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Inner Speech as a Language: A Saussurean Inquiry

Norbert Wiley.
Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 2006, 36 (3): 319-341


"People often talk silently to themselves, engaging in what is called inner speech, internal conversation, inner dialogue, self talk and so on. This seems to be an inherent characteristic of human beings, commented on as early as Plato (Theaetetus 189e-190a and Sophist 263e), who regarded thought as inner speech. The American pragmatists thought the inner dialogue was the defining feature of the self (Archer 2003, pp. 53-92). For them the self is an internal community or network, communicating within itself in a field of meaning. The idea that ordinary language is the language of thought however is not the only linquistic theory of thought. Since Saint Augustine there has been the idea that thought is itself a language of pure abstractions. This 'mental language' as it was called differs from ordinary language by consisting solely of meanings, i.e. as signifieds without signifiers to use Saussure's language (Ashworth 2003). This hypothesis peaked in the writings of William of Occam and declined when Hobbes introduced a purely computational, hedonistic theory of thought (Normore 2005)."