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April 12, 2018  |  Grandboy talk  |  13059 hit(s)

My grandson turned 2 today (April 12). We spent a long weekend with the family last week, so I got an opportunity to listen to his language development. I don’t know very much about stages of language development—as in, at what age a child typically grasps certain language structures—so I don’t where he fits into all this. But it’s astounding to me to see how quickly humans develop language facility, including some constructs that can be hard to explain to adults.

It’s pretty clear to me that he’s building up his vocabulary in chunks. The best example was probably please may i, which he’s quickly learned is a key to getting something he wants. But it also seems to me that he’s internalized certain structures and can create new sentences from those structures. Which of course is the coolest thing that we humans can do.

Anyway, here’s a sampling of what I was hearing, with a few jottings about why I found these particular utterances interesting. A couple of notes:
  • I’ve deliberately not capped or punctuated these in order to avoid making these look more developed than they are.
  • Opa is me (grandpa), and Oma is my wife (grandma).

i have it in my hand
Complete subject-verb-object sentence
Prepositional phrase (in my hand) used adverbially
Pronoun (it)

i want to go see my daddy
Modal verb (want) with infinitive (to go)
Possessive pronoun

this is a big pistachio
Demonstrative pronoun (this)
Understanding of antecedents (this == pistachio)
Attributive adjective

this is oma’s
Demonstrative pronoun (this)
Possessive with implied antecedent (namely, whatever this refers to)

i'm going to eat some banana
Progressive form for implied future (am going to)
Adjectival some with banana as a mass noun

opa take off your glasses
mommy sit down
i put on my shoes
Vocative (opa, mommy)
Phrasal verbs: take off (transitive), put on (transitive), sit down (intransitive)

there’s a tiny dog in the car
Expletive construction (there is)
Attribute adjective (tiny)
Adverbial prepositional phrase (in the car)

i don't want to wear my hat
i don't have a beard right now
Negation with modal (don’t want), with main verb (don’t have)
Temporal state (right now). This one seemed oddly prescient.

i want to go see uncle pete and aunt gretchen
Modal verb with infinitive
Compound object

please get out the balls and dump them
Compound imperative (with temporal order)[1]

please may i have some milk
mommy can I please have another pistachio please
Count versus mass nouns (compare banana earlier)
(He uses please may i as a stock phrase)

[1] We kept an ear out for a sentence with two independent clauses linked with and, but didn't hear one. He might be able to produce such a thing, but we don't know one way or the other.