LINGUIST List 9.67

Fri Jan 16 1998

Disc: L2 and Dreams

Editor for this issue: Elaine Halleck <>


  1. Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Re: L2 and Dreams

Message 1: Re: L2 and Dreams

Date: Thu, 15 Jan 98 08:47 EST
From: Dr. Joel M. Hoffman <>
Subject: Re: L2 and Dreams

>dreaming. I've found, among the people that I have interwieved that
>the phase of acquisition of an L2 is the time in which the individual
>has a better performance and fluency during dreaming time. Learners
>seem to remember, when awakening that they had surprising
>conversations, let us say for instance in English, when their
>knowledge of English was enough to get by for survival. I'm very

I think there's good reason to believe that dreams, at least some
dreams are >alinguistic< with the language added only upon
recollection of dream. Two points supporting this hypothesis:

1. The deaf often report that in their dreams they can communicate
with hearing people during day-to-day activities. They do not use
sign language. They do not lip-read. They just communicate. (This
information comes from several people I interviewed, but not from a
randomized sample of any sort.) There is no language that would let
them do this.

2. As you mention, people often have conversation in a foreign
language that seem to exceed their ability. This has even happened to
me. I've dreams that I was talking, in German, about the policitcal
situation in Germany to someone from Germany. I don't know nearly
enough German to do that. There are simply words I know I've never
learned that I was "using."

The only way I see to account for these is to assume that dreams do
not directly involve language, but rather more abstract communication.
When we remember the communication in our dreams, we superimpose
language upon them.

-Joel Hoffman
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