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September 1953


Author Affiliations


From the Psychiatric Service, Massachusetts General Hospital; the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of the Hall-Mercer Hospital, and the Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School.

AMA Arch NeurPsych. 1953;70(3):277-285. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1953.02320330002001

THE RELEVANCE of language study to psychiatry has received emphasis with respect both to the function of language as a process of symbolization and, more recently, to its role of communication. The theories of thought disturbance in psychopathological states are based upon the study of distortions of signification and meaning as reflected in language. Communication and information theory has its current impact upon psychiatric problems. These considerations of the major functions of language overshadow, perhaps, its aspect as a form of expressive behavior. The remarkable facility of language to mirror character and personality traits of the individual has a particular kind of value, which merits some discussion.

Language habits reflect the perception of experience and are a part of behavior from which inferences are drawn regarding the individual. It is probable that many such inferences, based upon an awareness and observation of language habits, are not made explicit but remain