Undeniably thought can be used
to manipulate language. But the vision of thought as being
linguistic manipulation is, IMHO
, flawed. vivid
's friend presents a view which suffers from an infinite regression
in much the same way as theories of Mentalese
Basically, if thought itself consists in linguistic manipulation, or manipulation of 'words' with meaning attached, then the meaning, being an aspect of thought, must consist of linguistic manipulation. et cetera ad infinitum.
For meaning to be so 'attached' to words, I think it has to be an essentially non-linguistic thingy (technical term!).
This line of thought came to me when I was thinking about the representation of meaning by physical systems. Take a computer, for example. Say you want to give it the ability to actually understand stuff. Machine consciousness and all. People have tried to do this sort of thing by programming gigantic databases, laden with all relevant concepts, so that the computer can 'understand' statements by referring to all the necessary concepts. But guess what those concepts are defined in terms of? Yes, other concepts.
Assuming physicalism (big if, I know, but even dualists have to accept that there is a correspondence between physical states and states of mind), sensations, states of mind, the connection with meaning, are coincident with a definite physical state. This state is not linguistic - neural nets, for example, tend to make no syntactic sense, even to their creators. It is simply brute.
And beyond that, I really can't say. But at least it means that Everything won't become conscious. per se.