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What the languages of our dreams tell us about our multilinguality

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Multilinguality is not an exception but a norm, thus the body of research focusing on multilingual cognition and language use is quite large and extends from cognitive processes to the socio-affective dimensions of this complex phenomenon. Studies on the language choices multilinguals make report on their functioning either in authentic communication contexts or when involved in language learning tasks in the classroom. Apart from the studies of emotions words (Dewaele & Pavlenko in Language Learning 52:263–322, 2002) and swear words (Dewaele in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 25:204–222, 2004), relatively little has been said about how language choices are made in unconstrained (and perhaps subconscious) contexts, such as dreaming at night. This study offers some preliminary comments that will hopefully contribute to this area of research. The data used in the subsequent analytical section consists of a set of narratives of 22 multilinguals who were asked to reflect upon whether they dream multilingually and if so, what language choices they make subconsciously when dreaming. The results demonstrate the exposure to a given language to be the main determinant of its subconscious activation. Also the topic and the persons involved, a positive or negative attitude to a language as well as of a level of language competence play a role in language activation and choice when sleeping.




Gabryś-Barker, D. (2015). What the languages of our dreams tell us about our multilinguality. Second Language Learning and Teaching, 31, 3–17.

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