Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/801

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781
STUDIES OF CHILDHOOD.
STUDIES OF CHILDHOOD.

VII. — LATER PROGRESS IN LANGUAGE.

By JAMES SULLY, M. A., LL. D.,

GROTE PROFESSOR THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND LOGIC AT THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON.

IN a previous paper I traced some of the earlier steps in the child's acquisition of language. In the present study we may follow him in his later and more ambitious linguistic efforts.

The transition to this higher plane is marked by the use of the complete form of thought or sentence.

At first, as already pointed out, there is no sentence structure. The child begins to talk by using single words. His speech is monepic.

These words consist of substantives, such as "mamma," "nurse," "milk," and so forth; a few adjectives as "hot," "nice," "good"; a still smaller number of adverbial signs, as "ta-ta," "away" or "over," "down," "up"; and one or two verb forms, apparently imperatives, as "go." The exact order in which these appear, and the proportion between the different classes of constituents at a particular age, say two and a half or three, appear to vary greatly. Words descriptive of actions, though very few at first, appear to grow numerous in a later stage.[1]

In speaking of these words as substantives, adjectives, and so forth, I am merely adopting a convenient mode of description. We must not suppose that the words as used in this simple disjointed talk have their full grammatical value. It is not generally recognized that the single-worded utterance of the child is an abbreviated sentence or "sentence word" analogous to the sentence words found in the lowest known stage of human language. As with the race so with the child, the sentence precedes the word.[2] Moreover, each of the child's so-called words in his single-worded talk stands for a considerable variety of sentence forms. Thus the words in the child's vocabulary which we call substantives do duty for verbs and so forth. As Preyer remarks, "chair" {Stuhl) means "There is no chair"; "I want to be put in the chair"; "The chair is broken," and so-forth. In like manner "dow" (down) may mean "The spoon has fallen down."[3] The particular shade of meaning intended is indicated by intonation and gesture.

  1. For lists of vocabularies and analysis of these compositions see Preyer, op. cit., p. 361. Tracy, Psychology of Childhood, p. 76 ff.
  2. Cf. Romanes, op. cit., p. 296 ff.
  3. See Preyer, op. cit., p. 361; Romanes, op. cit., p. 296 ff.