|STUDIES OF CHILDHOOD.|
VI.—FIRST ATTACKS ON THE MOTHER TONGUE.
GROTE PROFESSOR OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND LOGIC AT THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON.
IN the following paper I shall pass by the first stage of infant phonation, the babbling or singing of the first year which precedes and prepares the way for true baby-speech. A full account of this pre-linguistic articulation will be found in Preyer's well-known volume.
This learning of the mother tongue is one of the most instructive and, one may add, the most entertaining chapters in the history of the child's education. The brave efforts to understand and follow, the characteristic and quaint errors that often result, the frequent outbursts of originality in bold attempts to enrich our vocabulary and our linguistic forms—all this will repay the most serious study while it will provide ample amusement.
As pointed out above, the learning of the mother tongue is essentially the work of imitation. The process is roughly as follows: The child hears a particular sound used by another, and gradually associates it with the object, the occurrence, the situation, with which it again and again occurs. When this stage is reached he can understand the word-sound as used by another, though he can not as yet use it. Later (by a considerable interval) he learns to connect the particular sound with the appropriate vocal action required for its production. As soon as this connection is formed, his sign-making impulse imitatively appropriates it by repeating it in circumstances similar to those in which he has heard others employ it.