Analytic languages and their function. (4)

Brian MacWhinney macw at
Wed May 31 16:07:50 UTC 2006

My take on Danielle's example is that, by the age of 2;6, Ulysse  
recognizes and produces the items "d'abord" and "il faut" and that he  
understands the item-based positional patterning of "le" before the  
verb.  I would argue that the reason he is citing the full utterance  
is not because he is processing it as a unit, but rather because he  
is  unsure about the morphemic status of the unknown word  
"rembobiner."  Perhaps this is one morpheme, perhaps two.  To make  
matters clearest, he cites the whole sentence.  This whole sentence  
is indeed a loosely assembled chunk in short term memory, but I very  
much doubt that it is an unanalyzed lexical chunk in long-term  
memory.  This is not to say that there may  not be some long-term  
trace of many common sentences, but there is no reason to expect that  
to be more true here than with something like "D'abord il faut le  
changer."  I could cite gobs of psycholinguistic analyses and  
experiments in support of this overall analysis, but perhaps you  
folks already know this literature. Lise cited some materials in a  
previous posting.  I could add my work on linguistic analysis of  
child language corpora from the period of 1975-1987 and then  
additional experimental evidence from 1987-1997 on rote vs analytic  
storage in short and long-term memory.

I totally agree with the important of ritualized chunks in early  
child language about the age of 1;6.*  However, by the age of 2;6, a  
lot of water has flowed under the bridge.

-- Brian MacWhinney

*One of my favorite papers on this is: Ninio, A., & Snow, C. (1988).  
Language acquisition through language use: The functional sources of  
children's early utterances. In Y. Levy, I. Schlesinger & M. Braine  
(Eds.), Categories and processes in language acquisition (pp. 11-30).  
Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

On May 31, 2006, at 11:31 AM, dcyr at wrote:

> A propositional example, yet showing the same principles Lisa and  
> Aya mentioned
> is a whole proposition uttered by a two-year old and that hardly  
> has the
> meaning of a single word.
> In French the form for "please" is still the whole proposition  
> "s'il vous plait"
> ('if it pleases you'). Children are trained to use that proposition  
> as a
> necessary word or sound sequence to get what they want. Parents  
> call it "the
> magic word" and of course toddlers have no idea of what they are  
> uttering
> except that it makes them get what they ask for. So indeed it is a  
> magic word!
> Similarly, my grandson Ulysse, at the age of two and a half asked  
> his dad to
> play a video tape for him. Just as my son was introducing the tape  
> in the
> machine Ulysses said: "D'abord il faut le rembobiner! (First we  
> have to rewind
> it!)" And my son replied: "You're right, first we have to rewind  
> it."  And
> immediately Ulysses asked his dad: "Daddy what does it mean "First  
> we have to
> rewind it?" Which indicates that Ulysses was not conscious of  
> uttering a
> proposition. For him it was only a ritual word, another magical  
> word, necessary
> to be uttered if one wanted the video tape to played.
> Regards to all,
> Danielle E. Cyr

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