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Language rules – wot so funee?

This week has seen an interesting step in Andrew’s language development, at least it is for the linguist within me who is fascinated by seeing this process that I learned about in textbooks being played out in front of my very eyes and ears. I’ve noticed that he’s had some interesting verb formations, which give me insight into the process of how he must be learning English. He’s been doing interesting things with verbs that have two words. For example….

He regularly falls off things in his daring toddler way, and mostly just picks himself back up and carries on regardless. As he picks himself back up again, he’s been saying “Andrew fall off-ed”. In a similar fashion, the light “come on-ed” the other day, and at the weekend he remarked that his ping pong balls “go downs” the chute into the paddling pool. These examples all illustrate nicely that he’s learning patterns and rules rather than just imitating what we say. He’s clearly picked up that the past tense of a word usually has an “-ed” on the end, but he’s treating the two words in the compound verbs as one, so he sticks “-ed” on the end of this one big word. It’s logical really, and it’s so interesting to see this logic in action. The same goes for the “go downs” – he knows that “-s” is generally needed for he/she/it [insert verb] , but he’s just applying it to the compound as a whole.

I’ve also heard him say “goed” instead of went, which is another rule that he’s applying before he learns that there is an exception here. He’s got the hang of rules for making plurals out of single nouns too. For breakfast he usually has “bix” (Weetabix minis), but just recently they have been harder to come by at a reasonable price (apparently due to the poor wheat harvest caused by the bad weather this year – ironic given that I’m sitting here writing in boiling sunshine!). So instead I’ve bought alternatives, one of which was the chocolate flavour standard size Weetabix. When he first had one of these, he quite rightly came out with “Look, it’s one big bick!” all on his own, without me prompting him. In fact I would probably more naturally say “one big bix”, because it’s the brand name [Weeta]bix and “bick” isn’t a word.

Apart from these insights into his logic, we’ve had a few classic lines this week that have made us chuckle. The first that springs to mind was on the way home from Granny and Grandad’s at the weekend. It was (well past his) nap time and he was still buzzing with the excitement of having been playing with them or friends outside in the garden for the entire weekend. So he was chattering away commenting on all the things that were in his mind. At one point I turned around and said “Andrew, darling, it’s time for a nap now OK, please could you go to sleep?”. His reply was: “Andrew already asleep” (cue a not very convincing sleep pretence position!) Probably just showing off that he can now use the word “already” with accurate meaning.

Oh and talking of “probably”, I can’t forget his reply to Granny’s question of what toys he would like to play with after he’d politely requested to play with some toys: “probably Duplo” – another word that he’s got into recently.

The best one has to be the one he came out with last night in the bath. He was already in the bath whilst Daddy was taking Joel’s nappy off right next to the bath before putting him in too. We hadn’t smelled anything before (probably because all we could smell was the cooking dinner which included grilled salmon), but as he opened the nappy Daddy let out a surprised “Oh, Joel, you’ve done a poo!” Andrew then piped up with: “Joel, no, you’re sposed to do poos in the potty!”  Daddy tried to explain that we didn’t expect baby Joel to do them like a big boy in the potty, but it was quite a tricky one to get the message across, and to be fair to Andrew, right from birth he’s always been good at doing poos either on the change mat or on the potty, not in his nappy at least. Joel doesn’t seem to have followed in his brother’s footsteps in this.

Wot So Funee?

12 Responses to “Language rules – wot so funee?”

  1. Judith says:

    Ah, I love watching Child Language Acquisition in action! It is amazing to see that they really don’t just parrot, but observe and apply rules. My son will use Dutch grammar on English verbs, making infinitives with the suffix -en (play-en) or making a participle by adding ge- and -d (Goed ge-drive-d, mama) (=good driving, mummy!)

    • Ruth says:

      Ah that’s so interesting! Fascinating from a linguistic point of view. I’m speaking some French and German to Andrew, but he’s not bilingual. Though we did have an incident the other day when he came up to me with a ball in a cup at the Children’s Centre group we were at and said “here’s a glace mummy” instead of here’s an ice cream mummy!

  2. Emma says:

    Awwww so cute! We get “I falled off” 🙂 and “is her coming” I love it.

    • Ruth says:

      Yes I’m expecting I falled off once he’s got the idea that fall and off are separate words 🙂

  3. Nikki Thomas says:

    It is amazing how they develop their speech and lovely to record it like this as you will look back on this in a year or two and smile

  4. Cathie B says:

    I love listening to little ones when they’re learnign to speak – it’s so lovely and I really enjoyed this post. “Fall off-ed) – loved it. Popping over from #wotsofunee

  5. I love the whole process of learning language. It’s fascinating to see first hand – and it always reminds me how difficult a language English is with all it’s exceptions! #wotsofunee

  6. Ah I love that phase when they try so hard to get it right. It’s hard not to correct them and see their little faces look confused!

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