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CUNY Linguistics Colloquium Series-Sinfree Makoni

Date Submitted: 10-Apr-2009
From: Nazik Dinctopal
Subject: CUNY Linguistics Colloquium Series-Sinfree Makoni
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Notice: The third CUNY LINGUISTICS COLLOQUIUM of the Spring semester will be held
on: Thursday, April 23, 2009
at: 4:15 p.m.
at: The CUNY Graduate Center - 365 Fifth Avenue - New York (room
by: Sinfree Makoni (Pennsylvania State University)
on: Is a sociolinguistics of a linguistic individual across a life span

This presentation reports on a life span study that analyzed language by a
highly respected professional engineer named (DB). DB had been diagnosed
with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) for three years before our study. The data is
made up of private correspondence, letters by her before the onset of AD,
and memoirs to herself and her caregiver and fictional memoirs to herself
which she portrays as having been written to her by her caregiver. Data
from an interview conducted to measure her cognitive status is also used as
part of the analysis. From the early writings to the time DB was confined
to a nursing home, the data spans a period of over fifty years. The
methodology used for data analysis is one of a discourse-analytic case
study of an individual’s talk and writing across genres, biographical and
historical research ‘about the sociolinguistic and language-ideological
contexts’ (Johnstone 2009) to show how ‘repeated patterns of stance-taking
can come together as a style associated with a particular individual’
(Johnstone 2009). The findings suggest that language consistency is
maintained because old texts are always reshaped in new contexts. A high
degree of consistency can also be maintained between the early stages of AD
and the period prior to the onset of disease because even though DB is in a
state of cognitive decline she still has some access to her lingual
memories. The conclusion drawn is that if language is made up of ‘prior
texts’, then distinctions between languages is not necessary.