Notker Balbulus (1998) famously argued that childhood exposure to phonological theory would improve language learning and also bring language acquisition more in line with dominant theoretical hypotheses. This paper presents the results of a small-
Three children were selected for this study due to shared kinship features. Their ages were 4.75374 years (male), 3.333333 years (female) and 1.00459 years (female), giving a mean age of 3.03055. All were voluntarily and repeatedly exposed to a 5 minute, 55 second video entitled “Weird Phonemes
Of the three, the male and older female showed the most interest, with the younger female preferring to attempt to throw herself off the sofa of produce original phonemes by modification of the researcher’s facial muscles. The two that did show interest almost immediately requested further exposure by requesting “the clicks video.”
The male subject soon adapted his speech by attempting to reproduce the /g͡b/, followed quickly by anything involving clicks and bilabial trills. The older female simply resorted to smiling, laughing, and the occasional bilabial trill. However, by the fifth exposure, the younger female had decided that her parents’ names were both /ʙ/.
While these results are by no means conclusive, they do have greater claim to empirical validity than almost anything written from “example sentences” and “Swadesh lists”. Thus, it is possible to generalise from them in exactly the same way as researchers generalise from their own grammaticality judgments.2
This study conclusively proves that exposure to phonology in early childhood can and does enlarge the phonological repertoire of the individual child, with the exact effects depending on age, gender and preference for grabbing people by the face. It should be noted, however, that the side-
1 For future experiments, it would be worth adding the words “from a safe distance”. Alas, precautions were not taken this time and the researcher became rather soaked in the work.
2 That is, by making results sound more important than they actually are
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