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June 15, 2021

Online, BC V6T 1Z4

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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.

If you require an accessibility-related measure (e.g.: sign language interpretation, captioning, or any other accessibility-related measure), please contact Alex Walls at or 778 984 6173.

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