The authors question whether an analysis of verbal style would
contribute more to the reconstruction of the historical personality
than already revealed in biographical sources. Verbal style is
understood to mean relatively constant schema of the individual
For this purpose papers and letters written in Czech or German by personalities closely linked with their native cultural environment were selected: J.E. Purkyně, G. Mendel, B. Smetana, A. Dvořák, V. Havel and V. Klaus. Following the techniques of Busemann, Schlismann, Johnson, Mittenecker, a/o., the authors decided for a multidimensional approach. Psycholinguistic analysis of personal documents may yield valuable results permitting both intraindividual and interindividual comparison, provided the principle is adhered to that a psychological interpretation is comprehended in a broader social and historical context.
Key words: personal document, psycholinguistic analysis, action quotient of written materials, signs of perseveration, intraindividual and interindividual comparison.
The research of the written document style has already
been used in several studies as one of the methods of
psychological research of historical personalities, as
well as a method of analysis of adolescents´
commentaries. Apart from the above-mentioned
methods we have also been inspired by the work of
G.W. Allport (1942), today already classic, on the use of
personal documents in psychological science.
Mowadays the revival of interest is inspired by some
new approaches to the text analysis in cognitive
psychology and by pragmatic effort to describe
changeable development of resurrected democracy in
so-called post-communist countries, on the base of
relevant personal document analysis.
Thus, in studying biographies we can choose from among at least three psychological approaches:
1. we can try to comprehend the continuity of the whole life cycle, its rising, culminating, as well as its declining phases;
2. we can start from the fundamental dispositions and follow up their realization in the particular phases of life;
3. we can submit certain forms of expression to a detailed analysis.
Our contribution belongs for the most part to a detailed analysis, although we also keep in view the continuity of life.
With Purkyne there is a
greater variability of style curve in the text passages
taken from scientific studies; they vary according to the
theme. With Mendel they always remain only slightly
In the analyzed texts of a considerable extent (1000- 4000 syllables) the above named authors maintained a relatively stable action quotient. In communications of a private nature the AQ is an indicator of the activation and of the degree of the writer's personal concern. Type- token-ratio (TTR) values differentiated neither definitely formed individualities nor pathological changes. Indicators of pathognomic perseveration, however, were found in a letter by B. Smetana dating from a time when his musical output was not yet affected by his progressive disease of the CNS.
The German texts we analysed are writings of J. E. Purkyně. The average AQ of three parts of his dissertation (1819) is 1.24 but particular passages of the texts differ considerably, thus all three kinds of verbal style are present here, i. e. action, reference and qualitative style; it depends on the subject-matter of the chapter in question. The AQ of the chapter Die Druckfigur des Auges is 0.48, the chapter Eintritt des Sehnerven, written with a didactic aim has AQ 1.70 and the chapter Blendungsbilder written in reference style has AQ 1.03. The letters to professor Retzius are written in a friendly spirit, they refer to work and family business expressed in action style written with average AQ 2.4. Unlike impersonal reviews of G. Mendel, in the review of Schwann´s work in moderate action style, Purkyně´s close personal attitude to the points at issue in the reviewed study is evident.
We demonstrated the basic trends of our autors´ texts in a radial scheme (Figure ). The steepest trend corresponding to action style is shown in the letters of B. Smetana and A. Dvořák; Purkyně´s letter to Palacký, referring to cultural issues, has lower prevalence of action components than Smetana´s and Dvořák´s letters, which reflect strong personal involvement. If we compare the difference of Purkyně´s letters to Retzius with the difference of the mentioned letter to Palacký in table 1, we can see to what extent the contribution of personal experience and direct contact (characteristic of the correspondence to Retzius) is asserted.
A remarkable value is a pathognomic one of the interval 4-7 in the first letter of B. Smetana from 1878. At that time, the founder of Czech national music, in a quiet corner of a gamekeeper´s lodge in Jabkenice, was bravely standing up to symptoms of the progressive disease of the CNS, the signal of which was his deafness already in 1874. Smetana´s creative activity, however, remained untouched by his loss of hearing and other consequences of progressive paralysis (diagnosis of doctor Hlava made at that time); if we follow the list of his works after the beginning of the disease, we found Smetana´s masterpieces here, such as the cycle of symphonic poems Má vlast (My country), a quartet Z mého života (From my life), which is a unique musical autobiography and other compositions. His rich correspondence enables us to follow the changes in Smetana´s personality also in the difficult last ten years of his life. The letters from 1878 are not different from the previous correspondence as far as the subject-matter and form are concerned. Nevertheless, we can find a pathognomic value already in the letter 5a, which the master wrote to his disciple J. Jiránek; this letter is written in a distinct action style, as we can see in table 2. We also demonstrated the word repetition by means of TTR index in this letter; the value 0.54 we found is not basically different from Dvořák´s letter. The letter 5b addressed to the writer J. Srb- Debrna dates from the last year of Smetana´s life and it clues us to intellect deterioration and distinct perseverations, which are also demonstrated by the profile curve. Respecting the smaller amount of this letter we cannot compare TTR values which become lower as the text becomes longer. If we take the length of the letter 5b as a basis, we get TTR = 0.63 in the first letter and so the distinct changes in Smetana´s writing did not come to light at all when this method was employed. Dvořák´s letter, which we include to compare, was written in the time of full health and success, though; the profile curve corresponds to the prototype of interval lay-out of cyclotyme personality.