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Dahl, H. Teller, V. Moss, D. Trujillo, M. (1978). Countertransference Examples of the Syntactic Expression of Warded-Off Contents. Psychoanal Q., 47:339-363.

(1978). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 47:339-363

Countertransference Examples of the Syntactic Expression of Warded-Off Contents

Hartvig Dahl, Virginia Teller, Donald Moss and Manuel Trujillo


This is a preliminary statement of the hypothesis that syntax in speech may act as an "incidental stimulus" in the communication of mental contents which the speaker is motivated both to conceal and to express. Ten clinical examples, taken from verbatim transcripts of one psychoanalyst's interventions in a recorded case, illustrate the expression of countertransference attitudes by syntactic and other linguistic properties such as: the agentless passive, pronominal ambiguity, yes/no questions, extraposition, the pseudocleft construction, delaying tactics, the passive construction and conceptual focus, lists and logical complexity, foregrounding, syntactic and lexical ambiguity, subordinate clauses and syntactic opacity.

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