Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Two OSV sentences at 20 months

This week I had the pleasure of hearing the first of Grace's clear three word sentences with verbs. Better yet, the first two clear three word sentences I can remember Grace producing were in Object-Subject-Verb word order, a word order that rarely occurs in the English Grace hears all the time. This makes me confident she's generating the sentence rather than hearing it as one word (she also says "I love you", but it's likely she's learned this whole phrase as one unit).

Alas, I already forgot the first sentence I heard, though I did note the OSV word order. The second one was cute enough I'll probably always remember it.

After I gave Katharine a kiss, Grace said:

[mama dada ma] (1)
mom dad kiss
Dad kissed mom

Though the word order is strange, my guess is that she is following a topic-comment pattern. I feel like this is true of a lot of her two-word utterances as well, though I can't think of a list of good examples at the moment. I wonder if patterns of topic (or of theme/rheme) are more fundamental than subject/verb/object patterns in some way.

Clearly whatever is going on in her mind is not at all a form of imitation or statistical analysis of English. She's got her own little grammar engine starting up. I can't wait for more complex sentences to start.

(K, on the other hand, may already be tiring of my attempts to analyze her language)

1. "ma" is an example of Grace's preference for imitative words. Though she understands the standard "kiss", she prefers to use the sign for kiss accompanied by the "ma" sound, which is from her goodbye ritual at daycare. This is one of many instances of her preference for onomatopoeia, even when she has sounds she could use to say the harder word. For example, she prefers "ba" to "sheep" ([ba] and not [ʒi]), "roar" to "bear" ([ro] and not [be]), and "arf" to "dog" ([af] and not [da]) and "quack" to "duck" ([ʀ] and not [dʌ]). This is true even when the name of the animal is much easier to say than the sound (such as "bear" and "duck" which use the early sounds "b" and "d").

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