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Co-Auteur(s): Marie-Hélène MALTAIS, Université Laval, Canada

Linguistic typology of sleep-talking

Abstract/Résumé: The main aim of this paper is to characterize somniloquy, from a linguistic point of view. We will focus on the reported similarities between somniloquy and aphasia. Our research will contribute to find new answers about the nature of sleep-talking and certain types of language impairment. Somniloquy has received almost no attention in linguistics (with few exceptions such as Ephratt, 1994) and, since the work of Arkin (1981), there has been few studies in psychology devoted specifically to sleep-talking, as this type of parasomnia is considered harmless. The study of sleep-talking may, however, lead to significant advances in our knowledge of language, dreaming and sleep. Sleep utterances, especially those associated with NREM sleep in stages III and IV, show “striking correspondences” with certain forms of aphasia, whereas others, in particular those associated with REM sleep, may attain a quality close to that of wakeful speech, cf. Kraepelin (1906), Arkin and Brown (1971), Arkin (1981) and Brown (2009). These observations call for a deeper linguistic study of sleep-talking which, together with our present knowledge of sleep and language neurophysiology, may shed light on central aspects of the language faculty, understood as thought externalization, cf. Chomsky (2008b). From a methodological standpoint, this research involves the polysomnographic recording of 10 sleep-talkers. The resulting data will undergo a qualitative linguistic analysis, linking linguistic features and sleep related properties will be produced. The immediate outcome of this research is the incorporation of a new type of data into linguistic analysis. In addition, our current knowledge of the neurophysiology of sleep will allow us to provide principled explanations of the impaired forms of language observed in sleep-talkers. If the link between somniloquy and aphasia suggested in Arkin and Brown (1971) and Arkin (1981) can be established, this research will provide a better characterization of the mechanisms underlying aphasia. Arkin, A. (1981) Sleep-Talking: Psychology And Psychophysiology. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers. Arkin, A. and J. Brown (1971 “Resemblances between NREM associated sleep speech, drowsy speech, and aphasic and schizophrenic speech.” Association for the Psychophysiological Study of Sleep, 253, First International Congress, Bruges, Belgium, June 19–23. Brown, J. (2009) “Inner Speech: Microgenetic Concepts.” Aphasiology 23(5): 531-543. Chomsky, N. (2008b) “The Biolinguistic Program: Where does it stand today?” Ms., MIT. Ephratt, M. (1994) “Sleep-speech (Somniloquy) awaits linguists.” Language quarterly 32 (3-4): 213-219. Kraepelin, E. (1906) “Über sprachstörungen im traume.” Psychologische Arbeiten 5.1.