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Feldman, A.B. (1964). The Word in the Beginning. Psychoanal. Rev., 51A(1):79-98.

(1964). Psychoanalytic Review, 51A(1):79-98

The Word in the Beginning

A. Bronson Feldman, Ph.D.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Gospel According to John: I, 1.


Animals whom mankind is fond of referring to as inferior creatures are able to make sounds that have significance. They can talk as well as sing. There is a species of ape in India, the gibbon Hylobates Syndactylus, which can sing a full octave in perfectly clear harmonious half-tones. Chimpanzees have been trained to tongue a vocabulary of twenty American words. Within their own species, however, they would not employ these vocables but return at once to the noises and signals they inherited at birth. None of the so-called lower animals has yet managed man's trick of interrupting or exploding his breath in such a way as to communicate to his kind a singular meaning belonging to one sound alone. The invention of words appears to be beyond the interests, if not the energies, of their brains and vocal chords.

The invention of deliberate language also appears to be outside the ken of the very young human. Before this creature is forty weeks old it manifests interest in the projections of its larynx but makes no distinction between expression and communication for the sake of any second animal. Then it exhibits pleasure in echoing certain syllables produced for its benefit (for example, Da-da) but plainly attaches no particular significance to these syllables.

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