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Baudry, F. (1974). Remarks on Spoken Words in the Dream. Psychoanal Q., 43:581-605.

(1974). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 43:581-605

Remarks on Spoken Words in the Dream

Francis Baudry, M.D.

I became interested in the problem of the spoken word in the dream as an outgrowth of a Kris Study Group on Validation of Psychoanalytic Hypotheses. Referring to the difficulties in validating psychoanalytic hypotheses, Arlow alluded to the concept, first stated by Isakower (1954), that spoken words in the dream 'are a direct contribution from the superego to the manifest content of the dream' (p. 3). It was suggested that a 'simple' study be made to try to corroborate this idea. The present paper attempts such a study.


To bring together a number of dreams and see whether Isakower's hypothesis can be substantiated raised a number of complex procedural issues. In psychoanalysis substantiation refers to the issue of proof. In the case of lower levels of abstraction, it is possible to 'disprove' a hypothesis if available data contradicts the thesis under study. However, in the case of higher levels of abstraction, the concept of validation depends on the usefulness of the hypothesis—its serviceability in organizing and explaining less abstract clinical data. Isakower's formulation is, of course, at a relatively abstract level; its usefulness hinges on the following questions: Can we use the hypothesis to deepen our clinical grasp of the dream? Do more pieces fit together as a result of its application?

If we look closely at the wording—the spoken word is 'a direct contribution from the superego to the manifest content of the dream'—, we encounter an immediate stumbling block from the point of view of research.

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