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Maw, J. (1990). Symmetry and Asymmetry in Language. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 17:481-484.

(1990). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 17:481-484

Symmetry and Asymmetry in Language

Joan Maw


This paper uses the author's recent research in Swahili to show that the structure of a language may reflect the structure of the mind in both its conscious and unconscious modes. Unconscious (symmetrical) structuring is particularly evident (a) when the body is involved or (b) when strong feelings are aroused. This evidence seems to support Freud's and Matte-Blanco's ideas about the way the unconscious mind works. Symmetry as well as asymmetry is manifest in language. Psychoanalysis and linguistics may have something to say to each other, not only at the level of multiple meaning of words, but also at the level of structure.

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