10 December 2008

The language of our dreams

Marian has been frequently talking in her sleep, and funnily, she talks only in English when she does this. But it got me thinking - what language are my thoughts in? Or my dreams for that matter? Are thoughts really processed in words, languages, sentences, and even subject to (God forbid) grammar? Or is thought not restricted to such rules or attributes at all but we just think they are because when they are processed and ready and we get them out they are in the form of words and sentences?

But if it were, are you aware of what language you think in?

And when you dream, even when you remember exactly what you said or heard in the dream, do you ever remember if it was in any specific language the next day? For me, it's always just conversation that I remember, talking, exchanging ideas, communication, but language? I never remember.

There's this one dream I had - a little kid that hung on to my arms and when I told him to let me go, he kept chanting "Not unless you promise to take me home with you!" I told my sister about it the next day, and when I told her that part, she jokingly said "So you dream in English!"

But to contradict this, I had another incident to prove that I don't dream in English. At least not always. I was sharing a hotel room with a colleague, and one night I was sleeping and dreaming (hazy dreams I remember), and my friend was watching TV. I woke up at some point, and asked her what the time was. "What?" she said. I repeated the question. "What??" she said again, I asked her again, to which to again asked me back "What??!" I was pretty mad by this time, and asked her what was wrong with her, and if she'd gone deaf. She, equally angry, shot back "How the hell would I know? You're speaking Mizo!" So I must have been dreaming in Mizo...

I think the way the brain works is so complicated that sometimes your tongue and your dreams can't catch up. I often suddenly use Mizo words with my friends who don't understand a word of Mizo. Some of them are quite used to words like 'Chuan,' and 'Mahse' now. When I talk too fast, I think I mix up words without even realising it. So what's the one failing to catch up? My tongue or my brain?

Then there was that time I was buying something from some small shop in a tiny village in Mizoram, and without thinking asked "Kitna?" :-)

I also had a friend who didn't really speak anything other than Mizo. He was trying hard to study English, French, and Hindi all at the same time and I think his brain worked the same way as mine does now because whenever he wanted to say "My name is Kima" in French, he would always end up saying "Je m'apelle Kima hai" - notice the Hindi hai?

And he was a sleeptalker too, and always talked in English or Hindi when he talks in his sleep. But in his consciousness, he never spoke anything other than Mizo.

Sometimes I think we may be we are more brilliant in sleep than we are awake.


sawmpuia said...

agree..hahaha "Chuan"..han tih chu keipoh naupang zirtir lai hian ka ti leh zuk thin :-)Kan thianpa purun lei tur pawh vaipa dawr nghaktu hnehah, "Bhaia purun..purun deu" a tia..vaipa hawihai lutuk.."chak zet zetin purun purun..pooorun" a ti leh kan nuizo ta vek a!

Calliopia said...

What an interesting line of thought. Hmmmmm let's see, I can't quite imagine our thoughts being in any particular language. I mean not while we're thinking them through but when we're thinking of a response to sth maybe the linguistic thing comes in. I used to think only in English for years but now I think bilingually. At least when I'm thinking of what I'll say to someone or sth like that.

As for our dreams, they're supposed to be projections of our subconscious so I guess we're all brilliant subconciously. Nice thought that :)

Almost Unreal said...

I think I always dream in Mizo. the other night my friend and I went to a park and he talked to some of the local kids..after we got back home we went to bed...i was unable to sleep and that was when he sleep talked in Hindi..lolzzz

DayDreamBeliever said...

I used to ponder this question too, and I think, like Calliopia, I now think bilingually, but that wasn't the case up until a few years ago. As for my dreams, I really remember what language I dream in. It's funny how, like your friend, languages acquired rush to the rescue when one feels helpless. Once, when I'd gone to Bangkok and I just could not get myself understood coz nobody spoke English, I often found myself trying to communicate with them in Khasi ...of all the things!

Btw, the Kima here wouldn't be a certain gentleman who goes by the name of Sandman, would it? :P

Sekibuhchhuak said...

Nice and interesting post again :)
Thil ni thei tak aniiin ka ring i rawn sawi hi. Kan kianga mahni tawnga biak tur awm miah lohna a han awm rei tawh chuan, tawng dang dang hian mumangte hi kan hmu kan hmu ve ta mai !

Keipawh tum khat chu kolkatta airportah duty pakhat kha, Chinese tawngin ka lo be char chara, ka lo hre miah lova..min hrawk hrep :D

Jerusha said...

Sawmpui - chuan tih hi chu a rem emm ani, sawi palh mai a awl tawp!

Hhaa I thianpa chu tunge a? Purun tih hi vai trong anih duh hmel ru riau asin, 'pias' tih hi saptawng ni thung se :)

J - Maybe sleeptalking would be a good idea to convince people that we're not complete fools after all huh? :)

Jerusha said...

Unaunu - I mumang hi a tam zawk chu Hindi leh Marathi in pawlh ani in ka hria...I trawngvai lo ngaithla fo tu ang in fair takin ka lo judge chuan :)

Cherrie - So many people I know admit to thinking bilingually. I thought for a long time I think only in English, but I now think I may be bilingual in thoughts too.

As for the Kima question, why don't you ask the great sandman himself? :PP

Seki - Ani duh reuh asin, tum miah loh pawh in mahni trawng hman thran zawk hi lei hian a lo dekho leh mai thin a :) Mizoram ah lehphei chuan fimkhur a ngai thin, Mizo chu vairam a awm te hi engemaw deuh tlem a dang a nun chuan 'A inti vai ram awm' 'A inti changkang' 'A inti engemawni' tih hi kan ching sia...hmaichhan a hrawk hrep loh pawhin hnung lam a rel hrep ani mai! :)