Volume 2   Number 1      Fall 2007

On the Notion of Voice: An Exploration from a Psycholinguistic Perspective with Developmental Implications
Marie-Cécile Bertau
University of Munich, Germany
pp. 133-161   (pdf)
ABSTRACT. The notion of voice is explored in two steps. Firstly, Bakhtin's understanding of voice is sketched. Secondly, a psycholinguistic perspective is developed where voice is first of all a concrete auditive-vocal event. Five key concepts are used to describe the phenomenon: indexicality, body, intonation, imitation, and internalization. Indexicality refers to voice as index means for speaker/listeners, pointing to the actual shared situation of communicating persons; further, voice indexes the speaking body which is itself socio-culturally shaped. Intonation is viewed as being deeply socially and dialogically shaped. Imitation and internalization are explored in regard to voice acquisition in ontogenesis. Mutual imitation of child and caregiver in early communication and speech acquisition form an incessant movement from the one to the other, intermingling the voices of both persons. Eventually, the voice of a specific other leads the internalization process, voice being its “semiotic mechanism”. As a result, voice is thought to be a meaningful, perceivable and experienced form tied to another person. This form serves as a powerful mechanism of internalization: vivid materiality becomes a psychological process.
Keywords: voice, intonation, imitation, internalization, dialogical psycholinguistics