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I was wondering if we could use mind's ear just way mind's eye is used. Is it ok to use it as a valid phrase?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

yes it is valid, there is reference of this word in wiktionary.org


The mental faculty or inner sense with which one produces or reproduces imagined or recalled sounds solely within the mind; the supposed organ within the mind which experiences such sounds.

Reference Example :

  • 1849, Charlotte Brontë, Shirley, ch. 6:

"I must read Shakespeare?"
"You must have his spirit before you; you must hear his voice with your mind's ear."

Mind's ear

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Excellent answer with good references! – Najeeb Sep 9 '13 at 12:04
@Najeeb..glad to help you :) – Java D Sep 9 '13 at 12:08
Yes, it's the mental action of reading, which produces in many fluent readers the sound of the words. Writing is just recorded spoken language, and sound is its medium. That's why so many spelling rules (like comma and a/an usage) have to do with sound. Not all readers hear the voice, however; there are a lot of different ways to learn to read, and a lot of different people using them, so there are some people who are mentally tone-deaf when reading. – John Lawler Sep 9 '13 at 16:36

It is surely a valid phrase but it is not considered a set phrase in English.

The "mind's eye" is a well established set phrase in English meaning the imagination, with an emphasis on the visual, imagining a scene.

The phrase the ",mind's ear", based on analogy with the mid's eye, is much less common and only would be used in the much rarer circumstance of imagining something heard. It should be used only in situations that are purely aural, and then the phrase would still sound strange and unfamiliar, stylistically it would stand out as very metaphorical.

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Thanks so much for your answer @Mitch. Definitely gives a different perspective and adds to the other answer above. Very useful. – Najeeb Sep 9 '13 at 13:23

There is a word Audiation, coined by music education researcher Edwin Gordon in 1975 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audiation)

Audiate is to hearing as visualise is to seeing.

And as we visualise with the eye of the mind, we may surely audiate with the ear of the mind.

Of course it will initially sound uncomfortable, as it is not commonly used. And when you hear something for the first time you may be suspicious: "Why have I not heard this before? There must be something wrong with this!"

But there is nothing wrong with it. People should audiate more with their mind's ear.

It has been found that practising audiation can hone musical skills, for example singing odd bars of a melody while audiating even bars. This is a standard ear-training exercise.

EDIT: I am curious as to whether there is any existing extension of the construct to other senses, for example to conjure in one's mind a sense of smell or taste, or even a generic sensation.

"imagine" and "visualise" are both rooted in the visual sense.

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