Contemporary reaction to Rudolf Meringer's speech error research
SourceHistoriographia Linguistica, 6, 1, (1979), pp. 57-76
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC CO
Rudolf Meringer (1859-1931) published two large collections of speech errors, in 1895 and 1908. Although the idea that errors in spontaneous speech might be of linguistic interest did not originate with Meringer, he was the first to produce a large collection of error data and a detailed theoretical analysis of error phenomena. Contemporary reaction to Meringer's two speech error books is analysed in this essay. Firstly, direct comment at the time, which ranged from enthusiastic praise to dismissal of the project as trivial and uninteresting, is analysed; dismissive reactions, it is seen, came from those who were in any case Meringer's opponents on broader issues of theoretical orientation. The following section deals with the correctness of Meringer's analysis of error phenomena, which met its chief challenge at the time from Sigmund Freud's contention that speech errors were interesting for reasons not of linguistics but of individual psychopathology. Thirdly, Meringer's devotion to the observa-tional method is described; this led him into a controversy with contemporaries who preferred the research methods of experimental psychology.
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