LINGUIST List 9.92

Tue Jan 20 1998

Disc: L2 and Dreams

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. patricia kilroe, re: L2 and dreams
  2. Florin, L2 and Dreams
  3. Gerald B Mathias, Re: 9.81, Disc: L2 and dreams
  4. Mike_Maxwell, L2 and dreams

Message 1: re: L2 and dreams

Date: Tue, 20 Jan 1998 13:20:11 -0600 (CST)
From: patricia kilroe <>
Subject: re: L2 and dreams

My comment has not to do with L2 per se, but as someone who is
currently working on the relationship between language and dreams more
generally, I can suggest a couple of references. Most interesting
insights into this relationship have been done by dream psychologists,
and in addition to standard works by Freud, Jung, and followers,
(including David Foulkes 1978, The Grammar of Dreams), I highly
recommend Harry Hunt 1989, The Multiplicity of Dreams. Hunt does a
typology of dreams, and does a persuasive job of showing that some
dreams may be generated by propositional language, others by imagery,
etc. (Something along the lines of right- vs. left- hemispheric
generation, although that is oversimplifying.) There are other works
by psychologists I could name for those interested.

>From a linguist's point of view, I recommend a paper by Lakoff that I
found on the web and which, it would seem, appeared in a journal
called Dreaming in 1993. Lakoff makes a case for looking at dreams in
terms of conceptual metaphor; it is a very clear and insightful work,
but ignores the possibility of the multiplicity of dreams a la Hunt.

My own work is on the semiotics of dreams and language, focusing on
metaphor, metonymy, puns, and hyperbole, and I would love to hear from
anyone else working on this topic or who has an interest in it.

Patricia A. Kilroe

University of Southwestern Louisiana
e-mail (to change in February)
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Message 2: L2 and Dreams

Date: Tue, 20 Jan 1998 22:20:50 +0200
From: Florin <>
Subject: L2 and Dreams

What I have to say in not actually about dreaming in L2 but about
dreaming in general. Nevertheless, I guess some ideas should be made
clear before continuing the discussion.
Some days ago Elizabeth M. Bergman suggested that
>It might be helpful to differentiate between "dreaming
>about L2" from "dreaming in L2"
 Nobody seemed to care about this. In my opinion it would be crucial
to operate the distinction between alinguistic dreams, on which
language is superimposed afterwards (or they remain alinguistic, as
some dreams recollected here seem to be) and linguistic dreams. From
the discussion going on, it seems reasonable to admit both types
exist. On one hand there are dreams in NO language (Mahmoud Sadrai's
story), or dreams which seem to be in a certain language but actually
are just some mumbo-jumbo (Ali Aghbar's story) .On the other hand,
there are dreams in which actual language is used (Alex Housen's
story). Instead of just arguing if language is or is not superimposed
when waking up, I think we should agree on this distinction, as a
starting point for the discussion.

If one agrees with Freud's theories (I do not know much about
psychology), one should also agree that there are indeed dreams in
which real language is used. Freud is citing some dreams which could
be interpreted only by means of analyzing the language used in those
dreams (the phonetic resemblance between some words was the clue to
what the dream really meant to say). Examples can be found for
instance in Freud's "Introduction to Psychoanalysis"
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Message 3: Re: 9.81, Disc: L2 and dreams

Date: Tue, 20 Jan 1998 10:41:54 -1000
From: Gerald B Mathias <>
Subject: Re: 9.81, Disc: L2 and dreams

 Lynn Santelmann disagreed with Joel M. Hoffman's hypotheses that
dreams are a-linguistic, noting:

> 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.

But had a different experience:

> 	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?

 My own experience is somewhat similar, but partly opposite, to
mcginn's and perhaps relates to sleep-talking in L2s.

 When I was stationed in Japan in 1956-7 and studying Japanese almost
every waking moment, I awoke one morning very excited that I had been
speaking Japanese in my dream: I had heard that dreaming in a foreign
language was a sure sign that one was mastering it.

 A few minutes of introspection brought chagrin and dejection. I
could not remember any of the words the person I spoke with used. The
lingering impression of what he had said was the same as that of the
Japanese-sounding gibberish I heard out in the Japanese public;
comprehension had been magically added by the dream mechanism. But I
remembered my own speech in the dream, and it was the same halting,
broken Japanese I used in real life. Had I been talking in my sleep,
my room-mates might have reported that I spoke Japanese--people who
didn't know Japanese were quite impressed with my ability in the

Bart Mathias
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Message 4: L2 and dreams

Date: Tue, 20 Jan 1998 21:20 -0500 (EST)
From: Mike_Maxwell <>
Subject: L2 and dreams

I suppose that if dreams are alinguistic, we should never recall
having heard a pun or other wordplay in them, nor a slip of the
tongue, nor people speaking a language with an accent. I can't say
that I have, but my memory for dreams is not that good. Has anyone

One might also expect that reading in a dream would be altered, if
dreams are indeed alinguistic. I do recall dreaming that I was
reading, but I'm not sure what to make of it: the words on the page
kept changing, and in the dream I couldn't make sense of what I was
reading. The same thing happened when I tried to do arithmetic in a
dream. I was trying to add three two- or three-digit numbers in a
dream, but I couldn't get the answer to come out the same twice,
perhaps because I was beyond the limit of my memory (or perhaps just
because dreams tend to shift in unpredictable ways). I'm not sure
that this proves anything, but perhaps others have had more
illuminating dreams about reading or writing.

 Mike Maxwell
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