Sunday, March 16, 2008

Language and personality

I’m reading Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks, and came upon this quote:

We are a linguistic species — we turn to language to express whatever we are thinking, and it is usually there for us instantly. But for those with aphasia, the inability to communicate verbally may be almost unbearably frustrating and isolating (…).

I’ve met a few people with aphasia, and for those with mainly expressive aphasia this is normally the case; they are frustrated and saddened by their loss of language. But I still wonder about global aphasia; is it possible for a person with global aphasia, who cannot express or understand language, to still be the same person as he or she was before the onset of aphasia? So much of the personality seems to be interlinked with language, and it’s hard to imagine that the personality is somehow intact when the language is severely damaged.

As I was writing this, I realized that I’m not really sure how I would define personality, so I looked it up in Merriam-Webster.


1 a: the quality or state of being a person

b: personal existence

2 a: the condition or fact of relating to a particular person; specifically : the condition of referring directly to or being aimed disparagingly or hostilely at an individual

b: an offensively personal remark personalities>

3 a: the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual or a nation or group; especially : the totality of an individual’s behavioral and emotional characteristics

b: a set of distinctive traits and characteristics personality of the city>

4 a: distinction or excellence of personal and social traits; also : a person having such quality

b: a person of importance, prominence, renown, or notoriety personality>