There are many theories as to how we think and how language plays a role in that process. Do we think if we cannot express our thoughts in words?
The language you speak does not affect how you think (Pinker 1994). It is thought that babies and people who have sustained brain injuries may not have language but still think and are aware of their world without using labels. I tend to think that our language allows us to articulate our thoughts better if we have learned the proper words.
Many researchers will not accept the thought that abstract thoughts can occur without language attached. I disagree with this because I am convinced that my dog thinks. She is able to reason and determine right from wrong. She amuses herself and seems to dream due to her mannerisms while she sleeps and has different facial expressions depending on the situation at hand. All of this leads me to believe that animals think to some extent without language.
Differences between languages lead to differences in thought (Whorf 1956). If a person has a vast vocabulary, then thoughts should be more sophisticated than a person with limited vocabulary. It seems like a person can think more complex thoughts if a capacity for intricate vocabulary is present. If you know the meaning of the word scared, you can successfully label your thought. If you do not know the corresponding word to convey your feeling, you still feel it. The only difference is that you cannot express your thought with words, but you still had the thought.
According to Bloom and Keil Some scholars argue that the specific words that a language had determines how our minds break reality into different chunks This makes perfect sense because our society dictates how we see our environment.
I was watching a documentary about China and was told that while the Chinese watch a play in their native country, they do not see actors dressed in black that appear on stage to arrange the set. In the United States, we would see these people and be distracted by them. Our culture did not teach us that these people dressed in black are not visible. Perception and thought are intertwined.
If you consider children playing in the Little League World Series, there is a language gap in some cases, yet the children still find their own ways to communicate. I believe that thoughts are derived in the same way.