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May 1937

The Psychobiology of Language.

Arch NeurPsych. 1937;37(5):1236. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1937.02260170264017

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Abstract

This book, which on the surface bears no relation to clinical psychiatry, is nevertheless of psychiatric interest. Language is behavior and, in application and evolution, is "impelled" and "directed" by trends and laws unknown to the speaker. The observable phenomena of speech lend themselves to the statistical treatment which reveals the trends and laws which maintain the equilibrium of speech and render it an orderly total.

The author studied the phonetic systems of historically related and unrelated languages—modern English and modern German, modern and ancient Chinese, ancient Latin texts, etc.—and his results are striking. One and the same set of laws pervades all the disparate language structures. They are all built on essentially the same phonetic plan. The absolute and relative numbers of "aspirated stops," "unaspirated stops," "voiceless lenes" and "voiceless fortes" are practically the same in all parts of the globe and in all ages. The morphologic structure of

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