LINGUIST List 9.81

Mon Jan 19 1998

Disc: L2 and dreams

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <>


  1. fallou ngom, Re: 9.76, Disc: L2 and dreams
  2. Sean Golden, Re: 9.75, Disc: L2 and Dreams
  3. Lynn Santelmann, L2 and Dreams
  4. Larry Rosenwald, Re: 9.76, Disc: L2 and dreams
  5. mcginn, Disc: L2 and dreams

Message 1: Re: 9.76, Disc: L2 and dreams

Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 10:24:56 -0600 (CST)
From: fallou ngom <>
Subject: Re: 9.76, Disc: L2 and dreams

I have always believed that dreams are part of "spiritual communication"
which does not necessarily need linguistic knowledge. I often dream in
foreign languages or in the 11 languages that I speak fluently but what I
realize to be the basis of the communication in my dreams is the sequences
of actions. Through actions and events that I take part or see people I
understand what's going on and even what my co-speakers say or intend to
say. In other words, the linguistic knowledge plays a small role in dreams
given that even if I do not speak with poeple, the communication is not
affected at all. This means that dreams are spiritual communications. I
believe that the same ways the humans communicate with natural languages,
their spirits can communicate through dreams. This makes sense in the
African context of Senegal where people talk to their ancestors in dreams
frequently. This leads me to say that linguistic knowledge is not
essential in dreams. Dreams are means of communication of the spirits
which are universal and have its own language. Given that all humans
dream whether they remember it or not, the question is can we assume a
"Universal Grammar" for human dreams as Chomsky did for the linguistic
knowledge in order to account for the basic communication properties of
dreams and see how they differ or overlap with the linguistic system.

Fallou Ngom
University of Illinois
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Re: 9.75, Disc: L2 and Dreams

Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 16:16:40 +0100 (GMT)
From: Sean Golden <>
Subject: Re: 9.75, Disc: L2 and Dreams

I wrote a Ph.D. thesis on James Joyce's FINEGANS WAKE, which is a polyglot
text using conbsciously invented multilingual neologisms to imitate the
sdtate of dreaming. Joyce said that his ULYSSES was a daytim book with
characters who were conscious (or mostly so, there is a considerable amount
of drinking involved), while FW was a nighttime book in which the
characters are dreaming. The functioning of language in FW is an nteresting
subject in itself. The relation it has to dreaming is simply that while I
carrying out my reserach on FW I frequently had dreams in which I was
working on a multilingual passage from FW. I often realised that what was
happening was so interesting that I had to do everything I could to
remember at least one phrase from the text my dream had invented. I never
did succeed in remembering a fragment of the dream FW text, but I did
manage to rember a snippet of conversation from a dream from that period.
In this case, the dream dealt with a kind of Faculty cocktail party where
each person was talking about his or her line of research, and I was
inventing FW-like neologisms, one of which was the following quip: in
response to a reference to Nabokov's playing with words, I responded that
his style was "Vladimirable".

I live in totally multilingual circumstances and my experience is that I
dream in various languages and am often conscious of which language people
are using in a dream. This mat be due in part to the bilingual situation of
the country where I live, where someone who normally speaks to me in one
language in waking life is using a different language in the dream, etc. 

I am interested in the theory that we "add on" the specific language or
languages being used in a dream only when we recollect them. There is
another experience that I fnd typical that may be related: when we know a
foreign language only to a certain limited extent (which is my case with
Chinese, for instance), yet we feel that we understand what is being said
to us, without being to state explicitly what it is we think we've
understood. I think that there is a certain level of intuitive
understanding that is based more on the social context of communication and
communication processes than on more purely linguistic grounds.

Sean Golden
Dean of the Faculty
Facultat de Traduccio i Interpretacio
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
08193 Bellaterra, BARCELONA, Spain
Tel: 34 3 5811374 FAX: 34 3 5811037
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 3: L2 and Dreams

Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 11:19:45 -0600
From: Lynn Santelmann <>
Subject: L2 and Dreams

I must disagree with Joel M. Hoffman's hypotheses that dreams are a linguistic:

> 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. 

When people talk in their sleep (as I do quite often), what they 
say seems to be linked to what they are dreaming. I know that when
I was in German- and Swedish-speaking environments (my two L2s), I
often talked in these languages while dreaming. (More often, it seemed
than when I am in a monolingual English enviornment.) Surely there 
must be a linguistic component to these dreams or I would not 
be producing speech. 

Lynn Santelmann

- -------------------------------------------------
Lynn Santelmann, Ph.D.
Post-doctoral Research Fellow		
557 Waisman Center
1500 Highland Ave. 
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI 53705
- -------------------------------------------------
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 4: Re: 9.76, Disc: L2 and dreams

Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 13:21:07 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: 9.76, Disc: L2 and dreams

	I was thinking about the meaning of the claim that dreams are 
alinguistic, and it occurred to me that it implies a claim, or a curiosity, 
about how memory works in relation to language; and then I was reminded of 
a passage in Elias Canetti's _Die gerettete Zunge_ (English: _The Tongue 
Set Free_) that seems to me, on rereading, strikingly similar to some of 
the things that people are saying about dreams. Here's my translation of 
the passage (pp. 15-16 of the Fischer edition); Canetti is remembering 
some stories that Bulgarian peasant girls told him when he was a boy,
and what he says is,
	[These stories] are present to me in all their details, but not in 
the language in which I heard them. I heard them in Bulgarian, but I know 
them as German, and this mysterious transposition is perhaps the most 
remarkable thing that I have to report from my childhood . . 
	My parents spoke German to each other, a language I was not 
permitted to understand at all. To their children, and to all their 
relatives and friends, they spoke Spanish. That was the actual vernacular, 
to be sure a somewhat antiquated Spanish, which I often heard later and 
have never forgotten. The peasant girls in the house spoke only Bulgarian,
and it was chiefly with them that I probably learned it myself. But since 
I never went to a Bulgarian school, and left Rustchuk [the city he grew up 
in] at the age of six, I soon forgot it altogether. All the events of 
those first years took place in Spanish or Bulgarian. Later, for the most 
part, they translated themselves [haben sich uebersetzt] into German. Only
unusually dramatic episodes, murder and manslaughter and my worst frights, 
have remained with me in their Spanish terms, though these are exact and 
indestructible. All the rest, i.e., the preponderance of it, and in 
particular everything that was Bulgarian, like these stories, I retain in 
my head in German.
	How this happened, I cannot say. I do not know at what time, or in 
what circumstances, this or that thing got translated. I have never 
investigated. Perhaps I feared to destroy the most precious memories I 
bear by a methodical and scientific investigation. I can say only one 
thing with certainty: the experiences of those years are present to me in 
all their force and freshness - I have nurtured myself on them for more 
than sixty years - but they are for the most part linked with words that I 
did not then know. It seems to me now natural to write them down; I do 
not have the feeling that I am thereby changing or distorting anything. It 
is not like the literary translation of a book from one language to another
; it is a translation that has been produced itself of its own accord, in 
the unconscious - and since this word, become meaningless by excessive use, 
is something I normally avoid like the plague, readers will forgive me my 
use of it in this one case.

	Interesting, no?
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 5: Disc: L2 and dreams

Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 14:52:40 -0500
From: mcginn <>
Subject: Disc: L2 and dreams

How's this for a somnambulistic puzzle:

	It is 1964. I am in the Philippines in the Peace Corps,
working night and day to learn Tagalog, when I am rewarded one night
by a dream in which a Filipino friend is speaking rapidly in Tagalog
to me, and I don't understand a word of what he is saying. (Which was
my normal experience in the waking world.)

	After thinking about this experience, I concluded optimistically that
even though my dream-self did not understand much Tagalog, my
unconscious-sleeping self must be making excellent progress, for who else
was the source of the fluent Tagalog that my dream-friend was speaking?

	I remember at the time taking consideraable comfort in this
interpretation of my dream.

Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue