LINGUIST List 9.171

Wed Feb 4 1998

Disc: L2 and Dreams

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. Marilyn Silva, Re: 9.135, Disc: L2 and Dreams

Message 1: Re: 9.135, Disc: L2 and Dreams

Date: Thu, 29 Jan 1998 12:43:41 -0800 (PST)
From: Marilyn Silva <>
Subject: Re: 9.135, Disc: L2 and Dreams

> One thing I have done to try and discover something about this is to
> listen to utterances made by people in their sleep. In many of
> these, (I've heard L2 and L1 examples) the whole utterance is
> well-formed syntactically but I have to wonder about the content
> words. For example, can anyone dredge up a context for the
> following (I overheard this, I swear):
> 'There's a fork and a piano tuner on the kitchen floor... and it's
> *Not Okay*!'.
> I know dreams can be odd but ...come on! Could this really
> be an accurate reflection of anything?

Yes, Sheri, this could really be an accurate reflection of the way the
mind works when waking reality doesn't interfere. The "fork" in your
example suggests "tuning fork", an item clearly in the same class as
piano tuner, but forks are also implements found in the kitchen, and
that one might find such an item on the kitchen floor is hardly
remarkable. Two items are classed together (in the same location,
e.g., the kitchen floor), but since that is done by reference to
something as slippery as a name based on physical rather than
functional similarity (i.e. "fork" used for both kitchen implement and
tuning instrument), it's *Not Okay* to class them together.

I don't find it the least bit unlikely that the dreaming mind plays
with words this way. A couple of years ago, I was working on a
textbook dealing with grammar, and my editor and I were having a hard
time coming up with a title that represented the content, was catchy,
and hadn't been used. This problem invaded my dreams in the following
manner: I was telling someone that I would call my new book "The Book
on Grammar," because then people would have to say "Marilyn Silva
wrote the book on grammar." In the dream we laughed at the play on
words, so I was aware of the literal and idiomatic readings even in my

BTW, we came up with another title for the waking world . . . 


Marilyn N. Silva, Chair
Department of Human Development
California State University, Hayward
Hayward CA 94542
510-885-3071 (FAX)
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