Thursday, 17 July 2014

An Introduction to Dream Speech - Emil Kraepelin & Sigmund Freud

This is an introduction to the phenomenon of dream speech. Dream speech is the verbal or acoustic language of dreams, which most commonly occurs in the form of dialogue between the dreamer and other dream characters. This article focuses specifically on the contributions of psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin (1856 - 1926) who produced an impressive opus of dream speech material and analysis of Kraepelin's self-reported dreams using Freudian psychoanalysis. I will be posting a further, more generalised, article on dream speech at a later stage.

Dream speech (or Traumsprache in German) is internal speech within a dream, in which errors of speech may occur. This phenomenon was defined by Emil Kraepelin in On Language Disturbances in Dreams (1906), which analysed various types of dream speech, presenting 286 examples. Dream speech is distinct from 'the language of dreams' which refers to the visual symbols used to represent thoughts in dreams. Kraepelin identified three categories of dream speech, within which there are numerous subdivisions:
  1. Disorders of word selection (paraphasias)
  2. Disorders of discourse (aggrammatisms)
  3. Thought disorders
Kraepelin found that the most common type of dream speech was neologism - the use of words which only have meaning for the person who uses them, independent of their common meaning and not necessarily accepted in mainstream language. Kraepelin studied dream speech because he hoped it would provide him with insight into analogous language disturbances in schizophrenic persons. In 1920 he stated that: 'dream speech in every detail corresponds to schizophrenic speech disorder'. Kraepelin was interested in the psychiatric as well as psychological aspects of dream speech, but modern dream scientists and psychologists are interested in speech production in dreams in relation to cognitive processes in the dreaming mind. Some modern studies have confirmed Kraepelin's earlier findings. Kraepelin is well-known as a pioneer of biological psychiatry and the 'spiritual father' of the DSM classificatory system for psychiatric disorder.

Kraepelin continued to collect examples of dream speech until his death in 1926, from his own personal experiences which he recorded and can be seen in the Archive of the Max Plancke Institute of Psychiatry in Munich. Kraepelin's dream speech specimens were published in 1993 - the second dream corpus had not been censured and is annotated with the date, as Kraepelin (who had been collecting specimens of dream speech for 40 years) approached this exercise with scientific precision. 

Kraepelin's own dream speech began during a period of personal crisis and depression (1882 - 1884). In 1882 Kraepelin was fired from the Leipzig Psychiatry Clinic after only working there for a few weeks and two months later his father died. From the early years of his career Kraepelin had witnessed schizophrenic speech disorder ('schizophasie') in his patients - a condition which can often make it impossible to understand what the schizophrenic patient is trying to express. Using the classic dream-psychosis analogy, Kraepelin attempted to study dream speech, hoping it would shed some light on schizophasie. He recorded his own dreams, but did not use psychoanalysis to analyse them, instead using them for scientific research. He found that he was able to record 'deviant language' from the dream, and also the intended utterance (which was not possible in the case of his schizophrenic patients who cannot cross the boundary between psychosis and reality in order to communicate this distinction). Most neogolisms (the deviant utterance) have a meaning (the intended utterance). 

Kraepelin was able to identify two fundamental disorders in dream speech: a diminished functioning of the Wernicke's area of the brain (cerebral cortex involved in the understanding of spoken and written speech); and diminished functioning of the frontal area which deals with abstract reasoning. Therefore individual ideas, rather than general ideas, are expressed in dreams. Kraepelin included proper nouns (i.e. names such as Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune) in their widest sense within this model.

Kraepelin's dream speech specimens range from simple to intricate and his own analysis is somewhat limited in scope. Below are some examples:

'Vi tafalk!' 
This was an order given to a gravedigger named Vi to bring a coffin for the body during a funeral. 
'Tafalk' is a shortcut for the German 'katafalk' (catafalque' meaning the raised platform on which a coffin sits during a funeral)

'Nonsence' minus 'one'
'Crap a ace' ('crap' meaning 'rubbish' in English, 'a' being the Greek prefix for 'without' and 'ace' representing 'one)
'Crap a ace' is a derivative from the metathesis of 'carapace'
'Carapace' (dorsal section of an exoskeleton) refers to 'schild' (shield) from 'Firmenschild' (German for 'company logo')
Schild = (1) carapace - (2) crap a ace - (3) nonsense without one - (4) nsens
(1) and (3) are conceptual associations ('code-type' associations in cryptography)
(2) and (4) are word form associations ('cipher-type' associations)
Kraepelin (who did not provide this particular analysis) termed 'nsens' as an example of 'syllable combinations jumbled in a completely arbitrary way' and thought 'nsens' was Russian. According to scholars, this assertion originated from the associative networks of his dreaming brain. The Russian word 'krapkea' means 'firm' which is an association with 'Firmenschild', provoking the transformation to 'carapace'

'Serre' - a word with no meaning in German. Kraepelin associates the word with 'an animal, by appearance, a heavy panther, but in fact a harmless herbivore which cannot turn over again once it is lying on its back and is completely defenceless'.
He includes the word 'turtle' - in German 'schildkrote' ('shield-toad')
'Serre' in French - linked to 'talon' (bird of prey)
French for 'turtle shell' -= 'carapace'
French for 'bird of prey' = 'rapace'
German for turtle = 'krote' (toad)
'Krote' translated in French = 'crapaud'
'Crapaud' associates with the German 'krapfen' and 'hook' - i.e. 'talon'
'Serre' - is linked to 'schildkrote' by 'carapace' and 'crapaud' - which in turn are linked to 'Kraepelin'

'Trafei' - linked to 'Trafoi'
Implicit critique of Freud's analysis of  'Trafoi' in the 'Signorelli parapraxis' (see my previous article on 'Freudian Slips' for the background to this analysis)
'Trafoi' - 'trofei' (Italian for 'trophy')
'Trofei' - 'Siegeszeichen' (German for 'victory-signs' - 'Signum' (Latin for 'sign') - Sigmund (Freud)

Words such as 'Krapea', 'crap' and 'carapace' are all Kraepelin-words, which seem to associate to the proper noun, Kraepelin and influence/direct associational processes. The key role of the proper noun (or name) can be explained by referring to the 'Cocktail Party Effect', which states that during a cocktail party we tune into our discussion party, neglecting any background noise. However, we notice when someone in the background din mentions our name (or something that sounds like our name). This effect has been replicated in studies using dichotic listening techniques, showing that only proper nouns break through the attentional barrier and can be heard even when our attention is at its lowest. What happens within 'outer speech' during a cocktail party occurs similarly with 'inner speech' whilst dreaming. Code words, which are linked in sound with our proper name will be detected in a set of associations during thinking.  The ongoing thought process will then deviate because code words will act as priming words, influencing the direction in which the associations will go. 

The link between schizophrenia and dream speech was the topic of debate between linguists Victorian Froomkin and Elaine Chaika in the 1970s. Chaika believed that schizophasia was a form of intermittent aphasia, whilst Froomkin stated that schizophasia could occur in non-schizophrenic persons. By 1995, Chaika conceded that schizophasia is not due to aphasias linked to actual brain damage, but is a form of speech error which may be caused by a deficiency in language production or the result of a failed intention. Thus, she adopted a position similar to Kraepelin, who stated that speech errors resembling schizophasia occur in normal individuals during dreams. 

Dream speech appears to play a very marginal role in Dream Theory, although David Foulkes highlights its significance, claiming: 'however visual dreaming may seem, it may be planned and regulated by the human speech production system'. Deirdre Barrett at Harvard University describes examples of dream literature in The Committee of Sleep (2010) where dreamers had dreamed of heard/read words which they later recorded when awake. She observed that most of these literary works tend to be poetry rather than prose or narrative fiction, although the title Vanity Fair appeared to William Makepeace Thackeray in a dream, as did Katherine Mansfield's Sun and Moon. Barrett suggests that poetry fares better in dreams because grammar tends to be well-preserved in dream speech, while meaning suffers and rhyme and rhythm are more prominent than while awake - characteristics which benefits poetry, but not necessarily other literary forms. In another study, Barrett looked at verbatim language in the dream speech of college students and found them similar  in these characteristics to literary examples of dream speech - intact grammar, poor meaning, rhyme and rhythm. She stated that this is evidence that within the two language centres in the brain - the Wernicke's area and the Broca's area, there is a malfunctioning in the former. Dream speech resembles that of persons with Wernicke's aphasia - the same conclusion reached by Kraepelin in 1906. 

Kraepelin's dream speech has been psychoanalysed by others, using Freud's technique. One theory is that Kraepelin's dreams reveal a desire to preserve his uncommon family name. Freud was initially schooled in notions of anatomical localisation of mental functions and the idea that consciousness was an epiphenemenon which was caused by strong cortical stimulation. He later rejected these ideas, favouring those of John Hughlings Jackson, who suggested that neural functioning was hierarchical and dynamic, as opposed to static and localised and often outside the conscious awareness of the individual. In On Aphasia (1891), Freud focused not only on neurology, but also linguistics. leading to his recognition as the first neo-grammarian neurologist (Junggrammatika) and he advanced distinctions between hysterical speech impairments and true organic aphasia. He introduced the idea of 'word presentation' in schizophrenic subjects - that speech is invested with psychic energy and consciousness, with words manipulated by the schizophrenic, as if they were 'things'. He expounded this theory further in The Unconscious (1915). Although Freud's work on dream speech was neurologically orientated, he later turned towards psychoanalysis as an explanation, characterising speech as a 'secondary process' (phylogenetically and ontogenetically advanced) which occurs in normal functioning wakefulness. He contrasted this secondary process with primary processes which occur at an unconscious pre-verbal level - condensation, displacement and symbolisation.

Many of Freud's own dream reports contain complex verbal content - lengthy 'speech' which is grammatically appropriate to the context in which is occurred. Dreams are 'compromise formations' resulting from the interplay between primary and secondary processes - however, the primary processes are far more active in dreams than normal wakefulness and thus, it would be expected that speech - a secondary process - would be subjected to severe disturbances during dreaming. Freud's dream records show that his dream speech was remarkably well-formed. In The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) Freud addressed the theoretical dilemma of secondary process speech occurring within primary process dreaming. He employed 'replay hypothesis' as an explanation, stating that audible/acoustic speech in dreams is a playback of actual speech heard by the dreamer in their waking life. Non-acoustic utterances within dreams had their origin in previous wakeful ideas and thoughts of the dreamer. This material may have undergone 'splicing' or 'editing'. He applied his theory to several of his own dreams, notably, 'The Autodidasker Dream' and 'The Castle by the Sea' dream, both of which demonstrated that dream speech, while perceived as being in the dreamer's native language, may involve links from other foreign languages of which he has some knowledge.

The problem with using the psychoanalytic method to dissect Kraepelin's dreams is that Kraepelin did not free associate upon his own dreams or use psychoanalysis as a tool for exploring their meaning. Thus, any psychoanalytical study of Kraepelin's dreams are third-party analysis - like Freud's inclusion of Hanns Sach's psychoanalytic interpretation of Bismark's dream which was included in The Interpretation of Dreams and focused on infantile sexuality. In doing so, Freud pointed to 'firmly established linguistic usage' - the idea that dream speech may take on a visual, physical representation, rather than presenting in verbal form.

On 5 April 1926, six months prior to his death, Kraepelin recorded a dream. The only information provided is that the phrase 'Ruhrochs gibt es nicht mehr' ('there is no more scrambled ox') was uttered 'in an inn'. The dream utterance has been analysed in the following way:

'Ruhrochs gibt es nicht mehr'
The neologism 'Ruhrochs' = 'scrambled ox'
'Ruhrei' = 'scrambled eggs'
'Ochsenaugen' = 'eggs sunny-side up'
'Ochs' = sounds like English word 'ox'
'Ruhrochs' associated with Latin word 'Praecox' which is linked semantically with 'Ochsenaugen'
'Ochsenaugen' also means 'Apricot cake'
Apricot/aprilkose = 'praecox' - a form of early-ripened peach
'Praecox' translates to the German 'fruhreif' which translates as 'early-ripe'
'Fruhreif' - becomes 'fruhreif'
Latent meaning: 'Dementia praecox is no more' ('Dementia praecox' was Kraepelin's term for what we now call 'schizophrenia')
Bleuler's term 'schizophrenia' had superseded Kraepelin's terminology and become the accepted medical classification, whilst Kraepelin was at the end of his career and near death.

The dream interpretation above can be interpreted as a 'loss of name' - and can be analysed in a similar way to Kraepelin's other dreams, noted above, which also link to his moniker. Thus Kraepelin's family name is key to unravelling the meaning of his dream speech - his anxiety that his name/legacy might become extinguished, or his contribution to medicine may be lost. His dreams seem to display a wish that his name and nomenclature would continue to live on after his death. Additional interpretations of Kraepelin's dream speech suggest that it displays an unconscious motive to demonstrate his intellect and mental complexity, therefore reinforcing his overall claim of historical importance. Validation of the theory that preservation of Kraepelin's unusual family name was of psychological importance to him can be found in biographies (Steinberg (2001) & Burgmair et al (2000) for example). It is suggested that the concern about the loss of his family name and his desire for its endurance may have been idiosyncratic to Kraepelin under the particular circumstances of his personal life. However, analysis of his contributions to dream speech and psychoanalytic interpretation using Freud's techniques may enable a more generalised hypothesis to emerge: in dreams which are almost entirely made up of utterances/dream speech rather than visual representations or imagery, one's proper name - an aspect of their identity - may constitute a remnant of a diminished sense of identity or a 'minimal characteristic of the ego' (Engels et al (2008)) which the dreamer clings to. The deeper roots of the dream may concern childhood fears of elimination or annihilation. These theories can be tested in a psychoanalytic setting, via use of Freud's methods of free association. Certainly, irrespective of whether Freudian interpretations of Kraepelin's dreams are accepted as truth, Kraepelin left a rich legacy of dream material capable of illuminating the intricate nature of speech functions and the unconscious mind. Kraepelin's name endures in this respect and his dream records may be dissected within a linguistic, neurological or psychoanalytical framework, each possibility offering valuable insight into the speech patterns of dreams.

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