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French: énonciation
Translator's Note

The distinction between "énoncé" and "énonciation" is a common one in contemporary French thinking.

"Énoncé", which is translated as "statement", refers to the actual words uttered, "énonciation" to the act of uttering them.

Enunciation and Statement

In linguistic theory in Europe, one important distinction is that between the enunciation and the statement.

The statement refers to the actual words uttered; the enunciation refers to the act of uttering them.


A statement is speech analysed in terms of its abstract grammatical units, independent of the specific circumstances of occurrence.


An enunciation is speech analyzed as an individual act performed by a particular speaker at a specific time / place, and in a specific situation.

Jacques Lacan
Early Work

Long before Lacan uses these terms, he is aleady making a similar distinction.

In 1936, for example, he stresses that the act of speaking contains a meaning in itself, even if the words spoken are "meaningless."[1]

Prior to any function it may have in "conveying a message," speech is an appeal to the other.

This attention to the act of speaking in itself, irrespective of the content of the utterance, anticipates Lacan's attention to the dimension of the enunciation.

Psychotic Language

When Lacan does come to use the term "enunciation" in 1946, it is first of all to describe strange characteristics of psychotic language, with its "duplicity of the enunciation."[2]

Subject of the Unconscious

Later, in the 1950s, the term is used to locate the subject of the unconscious.

Graph of Desire

In the graph of desire, the lower chain is the statement, which is speech in its conscious dimension, while the upper chain is "the unconscious enunciation."[3]

Unconscious Enunciation

In designating the enunciation as unconscious, Lacan affirms that the source of speech is not the ego, nor consciousness, but the unconscious; language comes from the Other, and the idea that "I" am master of my discourse is only an illusion.

Subject of the Statement or Enunciation

The very word "I" (Je) is ambiguous; as shifter, it is both a signifier acting as subject of the statement, and an index which designate, but does not signify, the subject of the enunciation.[4]

Split Subject

The subject is thus split between these two levels, divided in the very act of articulating the I that presents the illusion of unity.[5]

See Also


  1. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.83
  2. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p.167
  3. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.316
  4. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.298
  5. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p.139