The Social Construction of the Self
• Theory: Our concept of having a self (our "I" or "ego") is not entirely given by
• It is constructed in society, by signs, especially language.
• Theory: Like colours and races, there is a continuum that language and signs
construct as separate entities.
• The self ("ego" or "I" is such a constructed entity.
Jacques Lacan (1901-1981)
• French psychoanalyst interpreted Freud.
• In his theory, the self is linguistically constructed (the result of us having
Baby does not come into society with a sense of an individual self.
o She lives in the real (experiences the world as unbounded).
o With language, she learns the boundaries of things:
• This is the symbolic stage (world experienced as consisting of
• Each occurrence of "I" is a signifier, whose meaning is developed from relations
to other signifiers
… from other times I said "I"
• … and from times I heard others say "you"
• … or my name.
• We are both "I" and "you" to ourselves.
• In the inner conversation, one party coaches the other.
• This "coach" is more influenced by society.
• … it "represents" society.
• Freud: "superego".
• Our self is a conversation, and it includes a representation of society (the
The Forms of Language: Outline
• Levels of linguistic (language) form:
o Discourse analysis: Text and context.
o Syntax: sentence structure.
o Morphology: words and their structure.
o Phonology: the sound system:
• Language consists of meaningful unites such as texts and words, and • … of meaningless units of sounds
• … we are not discussing writing or letters.
The Levels of Language
• Meaningful units:
• Texts (studied in discourse analysis)
• Sentences (studied in syntax)
• Words (studied in morphology)
• Meaningless units (combine to make meaning):
• Phonemes (studied in phonology)
• Phones (studied in phonetics)