Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis

By Coline Covington; Barbara Wharton | Go to book overview

Chapter 15

Part II The origin of the child's words Papa and Mama. Some observations on the different stages in language development

Sabina Spielrein

(Translated from the German by Barbara Wharton)


1.

The different forms of language

When we adults speak of languages we think of verbal content and overlook the role played, even in written texts, by contributions from the field of rhythmic/melodic language, such as exclamation marks, question marks, and so on. These melodic means of expression become even more important in spoken language; here a third factor is added, imitation and gesture, means of expression which we could call visual language, and which indeed play such an outstanding part in dreams as a distinctive picture language. Accordingly we must differentiate from verbal language other types of language such as that of melody, visual (picture-) language, the language of touch, and so on. As a conscious means of communication the sound-based languages (melody, and above all words) play a vastly predominant role and thus they deserve above all others to be called 'social languages'. Lazarus says with justification that people became social beings first through language, by which he meant verbal language: 'the world now consists no longer of a Not-I and an I, that is my I, but of Not-I and very many I's, as many in fact as speak, as understand one another and can find a witness to their common, shared consciousness', and further: 'if we remember that language exists only in society, a human being can realise himself as a Self and an I only by being alongside other Selves and other I's.'

One has only to compare the usually shy, wary, spiteful nature of deaf-mutes with the character of blind people to value the high social significance of verbal language in comparison with other languages.

Since it was the one best suited for social purposes, verbal language soon pushed all others into the background, and they thus sank to the position of auxiliary languages, unconscious languages, or alternatively were transformed into artistic languages. Genetically however verbal language is far from being the first, either among human beings, or in the animal world. The language of melody, music, in its most primitive form of rhythm and tone, precedes verbal language by a long way: long before the first signs of verbal

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