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Silverberg, W.V. (1943). Psychology of English: By Margaret M. Bryant and Janet Rankin Aiken. New York: Columbia University Press, 1940. 229 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 12:127-129.

(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:127-129

Psychology of English: By Margaret M. Bryant and Janet Rankin Aiken. New York: Columbia University Press, 1940. 229 pp.

Review by:
William V. Silverberg

'The English language and grammar are the products of the group thinking of billions of people whose minds have worked psychologically rather than logically; and the fruit of this group thinking is a system which reflects behavioristic patterns rather than formal regularity. It will be our endeavor in this book to trace out the sort of group thinking and acting which has given to English the kind of grammar it has today and which will continue to modify it in the future.'

Authors who write such a paragraph into the introduction of their book raise high hopes of something illuminating to follow, hopes of real insight into the psychological bases of the form and development of our language. What follows, however, is disillusioning in the extreme. Upon comparing the remainder of the work with this paragraph, one is bound to reflect that the value of such an endeavor depends upon the nature of the psychology accepted by the investigators. This 'psychology' is unfortunately altogether descriptive and superficial and, considering the use they might have made of psychoanalytic psychology, highly naïve.

The authors believe, for instance, that individuals may use certain constructions 'by accident, so to speak, without any particular psychological motive'. (Italics the reviewer's.) They regard imitation, without further qualification, as 'a very powerful psychological impulse'. In considering the extension of the use of do as an auxiliary verb, they say this 'has involved numerous motives, among them the desire for consistency, a feeling for rhythm, a tendency to anticipate, a desire for clarity'.

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