language is a translation device from LOT to real language. I have never seen a palatable argument for such a hidden "language". This article gives a good introduction to that idea (advanced by Fodor, most prominently). The main problem that I see with Mentalese is the lack of a plausible set of representational primitives, given the known facts about syntax and semantics across languages.

  • Yes, this is exactly what I mean. So no "scholary" exists about this LOT ? No one is researching it, trying to prove its existence or prove it cannot exist? Mar 30, 2019 at 15:50
  • No one is researching "it" because no one has any idea what "it" might be. It's just a metaphoric description of some kind. One might as well ask whether anyone is researching the blit/slood interface.
    – jlawler
    Mar 30, 2019 at 18:31
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    Mentalese is at the pre-research phase: the concept is sufficiently jelly-like that nobody can even describe what "data" relevant to the idea would look like.
    – user6726
    Mar 30, 2019 at 18:44
  • Thanks a lot @user6726 for pointing me to a good start Mar 30, 2019 at 19:36
  • Well there is the NSM project, but even its proponents wouldn't claim that the "language of thought" can be reduced to primes. I personally don't see the need to identify a language of thought other othan our natural languages.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 31, 2019 at 12:46

It can be called prehistory .

As about the proper science for research it can be History or Culturology.

According to Wikipedia (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prehistory)

Human prehistory is the period between the use of the first stone tools c. 3.3 million years ago by hominins and the invention of writing systems.

If you are interested in 'proto-language' it must be SEMIOTICS.

This science symbols deals with the function of signs in any systems and invludes syntactics, semantics, and pragmatics.

  • thanks, I'll check Semiotics and get back to you Mar 30, 2019 at 10:17
  • I'm not sure Semiotics is what I'm looking for. I'm trying to see if there's any studies that tried to reduce languages into more basic constructs... Mar 30, 2019 at 10:21
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    There are thousands, over several millennia. You might be interested in Natural Semantic Metalanguage, which is intended to be more general than ordinary grammar. But it's not intended to be what you were asking for.
    – jlawler
    Mar 31, 2019 at 1:41

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