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Horton, P.C. (1984). Language, Solace, and Transitional Relatedness. Psychoanal. St. Child, 39:167-194.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 39:167-194

Language, Solace, and Transitional Relatedness

Paul C. Horton, M.D.


A connection between the experience of psychologically internalizable, maternal or maternallike soothing, the subsequent development of the transitional ego function, and the acquisition of solacing linguistic competence is explored. Several lines of evidence suggest this causal sequence. Infants reared without reliable comforting do not develop transitional object attachments and they suffer significant language deficits. Transitional relatedness either precedes or accompanies early signs of linguistic competence; solacing vocalizations occur in the context of a previously existing and broader pattern of self-soothing behavior. Certain deficits in adult speech—lack of prosody, pronomial confusion, underdeveloped syntax and vocabulary—appear to be traceable, in part, to an absence of the ability for transitional relatedness or to distortions in its use. Solacing language, whether in its most primitive sound stage (mum, ta, da, and the open vowel sounds), or in its most highly refined expressions (operatic love duet, poem, prayer in recitative form) closely parallels, in its essential elements, nonlinguistic manifestations of the progressive transitional mode: Comfort, the sense of a maternal presence, the blending of internal and external reality, and the achievement of cultural resonance are shared, defining components.

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