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June 15, 2021
Join us for this Language Science Talks presentation by Dr. Michael Erard, author and linguist.
Abstract: What do the first words of babies and last words of the dying have in common?
In this talk, I will explore one important similarity: just as the forms of first words vary according to attitudes about babies and children as language users, so do the “final, self-validating articulation[s] of consciousness in extremis” (Guthke, 1992) vary according to attitudes about the communicative agency of the dying. I will illustrate this by offering a cultural taxonomy of attention to first words and by summarizing recent work on a historical data set (Erard, 2021) from the first clinical study of dying (Osler, 1904). Language ideologies as well as material resources, settings, and institutions play a role in how these phenomena are noticed, remembered, and recorded — which is a crucial first step for apprehending them as the products of psycholinguistic and language evolutionary processes.
Hosted by UBC Department of Linguistics Professor Carla Hudson Kam.
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