Bleuler is one of my heroes

On November 11, 2014 by Wolfram Hinzen

bleulerUpon re-reading Bleuler’s textbook on psychiatry, I am struck by the fact that, after stating that there is no independent, aphasia-like language disturbance in his patients, he goes on documenting at length how many of his patients have a fundamentally altered relationship to language.

Meanwhile, the neurologist Kleist, around the same time, clearly stated that, although language disturbance in schiz did for him resemble fluent aphasia in neurological patients, it was different in affecting ‘the thinking based on speech’.

So however we turn it, it is clear that (i) we see language disturbance in schiz, (ii) it is not like standard aphasia, but (iii) it requires us to view language as a mediator of thought – a novel viewpoint that linguists are not accustomed to.

It’s strange, in the effort to establish language as a cognitive domain in its own right, Chomsky’s eventual victory was purchased at the price of relegating most of cognition and ‘thought’ to psychology and philosophy. The consequence of this is that now we simply don’t know linguistic structure feeds into thought, and the question about the relation between language and cognition has to be newly asked.


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