This 56th collection of students’ pearls of wisdom, laboriously digitised from hand-
A child aged 3 nails two pieces of wood together, and then comments on the result:
I hammed those all by myself.
What can this utterance tell us about this child’s acquisition of word formation processes?
(Data from Stilwell Peccei, J. (1994). Child Language (Language Workbooks). London & New York: Routledge.)
The child is able to grasp the concepts of word formation.
The action of nailing wood together is similar to that of a ham between two slices of bread maybe. The child inserts a germinate ‘m’ forming the past tense, which is common: tar-
The child has acquired morphology. The child shows understanding that the inflection -ed is an inflectional derivation.
It’s not common for one to use hammer as hammered, and thus the mistake could be accounted for.
The word hammed is a novel innovation.
The child may know that an additional [m] should be added. The child may overgeneralise the past tense suffix, the data are insufficient to show this.
The child shorted the syllables of ‘hammered’.
The child has no derivational morphology. It reminds me of a friend of mind, when we asked his child to complete “Someone who cooks well is a good ...”, the child said the name of their domestic helper.
We can denorminalise it, to get the verb hammer from the noun.
The data expand our understanding, in that they protrude a different dimension to the capability as well as creativity of children in morphological acquisition.
Children learn functional words better than lexical words. The personal pronouns show that the child is at the egocentric stage: all his utterances at this stage have to do with him.
Verbs are acquired later than subjects.
“Hammed” could be a pidginised form. However, to properly compare child language to a pidgin, the features of a pidgin should be assessed and compared to child language.
This child needs to be exposed to Universal Grammar and acceptable grammar.
We see that morphological development does happen at word level.
She knows that past events need to be regularly inflected with -ed.
We observe that the child has made the mistake.
More to come...