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Martindale, C. (1975). The Grammar of Altered States of Consciousness: A Semiotic Reinterpretation of Aspects of Psychoanalytic Theory. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 4(1):331-354.

(1975). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 4(1):331-354

The Grammar of Altered States of Consciousness: A Semiotic Reinterpretation of Aspects of Psychoanalytic Theory

Colin Martindale, Ph.D.

The purpose of this paper is to present a formalization of aspects of psychoanalytic theory in terms of a semiotic system. Freud's (1900) notions of primary-process and secondary-process cognition are presented as types of “language” differing in syntax, semantic base, and realization rules. It is argued that the nature of translation among levels of primary-and secondary-process sign systems itself adequately explains a number of phenomena treated by psychoanalytic theory as due to repression, defense, and unconscious thought processes.

If we consider the sorts of speech upon which psychoanalytic inferences are based—e.g., free association in psychoanalytic interviews, dreams, slips of the tongue, creative utterances, the speech of schizophrenics—it becomes clear that all are products of altered states of consciousness. Why, then, did psychoanalysis develop into a general theory of behavior rather than what we shall argue that it should be, a grammar of associative or regressed speech? The answer would seem to lie in the concept of the unconscious. Rather than explaining slips of the tongue, dreams, or neurotic symptoms in terms of a momentary change in the structure of thinking or language, Freud chose to explain such phenomena as upsurges of an ongoing but unconscious stream of thought. Once an ongoing stream of unconscious thoD:\priya\pepdtdD:\priya\pepdtdD:\priya\pepdtdD:\priya\pepdtdught was postulated, it became tempting to see its influence everywhere in language and behavior.

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