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Title: Language and mind : how language can convey mental states, with special reference to Sylvia Plath's Smith Journal
Author: Demjén, Zsófia
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis investigates how the language of written texts of a personal nature (especially diaries/journals) can convey the writer's mental states. Sylvia Plath's so-called Smith Journal, as published in The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (Kukil, 2000), is examined as a special case-study. A better understanding of the link between language use and various mental states may be useful in developing more sophisticated automated analytical tools and, on a more practical level, in the timely recognition of mental health issues. Mental state, for the purposes of this thesis, refers to those aspects of cognition that are intrinsically valenced, i.e. can be placed on a cline of positive - negative. The focus is on self-descriptions, direct and metaphorical references to mental states, self- references, especially the use of personal pronouns. In conjunction, temporal orientation and negation are also explored. Halliday's (1994) notion of transitivity, as well as literature on the communication of emotions in linguistics and psychology, is drawn on in the process of these analyses. This involves both automated corpus analyses of the whole text and manual intensive investigations of sample sections. A corpus comparison between the Smith Journal and an autobiography corpus reveals the key characteristics of the data. Those relevant for the investigation of mental states are selected and investigated further later in the thesis. In this process, the author proposes a model of temporal orientation for the differentiation of types of second-person narration. Overall the thesis suggests strong evidence for a negative self-image and extreme self-focus in the Smith Journal. There is also evidence of a general lack of agency and that the negative mental states are not within the experiencer's control. They also seem to be experienced intensely and painfully - sometime suggesting a sense of inner split.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available