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The duets of life: one chapter in the linguistic biography of first and last words, Dr. Michael Erard
Join us for this Language Science Talks by Dr. Michael Erard, author and linguist.

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.

Jun 15, 2021 10:00 AM in Vancouver

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