Last weekend we visited Duxford Air Museum (you can read all about it here) with Andrew’s grandparents, and he received a few lessons in aviation engineering from Pop. One fairly basic one was on those things that spin around on aeroplanes that were designed and built before jet engines came along; Andrew can now very accurately tell you how many “pellors” a plane has! He found this plane stuff all very “tresting” – not testing but interesting of course!
And this is interesting from a linguistic point of view. Until he said “tresting”, I had noticed that for most words of more than 2 syllables, he would say the stressed syllable and one other, usually the one after it. A good example of this is “pellor” – he misses off the unstressed first syllable and starts with the stressed second syllable and also says the third unstressed one. From what I’ve read, this is quite normal and logical for English acquiring toddlers. But “tresting” really is interesting, because he misses off the stressed syllable “in-” and makes the second unstressed syllable, which I normally say with a ‘reduced’ vowel (‘uh’ sort of sound), the stressed syllable with a full ‘e’ (as in egg) vowel. Sorry if you don’t find the science as fascinating as me, I just can’t help but write about it!
Apart from plane talk, we’ve had a few funees involving characters he knows from DVDs this week. It seems that in Andrew’s world, Bob the Builder is a genius who can fix literally anything. If Andrew sees something broken, anything broken, he proclaims “Nevermind, Bob’ll fix it!”. Apparently Bob’s talents extend to broken train tracks that little brothers have destroyed, broken bananas, and much more that I can’t remember off the top of my head! And apparently his talents even extend to finding lost things (or rather things that have been deliberately lost), as Andrew reassured me that “Bob’ll find it” after he’s pushed a xylophone stick through the small holes in the decking that is the balcony floor!
Whenever he’s said goodbye to someone leaving our flat recently, he’s informed me that they’ve gone to work. So when Granny and Grandad left last weekend, he said “Granny and Grandad gone to work”, and when Grandma and Pop left the day after, they went to the same place apparently: “Grandma and Pop gone to work.” And when he said bye bye to the Teletubbies the other day on his DVD, he shouted loudly “Teletubbies gone to work!” I’m just imagining Tinky Winky with a briefcase now! I presume he’s extending the fact that he says bye bye to Daddy when he goes to work to everyone he says bye bye to at home.
Finally, I can’t forget the incident with Thomas (of Tank Engine fame) one lunchtime this week. The day before I’d whizzed up some chick peas, olive oil and yoghurt in the blender to make the classic dip made from chick peas. When Andrew asked what it was, I told him. Fast forward to the next day and as I was sitting Joel up for lunch with said dip already on the table with some rice cakes, Andrew (who was already sat up ready and waiting for his, of course) suddenly started repeating “Want Thomas” over and over again, getting louder and louder, as I tried to ask him why he was saying that – “Where’s Thomas?”, “Can you see Thomas the Tank somewhere Andrew?” etc. Eventually it dawned on me – “AH you mean HUMMOUS Andrew!” “Yes Mummy, that’s right, fummous” Cue lots of laughter from me….. Since then I have overheard him on a few occasions saying “Thomas, fummous, Thomas, fummous (etc.)” to himself 🙂
Once again Andrew has been coming out with some great funees this week. In his world, there is a lot of cake. If it’s something that looks edible, or is in a place with other things he knows are edible, but he’s not tried it himself before, then he will often call it a “X cake” [for X insert suitable describing word]. At the weekend I made some cheesy spinach and tomato mini muffins. They were in a tin on the table for Saturday lunch, and to try and alleviate the tantrum that was ensuing from the fact that I had dared to put soup and cheesy muffins on the table instead of his addiction of cheese sandwiches, I offered him one saying “Would you like one of these Andrew? They’re cheesy!” From behind the flood of tears, the drama king could just about be heard blubbing “Andrew want cheese cake” – to be fair they are kind of cheese cakes, but it tickled me thinking of actual cheesecake and there was no way he was having the treat of actual cheesecake.
On Sunday we went out for a picnic lunch with Granny and Grandad. Now Granny had been very organised and done up a cooler bag with food and of course an ice pack to keep it cool in the 19 degrees heat that we were finally experiencing. After we’d finished most of the food, Andrew was interested in looking into the bag, probably fishing for more food, just in case we’d missed anything. And we had – he found an “ice cake”, which was all blue and cold!
And along with these cheese cakes and ice cakes I won’t forget the “sausage cakes” that I made the other week, another funee from Andrew’s world of cake!
Sadly the parrot bouncy ball that I mentioned in a previous wot so funee post met a watery end last weekend (read the story here), but Andrew still has parrots on his mind. Every Tuesday morning he and Daddy go to a music group where one of the activities is singing songs and playing games around a big multicoloured piece of fabric – the “parrot-shoot” 🙂
The toddler pièce de resistance this week must be an incident in the communal bike shed by our flat that unfortunately I missed as I had gone inside to feed Joel, but Daddy recounted for me later. Daddy was locking up his bike as he had just got home on it, and Andrew was walking past the row of bikes wheeling his bike next to him which he’d just been riding for the past hour. Suddenly a not so subtle sound eeked out from Andrew’s nappy area. Daddy looked up and was greeted with “Daddy did it!” from Andrew who just continued to nonchalantly walk past with his bike. “Erm, no, Andrew did it”, replied Daddy, but this was just refuted with a louder “Daddy did it!” at which point Daddy could see that he was going to lose the fight so gave up – he knows Andrew has inherited my determination. Thankfully everyone else in the flats seems to commute to London, so there was nobody else around at 5.30pm to witness this!
This week there has been a lot of talk of a certain deliverer of letters and parcels whose initials are PP. We have a few random episodes of the original TV series on DVD, but recently Grandad thought it would be a great idea to record some of the new ‘SDS’ episodes that are currently shown on CBeebies for us as we don’t have a TV. For anyone who isn’t well acquainted with this televisual feast, the new series sees Pat in a courier role delivering one-off parcels rather than working for Royal Mail, because (according to Wikipedia) since 2000 the programme has not been sponsored by Royal Mail, which had previously used the show as a marketing vehicle, as they felt that the character no longer fitted in with the company’s “corporate image”. Hmmmm…..
Well Andrew is slightly obsessed with his recorded DVD (thanks Grandad, not) and its catchy (read: it annoyingly sticks in your head for the rest of the day and night) theme tune. When asked which DVD he’d like to watch, this past week around 90% of the time his answer has been Postman Pat, and when asked to clarify which series, he has often replied with ‘spesul divvy service’ (special delivery service – what the SDS stands for). I wonder who the ‘divvy’ could be?! If the next story is anything to go by, I don’t think it’s Andrew!
He loves all the different vehicles that Pat now has. It’s no longer just the good old post van of ‘he picks up all the post bags in his van’ theme tune fame. There’s now a helicopter, a motorbike, a quad bike, a forklift truck and two vans (a mini one and a big one). As we were walking back from the shops the other day, a rather loud vehicle whooshed past us – it was a motortrike. Before he could see it, Andrew initially asked ‘What’s that Mummy?’, as he usually does straight away for things he hasn’t heard before. I said ‘It’s a motorbike Andrew’, only just having realised myself that it actually had three wheels and not wanting to complicate matters. To which he replied, once he’d seen it himself, ‘No Mummy it’s a quad bike, just like Postman Pat’s!’ I stood corrected (almost) 😉
(Warning: watching this video may send you mad by putting the theme tune in your head!)
To finish our Postman Pat themed funee post this week, there was a linguistically very interesting speech error that Andrew made at the weekend. We were with family, one of whom is Uncle Matt to Andrew. We were sat around a table outside a cafe playing the usual fun game of Andrew naming everyone to check that we were all there – Mummy, Daddy, Granny, Grandad…..Postman P… He stopped himself at the ‘puh’ of Pat and corrected himself to Uncle Matt. Clearly he’s got the post guy on his mind!
But I find this particularly interesting from a linguistic point of view because Postman Pat and Uncle Matt have the same stress pattern. If you say the two ‘rhythmically’, you should notice that they have the same ‘beat’ – try tapping along to it and that might make more sense. And obviously Pat rhymes with Matt. When we make an error in speech, by saying something that we didn’t mean to, this gives us an insight into how the brain and mouth are operating to give the end result, whether that was intended or not. It’s interesting to see that Andrew was planning on saying Uncle Matt, that’s what he meant, but Postman Pat slipped in instead – it’s like he had a stress pattern or template there but somewhere along the way from brain to mouth the wrong sounds were made to fill that template in.
It was last Tuesday evening when the four of us were having dinner that this little scene happened. I wish I’d had my video camera on, but short of having it running all day every day, I’m unlikely to catch the funny things that Andrew comes out with on video.
I’d served up a slow cooked veggie casserole with mashed potato, which Andrew has eaten several times before. But for some reason he wasn’t too keen, I think because he could see courgettes in it, which is unusual because usually he’ll eat pretty much anything. So after having picked at it and eaten about half what was in his bowl, he was refusing to eat the rest….
Mummy: Come on Andrew, eat some more please.
Andrew: No don’t want it!
Daddy: Look Daddy’s eating it. It’s quite nice really.
M: Quite nice? Oh come on Daddy, big it up a bit, big it up!
(D in background desperately trying to dig himself out of that hole!)
A: Come on Daddy, pick it up a bit, pick it up!
D: We’ve got a parrot here haven’t we. An actual live talking parrot.
A: PARROT!! PARROT!! (Both said in Len Goodman style ‘SEVEN’ intonation)
Wot so funee about that? Nothing if you’re a toddler parrot 🙂
Incidentally, I found it interesting that he thought Daddy said ‘pick it up’ instead of ‘big it up’. He’s heard the verb ‘pick it up’ much more often (many times a day!) than ‘big it up’, and the sounds that make up the ‘pick’ and ‘big’ are very similar. The sounds ‘p’ and ‘b’ are both made by closing the lips and releasing them again, but the time it takes for the vowel to start after this closure and release is longer in ‘p’ than ‘b’; if you try saying each of them and put your hand a short distance in front of your mouth, you should feel a puff of air for ‘p’ but not ‘b’ – in techie speak, ‘p’ is aspirated. The same goes for ‘k’ and ‘g’ – they are made by closing the mouth at the back by bringing the back of the tongue up to the soft palate and then releasing it again, but the time it takes for the vowel to start after this closure and release is longer in ‘k’ than ‘g’; if you try it like you did for ‘p’ and ‘b’, you should feel a puff of air for ‘k’ not ‘g’. Though in the context of a following vowel (the ‘i’ of ‘it’), it’s also to do with the fact that the vocal folds keep vibrating during the closure of ‘g’ but they stop for ‘k’ – try this by putting your hand against your throat (on your Adam’s apple or larynx – less prominent in us ladies) and saying ‘pick it’ and ‘big it’ – you should feel a short gap in the vibration for ‘pick it’ and not ‘big it’. So there’s my phonetics lesson for the day!
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.
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’.
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.
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 🙂
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….
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).
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’).
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!
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…..
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’.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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!