LINGUIST List 9.90

Tue Jan 20 1998

Disc: L2 and Dreams

Editor for this issue: Anita Huang <>


  1. Emily Bender, L2 and Dreams
  2. Isa Kocher, Re: 9.73, Disc: L2 and Dreams
  3. Isa Kocher, Re: 9.76, Disc: L2 and dreams
  4. George Elgin, Suzette Haden Elgin, L2 and dreams

Message 1: L2 and Dreams

Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 15:41:58 -0800 (PST)
From: Emily Bender <bendercsli.Stanford.EDU>
Subject: L2 and Dreams

> Anyone else care to share a memorable L2 dream?

Okay, I can't resist:

Shortly into a one-year stay in France (before which
I had only had a couple of years of highschool French)
I had my first dream in "French" ... I could tell
that the people in my dream were talking to me in French
because I couldn't understand them!

Upon waking I wondered to what level of detail I had
created the "French" -- if there were any similarities
in prosody or phonology to real French, or if it was
just an impression of language-like noise.

- Emily
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Message 2: Re: 9.73, Disc: L2 and Dreams

Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 23:02:32 -0800 (PST)
From: Isa Kocher <>
Subject: Re: 9.73, Disc: L2 and Dreams

> Of the L2 dreams I have personally had, I do

I have two more interesting personal anecdotal
accounts I would like to share:


My adopted son was born in a remote Kurdish village
and did not begin to speak Turkish until he was a
shoeshine boy on the streets of istanbul at
approximately the age of 12. At the age of 13, he
began to study English and English was the language
at home. (I decided that it would be better for him
and his future if he was fluent in English than if I
learned Kurdish.)

At one stage, he began to have nighmares and talk in
his sleep, at about age 16 and up to age 17, when he
began secondary school (there was about a 5 year
hiatus in his schooling and he was under a lot of
stress as a Kurd in a Turkish local high school.)

His spoken English and his spoken Turkish were
reasonably fluent in these sleep-talking episodes
although what he was saying was brief, no more than a
few sentences at the most.

During my freshmen year at Fordham University there
was a very popular mathematics professor, Dr. Frank
Crippen, whom I got to know quite well. He had been a
translator in the Aleutians during WWII and the
Korean conflict working for military intelligence. He
later on worked in Italy. So he had formally studied
quite a few languages to the degree that he could
give a running translation while listening on the
radio. He told me that he had considerable fluency in
something more than 20 languages, but that he had
only dreamt in about 15 or 16 of them. He said that
he didn't consider himself really fluent until he had
had dreams in the language.


Although my doctoral research was in German and I am
a Swiss citizen, my use of German socially throughout
most of my life has been very limited and it was
learned in high school and college in the US, having
been born in the US at a time when German was a taboo
language there. My Turkish on the other was learned
by talking with lots of friends and acquaintences in
Turkey, and it was my primary social language while I
lived there, except at home with my adopted son, but
television and newspapers and such even at home were

I have frequently dreamt in Turkish and rarely dreamt
in German. (Other languages in which I have had some
fluency have never come up in my dreams)

Isa Kocher

Language Center, Sultan Qaboos University 
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Message 3: Re: 9.76, Disc: L2 and dreams

Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 23:58:07 -0800 (PST)
From: Isa Kocher <>
Subject: Re: 9.76, Disc: L2 and dreams

I think that Moonhawk and the others have brought up
a very important point and that is that there could
very well be different kinds of dreams with different
kinds of things going on.

 personal anecdote:

As a poet and also as a student I have had the
experience of composing something in a dream and then
writing it from memory when waking.

I have also had the experience of correcting myself
in a foreign language dream where i noticed that my
production was in error.

I have also had the experience of communicationg in
dreams without any language at all. In fact dreams
where I was doing both- communicating at two levels
one linguistic and one non-linguistic, in the same
dream at the same time.

There are many famous examples of very sane people
coming to a realization in a dream which later proves
to be the solution to a problem.

My gut feeling is that there are more than one class
of dreams and some dreams can be profound experiences
that can have long term consequences in a person's
life. There are many societies where dreaming is used
to solve problems and to learn information. There are
societies where individuals are trained in dream
analysis and use, and I think it is just a little bit
presumptuous to state categorically that this or that
is true of ALL dreams on the basis of very limited
personal experience, or the experience of even one
whole society, even where that society has claims to
being exclusively scientic.

The fact that so many different kinds of dream
experiences on this topic alone are being submitted
in this discussion aloneI think would suggest that
there is a lot yet to be learned by all of us on the
topic and to rule out any hard conclusions.

Incidentally, raising the topic certainly has made me
think of all kinds of possibilities that never
entered my head before.

Isa Kocher

Language Center, Sultan Qaboos University
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Message 4: L2 and dreams

Date: Tue, 20 Jan 1998 08:48:06 -0500
From: George Elgin, Suzette Haden Elgin <>
Subject: L2 and dreams

I'm afraid I have no exotic experiences to add to this discussion, only a
small factoid; I think it's relevant, however. My first husband (he died
very young) was French/English bilingual, with native fluency in both
languages. He talked in his sleep a great deal, and when asked about it
would say that he had been dreaming. His English was as fluent as mine, but
in his sleep he *always* spoke French; never a word of English, in twelve

Suzette Haden Elgin
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