Denison Witmer for English

Some selected lyrics from Denison Witmer‘s song “Are you a Dreamer?“:

> Dream, are you a dreamer?

> Are you a dreamer?

> Do you dream?

> Sleep, are you a sleeper?

> Are you a sleeper?

> Do you sleep?

> […]

> Love, are you my lover?

> Are you my lover?

> Do you love me?

> Save, are you a savior?

> Are you a savior?

> Will you save?

As a linguist with experience teaching English, my reaction was, this song could be good material for teaching simple derivational morphology and question forms.

(Of course, on a personal level, my reaction was, I need to listen to some punk to balance out this Denison Witmer stuff…)


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. as an English learner,I say : thank you.
    我听了,这歌太慢了。forcing me to sleep and dream……

  2. this would be good for classwork. I am sure the boys and girls
    would have a good laugh whilst they practiced it with each other .

  3. Right. Now I’m going to have to figure out how to sing it in Mandarin. Oh, and for those of you who haven’t heard the song in question (like me), you can find it here.

  4. John, if the link I added doesn’t work (and for some reason it doesn’t seem to work for me at the moment), feel free to change the link to this page, which brings up the whole album “Are You a Dreamer?” appears on.

  5. wang,

    Yeah, I agree that the song is a bit slow. The version that Emanuel Nordrum linked to is even slower than the album version. The song of Denison Witmer’s that won me over is California Brown and Blue. Love that song!

  6. Am I going insane, or has the title for this entry been changing?

  7. So how do explain, to a class, how you are using the words dream, sleep and love as an entity that you are addressing in the first line of each of those stanzas?

    As english is my first language, I read the lines quite easily without any hesitation but I can see some potential for confusion in those lines because dream, sleep and love are not really entities by themselvs.. It’s like “john, are you a dreamer”..

    Anyway.. It made me think, and that’s the main thing I guess. I’d be interested to see how it is translated into mandarin.. Especially those lines.

  8. Eric,

    Yeah, I originally forgot to give the entry a title and added it later.

  9. Check this song out “Let’s call the whole thing off”. it is fun!

  10. Now I know how your comment section works. The mentioned song is a good if you teach the difference between American English and British English.

  11. light487,

    Use the words “as an entity”? Not sure what you mean. For low level vocabulary like this, you’re probably still using translation as a comprehension tool.

  12. I’m not going to question your thinking because you’re the linguist. And I’m the one who’s never heard of Derivational morphology… 🙂

    Just wondering if perhaps I’m seeing the wrong thing here. On the wikipedia page, it sort of makes me believe the “meaning” of a word is studied through the derivations. And I think I can see where you’re going with that with the “sleep”, “sleeper” connection.

    I’m not sure, but I think it could be confusing though to a non-native speaker since in this case the words are being personified.

    I’m probably totally off base, since it’s almost time to get to sleep. 😉 Still, it was a very interesting post, and shows definate creative thinking on your part.

    P.S. Your last post was great too. I just didn’t have anything to reply, and didn’t want to spam your comments.

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