Lingüística, Interacc

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David Liberman distinguishes in his book between several models of "communication theory" with a view to using them in clinical psychoanalysis. He was interested in the influence of the modes of information transmission and reception in the transference because the patient's form of linguistic expression is a communication that is just as important as the content of the utterance. Theories of communication and the real and concrete effects that pathological communication produces on the mind are illustrated by clinical examples in psychoanalytic transference. We can see the influence of Gregory Bateson (1951), Paul Watzlawick (1967), and Rudolf Carnap (1942).

The first volume of the work is devoted to providing a methodological explanation of psychoanalysis as a science, as well as the empirical models and modes of corroborating hypotheses used in this domain. The second and third volumes present clinical examples of the reception and transmission of messages in the course of a session. The author introduces the notion of style, modeled on literary styles: narrative style (obsessional), epic style (psychopathic), and lyrical or emotional style (depressive).

Liberman presents a new typology founded not on psychiatry but on the three axes of communication theorysyntactic, semantic, and pragmaticand their respective pathological distortions. Syntactic distortion appears through parapraxes in hysteria, semantic distortion through the altered meaning that the patient gives to a sentence, and pragmatic distortion through the real and concrete effects produced on the mind of the receiver, for example the use of the imperative mode, double meanings, and paradoxes.

Another original contribution from the author is the microscopic study of sessions with the help of notes and recordings in an effort to observe the slight syntactic and paraverbal changes that take place in the course of a treatment. Patients' tangential and disqualifying responses are also studied. For example, we can observe that the analysand's recourse to responses like "perhaps," "I'm not sure that's true," "I have my doubts" are a means of discrediting the interpretation. Microscopic analysis offers a more scientific basisespecially with the help of modern linguistic theoriesand helps us to understand the process of the counter-transferencecountertransference, which is apprehended as an emotion to be decoded.

This work is one of the most influential in terms of its effect on how Latin American psychoanalysts are trained.

David Rosenfeld

See also: Argentina; Liberman, David; Linguistics and psychoanalysis.

Source Citation

Liberman David. (1971). Linguística, Interaccíon comunicativa y Processo psicoanalítico. Buenos Aires: Adiciones Nueva Visión.


Bateson, Gregory, et al. (1951). Communication: The social matrix of psychiatry, New York: W. W. Norton.

Carnap, Rudolf. (1942). Introduction to Semantics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

. (1978). Affective response of the analyst to the patient's communications. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 59 (2-3), 335-340.

Watzlawick, Paul, Beavin, Janet Helmick, and Jackson, Don D. (1967). Pragmatics of Human Communication. New York: W. W. Norton.