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Person-ness of voices in lived experience accounts of psychosis: combining literary linguistics and clinical psychology
  1. Elena Semino1,
  2. Zsófia Demjén2,
  3. Luke Collins1
  1. 1Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Lancaster, Lancashire, UK
  2. 2Centre for Applied Linguistics, University College London Institute of Education, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Elena Semino, Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Lancaster LA1 4YW, UK; e.semino{at}


In this paper, we use concepts and insights from the literary linguistic study of story-world characters to shed new light on the nature of voices as social agents in the context of lived experience accounts of voice-hearing. We demonstrate a considerable overlap between approaches to voices as social agents in clinical psychology and the perception of characters in the linguistic study of fiction, but argue that the literary linguistic approach facilitates a much more nuanced account of the different degrees of person-ness voices might be perceived to possess. We propose a scalar Characterisation Model of Voices and demonstrate its explanatory potential by comparing two lived experience descriptions of voices in interviews with voice-hearers in a psychosis intervention. The new insights into the phenomenology of voice-hearing achieved by applying the model are relevant to the understanding of voice-hearing as well as to therapeutic interventions.

  • linguistics
  • medical humanities
  • mental health care
  • literature

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  • Contributors ES led the data analysis and writing of the paper. ZD contributed to data analysis and drafting of the paper, and outlined the model presented in the table. LC contributed to data analysis and drafting of the paper.

  • Funding This study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ES/R008906/1).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Newcastle and North Tyneside 1 Research Ethics Committee (ref 17/NE/097).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement We cannot make the data fully open as the level and amount of detail in the full interview transcripts make full anonymisation hard to ensure.