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Dream speech

dream speech, dream speech martin luther king
Dream speech in German Traumsprache is internal speech in which errors occur during a dream The term dream speech was coined by Emil Kraepelin in his 1906 monograph titled Über Sprachstörungen im Traume "On Language Disturbances in Dreams" The text discussed various forms of dream speech, outlining 286 examples Dream speech is not to be confounded with the 'language of dreams', which refers to the visual means of representing thought in dreamscitation needed

Three types of dream speech were considered by Kraepelin: disorders of word-selection also called paraphasias, disorders of discourse eg agrammatisms and thought disorders The most frequent occurring form of dream speech is a neologism

Kraepelin studied dream speech because it provided him with clues to the analoguous language disturbances of patients with schizophrenia Still in 1920 he stated that "dream speech in every detail corresponds to schizophrenic speech disorder"

While Kraepelin was interested in the psychiatric as well as the psychological aspects of dream speech, modern researchers have been interested in speech production in dreams as illuminating aspects of cognition in the dreaming mind They confirmed one of the findings of Kraepelin


  • 1 The other Kraepelin
    • 11 Dreaming for psychiatry's sake
    • 12 Schizophrenic speech disorder
    • 13 Fundamental disturbances
    • 14 Two examples
      • 141 Vi, tafalk!
      • 142 nsens
    • 15 The Kraepelin code
  • 2 Chaika vs Fromkin
  • 3 Cognitive dream speech research
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 Further reading
  • 7 External links

The other Kraepelinedit

Dream speech opens up a new perspective on the psychiatrist Kraepelin, usually seen as the spiritual father of the DSM system of classification of psychiatric diseases and of biological psychiatry However Kraepelin, one of the first disciples of Wilhelm Wundt, took a lifelong interest in psychology and even edited a journal Psychologische Arbeiten As one of the booklets of this journal a 104-pages article on dream speech appeared early in 1906, before the 105-pages monograph was published end 1906

Dreaming for psychiatry's sakeedit

In his monograph Kraepelin presented 286 examples of dream speech, mainly his own After 1906 he continued to collect samples of dream speech until his death in 1926 This time the dream speech specimens were almost exclusively his own and the original hand written dream texts are still available today at the Archive of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich These new dream speech specimens have been published in 1993 in Heynick in part in English translation and in 2006 in the original German, with numerous valuable notes added The second dream corpus has not been censured and dates are added to the dreams As Kraepelin in 1906 had been collecting dream speech for more than 20 years, he jotted down his dream speech specimens for more than 40 years, with a scientific viewpoint in mind

Kraepelin's dream speech started during a period 1882–1884 of personal crisis and depression In 1882 Kraepelin was fired after working only a few weeks at the Leipzig psychiatric clinic and two months later his father died

Schizophrenic speech disorderedit

Already in the early years of his career Kraepelin had been confronted with schizophrenic speech disorder - called first Sprachverwirrtheit then schizophrene Sprachverwirrtheit and finally Schizophasie - produced by his patients But —as Kraepelin states— we can hardly study the schizophasia, because we do not know what the patient is trying to express

However using the classical dream-psychosis analogy, he tried to first study dream speech in the hope that this would lead to insights into schizophrenic speech disorder And so Kraepelin got used to recording his dreams, not to interpret them for personal use as in psychanalysis, but to use them for a scientific study Kraepelin was not only able to record the deviant speech in his dreams, but also the intended utterance which was lacking in the deviant speech of his patients, who clearly cannot cross the boundary from psychosis to reality For example, most neologisms the deviant utterance in Kraepelin's dreams have a meaning the intended utterance

Fundamental disturbancesedit

Kraepelin pointed out two fundamental disturbances underlying dream speech: a diminished functioning of the Wernicke area, and a diminished functioning of those frontal areas in which abstract reasoning is localized Therefore, individual ideas Individualvorstellungen get expressed in dreams instead of general ideas Among these individual ideas he included proper names in their widest sense

Two examplesedit

Kraepelin's dream speech specimens range from rather simple to extremely intricate Kraepelin's own analysis is limited in scope The monograph available on Google shows his approach Several of his dreams can however be analysed in depth Two examples - one from the second corpus and one from the first and both not analysed by Kraepelin himself - illustrate this

Vi, tafalk!edit

On August 13, 1923 Kraepelin jotted down the following example of dream speech:

Vi, tafalk!

This is, as Kraepelin informs us, an order to the grave digger, named Vi, to bring the coffin for the body during a funeral Kraepelin notes, that the neologism tafalk is a shortcut for German Katafalk catafalque Obviously Vi—in the utterance Vi, tafalk—replaces the syllable Ka


While Vi, tafalk! is quite easy to analyze, in the same article p 1290 the authors demonstrate how the associative paths leading to the complex neologism nsens in dream specimen no 107 of Kraepelin's first corpus can be reconstructed from its origin Firmenschild = "company sign"

Nsens derives from the English word "nonsense", once the letters of the word "one" have been deleted Literally nsens is nonsense - one This in its turn links to "crap a ace" "crap" meaning "nonsense", Greek prefix a meaning "without" and "ace" meaning "one" in dice games "Crap a ace" is derived from a metathesis of "carapace", a typical Kraepelin-word for German Schild in Firmenschild In short four association steps link Schild to nsens:

Schild= 1 carapace - 2 crap a ace= 3 nonsense without one - 4 nsens

The chain shows an alternation of conceptual associations eg synonyms and word form associations character and sound associations

1 and 3 are conceptual associations, 2 and 4 are word form associations

Kraepelin himself — ignorant of the code governing his dream speech — termed nsens an example of "syllable combinations jumbled in a completely arbitrary way" He thinks nsens is Russian Kraepelin's false assertion, according to the authors, originates from the associative network in his dreaming brain during the production of nsens It is Russian krepkea крепкая 'krepkəjə, meaning "firm" and so an association to the first part of Firmenschild, that provokes the transformation of "carapace" to "crap a ace" Krepkea as well as "crap" are Kraepelin-words

In terms of cryptography 1 and 3 are code-type associations, emphasizing meaning, whereas 2 and 4 are cipher-type associations, emphasizing characters cf Pincock & Fary, 2007, p 13

The Kraepelin codeedit

Words like 'carapace', 'krapkea', and 'crap' constitute the 'Kraepelin' code, a set of words that sound like parts of the proper name Kraepelin and influence/direct associational processes The key role of the proper name can be explained by referring to the so-called cocktail party effect, which states that during a cocktail party we tune in on our discussion partner, neglecting background noise However, we notice when someone in the background pronounces our name This cocktail party effect has been replicated in an experimental set up using the dichotic listening technique It has been shown that only our proper name tends to break through the attentional barrier, ie breaks through amidst other, neglected, sounds offered to the unattended ear Thus it follows that our proper name is detected even under conditions of low attention What happens within outer speech during a cocktail-party, likewise occurs within inner speech in dreams Code words - linked in sound to our proper name - will be detected in the set of potential associations during thinking The ongoing thinking process will then deviate because code words will act as priming-words, influencing the direction in which associations will go Engels, 2005, p 187

Chaika vs Fromkinedit

As Kraepelin likened dream speech to schizophasia, what is the current view on the last disorder While in the famous debate during the '70s between the linguists Elaine Chaika and Victoria Fromkin on schizophrenic speech, Chaika long held the position that schizophasia was sort of an intermittent aphasia while Fromkin stated that schizophrenic speech errors could also occur in "normals," the debate has now been ended because according to Chaika 1995

I no longer think that error in schizophrenic speech disorder should be necessarily equated with the aphasias which result from actual brain damage

She also thinks that

The interpretation of meaning of such speech can be quite different according to whether it is perceived as resulting from a true deficit in language production as opposed to resulting from failed intention

Chaika compares schizophrenic speech errors with intricate speech errors, difficult to analyze The current Chaika position comes close to Kraepelin's position 1920, who noted that errors as in schizophasia can also occur in normals in dreams

Cognitive dream speech researchedit

At first sight dream speech plays only a marginal role in dream theory However the important connection of dream and speech is very well illustrated by the following statement of David Foulkes: "However visual dreaming may seem, it may be planned and regulated by the human speech production system" see eg Kilroe, 2001

Recent research has confirmed one of Kraepelin's fundamental disturbances In the book, The Committee of Sleep, Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett describes examples of dreamed literature—in which the dreamers heard or read words which they awakened later wrote and published She observes that almost all the examples are of poetry rather than prose or fiction, the only exceptions being one- or several-word phrases such as the Book title Vanity Fair which came to Thackeray in a dream, or similarly Katherine Mansfield’s Sun and Moon Barrett suggests that the reason poetry fares better in dreams is that grammar seems to be well preserved in dream language while meaning suffers and rhyme and rhythm are more prominent than when awake—all characteristics which benefit poetry but not other forms

In other work, Barrett has studied verbatim language in college students' dreams and found them similar in these characteristics—intact grammar, poor meaning, rhythm and rhyme—to the literary examples She observes that this is suggestive that of the two language centers in the brain, Wernicke’s area must not be functioning well, but Broca's area seems to be as this language resembles that of patients with Wernicke’s aphasia Essentially the same conclusion Kraepelin reached in 1906

See alsoedit

  • Cocktail party effect
  • Somniloquy
  • Signorelli parapraxis: Kraepelin's dream Freud


  • Engels, Huub 2006 Emil Kraepelins Traumsprache 1908–1926 ISBN 978-90-6464-060-5
  • Heynick, F 1993 Language and its disturbances in dreams: the pioneering work of Freud and Kraepelin updated New York: Wiley
  • Kraepelin, E 1906 Über Sprachstörungen im Traume Leipzig: Engelmann

Further readingedit

  • Chaika, E 1995 On analysing schizophrenic speech: what model should we use In A Sims ed Speech and Language Disorder in Psychiatrypp 47–56 London: Gaskell
  • Engels, Huub, Heynick, Frank, & Staak, Cees vd 2003 Emil Kraepelin's dream speech: A psychoanalytical interpretation International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 84:1281–1294
  • Engels, Huub 2009 Emil Kraepelins Traumsprache: erklären und verstehen In Dietrich von Engelhardt und Horst-Jürgen Gerigk ed Karl Jaspers im Schnittpunkt von Zeitgeschichte, Psychopathologie, Literatur und Film p 331–43 ISBN 978-3-86809-018-5 Heidelberg: Mattes Verlag
  • Kilroe, Patricia A 2001 Verbal Aspects of Dreaming: A Preliminary Classification Dreaming: Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams Vol 113 105–113, Sep 2001
  • Kraepelin, E 1920 Die Erscheinungsformen des Irreseins
  • Pincock, S & Frary, M 2007 Code Breaker The History of Secret Communication London: RH Books

External linksedit

  • Kraepelin's monograph Über Sprachstörungen im Traume
  • PhD thesis 2005 on Kraepelin's dream speech summary in English on pages 207–214 The Kraepelin-code, detected by sort of a cryptanalysis of numerous dream speech specimens, consists of various words associated to the proper name Kraepelin One such code word is Greek kraipalè, meaning 'hangover' The smallest code word reads Ka The code words drive the associations leading form the intended to the disturbed utterances in dreams ch 6 lists several code words
  • article on Kraepelin's dream speech in German on pages 92-101
  • dreaming in foreign languages

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