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emic–etic distinction

1. a distinction between two fundamentally different approaches to language analysis, one characteristic of phonemics and the other of phonetics. An emic analysis puts primacy on the characterization of a particular language through close attention to those features that have a meaningful structural significance within it. By contrast, an etic analysis concentrates on universal features of language, particularly the acoustic properties of speech sounds and the physiological processes involved in making them. To illustrate the point, an emic analysis of English speech sounds would show interest in the difference between the sounds /r/ and /l/ because this is used to make meaningful distinctions (e.g., it differentiates the words rash and lash); an emic analysis of Japanese, however, would disregard this difference in sounds, as it is not a meaningful contrast in that language. An etic analysis would show the same interest in this feature in both languages. See also minimal pair.

2. the distinction between emic and etic approaches in anthropology and related disciplines.

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Psychology term of the day

February 24th 2024

preconscious thinking

preconscious thinking

1. the pictorial, magical, fantasy thinking of children that precedes the development of logical thinking. [introduced in 1938 by Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Fenichel (1897–1946)]

2. in psychoanalytic theory, thinking that takes place at the level of the preconscious. Preconscious thinking has sometimes been cited to explain apparently unconscious, intuitive thought processes, as well as certain kinds of creative leaps and insights.