The linguistics of schizophrenia: thought disturbance as language pathology across positive symptoms

  • Hinzen W
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We hypothesize that linguistic (dis-)organization in the schizophrenic brain plays a more central role in the pathogenesis of this disease than commonly supposed. Against the standard view, that schizophrenia is a disturbance of thought or selfhood, we argue that the origins of the relevant forms of thought and selfhood at least partially depend on language. The view that they do not is premised by a theoretical conception of language that we here identify as 'Cartesian' and contrast with a recent 'un-Cartesian' model. This linguistic model empirically argues for both (i) a one-to-one correlation between human-specific thought or meaning and forms of grammatical organization, and (ii) an integrative and co-dependent view of linguistic cognition and its sensory-motor dimensions. Core dimensions of meaning mediated by grammar on this model specifically concern forms of referential and propositional meaning. A breakdown of these is virtually definitional of core symptoms. Within this model the three main positive symptoms of schizophrenia fall into place as failures in language-mediated forms of meaning, manifest either as a disorder of speech perception (Auditory Verbal Hallucinations), abnormal speech production running without feedback control (Formal Thought Disorder), or production of abnormal linguistic content (Delusions). Our hypothesis makes testable predictions for the language profile of schizophrenia across symptoms; it simplifies the cognitive neuropsychology of schizophrenia while not being inconsistent with a pattern of neurocognitive deficits and their correlations with symptoms; and it predicts persistent findings on disturbances of language-related circuitry in the schizophrenic brain.

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  • Wolfram Hinzen

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