Speech

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French: parole

Translation[edit | edit source]

Parole[edit | edit source]

The French term parole presents considerable difficulty to the English translator because it does not correspond to any one English word.

In some contexts it corresponds to the English term "speech," and in others is best translated as "word."

Jacques Lacan[edit | edit source]

Parole becomes one of the most important terms in Lacan's work from the early 1950s on.

Psychoanalysis[edit | edit source]

In his famous "Rome Discourse," Lacan denounces the way that the role of speech in psychoanalysis had come to be neglected by contemporary psychoanalytic theory, and argues for a renewed focus on speech and language.<ref>Lacan, Jacques.. "Fonction et champ de la parole et du langage en psychanalyse," 1953a, in Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.237-322. ["The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis," in Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977.. p. 30-113]</ref>

Influences[edit | edit source]

Lacan's use of the term parole owes little to Saussure -- whose opposition between parole and langue is replaced in Lacan's work with the opposition between parole and langage -- and is far more determined by references to anthropology, theology, and metaphysics.

Anthropology[edit | edit source]

Lacan's concept of speech as a "symbolic exchange" which "links human beings to each other'" <ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p. 142</ref> is clearly influenced by the work of Mauss and Lévi-Strauss, especially their analysis of the exchange of gifts.

Thus Freud's interpretations are described as "a symbolic gift of speech, pregnant with a secret pact."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 79</ref>

The concept of speech as a pact which assigns roles to both the addressee and the addresser is formulated in Lacan's concept of founding speech.

Theology[edit | edit source]

Speech also takes on religious and theological connotations in Lacan's work, in terms derived both from Eastern religions<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 106-7</ref> and the Judaeo-Christian tradition.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 106</ref>

In 1954, Lacan discusses speech with reference to St Augustine's De locutionis significatione.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p. 247-60</ref>

Like the words uttered by God in Genesis, speech is a "symbolic invocation" which creates, ex nihilo, "a new order of being in the relations between men."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p. 239</ref>

Metaphysics[edit | edit source]

Lacan draws on Heidegger's distinction between Rede (discourse) and Gerede (chatter) to elaborate his own distinction between "full speech" (parole pleine) and "empty speech" (parole vide).<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 40ff</ref>

Lacan first makes this distinction in 1953, and though it no longer plays an important part in his work after 1955, it never disappears completely.

Symbolic and Imaginary Dimension[edit | edit source]

Full speech articulates the symbolic dimension of language, whereas empty speech articulates the imaginary dimension of language, the speech from the ego to the counterpart.

"Full speech is a speech full of meaning [sens]. Empty speech is a speech which has only signification."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XXIV. L'insu que sait de l'une bévue s'aile à mourre, 1976-77, published in Ornicar?, nos 12-18, 1977-9. p. 11</ref>
Truth of Desire[edit | edit source]

Full speech is also called "true speech," since it is closer to the enigmatic truth of the subject's desire:

"Full speech is speech which aims at, which forms, the truth such as it becomes established in the recognition of one person by another. Full speech is speech which performs [qui fait acte]."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p. 107</ref>
"Full speech, in effect, is defined by its identity with that which it speaks about."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 381</ref>

In empty speech, on the other hand, the subject is alienated from his desire; in empty speech "the subject seems to be talking in vain about someone who . . . can never become one with the assumption of his desire."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 45</ref>

Analytic Treatment[edit | edit source]

One of the analyst's tasks when listening to the analysand is to discern the moments when full speech emerges.

Full speech and empty speech are the extreme points on a continuum, and "between these two extremes, a whole gamut of modes of realisation of speech is deployed."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p. 50</ref>

The aim of psychoanalytic treatment is to articulate full speech, which is hard work; full speech can be quite laborious (pénible) to articulate.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 253</ref>

Desire and Speech[edit | edit source]

Empty speech is not the same as lying; on the contrary, lies often reveal the truth about desire more fully than many honest statements.<ref>Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 139-40</ref>

It is never possible to articulate in speech the whole truth of one's desire because of a fundamental "incompatibility between desire and speech."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 275</ref>.

"I always tell the truth; not the whole truth, because we are not capable of telling it all. Telling it all is materially impossible."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Télévision, Paris: Seuil, 1973. Television: A Challenge to the Psychoanalytic Establishment, ed. Joan Copjec, trans. Denis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss and Annette Michelson, New York: Norton, 1990]. p.9</ref>

Full speech, then, is not the articulation in speech of the whole truth about the subject's desire, but the speech which articulates this truth as fully as possible at a particular time.

Speech is the only means of access to the truth about desire.

"Speech alone is the key to that truth."<ref>Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 172</ref>

Moreover, psychoanalytic theory claims that it is only a particular kind of speech that leads to this truth; a speech without conscious control, known as free association.

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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