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Ekstein, R. (1965). Historical Notes Concerning Psychoanalysis and Early Language Development. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 13:707-731.

(1965). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 13:707-731

Historical Notes Concerning Psychoanalysis and Early Language Development

Rudolf Ekstein, Ph.D.


The Freudian model of 1895, developed still within the context of neurophysiological considerations, concerning the development of speech, the means of "Verständigung," out of the early helplessness of the infant, indeed has turned out to be a useful first blueprint allowing generations of workers in this field to fill in the details. The second phase consisted of speculative hypotheses concerning the origin of language, influenced very much by the then available theories of psychosexual development. The third phase utilized reconstructions from the analysis of adults and children and stressed the early mother-child relationship in terms of needs to be met. The fourth phase is under the growing dominance of ego psychology, the adaptive point of view, and notions of differentiations of functions. Considerations of speech mechanics, and often too literal assumptions about the origin of speech elements, give way to more sophisticated models concerning the origin and development of speech. The reconstructions of early preverbal genetic facts are seen as new blueprints for investigations and as leading toward a refinement of theory. The fifth contribution comes from direct observations under experimental conditions influenced by the analyst's growing readiness to collaborate with and to learn from other behavioral scientists. A sixth source seems to be the study of language in schizophrenia and related disorders, particularly as they occur in childhood; they permit an improved model of thought and speech development which allows us to see

Freud's early and dramatic germinal insight of 1895 as one which has borne rich fruits and which invites new work in the same direction.

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