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mental +‎ -ese (suffix forming adjectives and nouns describing, among other things, languages).[1]



mentalese (usually uncountable, plural mentaleses)

  1. (philosophy, psychology) A hypothetical non-verbal language in which concepts are represented in the mind. [from 1960s]
    • 1964 November 12, Wilfrid Sellars, “Notes on Intentionality”, in The Journal of Philosophy, volume LXI, number 21, New York, N.Y.: The Journal of Philosophy, DOI:10.2307/2023043, ISSN 0022-362X, JSTOR 2023043, OCLC 1088815334, page 657:
      The concept of a proposition as something that can be expressed by sentences in both Mentalese and, say, English is an analogical extension of the concept of a proposition as something that can be expressed by sentences in both English and German.
    • 1977, P. G. Patel, “The Left Parieto-temporo-occipital Junction, Semantic Aphasia and Language Development around Age Seven”, in Linguistics: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences, volume 15, number 196, Berlin; New York, N.Y.: Mouton de Gruyter, DOI:10.1515/ling.1977.15.196.35, ISSN 0024-3949, OCLC 1026527488, page 45:
      Translationists are said to treat the coding of thoughts in ‘Mentalese’, whose structure is already known, into a natural language, just like translating a natural language, say Russian, in terms of another known language, say English (G 282). Incorporationists point out the circularity of (36b) because Mentalese, supposed to be intrinsically intelligible, is just English or some other variety of a natural language, and the translation maneuver only postpones the problem, []
    • 1979, Gavriel Salomon, “Cultivation of Mental Skills through Symbolic Forms”, in Interaction of Media, Cognition, and Learning: An Exploration of how Symbolic Forms Cultivate Mental Skills and Affect Knowledge Acquisition (Jossey-Bass Social and Behavioral Science Series), San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass Publishers, →ISBN; republished Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994 (2009 printing), →ISBN, page 121:
      But where does mentalese come from? If it is learned, then what is it related to in the preceding mentaleses? To avoid endless regress, [Jerry] Fodor postulates an internal language that is innate, a claim that he himself calls "horrendous" and "scandalous," yet inescapable.
    • 1990, Patrick de Gramont, “The Problem of Representation”, in Language and the Distortion of Meaning (Psychoanalytic Crosscurrents), New York, N.Y.; London: New York University Press, →ISBN, page 53:
      [A]re natural languages merely vehicles for the communication of mentalese? Or does language itself play a role in the formation of our thought? The question is called critical, since a positive response to the latter (language does play a role) would call into question the assumption that all meaning is reducible to mentalese.
    • 1990, Peter A. French, Theodore Edward Uehling, and Howard K. Wettstein, editors, The Philosophy of the Human Sciences (Midwest Studies in Philosophy; XV), Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, →ISBN, ISSN 0363-6550, page 446:
      One suggestion is that there is a de facto correlation between words or sentences of natural language and expressions of mentalese and between the logical relations among the former and the causal relations among the latter. This is a curious idea. The alleged correlation is not empirically grounded.
    • 2006, Peter Carruthers, “The Case for Massively Modular Models of Mind”, in The Architecture of the Mind: Massive Modularity and the Flexibility of Thought, Oxford: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, section 6 (The Argument from Computational Tractability), page 51:
      [I]t is probably misleading to talk about the language of thought, or to talk about ‘Mentalese’, as if it were a single representational system. We should more properly, in the context of a thesis of massive mental modularity, talk about languages of thought, or Mentaleses.
    • 2014, Gabriel Keehn, “Does the Theory of Recollection Preclude Learning?: A New Dimension to Platonic Nativism”, in Chris Higgins, editor, Philosophy of Education[1], Urbana, Ill.: Philosophy of Education Society; University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, ISSN 8756-6575, OCLC 636233159, archived from the original on 7 March 2019, page 161:
      [Jerry] Fodor's position stems from his theory, first articulated in The Language of Thought, that there is a type of internal system of representation contained within the human mind out of which thoughts are formed, similarly to the way sentences are formed out of individual words, a "language" which he refers to as "mentalese." Our concepts are the units out of which mentalese constructs thoughts. [] Importantly, mentalese must be sufficiently rich to enable us to utilize it to learn the natural language of our birth, and we must have this type of system of representation prior to any development of natural language.

Alternative formsEdit



  1. ^ mentalese, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford: Oxford University Press, September 2001; “mentalese” (US) / “mentalese” (UK) in Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press.

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