Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Colette Daiute

Committee Members

David T. Humphries

Subject Categories

Anthropological Linguistics and Sociolinguistics | Comparative and Historical Linguistics | Comparative Psychology | Multicultural Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts | Social Psychology | Theory and Philosophy


Psychoanalysis, Linguistic Transference, Countertransference, Intersubjectivity, Mother Tongue, Post-Monolingualism


“Confusion of Tongues” proposes an intersubjective, dialogic approach to translation, psycholinguistics, and patient and clinicians’ relationships to the “mother tongue” and secondary languages. By tuning in to linguistic and translational shifts, stutters, and gaps, the study presents a consideration of the challenges and rewards presented by what I call a “post-monolingual clinical condition.” An individual’s self-state in a specific language will be shadowed by the emotional history and associations one brings to that language, which will also ripple into the counter-transferential matrix—we might call this the “transference to language,” or attachment styles that manifest and repeat an individual’s forgotten libidinal ties to early objects. Within this frame, individuals carry transferences to each of their different languages, just as they would to a parental or caregiving figure.

Integrating a critical-social approach with historical and qualitative methods, “Confusion of Tongues” will begin with a review of how different theories of language and intersubjectivity traverse different psychoanalytic traditions and clinical-developmental psychology. Next, through semi-structured qualitative interviews with multilingual, immigrant patients and clinicians, the study aims to illuminate the conditions of social, political, and linguistic displacement that are the theoretical and clinical foundations of psychoanalysis. Importantly, this study will consider the clinician’s multilingualism alongside that of the patient’s: For if the choice of language may be critical for a patient, the analyst’s choice and constellation of languages is also worthy of consideration.

The study will address the following concerns: (1) Pre-figurations of post-monolingualism across the psychoanalytic and developmental literature; (2) the vicissitudes of politics, history, and personal affect and motivations related to the choice of acquiring a new language, and slipping into and out of different languages; (3) the impact of multilingualism in the organization of memories, affect, identity, and relations; and (4) clinical considerations of applying tenets of post-monolingualism and language transference to the psychoanalytic frame. Taking into account the socially grounded nature of language and development, the study considers how processes of intersubjectivity and linguistic transference might be disrupted and repaired for multilingual, displaced populations.