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Heynick, F. (1981). Linguistic Aspects of Freud's Dream Model. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 8:299-314.

(1981). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 8:299-314

Linguistic Aspects of Freud's Dream Model

Frank Heynick


Freud's explicit recognition in the Traumdeutung of the existence of abundant verbal material in dreams, and his implicit recognition of the high degree of grammaticality which characterizes it, seems to have posed a theoretical problem for his overall dream model: How can an apparently logico-grammatical (=secondary) process be operating effectively within the framework of primary-process dreaming? (Or, in modern Chomskyan terms: How can the strictly-defined formal transformational rules for sentence generation be applied so correctly and consistently within the dream-work, whose 'rules' for the generation of the manifest dream from the dream-thoughts are notoriously ill-defined and haphazardly applied?)

Freud sought to resolve this apparent anomaly by degrading (what is today called) 'linguistic competence' in dreams by denying any novel aspect to dream-speeches, viewing them rather as 'replays' of utterances heard or spoken previously in waking life and 'recorded' in memory.

But Freud also acknowledged that some dream-speeches have not been uttered previously in exactly the same form in waking life. This presented a theoretical problem less amenable to a satisfying solution. here too, he sought to minimalize the role of linguistic competence: by postulating this verbal material to be the product of 'editing' and 'intersplicing' of the 'memory sound-tracks'. Furthermore, he attributed this editing largely to secondary revision, which, according to one theoretical alternative, can be viewed as 'a contribution from waking thought', rather than part of the dream-work proper.

The remainder of the present paper seeks to view Freud's model of verbal behaviour in dreams in the light of recent, rather meagre, research. More importantly, it endeavours to point the way to future research in this area which, in turn, may have implications for Freud's overall dream theory.

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