Thursday, October 6, 2016

Toddler Talk : Liquid Language

My toddler's tongue is exponentially expanding and now he is structuring simple two to three word sentences with a rare four word sentence that stuns us into silence. Recently he understood that he speaks two different languages. When he speaks to me, he now uses the Serbian word and if he uses the English word, I ask him for the Serbian and he complies. At times, one can visibly see the wires get mired as he looks at an object which he knows in both languages but can't recover either word and resorts to onomatopoeia so that dog is not "doggy" nor "pas" but solely "woof" at times (albeit the onomatopoeia is not always the same, I always ensure to use one onomatopoeic term). I have not seen any other retardation of his lingual development, albeit we had expected this as we had read various literature which instructed that bilingual and multilingual children initially develop lingual ability at a slower pace. However, all children are different and instruction is always based on median differentiation so you never know what you will get.

I find his association most interesting. Language is all about slicing definition (as an attorney I know this more than most) and initially, in order to express himself, my toddler rather amplifies definitions so that they encompass as many objections as possible (this might be telling for all of us and the progression of language in general). For instance, one of his first words was "dog" so that when he saw a cat, he excitedly denoted the domesticated quadruped meowing at him as a canine. When he understood "cat" his term for lions, leopards, tigers and other big cats were all encompassed under "cat." As he etches out each specific species, "cat" becomes less flexible. "Mouse" continues to be a capacious definition encompassing all rodents. He still views crocodiles as dinosaurs and today, to my surprise, related the silhouette of a plesiosaur as a giraffe and refused to submit to my correction, continuing to point to its long neck as dispositive of his assessment (I wonder now that we know that "giraffe" refers to 4 distinct species whether our term for each will change - and which will, if any, continue to be denoted as "giraffe"). Moon was most recently encompassed under the definition of "sun" and now he can differentiate both a crescent moon and a full moon which I take for him understanding not the celestial object itself, but that when presented with day, there is a bright yellow circle in the sky which we call the "sun" and when presented with night, he understands the glowing shape to be the "moon". If I ask him what it is and he says "moon"and I ask for the Serbian, he immediately says "mesec" (which is the same word for month). All babies were recently encompassed under his brother's name until he learnt he word "baby".

Judging from his development, language seems to grow exponentially and we seem to be able to be shrewder in our differentiation of objects through knowing their name - as if once we have a name of something, we find it easier to recollect and understand...albeit this seems a bit of a paradoxical proposition since to name an object or a concept, we would need to have some understanding of it in order to capture it under a name...possibly the naming of something after an initial intellectual understanding allows us to leap into a deeper understanding, a finessing of the idea...

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