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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Query Details

Query Subject:   Anthropology of Grief: Language of Bereavement
Author:   Stefanie Gause
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Sociolinguistics
Anthropological Linguistics

Query:   I am a fourth year anthropology student currently working on a project
called "The Anthropology of Parental Bereavement." This project is
being conducted in Canada (at McGill University, Wilfrid Laurier
University and University of Victoria). The section of the project that I
am currently working on entails an examination of the language of
parental bereavement in a cross-cultural context. Specifically, we are
interested in terminology for: A.) bereaved parents and B.) the
deceased children. Our interest is in examining the language of
bereavement in other linguistic groups to better understand how they
speak about the loss of children. One of the goals of this research is to
elucidate possible cultural differences/similarities in the experience and
understanding of the loss of a child through a linguistic analysis.

1. There is no single noun in English (to my knowledge) for a
"bereaved parent" (as opposed 'to widow,' 'orphan,' etc). Is this similar
in other languages?

2. A second question pertains to how "parent" and "child" are defined
cross-culturally. In certain cultures, children are not named until a
certain amount of time has elapsed since birth. If the child dies before it
is named, are the parents considered "parents" or are their other terms
to more specifically define their status/experience?

Any suggestions about linguistic research pertaining to bereavement
would be greatly appreciated!
LL Issue: 21.2159
Date posted: 08-May-2010


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