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COPYRIGHT: John Barnden, 1997. This page of the databank may be freely copied for non-commercial research/instructional use provided this copyright notice is included.


Ideas as Internal Utterances

This metaphor casts a thinking event as an event of ``internal speech.'' Internal speech is not literally speech. An example manifestation of the metaphor is ``Sally said to herself that Mike was untrustworthy,'' prvoided that this is in a context that implies that Sally did not say the utterance to herself out loud.

That example uses a speech verb, and no speech verb seems to be barred from being used to describe an internal-speech event. For instance, one example in the databank uses the word ``whisper.''

A modifier like ``to herself'' is not needed if it is clear from context that a thought is being reported.

The use of a speech verb is not necessary for the metaphor to be manifested. For instance, the sentence

       Sally thought, ``Mike's untrustworthy''
manifests the metaphor.

It is also common, especially in fiction, for speech-like thoughts to be portrayed in much more implicit ways, without even the use of a mental-state verb let alone a speech verb. See, for instance, Cohn (1978).


Mind Parts as Persons or other Animate Beings

The sentence
      Part of Sally was saying, ``Mike's untrustworthy''
illustrates this mixing, in that the utterances of an inner person are thoughts of the the overall agent. Also, a sentence like
      Sally said to herself that Mike was untrustworthy
can (in many contexts) be taken to illustrate the mixing: one part of Sally is saying something to another part.


Mind as Physical Space

In that real utterances are localized in space, it seems reasonable to say that Ideas as Internal Utterances is a special case of Mind as Physical Space.

However, most manifestations of Ideas as Internal Utterances do not locate the utterances at particular places in the mind ``space'' or cast the utterances as moving around. An expecially vivid exception occurs in the database.


In a recent article I discuss some implications of the point that people often consciously experience internal speech, but that not all manifestations of Ideas as Internal Utterances should be taken to portray such a situation. Rather, there may in fact be two metaphors at work: one metaphorical step is in describing a thought as if it were consciously experienced internal speech (even though it isn't really); the other step is in the metaphorical relationship of internal speech to real speech.

The large majority of manifestations I have seen of the metaphor involve internal speech as opposed to writing. But the databank does contain examples involving writing, jotting, etching and engraving.

Also, sometimes the type of utterance (speech vs. writing) is not clarified.


Cohn, D. (1978).
   Transparent minds: Narrative modes for presenting consciousness in fiction.
         Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.