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Masserman, J.H. (1944). Language, Behaviour and Dynamic Psychiatry. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 25:1-8.

(1944). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 25:1-8

Language, Behaviour and Dynamic Psychiatry

Jules H. Masserman


Man has always been inordinately proud of his ability to communicate by words and signs, and has often liked to think that this differentiated him from the rest of all creation. Philosophers, who designate themselves man's professional apologists and protagonists, have therefore been traditionally pre-occupied with extensive ruminations—as various as they have been voluminous—about the significance of language as an exclusively human function. On the other hand, observant biologists, from hunters and herders to professors of comparative zoology, have inevitably noted many types of intra- and inter-species communication among animals of nearly every order, and have consequently not been so certain as to man's monopoly of the essentials of language.

Also less given to semantic abstractions and dialectics have been man's physicians, who have enjoyed a more direct opportunity to observe the psycho-biologic correlates of 'language in action' (1) in their friends and patients, and who have necessarily employed action in language as an indispensable tool of their profession. Nevertheless, even psychiatrists and psycho-analysts, like other artisans with a practical and often urgent job in hand, have been prone to be less interested in the dynamics of their too familiar communicative tools than in the ever new clinical problems to which they must be applied. As a result, only recently have dynamic psychiatrists begun to pool their special knowledge and research-skills with biologists, anthropologists and linguists in a comprehensive study of language—a study necessitated by the intimate participation of communication in all forms of 'normal' and 'abnormal' behaviour.

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