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Edelson, M. (1983). Verbal Behavior. Adaptation and Psychopathology: By Walter Weintraub, M.D. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 1981. 214 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 52:478-479.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:478-479

Verbal Behavior. Adaptation and Psychopathology: By Walter Weintraub, M.D. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 1981. 214 pp.

Review by:
Marshall Edelson

The author's principal hypothesis is that the choice of syntactic structures in speech and the choice of defense are correlated. It follows that personality traits and psychopathological syndromes, to the extent that these are associated with specific defenses, are also correlated with different patterns of syntactic usage in speech.

The author's method is, generally, to analyze samples of speech (monologues elicited by a standardized procedure) to obtain the frequencies of occurrence of members of fourteen categories (not all of which are, strictly speaking, "syntactic"): the quantity of speech; long pauses; the rate of speech; nonpersonal references; I; we; me; negatives; qualifiers; retractors; direct references; explainers; expressions of feeling; and evaluators. Then groups representing "no pathology" and various psychopathological syndromes are compared with respect to the frequencies with which these categories appear in speech.

The author notes that psychopathological syndromes tend themselves to be defined in terms of linguistic behavior, so that correlations between types of linguistic behavior and types of psychopathology may express a kind of tautology. Therefore, he makes an effort to select members of his "deviant behavior" groups on the basis of nonverbal criteria. How successful he is, the reader must judge.

In addition to different kinds of deviant behavior, different age groups (children, adolescents, adults) are compared in terms of the same categories. These categories are also used in one chapter, in "a new approach to psychohistorical research," to analyze the Watergate transcripts and to write personality profiles of the participants. In another chapter, they are used to compare samples of spoken and written language. In a third, they are used as part of an attempt to investigate the verbal communication of affect by analyzing samples of "angry speech" collected from actors paid to simulate an angry state.

The data in and of themselves are interesting. They reflect a commitment to the use of empirical methods, rather than merely reflection, to study the role of using and responding to different characteristics of speech in clinical communication.

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