Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan

The issue of whether “spoken language influences the psyche”

The issue of whether “spoken language influences the psyche”… How important it is for emotions and thoughts to be expressed in speech! You know the situation when you cannot remember something or it is at the tip of your tongue, how it bothers you and put everything aside trying to remember it…

I don’t want to talk at length about the language science relationship between words and the objects they represent. For example, why the Italians with puffed out cheeks say “Antonio” whereas the English content themselves with politely saying “Smith!” I won’t go into the connections between these countries’ geographical conditions and their word structuring… I primarily want to look at the subject through the eyes of a psychiatrist.

Let us remember that there is a centre in the brain dedicated to speech, and that this is usually located in the left hemisphere of the brain. We know that a person who had a stroke can temporarily or permanently lose his ability to speak. In such a situation the event that caused the stroke has affected the speech centre. If the person is unable to speak it is the Broca’s area that has been affected. The Broca’s area is located at the junction of the fontal and the temporal area, in other words at the front of the brain. This is called motor aphasia. If the Wernicke’s area is affected emotional aphasia occurs. The Wernicke’s area is at the back of the brain, where the temporal area ends. It is more involved with comprehension of spoken language rather than speech itself. In other words the person is unable to find the word that represents what he sees or hears. Therefore what is spoken is meaningless. In transition aphasia between motor and sensory areas the person is unable to repeat words he hears or to read a text out loud. In global aphasia there is deterioration of the whole of spoken language skills. In trans-cortical aphasia only the ability to repeat may remain in tact.

You can guess that when we look at anatomical, neurological and language-science related basis, the issue is very intricate. It is deep and delicate. I will come back to it from time to time and look at it from different angles. In this article I will focus on how organising the spoken and written language, in other words education, influences the psyche.

If you are uneducated you believe you know a lot. But you assume that people do not understand you! How can others judge the correctness, validity and reliability of your knowledge? This is only possible to the extent to which you can tell them. You will explain and the others or nature itself will respond and it will become clear if your knowledge corresponds to anything in reality.

Just explaining is not sufficient; you have to express yourself clearly. You will realize that it all depends on a good knowledge of grammar rules and the amount of words known. To explain what you mean to nature will help to find water, to produce bread. The language of nature for example is mathematics. Are calculations relating to agriculture not important? Is it possible for E=mc2 to be m=Ec2 ? Would you not be laughed at? On the other hand, does explaining yourself to another person not open the doors to love, whereas the opposite results in anger, sadness and disappointment? And with feelings of inadequacy, incompetence thrown into the bargain?

But I see there are people who do not have as deep an education as they claim. Such ambition, such showing off! I find it difficult to understand how someone who is unable to express his own feelings and thoughts, who cannot direct them, should be able to direct nature and people, in other words history!

If you do not believe me, please try it out yourself. Write your thoughts on a piece of paper, without going into too much detail, but with the subject, the verb, etc. in the right order, with a correct grammar and at the same time by taking care to chose the right words… You will see that to the extent you succeed in this your self-respect will increase…
This means that the form, i.e. language has such a huge and terrific influence that it can enliven the psyche…

As an example, it would be useful to have a look at the association between the power and the psychological richness of Nazım’s poems!

By the way, since the spoken language softens the psyche then it follows that it is best to be soft-spoken…

And how the psyche influences language could be the subject of another article…

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