Language is one of the fundamental attributes that makes us human. No other species has a means of communication as elaborate or as prevalent as human language. However, language is more than just what we use to communicate; it is a pathway to consciousness, and to understanding the world around us. It is generally agreed that humans are the most intelligent species on the planet, but this accomplishment is rarely attributed to language. Humans could never have created civilization or technology without the means to communicate what they were trying to do. Imagine trying to learn how to build a house without language. One of the best examples of the role that language plays in the development of the human mind is Genie, a girl who was born in 1957 and kept in isolation and never spoken to until she was thirteen. While Genie was malnourished and very small for her age, there appeared to be nothing wrong with her mind. However, because she had never learned any language, she was severely limited in her ability to learn or develop further. She was able to learn some words and express herself on a very limited scale, but never developed a complete vocabulary. Despite this, Genie performed well on intelligence tests, suggesting that perhaps language and thought are distinct. It was originally thought that without language without consciousness was impossible, but this viewpoint has been disregarded in recent years. There are ways to think beyond that of words, but because humans have been encoded for so many years to think with language this is difficult to comprehend. Ultimately, humans need language to continue to exist as we have been, but it is possible to have intelligence beyond language.

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Youth Voices is an open publishing and social networking platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.  See more About Youth VoicesTerms of ServicePrivacy Policy.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License


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