A New Concept of Psyche Derived from General Language Structures

Author: Torsten Oettinger
2023-01-30, 9th Edition


Firstly, I derive metapsychological and psychological aspects from language patterns. Secondly, I classify them according to their basic meanings. As a result, there is a much broader and more lifelike classification of psyche than a purely scientific perspective.


Metapsychology; Psychology; Linguistic; Philosophy.

Axioms and Hypotheses

• Psychology should be embedded in a comprehensive, practical, and real-life metapsychology.

• Metapsychology is the theory of everything which is psychically relevant.

• Everything about which a person can speak is psychically relevant.

• The psychical relevant is best expressed by language.

• General language structures are very suitable as analogies for the classification of the psychical relevant and the psyche.

• Psychology is the theory of the personal psychical relevant.

• Psyche is the personal psychical relevant.

Brief preliminary remarks [1]

Motto: “We should question the mother in her home, the children on the street and the common man at the market, and then watch their mouths to see how they talk …” (Martin Luther) – and to find out what concerns them.

I think psychology today is in crisis because it defines itself too one-sidedly as a science. This neglects scientifically elusive topics. This includes not only a number of everyday problems, but in particular the big human issues.
With my concept, I want to open up another perspective on understanding the psyche – from a purely scientific, to view that is more lifelike. Following Luther’s motto, I see language as the most suitable instrument for this. It makes statements about how people experience themselves and the world – with corresponding differentiations and importances.

I look at psychology from the perspective of a metapsychology which
1. Offers – like language – the greatest possible ‘differentiations’ of the psyche and
2. Takes into account their most important ‘dimensions’ (rank and importance).  

In this way, psychologically relevant phenomena are differentiated “horizontally” – analogous to pattern of language – , and represented vertically by “dimensions” according to their importance.

About Differentiation

“Language is yet more than blood.”
  Franz Rosenzweig

The differentiation is based on the formation of analogies between patterns of language, on the one hand, and patterns of the psychically relevant, including the psyche itself, on the other.12


Psyche itself can only be determined indirectly. One can draw conclusions about the psyche from people’s behavior and dreams, from culture, from history of humankind and many other sources – but especially from language. No other instrument gives us as much information about everything psychically relevant as language.
I start from analogies between language and psyche.[3] A person’s psyche includes everything that concerns the person, and everything that concerns them, in turn, finds the most important and differentiated expression in language. For this reason, it makes sense to derive structures of psyche from structures of language.[4]
In analogy to the grammar of language, one could speak of a “grammar of the psyche”.
• Just as language differentiates our existence, I differentiate the psyche. Therefore, I assume that basic characteristics of the language in relation to its structure, dynamics, and quality statements are similarly found in the psyche.
• In other words, Psyche shows similar characteristics to language in terms of its structure, dynamics, and meaning contents.[5]


First, I derive basic patterns of the psychical relevant as well as the psyche from basic patterns of language.
As a simple basic pattern of a (developed) language, one can use the classification in nouns, verbs, adjectives and syntax.
• Nouns primarily represent things, people and other forms of being.
• Verbs primarily represent modalities, activities, processes and times.
• Adjectives primarily represent properties and qualities.
• The syntax with subject and predicate represents relationships of nouns, verbs and adjectives.
For the psyche itself (as personal form of the psychical relevant), this means:
Psyche is both – related to and also personal representative of
• Things, persons and other “forms of being”
• Modalities, activities, processes and times
• Properties and qualities
• Subject(s), object(s) and their contexts.

I call this basic pattern the “four main aspects of differentiation”, which are further differentiated into 23 further aspects. For reasons of space, this cannot be shown here and must be viewed in Oettinger, 2022b, `Summary Table´, 1st column Asp. AI-AIV and Asp. A1-A23.

About the Dimensions

Ortega Y Gasset: “… it is by no means indifferent how we formulate things.
The law of life perspective is not only subjective but rooted in the nature of things … itself. … The mistake is to assume that it is up to our arbitrariness to assign things to their proper rank.”

I postulate in the first level of classification three basic dimensions of the psychical relevant in general and the psyche in particular: absolute, relative and 0 dimension.[6] These provide information about the rank and fundamental importance of every psychical relevant. This means that everything that is psychically relevant has one of these three importances: Either something has absolute or relative or (almost) no importance. Further, I assume (similar to Ortega) a basic hierarchical order of these importances. [7]
The Absolute is the decisive and determines the psyche. The Absolute is superordinate to all other psychic aspects (therefore also to superego, id and ego) and determines them.
The respective Absolutes also determine the interpersonal realm.[8]
Elsewhere, I hypothesize that the main cause of mental disorders is a confusion of this hierarchy.[9]

Some new definitions that arise

I now define:

The term I

The term ‘I’ has the same meaning as in common usage. It stands for the individual person in its entirety, who speaks of itself in the role of the subject. That is, the term ‘I’ as a personal pronoun means everything that I can say about myself. The emphasis is on the active part of the personality, its role as a subject (I act, I perceive, I feel, etc.).

`The I´ as an object (for example becomes the object of psychological examinations) – but then, in contrast to the active part, it is possible to say: someone examines me.

The term Ego

`Ego´ I define as a strange I. [10]

The term Self

The term ‘self´ includes, in general, any use and meaning of the word ‘self´ in the colloquial language. It means: Self = anywhere, where one can say ‘self’.
In order to limit the Self to the personal Self, which is our topic, we can define: Wherever one can say ‘self’ in meaningful, person-related sentences, it is a personal Self. It can be an actual or a strange Self.[11]

The term It

I use the term “it” somewhat differently than in psychoanalysis. In general, the term “it” includes everything where one can say `it’. It has various functions.
According to DUDEN it denotes an indeterminate cause of an event. W. Jung: “The pronoun `it´ is only a formal, empty subject which is connected with […] impersonal verbs […] but also with verbs of physical or mental sensations, verbs of lack or necessity […].”[12]
Therefore I believe, the term is very well suited to denote the most general denominator of still undetermined causes for any psychologically relevant events.
In this, I distinguish between a `little it’ and a `big It´. The `little it’ is subjugated to the I-self [13] – but the “big It” rules the Ego and can be used as the most general term for the causes of psychical disorders. It has a determining meaning for the person affected. Then it is not me who determines the It, but the It determines me. In every-day language, we also often use the term It to describe that something (usually something unknown) controls and dominates us: “It makes me sick.”, “It confuses me.”, It scares me” and so on.
Because the term `It’ can capture all possible events that dominate a person, it is, in my opinion, very well suited as a collective term for the representation of basic psychopathological processes. More about it in Oettinger, 2022h.

Advantages of this Concept

The psychical relevant and the psychical are seen from a metapsychological view offering a much broader framework and a more lifelike classification than a merely scientific view.
As a result, nothing psychical relevant and psychical is overlooked or misclassified from the outset.[14]
This also means a partially different conception of the psyche and the self.
Psyche as the `personal psychical relevant’ includes, represents and reflects all that is relevant to it. That includes not only the person her-/himself but generally everything else what is relevant to her/him.


DUDEN , 1973
Bibliographisches Institut Mannheim, Dudenverlag, KZ 1148.

Jung, W. 1973
Grammatik der deutschen Sprache
Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig (1973) p 337.

Lacan, 2017 J. Lacan
About the Structure of the Unconscious

in https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strukturalismus (4/2022)

Merriam-Webster, 2022
Definition of it
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/it (4/2022)

Oettinger, 2022a. T. Oettinger
Metapsychology and Psychology… (4/2022)

Oettinger, 2022b T. Oettinger
(4/2022), 1st column Asp. AI-AIV and Asp. A1-A23

Oettinger, 2022c T. Oettinger
(4/2022), 1st column Asp. Aa1-Aa7

Oettinger, 2022d T. Oettinger
The Absolute (4/2022)

Oettinger, 2022e T. Oettinger
Metapsychiatry (4/2022)

Oettinger, 2022f T. Oettinger
Types of the I and Ego (4/2022)

Oettinger, 2022g T. Oettinger

Own Self-Definition (4/2022)

Oettinger, 2022h T. Oettinger
`It’ – the new strange Entity (4/2022)

Y Gasset, José Ortega 1983
Triumph des Augenblicks Glanz der Dauer
DVA Stuttgart, 1983 p 75ff. Translated by me.

[1] a) Due to the shortness of this article only keyword-like. Detailed in Oettinger, 2022a.
b) I first published about this topic in Academia letters open access, https://doi.org/10.20935/AL3270 , 8/2021.

[2] `Psychically relevant’ means everything that has importance for people. `Psyche´ means the personal psychical relevant.

[3] Lacan and Lévi-Strauss had a similar idea and postulated a “homology” between language and (but only) the unconscious.

[4] In this work, I start from simple grammars of developed languages, which essentially coincide in their rules.

[5] More about it in Oettinger, 2022a.

[6] In language, too, similar differences in meaning are made with absolute words and absolute statements on the one hand and relative words and relative statements. , Aa1-Aa7

[7] For further classification of the dimensions, see Oettinger, 2022c, Aa1-Aa7.

[8] The absolute can be a true or a multiplicity of pseudo-absolutes. More in Oettinger, 2022d.

[9] More in Oettinger, 2022e .

[10] More in Oettinger, 2022f.

[11] More in Oettinger, 2022g.

[12] Similar in Merriam-Webster-Webster, see reference.
Unlike the term I, the term It also points – similar to Freud – to indeterminacy and the subconscious..

[13] Even if it unconsciously steers the I – at least to its advantage. This includes many sensible functions and unconscious behavioral patterns.

[14] Thus, the mentioned Summary table can serve as a basis to classify any psychically relevant term.