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Amati Mehler, J. Argentieri, S. Canestri, J. (1990). The Babel of the Unconscious. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 71:569-583.

(1990). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 71:569-583

The Babel of the Unconscious

J. Amati Mehler, S. Argentieri and J. Canestri


This paper illustrates our clinical and personal experiences concerning the vast and complex theme of 'Polylingualism in psychoanalysis'. The issue of polylingualism and polyglotism reintroduces some general psychoanalytic hypotheses. For instance, is the nature of the unconscious predominantly pre-verbal, or is it structured as a language? What occurs if some languages are known since very early childhood, and belong to a pre-symbolic structural patrimony closely bound to bodily sensations and concrete experiences? How does the learning of new languages, later on, affect or modify thought processes? How do new and old unconscious 'thing' and 'word' representations interact with each other? What are the related problems regarding repression and memory?

Our paper illustrates and discusses problems of communication and comprehension within the clinical situation, in cases when the analytic language is not the mother-tongue of the analyst, or of the patient, or of either of them.

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