Bungle bees dipassearing in corwidge – Wot so funee?

After the hilarity of last week’s incident in the library, we’re back to some interestingly funny words that Andrew has come out with this week.

corwidge

Since Joel has started having some food recently, Andrew has been fascinated to watch his (to this point rather babyish) brother doing something that he himself loves – eating! Now Andrew gave up eating warm milk mixed with oats quite a while ago as he preferred cereals that he could pick up in his hands less messily – he was never too keen on a spoon approaching his mouth – so since he’s been talking he’s not needed to say the word. Until this week when Joel has been smothering the highchair with it (and getting some in his mouth).

Apparently this sticky glupey stuff us called corwidge (no autocorrect, I don’t want to change it to porridge thank you very much, that would make for a far less entertaining blog post!) At first I thought his attempt at copying my ‘porridge’ was just hampered by a mouth full of Weetabix minis, but when he repeated it several times after his own cereals were devoured, it was clear that corwidge was here to stay, despite the many repetitions of porridge that Tom and I gave him. I find it funny I guess because it sounds a bit like courage – you need courage to eat your corwidge, especially if it’s going to be thrust at you on one of those plastic spoon things!

In thinking about why he might be doing this, I came to the conclusion that he finds the ‘p’ of por- followed by the ‘r’ of -ridge hard to say – his ‘r’ sound is still more of a ‘w’ sound which needs the lips (as well as the back of the tongue) to be in a certain position rather than the ‘r’ sound that we his parents make which uses primarily the front of the tongue; ‘p’ also needs the lips to be in a certain position (closed and released), so he may find switching from the position of the lips in ‘p’ to that in ‘w’ difficult at this stage, and instead makes a ‘k’ sound at the start, which is the same type of sound (involving closure and release in the mouth) but uses the back of the tongue rather than the lips. Just testing this theory out myself, I can say ‘corwidge’ better than ‘porwidge’.

bungle bees

This little beauty slipped out when we were in the garden last week. I’m now imagining Zippy bees and George bees too 🙂 There are some plants that the bees love to buzz on, and Andrew just came out with ‘Look Mummy, it’s a busy bungle bee!‘ I think he got this from a book that we used to read to him a lot when we was quite a bit younger – it’s amazing what gets stored in their memory for bringing out at a later date. Of course the book says ‘bumble’, but this was his rendition of it.

I’m not entirely sure why he should use a ‘g’ sound instead of a ‘b’ sound, especially when there’s already the same sound at the start of the word. But I suspect it’s also because he knows the word ‘bungle-berries’ from Noddy books and cartoons. So he’s probably blended bumble bee with bungle-berries here. But what do I know, I’m just his mum! I did manage to get it on video though.

dipasseared

This one came out when Andrew was with Granny and Grandad at the weekend, but it made me giggle when they retold it. We were heading back to their house from a day in Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds. We were in convoy – Tom and I with Joel in our car and Granny and Grandad with Andrew in theirs. Not long after setting off, Andrew announced that he needed his nappy changing, so they pulled in. Granny lay him down on the back seat and pulled the nappy off to discover that there was quite a lot of poo (well done for telling us Andrew). She decided that she might need Grandad’s help to hold the legs so no poo would get where it wasn’t supposed to. Just as she looked up to ask Grandad for reinforcement, she noticed that he’d gone from the passenger seat. So she said ‘Oh, Grandad’s disappeared’, and Andrew chimed along with ‘Grandad’s dipasseared‘! Don’t worry, he’d just popped into the petrol station to buy a drink.

This is a lovely example of a toddler simply switching two sounds around in a word that they are trying to say – the ‘p’ and ‘s’ here. In fact he’s doing what we adults quite often do when we make a speech error – mix up sounds in two different syllables, otherwise known as a Spoonerism, though often when it involves two words. I can’t think of any I’ve said recently, though I’m sure there have been some, so here are a couple of examples from Wikipedia: “A blushing crow” (crushing blow); “A well-boiled icicle” (well-oiled bicycle).

That’s it for this week, hope to see you again next time for more toddler speech hilarity 🙂

 

Wot So Funee?

 

Shufflepot ice cream – wot so funee?

As I said in yesterday’s blog, we’ve just been on holiday for a week to the Lake District. During the week, Andrew came out with a few things that tickled us, or even made me howl with laughter in utter astonishment! So here’s my offering for the wot so funee linky this week….

Kisskin

First up is a type of bird. Now Grandad loves bird watching and is keen to get Andrew involved in his hobby too. Granny and Grandad’s garden is full of bird feeders, bird boxes, other bird paraphernalia that I have no clue about, and even cameras that capture some pretty amazing footage – take a look at Grandad’s website Garden Twitter if you’re interested, there are activities for kids too. Whenever he goes up to their holiday house the Lake District, Grandad always takes some bird feeding equipment with him so he can get some birdlife into the garden up there. This time he had a ‘spot the bird’ book for children, and encouraged Andrew by getting him to stick the stickers provided on the right page when they saw each type of bird. This meant that Andrew learned various bird species names last week, most of which he was pretty good at accurately reproducing, but one was worth a giggle – siskin became kisskin! I’m just imagining these little birds kissing each other now 🙂

It’s not unusual for children acquiring language to do this thing where they repeat a sound in a word, in this case ‘k’, at the start of each syllable. It’s not quite the same thing as ‘reduplication’, which involves whole syllables being repeated, as in ‘ma-ma’ and ‘da-da’ when they first start to say mummy and daddy, and of course in that very early babbling which Joel is just starting to do now (another post coming up on that some time soon).

shufflepot

When we got back to Granny and Grandad’s house in Coventry where we stayed overnight on the way home, Andrew had great fun removing every single price of outdoor game/sport equipment from the little shed that they keep them in. Once he’d been through all the different types of balls, commenting on their size, he came across the weird ones with (plastic) feathers that are used to play badminton with. His curiosity led him to ask Granny what it was, so she replied with ‘shuttlecock’, and his repetition of the word was a hilarious ‘shufflepot’! He then proceeded to pop a tennis ball in the top and walk round saying he had an ice cream (well it did look like a cone with a scoop of ice cream in!)

To be fair, ‘shuttlecock’ is a bit of a mouthful, with all sorts of different sounds made at different places in the mouth, so it wasn’t a bad rendition at all for a 26-month old. He got the outline of the word correct, the right number of syllables, the right stress pattern, the right vowels, it was just the consonants that were a bit mangled. The ‘p’ and ‘t’ of ‘pot’ are the same type of sound as the ‘k’ at the start and end of ‘cock’, as the air coming up from the lungs is momentarily stopped before being released again, they just vary as to where in the mouth the blockage is formed (lips for ‘p’, behind the teeth for ‘t’ and at the back of the mouth for ‘k’).

Shufflepot
Shufflepot ice cream 🙂

fangle

He’s said this one a few times now, since his birthday, but I still find it funny. When we walked into the pub for lunch one day, there were 2 candles on the table that we sat at. Andrew was very excited by this, and took great pleasure in repeating ‘two fangles’ a few times until I translated for the rest of our family and they replied, ‘ah yes you’re right Andrew, there are two candles’! 

Again, this isn’t a bad go at the word – he’s got the outline right, it’s just the consonants at the start of each syllable that need a bit of work, but he’ll get there over time. Notice how he’s using an ”f’ sound in both ‘fangle’ and ‘shufflepot’ instead of a ‘k’ or a ‘t’ sound (these two are quite similar in that they are the same type of sound, as I said above). I’m not sure exactly why he should go for this sound, which is made by air hissing between the bottom lip and top front teeth, but maybe it’s some kind of default for him when he’s finding it hard to get right all the sounds he’s heard.

No mummy, you’ve got it all wrong!

To finish off today’s post, I have to share something that left me in stitches. Unlike all the other things he’s said that have made me laugh, it wasn’t that he said something in a child-like way with dodgy consonants, but rather what he said was perfectly accurate and sounded like he was about 7 years old!! We were driving along with mountains on one side and a lake on the other (as you do in the Lake District!) He was looking out the window, so I commented on the scenery and said something like (I can’t remember exactly) ‘oh look Andrew, there are some trees up there’. His reply, in a very adult-like manner and intonation, was an insistent ‘No Mummy, you’ve got it all wrong!’ I couldn’t quite believe my ears!

He is saying many more sentences now, but this was the most accurate, out of the blue and out of the ordinary that I’ve heard from him. I think he must have picked it up just like that, the whole sentence, from someone, either in person or in a book that was read to him (or possibly on a DVD though we don’t have that many and I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard it on any of them). What I’m trying to learn from this is to watch what I say… you never know when it might get repeated back to me at an inappropriate moment. So far so good on this front, but it’s only a matter of time I’m sure!

Wot So Funee?

Noah and the shark – wot so funee?

One of the first blogs I came across when I started blogging just over a year ago was Actually Mummy – cleverly written as if from the perspective of a 7-year old loquacious school girl, and most posts are guaranteed to make me ‘LOL’ (not sure I’m cool enough to pull that one off?!) I spotted a while ago that she writes a weekly post featuring some of the funny things that she or her younger brother have written or said, and she invites other bloggers to link up with a post about their children’s linguistic accomplishments that week. I always said to myself that one day I would link up, once I had some data to share. And that’s just it – “data” – that gives away my background in linguistics. I have a fascination with speech development, all the more so now that I’m experiencing it first hand rather than out of a textbook.

Andrew has come out with a few funny-sounding things, but until recently these have mainly been just his not-yet-fully-developed way of saying certain sounds in single words. Now that he’s stringing several words together and saying whole sentences, there is a lot more scope for coming out with some howlers. Here are a few of the best from the past few weeks…..

“Noah shark”

For his dedication, Joel was given a Noah’s Ark book. Now of course Andrew thinks it’s his, and has been fascinated with reading it, particularly as it has pop out foam shapes – very exciting. I told him it was the story of Noah’s Ark, and a few days later, when I asked him which book he wanted to read, he replied with “Noah shark”. There was a definite gap between Noah and shark, so he’d certainly interpreted my speech with a different position for the word boundary. And that’s an example of an interesting point of language acquisition – when I say Noah’s Ark quickly there is no gap between the ‘z’ sound of Noah’s and the ‘ar’ sound of Ark, so how should he know where one word ends and the next begins (or whether it is indeed two words or one big one)? The brain of a toddler acquiring that language has to guess, and I presume that he went for Noah and shark because he knows the word shark already, but not ark.

But ‘shark’ doesn’t sound exactly like ‘zark’ ([Noah]’s Ark) I here you say? No, not in my speech, but in Andrew’s they sound quite similar. If you try saying ‘sssss’ (like a snake hiss) and ‘shhhhh’ (like you’re telling someone to be quiet), notice that your tongue is further back for sh than s, and your lips are a different shape, but otherwise they are very similar sounds; now try saying ‘sssss’ and ‘zzzzzz’ – notice that you don’t move your mouth at all, it’s just that your throat vibrates for z but not s (in techie language, z is ‘voiced and s is ‘unvoiced’ or ‘voiceless’). So it’s not surprising that Andrew hasn’t quite mastered these different sounds and that his sh sounds about half way between my s and sh. Here’s a video of him saying ‘shhhh’ – listen for yourself how it doesn’t sound exactly like my ‘shhhhh’.

“Pinny eggs”

I wrote a bit about this in the craft post explaining how we made mini eggs for Easter. I have visions of little chocolate eggs walking round with aprons on now! He still insists on calling them pinny eggs, even though I’ve called them mini eggs throughout the continued chocolate eating since Easter. I’m not quite sure why, given that he can say ‘m’ (as in mummy) and I’ve only ever called them mini eggs, but he’s obviously just got it into his head that they are pinny eggs. The ‘p’ sound is made with the same part of the mouth as the ‘m’ sound – the lips coming together and then opening again – but the ‘m’ also involves air being let out through the nose (it’s a nasal consonant).

“Foot bum”

This made me giggle, as I didn’t know what he was talking about at first. One evening he came out with ‘Andrew foot bum’, to which I replied ‘yes Andrew, you have a foot and a bum’, trying not to giggle too much. He said it again and again, and looked like he was looking for something in the living room where I was sat feeding Joel. I did think it was a bit odd that he should say ‘bum’ as I usually say bottom when talking to him about nappy changes etc., but couldn’t think what else he could mean…..until he emerged from around the corner with a yellow object – of course, our foot pump! I had been using it to blow up the ring thing that Joel sits in underneath his play gym. ‘Foot bum, foot bum’, he said enthusiastically. ‘Ah yes Andrew, the foot PUMP’, I replied.

Like the mini/pinny eggs sound confusion, ‘b’ is also made with the lips coming together and then opening again, and at the start of a word, the difference between ‘p’ and ‘b’ is the number of milliseconds it takes for the vowel to begin after the lips release – more for ‘p’ than ‘b’. So again it’s easy to see how he can confuse these sounds. At the end of a word, sounds like ‘p’ (and ‘t’ and ‘k’) don’t always get released very audibly, especially in faster speech and when the word is at the end of an utterance, so it’s not surprising that Andrew didn’t pick this up when I briefly talked about the foot pump earlier in the day.

Well that’s enough on linguistics for this week. I’m sure I’ll be back with more posts to link up with ‘wot so funee?’ as Andrew’s brain and mouth try to work their way through the minefield of mastering the English language. In the meantime, if you fancy a giggle over language from the mouths of babes, head over to the link up by clicking on the badge below.

Wot So Funee?

Mr Chatterbox

It’s about time that i wrote another update on Andrew’s language development and shared a few videos that I’ve taken of him talking recently. He’s become quite a little chatterbox; sometimes it seems like he’s never without something to say, either commenting on what’s going on, or recounting a past experience he had, or asking us a question. It’s amazing how he’s gone from just single words and pairs of words to whole strings of several words in the space of just a few months. His word strings are not often what we would think of as grammatically correct sentences, but nevertheless they convey the message he intended more often than not.

The other Mr Chatterbox

His ‘sentences’ mostly sound like orders, for example ‘Daddy eat Shredded Wheat’ or ‘Mummy sit there’, but in many cases what he really means – we can tell from the context – is what we would use the present continuous tense for, so ‘Daddy is eating Shredded Wheat’ or ‘Mummy is sitting there’ for the two examples given here. Sometimes, however, he clearly does mean an order, his favourite being a very clear ‘Andrew do it!’ when we try to do something for him but he’s having none of it and desperately wants to do it himself, or there are a few occasions that he admits defeat and demands that ‘Mummy do it’ 🙂 A particularly interesting case is when he says ‘Mummy/Daddy wake up now’, which usually seems to mean either ‘Mummy/Daddy is awake now’ or ‘Mummy/Daddy just got me out of bed’ – it’s interesting how he doesn’t quite understand, or at least can’t communicate, the difference between the process of waking or getting up and actually being awake.

He does have some short grammatically correct sentences; the most noticeable and regularly uttered ones are ‘What’s that?’ and ‘There it is!’. It’s so cute when he finds what he’s been looking for and excitedly proclaims ‘There it is!’, and he’s very curious and keen to learn what things are, so the question ‘What’s that?’ is very useful to him. We haven’t reached the ‘Why?’ stage yet, but I have a feeling it won’t be too long before he begins to question us using this word all the time! Can’t wait (not)!

Talking of questions, he clearly understands when we are asking a question, I suspect from the intonation, as the pitch rises at the end of the utterance, and if he doesn’t know the answer or doesn’t understand exactly what we asked, he stock answer is ‘Yes’. He’s pretty good at saying please and thank you, but if he’s not said it and we’d like him to, we just have to repeat what he asked for, such as ‘more Shreddies’ with a rising pitch at the end, as if to say ‘what do you say….more Shreddies ‘what’?’ and he appends the word please onto the end. So that’s how I’m guessing he understands when we’re asking a question from the rising intonation. Interestingly, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are the last vestiges of his baby signing – as he says the word he still signs it too.

When he’s asked what something is and we tell him, he has a go at repeating it himself, and he varies in how accurate he is depending on how difficult the word is to say. It’s a bit like having a parrot as he copies what we say! Often he’ll also just repeat something we said without having asked us what it is – that feels even more like we have a resident parrot, and you have to be really careful what you say! He has a tendency to be very cheeky and noisy just as Tom is doing the bedtime routine with him once he’s had mummy milk, and clearly Tom has told him to calm down several times because now he just spontaneously comes out with ‘calm down, calm down’ as they go into his bedroom before Tom has said anything. Often he’ll say things later that he heard somewhere earlier but didn’t say at the time.

The number of words he now knows is too many to count, and increases by the day. It’s incredible to watch this sudden explosion in vocabulary, which now includes nouns, verbs, adjectives and more. He’s particularly into his colours and numbers, and can spend quite a long time counting things and telling us their colours when we read or do other things that we do regularly in daily life. Reading books is one of his favourite activities, especially when it’s with Daddy who can give him undivided attention whilst I’m feeding Joel. We read the most when he’s sat on the potty or toilet after meal times and before bed. He still likes flicking through his board books and looking through the pictures, but he also likes us to read big boys book with paper pages and a real story. I’m sure that all the reading is extremely helpful in his language development.

In a previous blog post about Andrew’s language development, I wrote about ‘overextension’ – a while ago he would say ‘car’ for all four-wheeled vehicles and ‘moo’ for cows, horses and other large furry mammals. His vocab has extended in theses areas, so now he no longer overextends the meaning of ‘car’ and ‘moo’ but differentiates between car, lorry, bus etc. and cow, horse etc. Interestingly he now overextends the meaning of ‘football’ to all balls, even though he used to say ‘ball’ (or ‘buh’) for all balls. He’s obviously learned ‘football’ (no doubt because the neighbours’ children kicked one over into the flats’ communal garden and he’s played with it lots as they don’t seem to be looking for it), and now he thinks that this applies to all balls. Of course we don’t use the word ‘football’ when we talk about different types of balls, so eventually he’ll figure it out, just as he did for vehicles and animals. Even more interesting in his understanding of balls is that he’s started saying ‘tennis football’ for tennis ball; so he’s specifying a certain type of ball (a tennis one) but not quite getting that ‘football’ is also a certain type of ball, a different type from a tennis ball.

Generally his sounds are much more accurate than they were, and it’s quite easy to tell most of the time what he’s saying. There are some occasions though when he says something over and over and we just can’t tell what he’s saying. The recent one that sticks in my mind is ‘bassle’ – he kept saying it over and over, usually before another word but sometimes on its own as I asked him to repeat it so I could try and work out what it was by making suggestions, none of which he said ‘yes’ to, which is what he says when you repeat back to him correctly what he just said. Then a few days later, suddenly the context made me think he meant ‘special’ and when I repeated this back to him, out came a hearty ‘YES!’, as if to say ‘finally Mummy, you’ve got it!’ ‘Bassle’ isn’t a bad attempt at ‘special’ – the consonant cluster ‘sp’ is hard for toddlers, who tend to take a while to get the hang of it, the vowel isn’t far off as they are both produced with the tongue at the front of the mouth but in ‘e’ it’s a bit higher than in ‘a’, and ‘s’ instead of ‘sh’ is another thing that takes a while to get the hang of and I hear this in other words too, for example ‘shops’ sounds more like ‘sops’.

The sound that seems most comical in its inaccuracy is the ‘i’ sound when it precedes an ‘l’ sound as in ‘milk’ or ‘builder’ – both are words he says a lot (the latter when referring to a certain guy called Bob with a yellow hard hat!) For this he says something more like ‘mowk’ or ‘bowder’ with the ‘o’ similar to that in ‘pot’ (anyone want to watch Bob the Boulder?! Sounds like a fascinating programme!) I’m guessing this is fairly common in toddler acquirers of English, though I haven’t specifically read about it, as it makes sense to me when I think about how and where the sounds are produced in the mouth. First, it’s quite common for English speakers, particularly in certain accents like Cockney in London, to ‘vocalise’ ‘l’ sounds after vowels – this means that they say the ‘l’ sound like a vowel which is produced with the tongue at the back and near the top of the mouth, so we hear something like ‘miwk’ instead of ‘milk’. The ‘i’ sound in ‘milk’ is produced with the tongue at the front of the mouth. The ‘o’ vowel that Andrew is saying is ‘assimilating’ to the vocalised ‘l’, which means that during the vowel his tongue is anticipating the position it needs to be in for the vocalised ‘l’ after it, and therefore the vowel is produced at the back of the mouth, hence the ‘mowk’ pronunciation instead of ‘milk’ with the vowel at the front of the mouth.

Although most of what he comes out with is English, I do catch glimpses of the French and German that he clearly understands. The other day he spontaneously started counting in French, and one of his favourite books to read with us is the ‘First Thousand Words in German’ that we were given as a present from some Swiss/German friends – his favourite page is the ‘Küche’ page, which shows a rather messy kitchen with all sorts of things in it to learn the words of, and which he asks to read in German by repeating ‘Küche, Küche’ until we do, even though Tom is reluctant to read it with him. I have to admit that I’ve been less consistent in speaking French and German to him since Joel was born, mainly because I find my mind has so many other things to keep on top of that I simply forget or don’t have the energy to put my thoughts into actions. I did use some of Andrew’s Christmas money to buy some DVDs in French and German though, so he now excitedly watches Feuerwehrman Sam, Bob der Baumeister, Thomas le petit train and Les Teletubbies! He has often been heard shouting back to the screen what he’s hearing in French and German, such as ‘Hilfe!’ and ‘Feuer!’ during Sam, and ‘Bonjour!’ and ‘Gros calin!’ during Teletubbies. I have a video of him reading a German book with Daddy but I’ve realised that he’s sat on the potty naked, as he often does when reading, and I don’t think he’d appreciate this going on youtube when he’s a bit older so I haven’t uploaded it; I’ll try to get a video of his trilingual talking when he’s got some clothes on!

I think that’s just about all I have to say on Andrew’s language for the moment, but I’m sure he will continue to develop at an amazingly fast rate and there will be more to record over the coming weeks and months. It’s so incredible to get an inkling of what’s going on in his mind now that more and more is coming out in the form of speech. It’s fascinating when you can see that he really wants to say something but sometimes it takes him a little while to come up with the words he needs to convey the message, and it’s almost as if you can see his mind working as he formulates and produces the speech. A-MA-ZING!

Baby talk

I only started blogging when Andrew was nearly a year old, so I didn’t blog anything about his early speech and language development. As Joel has been making some lovely noises with his vocal apparatus over the past month or so, I thought I’d start on my record of how his talking develops.

He doesn’t have a wide range of sounds yet, which is normal for his age of course, but what he does ‘say’ makes up for this in cuteness. As he smiles and laughs away at me, he does some impressive velar and uvular trills – techie speak for a kind of vibration of the very back of the tongue against the soft bit of the roof of the mouth at the back. They are similar to the sound we hear when French speakers say their ‘R’ sound, but his are much longer, going on for several vibrations rather than just a few; we don’t use this sound in English. At this age, babies can produce all sorts of sounds that may well not be part of the language (or languages) that they are surrounded by on a daily basis, which will become their native language(s). They are just playing around with their vocal apparatus and starting the process of figuring out which actions lead to which sounds.

The other sounds that he is making are various vowel sounds, again not all of them are recognisably English, but he’s opening his mouth into various shapes and sliding around from one vowel to another by moving his mouth in different ways. All this is accompanied by lots of smiling from him, and of course positive feedback from us, which makes him do it even more.

I’ve also started doing the sign for “milk” before I feed him, which is much earlier than I stared signing with Andrew because we didn’t go to a class until he was about 7 months old. But now that I know more about baby signing, I know that it’s never too early to start; even though he won’t sign back for a while, it’s all about laying the foundations for communication when he is able to coordinate his hands appropriately.

Before I know it he’ll be babbling away, so I’ll do another update when he’s producing even more cute sounds. I’m also going to write an update on where Andrew is at with language acquisition soon – he’s stringing more words together now, up to 4 or 5, and although they’re not grammatically correct sentences, they do make sense and convey what he wants to communicate. To think that he was not that long ago a gurgling baby like Joel is now! Amazing!

We have blast off! Toddler speech development

In the past couple of months my blog posts have been quite focused on pregnancy and baking. As I glance across to my sidebar whilst typing, I’m reminded that there are other categories that I like to write about. One of these is linguistics, and within the past month, just before Joel was born and since the birth, we’ve seen something that definitely fits into that category – Andrew’s speech development has suddenly hit blast off! He’s gone from saying just a few words to coming out with several new ones a day, and copying some of the words out of what we say with pretty amazing accuracy. I really need to watch what I say now, including those moments when it’s all going wrong and a potentially naughty word slips off my tongue before I know it.

In fact it’s not just us that he copies. The other day we were at a clinic to get discharged from midwife care for Joel. Andrew wasn’t the only toddler there, and at one point another little boy’s mum shouted across to him as he was messing with someone else’s car seat: “Riley, I’m watching you!” Andrew proceeded to say very loudly “Watch you!”, as I went a rather interesting shade of red and thought to myself: here beginneth years of embarrassment with toddler/child (deliberate) slips of the tongue. But hey, that’s part and parcel of having kids, and I’m sure I’ll be just as embarrassing for him one day.

Counting and naming colours whilst stacking pots - Daddy is explaining that we're currently missing number 9 of 10, a green pot, and we have no idea where it is!

Two things that he’s very into at the moment are numbers and colours. The best way to get him to demonstrate his abilities is with his set of 10 stacking pots. He happily counts the pots as he stacks them, sometimes getting carried away and counting faster than he can stack! Eight is often the number he slows down for and struggles with, though I’m not quite sure why – to me this combination of sounds doesn’t seem particularly harder than other numbers; maybe it’s the fact it starts with a vowel (? – only thing I can think of now). English is no problem for him now, and he’s even starting to say some of the French and German numbers; he can count to 10 in French, just about, though German is a bit slower to come as he only consistently says a few of those numbers (I have no idea why German should be slower than French). Another way he likes to practise counting is with the book Animal Airways – I’d definitely recommend this, it’s great! With each turn of the page, another group of animals is added, starting at one and ending up at 10.

Going back to the stacking pots, Andrew likes telling us the colours as he stacks them high. At first he started off with just the primary colours (red, blue, yellow) and green, and now he’s expanded to others including purple, orange, pink, black, white, grey etc. He’s now started putting a colour with a noun to describe objects, for example he’ll say “red car” or “blue cup” or “green tree”. To me this really makes him sound grown up!

There are other instances where he strings 2 or more words together, not just an adjective and noun pair like the colour examples. Since Tom has gone back to work after paternity leave last week, Andrew has said “Dada work” every morning when he’s gone. He’s figuring out possessives and says things like “Mama’s car” (I love the fact that he calls it my car!) and “Dada’s drink”; he’s starting to say mine and yours, but I think he gets them mixed up a lot, saying yours when he means mine and vice versa. The nicest example of word strings recently has been the phrase “Pop up and down” that he’s been saying a lot since last weekend. The story is that his paternal grandad, who he calls Pop, came to visit, and the place where we said goodbye to him when he had to catch the train back was at the lift, which Andrew calls an “up and down”, in John Lewis. So ever since, Andrew has kept saying “Pop up and down” to remind us that this is the last place he saw Pop before he left! We’ve even started to hear what is technically a full sentence: he says “It’s a [insert object name, e.g. ball]” when he’s naming some objects for us. This is probably one of the easiest sentences in English to start off with.

Until recently he didn’t say his own name, or so I thought, but it suddenly dawned on me one day that he was saying it, just not in a phonetically very accurate way! His version is something more like “A-tar” than “An-drew”. He’s learned his brother’s name very quickly, though the “J” sound is hard to say, so it sounds like “Dole”. In general, however, his pronunciation is getting more similar to adult speakers’ for the easier sounds. I was interested to hear him say “glasses” with a long “a” sound – he must have picked that up from Granny/Grandad or friends who say it like that, as both Tom and I say it with a short “a” sound, a northern rather than southern “a”.

A great action shot of the top pot falling off the stack. (The white thing in the foreground is the back of Joel's head!)

His first words were all one syllable long, and his first 2-syllable word was “flower” quite a while ago. Recently I’ve noticed many more 2-syllable words, including his name of course. Other examples include “Grandma” and “orange”. So far he’s not said any longer words, unless you count “up-and-down” as one word, which it apparently is in his mind. I find it interesting that all the 2-syllable words he says have stress on the first syllable – most English 2-syllable words have first-syllable stress – but he says “tar” for “guitar” which has second-syllable stress (it was originally from French), even when I repeat “guitar” back to him several times and ask him if he can say it, it’s still “tar” for him, so he’s basically only saying the stressed syllable.

Most words that he says are English, although he understands a lot more in French and German than he can produce. I can tell this from how he responds by pointing and talking back in English when I ask him things in French/German. Two words that he uses a lot are, however, “Baum” (German for tree) and “pap-pap” (French “papillion” for butterfly) instead of the English words. I’m guessing the “b” of Baum is easier for him than the “tr” of tree, and perhaps the song “vole, vole, vole papillion” that’s on our French CD can explain that preference?

I think that’s all I have to say about Andrew’s language for now, but I can imagine that it will continue to develop quickly over the coming months and there will be lots more to say pretty soon. I’m finding it fascinating to witness first hand the incredible journey that is a child going from gurgling baby to fully fledged chatterbox (he is my son, after all 🙂 )

Let the talking begin!

For over a month now, Andrew has been saying his very first words. According to the NHS ‘Birth to Five’ book, which gives average ages that children tend to reach milestones of development, this is at the later end of average for starting to talk. But as Andrew was an early walker (just before his 1st birthday), I wasn’t expecting that he would talk particularly early, because it’s often the case that babies and toddlers are early at gaining some skills and later at gaining others compared to their typically-developing peers. It’s like their brains seem to concentrate on one big thing to the detriment of other big things, until the first thing is sorted and then other things get a look in. I’ll give you a run through of his first words, and add some notes to each of them, sometimes referring to ‘techie’ terms – ones that I’ve learned through studying phonetics/linguistics – but hopefully explaining them well enough in everyday words too.

His first word was ‘bye-bye’, which he says something more like ‘ba-ba’, with a short ‘a’ instead of the double vowel (or ‘diphthong’ in techie speak) that I and other British English speaking adults use. His vowel here is slowly becoming more like mine compared to when he first said the word. This is a very useful word that gets used every morning when he waves to Daddy and/or me as we go to work, plus on other occasions like when we leave a group.

His second recognisable word was ‘ball’, which he says something more like ‘buh’, with no ‘l’ and a short vowel instead of the long vowel that adults use. But it clearly refers to ‘ball’, one of his favourite toys to play with wherever he is (including in the park when older kids are trying to have a game of football…) – I can tell because he consistently points to balls and says ‘buh’. He generally likes the sound ‘b’, as his ‘buh’ has now extended to also mean ‘balloon’ (which to be fair is pretty similar to a ball in shape) and ‘bird’. Again he will consistently point to these things and say ‘buh’, as well as using the sign (as in sign language) when he points to bird.

A ball or 'buh' - one of Andrew's favourite toys to play with, even if it's not his! (This one is his though)

The next few words came about the same time; I can’t really say in which particular order. The word he now says the most on a daily basis must be ‘car’, which he says with a consonant produced slightly further back in the mouth than adults do – what I would call a ‘uvular plosive’ (instead of a ‘velar plosive’), so it sounds a bit like the ‘guttural’ sounds we associate with French ‘r’ sounds or Swiss German or Arabic. Over time this will become more English-sounding, and in the meantime I think it’s great that he can naturally use sounds that native English-speaking adults find hard to produce because they don’t use them in English. He points and says the word ‘car’ constantly as we walk anywhere next to roads, as he plays with his toy garage, and as we read books featuring cars. In fact he says car for pretty much any vehicle with wheels! Buses, lorries, vans – all cars in Andrew’s world. Bikes or motorbikes don’t seem to get this treatment, but he doesn’t consistently come out with anything else for these. Of course I encourage him when he says ‘car’, and then I go on to specify what it is if it’s not actually a car. One day he’ll figure this all out, but for now this ‘overextension’ (as is the techie term) is a normal part of language development. The classic example is when children use the word ‘dog’ to mean any four-legged, furry animal. This phenomenon happens across languages, not just in English, so it seems to be a general part of language acquisition, though researchers haven’t quite figured out exactly why it happens. It does show, however, that children initially categorise objects rather than simply label them, and then work towards being more specific in their initial categories.

Our car, which he points out every time we leave the flat.

Another word that he uses a lot is ‘shoes’. He says this as something like ‘shuhz’, so you hear mainly the two consonant ‘sh’ and ‘z’ sounds (what I would call ‘fricatives’) with a very short kind of non-descript vowel in the middle (a high central vowel that adults don’t use in English). This word is very useful for him, because he uses ‘shoes’ as a signal to let us know that he wants to go out – he brings them to us, repeating the word ‘shoes’ several times until we put them on, and then goes and stands by the front door to show that he wants to go out. Of course this isn’t always appropriate (like when I’m still in my pyjamas having got him sorted but not myself!), but he does love putting his shoes on and going out. In fact he also likes putting our shoes on and attempting to walk around constantly repeating the word ‘shoes’…. not always successfully in the case of my 2-inch-heeled mules!

Two little but powerful words he likes to use are ‘yeah’ and ‘no’. He seems to use ‘yeah’ for everything from everyday questions like ‘shall we get you dressed?’ (not his favourite activity) to questions about things he’s really excited about, like’ would you like to go to the park?’. Both his ‘yeah’ and his ‘no’ are now very adult-like, though ‘no’ started of as something more like ‘doh’, in which the vowel was pretty accurate, but the consonant wasn’t very nasal. I knew he meant ‘no’ though, because it was always accompanied by a shake of the head and usually happened just after I’ve said no to him!

One of his most recent additions was flower – he came out with this at my cousin’s wedding after several people were pointing the pretty flowers out to him, and ever since he’s been able to point them out himself. His version doesn’t sound exactly like flower, it’s more like ‘wa-wa’, but it’s obvious that this is what he means as he points to one.

Some lovely flowers or 'wa-wa' that I got for my birthday from my work friends. Andrew points this out when he's sat at the table eating lunch or tea and they are at the other end of the table 🙂

Although animal sounds aren’t technically words, I would like to quickly mention that his favourite animals to point out are ‘cow’, ‘dog’ and ‘duck’ – which he calls ‘moo’ (somewhere between ‘moo’ and ‘boo’ actually), ‘urh urh’ (trying to say ‘woof woof’ but actually sounding more like a real bark than ‘woof’!) and ‘quack’ (more like ‘kack’). His productions of cow and duck (‘moo/boo’ and ‘kack’) are always accompanied by the sign language for each, which interestingly are also quite approximate compared to those that I make with my hands. I must write a post specifically on babysigning one day (I keep saying that and never get around to it….) For some reason he seems less bothered about making the dog sign with his bark. Although he doesn’t seem to overextend the word dog (as in the example I gave above), he does seem to overextend the word ‘moo’ – generally it refers to cows (we see them quite often on the fields near us), but he’s also used it for horse (which I think he’s just about picking up the sign for now, so using ‘moo’ less often) and elephant! So it seems it can apply to any big mammal.

Ducks or 'kack, kack' swimming under the bridge where we walk across the river a few times a week to go to various groups.

I’m not quite sure why, but he often makes a sound like ‘ts’ when pointing at things that he can’t yet say the word for. As he points, I of course say the word of the object he’s pointing at, and one day he’ll have heard it enough times and be able to produce the right sounds to say it himself. Generally he likes making sounds like ‘sh’ and ‘ssss’ (what I’d call ‘fricatives’ in techie speak) all over the place, when I can’t always tell if there’s something specific he’s trying to refer to.

For anyone who remembers me writing about trilingual adventures before, here’s an update on where I’m at with introducing French and German as well as English. I’m still saying three words (one in each language) to him as we sit and read through books or point out things around the house or when we’re out and about. More recently I’ve decided to have two ‘French’ days and two ‘German’ days a week when I’m with him all day (I’m at work for the other 2.5 days), when I speak the relevant language to him when it’s just the two of us. So today is a ‘German’ day, and as we’ve walked to the shops and to groups, I’ve talked to him in German, pointing out things along the way, or making general small talk (as you do, talking to your toddler who can’t talk back, much!) Lunch was ‘Mittagessen’ and I’ve changed his ‘Windel’ instead of nappy etc. So far he’s only producing English words (or words that sound like English words). BUT, he clearly understands a lot in French and German, given how he reacts when I talk to him in either language. For example, when I ask him ‘Wo ist das Auto?’ or ‘Ou est-elle, la voiture?’ (‘Where’s the car?’), he’ll point and say ‘car’ in answer to my question. Amazing! He does this with various things, not just cars. It’s so fascinating to see the fact that he’s picking up more than one language without even thinking about it.

This leads on to an interesting point about language acquisition: the fact that he can understand a lot more (in English) than he can currently say. I’m finding that I can say some quite complicated sentences, for example give him instructions to do something like bring me his ball or put his sun hat back on, and he consistently does what I ask of him. If Tom and I are talking between us, not directly with him, and we happen to mention in passing something that he recognises, he’ll react to the word he’s heard in our speech, for example if we mentioned a dog, he’ll suddenly woof, even though we weren’t really aware he was listening to us. This has made me realise that I have to be careful now what I say. I hope that in general what I say is suitable for a toddler to hear and make sense of, but we all have days when we react and say something we wish we hadn’t – that’s the kind of thing I can just tell he’ll now pick up instantly!

I think I’ll leave this account of Andrew’s language acquisition journey here for now, but of course there’ll be much more to share over the coming months and years. You can probably tell, given my background in linguistics, that I find this all fascinating. Since Andrew was a baby, I’ve been recording him ‘talking’ – obviously this started of with baby sounds like gurgling and cooing, then babbling, and now some actual words (although capturing words on the recording is pretty difficult, because he’s aware of the recorder and then doesn’t produce them on cue like he would if it was just the two of us playing together – Observer’s Paradox, as Labov would say). These recordings are all waiting for me to sift through them and do anything specific with them – one day, if I ever get time to do that kind of thing. For now, just writing about what’s going on is interesting enough in my opinion.