[Skip to Navigation]
June 1961

Problems Posed by Schizophrenic Language

Author Affiliations

From the McLean Hospital, Belmont, Mass., the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and Harvard Medical School.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1961;4(6):603-610. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1961.01710120073008

Introduction  When we have a name for something, we tend automatically to assume the existence of a corresponding reality. Language, as used by schizophrenic patients, becomes identified by the term "schizophrenic language." This term suggests an entity with distinct features, a language differing from ordinary language. Yet when we attempt to characterize this language we find ourselves in the position to recognize and identify, but lack a comprehensive description. "Schizophrenic language" can be correctly designated as both concrete and as abstract; as restricted, impoverished, and as fluid, overideational; as empty of meaning and as overinclusive of meaning; as resembling prelogical thinking and as metaphoric and symbolic. While on an empirical level each of these features can be demonstrated in particular instances, the essential defining characteristic is obscure. We are faced with the paradox that while we recognize schizophrenic language when we see it,

Add or change institution