Unconscious meaning


A Sciencedaily article, Scientists Watch As Listener’s Brain Predicts Speaker’s Words, is about the prediction of the next word to be uttered by a listener. This has a bearing on the question about how much of our language is conscious; it appears that it is probably similar to any other perception or motor aspect of our lives.

 

“Previous theories have proposed that listeners can only keep pace with the rapid rate of spoken language—up to 5 syllables per second—by anticipating a small subset of all words known by the listener, much like Google search anticipates words and phrases as you type. This subset consists of all words that begin with the same sounds, such as “candle”, “candy,” and “cantaloupe,” and makes the task of understanding the specific word more efficient than waiting until all the sounds of the word have been presented. But until now, researchers had no way to know if the brain also considers the meanings of these possible words…

‘We had to figure out a way to catch the brain doing something so fast that it happens literally between spoken syllables,’ says Michael Tanenhaus, the Beverly Petterson Bishop and Charles W. Bishop Professor…

‘Frankly, we’re amazed we could detect something so subtle,” says Aslin. “But it just makes sense that your brain would do it this way. Why wait until the end of the word to try to figure out what its meaning is? Choosing from a little subset is much faster than trying to match a finished word against every word in your vocabulary.’…

 

It seems that although language is most often present in our consciousness – that the cognitive work that is behind the use of language is not revealed in consciousness. The meaning of words is available without being made conscious. Meaning does not rely of consciousness.

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