Tatyana Chernigovskaya: We Know More than We Think

Tatyana Chernigovskaya: We Know More than We Think

On memory functioning and the real purpose of language 

The Second Eurasian Women’s Forum held an open debate on the role of positive information in today’s world. Tatyana Chernigovskaya, a well-known neurolinguist, participated in the discussion. She spoke on the way information received influences our brain: everything we heard, saw and read is saved inside our head. It is essential for positive information to occupy a considerable part of our brain.

Today we continue discussing the structure of the most mysterious human organ: the location of memory, connection between brain and language, and why it is impossible to remember anything twice. 

Tatyana Chernigovskaya - Honourary professor and scientist of Russia, a Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Education, PhD in Biology, PhD in Philology, professor of the Department of General Linguistics, Head of the Department of the Problems of Convergence in Natural Sciences and Humanities, Head of the Laboratory for Cognitive Studies of St. Petersburg State University 

Every person has their own exceptional neural circuit. Interestingly enough, newborn babies have more neurons than adults do. This is because over time, unused cells disappear. Neural circuit records our whole life for years. 

All the information on what we saw, heard, tried, touched, and drank remains in our head, even if we consider it forgotten. 


Ms. Chernigovskaya commented: “If you cannot remember something, it does not mean our brain does not have it. There are many ways to prove that. Hypnosis is the most popular one. That is why, I always say: one should not read silly books, communicate with fools, listen to bad music, consume poor-quality intellectual “food” or watch tasteless films.” 

Language is for thinking, not speaking 

Every nanosecond we receive great quantities of information through eyesight, hearing, tactile sensations, sense of taste, and sense of smell. According to Tatyana Chernigovskaya, language is one of the tools to counter that chaos. It allows us to compartmentalise all the information received, arrange categories and concepts.

99% of people consider language a means of communication, but it is not its main task. 


Avram Noam Chomsky, an outstanding and world famous linguist is sure language was not created particularly for communication, but for thinking. Receiving what was intended to send is a priority of communication. Morse code performs that function perfectly. “Language, in turn, is very polysemic. Its words can convey opposite meanings depending on the personality of a listener. It means, language is almost bad for communication”, explained Ms. Chernigovskaya.

Where is memory located? 

Structurally, human language is different from any other means of communication. It is hierarchical and consists of phonemes, its smallest units that add up to syllables, words, phrases, etc. The neurolinguist told us: “Sciences I deal with are seeking to understand that structure. For example, what makes me think that nouns and verbs really exist? Yet, working with patients I see some of them have forgotten verbs, while the others cannot remember nouns. It proves different areas of the brain are responsible for them, which means verbs and nouns really exist.” 

Despite the fact that every part of the brain is responsible for its own function, the organ is always working as a whole. This is because memory is located around the whole brain. It is an enormous neural circuit. 

It is interesting that a person cannot remember anything twice. The second act of recalling is a playback of the last remembering process. It means file has already been rewritten and will be repeatedly rewritten. 

Anna Repina, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community

Translated by Nikolay Boykov