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Walsh, M.N. (1971). Ordinal Language and Superego Genesis: A Hitherto Unnoticed Influence of Language on the Formation of Psychic Structure. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 52:115-125.

(1971). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 52:115-125

Ordinal Language and Superego Genesis: A Hitherto Unnoticed Influence of Language on the Formation of Psychic Structure

Maurice N. Walsh


The fact that the more global ordinal (auditory) language of childhood, more heavily cathected with defused instinctual drives, can be distinguished from the predominantly visual language of adult life permits a study of the influence of language in the formation of the superego functions.

In this communication the influences exerted by ordinal language upon the formation of identifications, specially elevated introjects and upon the creation of the internal world of the child are explored and described in a preliminary way. The influence of primitive sounds known as explosives, spirants and nasalized consonants (Rosen, 1955); (Rangell, 1963); (Walsh, 1967), (1968) as expressors and carriers of affective cathexes and primitive, defused instinctual drives (Walsh, 1967), (1968) is an important part of the afore-going process, since these sounds can be demonstrated to be related to universal gastrointestinal, genito-urinary and respiratory tract operations of infancy.

It is suggested that the influence of the above language features in the formation of the prohibitive, permissive (approving and rewarding) and idealizing functions of the superego are not unimportant. An attempt is made in a preliminary way to detail these influences on the formation and determination of the cathexes of the identifications and the specially elevated introjects basic to superego and ego formation. It is suggested that the characteristic language of early childhood and late infancy, the predominately ordinal (auditory and phonetic) language employed by the mother in dealing with the child and by the child in the early interaction with the mother must be of importance in superego formation.

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