Popular Science Monthly/Volume 46/February 1895/Studies of Childhood VI

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

FEBRUARY, 1895.


 

STUDIES OF CHILDHOOD.

VI.—FIRST ATTACKS ON THE MOTHER TONGUE.

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

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.

The imitation of others' articulate sounds begins very early, and long before the sign-making impulse appropriates them as true words. The impulse to imitate others' movements seems first to come into play about the end of the fourth month, and traces of imitative movements of the mouth in articulation are said to have been observed in certain cases about this time. But it is only in the second half year that the imitation of sounds becomes clearly marked. At first this imitation is rather of tone, rise and fall of voice, apportioning of stress or accent, than of articulate quality; but gradually the imitation takes on a more definite and complete character.[1]

Toward the end of the year in favorable cases true linguistic imitation commences—that is to say, word-sounds gathered from others are used as such. Thus a boy of ten months would correctly name his mother "mamma," his aunt "addie" (aunty), and a person called Maggie "Aggie."[2] This imitative reproduction of others' words synchronizes roughly at least with the first onomatopoetic imitation of natural sounds.

As is well known, the first tentatives in the use of the common speech forms are very rough. The child, in reproducing, transforms, and these transformations are often curious and sufficiently puzzling.

The most obvious thing about these first infantile renderings of the adult's language is that they are a simplification. To begin with, a child is at first incapable of reproducing the complex sound structures which we call a word. He tends to cut it down. At the start, indeed, it seems almost a general rule that the word is reduced to a monosyllabic form. Thus biscuit becomes "bik," candles "ka," bread and butter "bup" or "bu," and so forth.

The formidable word periwinkle was shortened to "pinkie," and the no less difficult handkerchief was reduced by the eldest child of a family to "hancisch," by the next two to "hamfisch," and by the last two to "hanky."

There seems to be no simple law governing these reductions of verbal masses. The accentuated syllable, by calling for most attention, is commonly the one reproduced, as when nasturtium became "turtium." The initial and final sounds seem to have an advantage in this competition of sounds, the former as being the first (compare the way in Which we note and remember the initial sound of a name), the latter as the last heard and therefore best retained. The lingual facility of the several sound-combinations, and the consequent interest of a quasi-sesthetic kind in these combinations, probably have an influence in determining what look like the capricious preferences of the child.[3]

Such simplification of word-forms is soon opposed and largely counteracted by the growth of a feeling for the general form of the word, including the degree of its syllabic complexity, as well as the distribution of accent and the accompanying modulations of tone or pitch. The child's first imitations of the sounds, e. g., "all gone" by "a-a," or "a-ga," with rising and falling inflection, illustrate the co-operation of this feeling. Hence we find, in general, an attempt to reproduce the number of syllables with the proper distribution of accent. Thus biscuit becomes "bítchic"; cellar, "sítto"; umbrella, "nobélla"; elephant, "étteno" or (by a German child) "ewebón"; kangaroo, "kógglegoo"; hippopotamus, "ippen-pótany"; and so forth.[4]

Along with the cutting down of the syllabic series there goes from the first a considerable alteration of the single constituent sounds. The vowel sounds are rarely omitted, yet they may be greatly modified, and these modifications occur regularly enough to suggest that the child finds certain nuances of vowel sounds comparatively hard to reproduce. Thus the short d in hat and the long i (ai) seem to be acquired only after considerable practice. Many of the consonantal sounds, as the sibilants s, sh, the liquids l, r, the aspirates h, th, and others, as j and, in rare cases at least, g, appear to cause difficulty at the beginning of the speech period. Such sounds are frequently dropped, no other sound being substituted, and this holds good especially when the difficult sound is in combination with another which can be articulated. Thus in the early stages poor becomes "poo"; look, "ook"; stair, "tair"; trocken (German), "tokko"; dance (sibilant), "dan"; schlafen (German), "lafen." Along with these omissions there go curious substitutions, presumably of easier sounds, but not necessarily of sounds which strike our ear as similar. Thus drum is changed into "gum," whereas by another child gum is given as "dam"; thread is given as "shad"; trop (French) as "crop"; pussie as "poofee"; sleepy as "feepy"; Lampe (German) as "Bampe"; bannisters as "bannicars."[5]

These substitutions illustrate the growing feeling for sound-form, that is, for the length of the sound-names and the number of principal sound-elements, together with the distribution of voice-stress or accent. Little heed is paid at first to the articulate quality of the sounds. Thus certain sounds, as the labials, are used as drudges and made to stand for a great diversity of sound. Sometimes a guttural sound, as k, is put to a like general vicarious service.

How much more important is the general form of the sound-name than the particular order of sounds is seen in the fact that after articulation has become differentiated and the several sounds are repeated with an approach to accuracy, the order is frequently altered. An early example of such transposition noted in the case of one child was the use of "hoogshur" for sugar.

One very interesting feature in these transformations is the strong tendency to reduplication. We notice the tendency to repeat sounds in the first "la-la" stage of articulation, and a like tendency shows itself in the later linguistic stage. Monosyllables are frequently doubled, as in the familiar "gee-gee," "ba-ba," "ni-ni" (nice thing). Some children frequently turn monosyllables into reduplications, making book "boom-boom," and so forth. It is, however, in attempting dissyllables that the reduplication is most common. Thus naughty becomes "na-na"; faster, "fa-fa"; Julia, "dum-dum," and so forth, where, the repeated syllable serves to retain something of the original word-form. In some cases the second and unaccented syllable is selected for reduplication, as in the instance quoted by Perez—"peau-peau" for chapeau.

These early reduplications, which, as is well known, have their parallel in many of the names of the languages of savage tribes.[6] are sometimes said to be the result of a kind of physiological inertia, the tendency to go on doing what has been begun. But it is probable that the repetition of a sound gives pleasure to the child as a form of sound-harmony or assonance. This supposition is borne out by the fact that the child, in repeating the words uttered by others, frequently assimilates two sounds. Thus he will sometimes alter the first of two sounds so as to assimilate it to the second. In one case thick was pronounced as "kik," and the name Anna received an initial consonant so as to become the reduplication "Na-na." In some cases assonance is secured by altering the final sound. "If" (writes a mother) "a word began with a labial, he generally concluded it with a labial, making bird, for example, 'bom.' In certain instances even the vowel sounds will be modified so as to produce a kind of assonance, as when 'bonnie Dundee' was rendered by 'bun dun.'" Along with, this tendency to reduplication we see a disposition to use particular syllabic sounds, as the final "ie." Thus sugar becomes "sugie"; picture, "pickie"; and so forth. One child was so much in love with this syllable as to prefer it to the common repetition of sound in onomatopoetic imitation, naming the hen not "tuck-tuck," as one might expect, but "tuckie."

I have here given only a very rough account of children's first tentatives in the use of their mother tongue. As yet the facts do not admit of an exact general description. As already suggested, the seizing of the precise shade of an infantile vowel or consonant requires the finely trained, ear, and probably a good deal of this part of child observation will have to be reconsidered.[7]

The facts being as yet but imperfectly observed and classified, it would be premature to offer anything in the way of a complete and final explanation. A difficulty here arises from the circumstance already noted that, according to Preyer, the child in his spontaneous babbling produces most if not all of our common language sounds and others too. This may turn out to be an exaggeration; yet at any rate it is a fact that certain sounds, as l and r, which occur in the first impulsive babbling, appear to give difficulty later on. How comes this to pass? In order to open up the way to an answer we must look for a moment a little more closely at the process of imitative speech. The later linguistic utterance of a sound differs from and is a much more complex affair than the earlier and impulsive utterance. It is the result of a volition which involves a mental association between the ear's impression of a particular sound, or the idea answering to this, with the idea of the required vocal or articulatory action. Thus a child could not say "poo," in imitation of his nurse's "poo," till the hearing of this sound had got connected, by means of nervous attachments in the brain, with an idea or representation of what its larynx and lips have to do in uttering this sound "poo." Nor could he utter it alone in order to name an object until the idea of the sound had entered into this connection.

Now a child might go on hearing the sounds of others forever and never be able to speak, unless he happened by some fortunate circumstance to produce the requisite articulate movements and so find out how the several varieties of sound are obtained. And this is precisely what the early aimless and largely emotional babbling effects. It makes the child acquainted with his own articulate powers, their modifications, and the particular sound-effects which respectively follow these.

This being so, the reason why a child imitates some of our language sounds correctly, others not, is somewhat doubtful. Thus it may arise because the articulatory apparatus has lost a part of its primordial skill; or because among the sounds which have to be reproduced and which prompt and guide the articulatory movements, some are better singled out and remembered than others; or again, because, owing to the unequal frequency of occurrence of certain sounds, the central nervous connections and corresponding mental association involved are established more quickly in the case of certain sounds than of others. It seems to be commonly held that the first is at all events the main reason, and this conclusion is supported by the fact that all children alike appear to find certain sounds (the labials) easy and others difficult. At the same time it is pretty certain that the environment lends material help in determining unknowingly what sounds shall be first grasped and reproduced. It may be added that the child's preferential interest in certain sounds and sound combinations, as well as in certain objects, as nurse, the dog, which it especially wants to name, plays a subordinate part in determining the common order of lingual progress as well as its variations in the case of different children. A lady writes to say that she is often surprised at the appearance of difficult sound combinations in the talk of her boy. When twenty-two months old he mastered the formidable task of saying "scissors," no doubt, as she remarks, owing to the special interest he had developed about this time in cutting up paper.

As already suggested, the liberties which the child allows himself in using our speech are of philological interest. The subject has been touched on by more than one writer. The phonetic reductions, substitutions, and transpositions of baby-language appear to have their counterpart in the changes which go on in the history of languages. Thus M. Egger points out that when a child says "crop" for "trop," "cravailler" for "travailler," he is reproducing the change which Latin words have undergone in becoming French, as when "tremere" is transmuted into "craindre." Pollock reminds us that when his daughter uses d for the unmanageable r, she is reversing the process by which the Bengalee transforms the Sanskrit d into an r sound. The reduplications again, and the use of certain final syllables, as the caressing diminutive "ie," appear to reflect habits of adult language. A further working out of those analogies belongs to the sciences of phonetics and linguistics.[8]

As I have dwelt at some length on children's defective articulation, I should like to say that their early performances, so far from being a discredit to them, are very much to their credit. I, at least, have often been struck with the sudden bringing forth without any preparatory trial of difficult combinations, and with a wonderful degree of accuracy. Indeed, the precision which a child, even in the second year, will often give to our vocables is quite surprising, and reminds me of the admirable exactness which, as I have observed, other strangers to our language, and more especially perhaps Russians, introduce into their articulation, putting our own loose treatment of our language to the blush. This precision, acquired without, as it would seem, any tentative practice, points, I suspect, to a good deal of silent rehearsal, nascent graspings of muscular actions, which are not carried far enough to produce sound.

The gradual development of the child's articulative powers, as represented partly by the precision of the sounds formed, as also by their differentiation and multiplication, is a matter of great interest. At the beginning, when 'the child is able to reproduce only a small portion of a vocable, there is, of course, but little differentiation. Thus it has been remarked by more than one observer that one and the same sound (so far, at least, as our ears can judge) will stand for different lingual signs, "ba" standing in the case of one child for both basket and sheep ("ba," lamb), and "bo" for box and bottle. Little by little the sounds grow differentiated into a more definite and perfect form; and it is curious to note the process of gradual evolution by which the first rude attempt at articulate form gets improved and refined. Thus writes a mother: "At eighteen to twenty months 'milk' was 'gink,' at twenty-one months it was 'ming,' and at soon after two years it was a sound between 'mik' and 'milk.'" The same child, in learning to say "lion," went through the stages "un" (one year and eight months), "ion" (two years), and "lion" (two years and eight months). Again, to quote one of Preyer's examples, "grosspapa" (grandpapa) began as "opapa," this passed into "gropapa," and this again into "grosspapa." In another case given by Schultze the word "wasser" (pronounced "vasser") went through the following stages: first, "vavaff"; second, "fafaff"; third, "vaffvaff"; "fourth, "vasse"; and fifth, "vasser." In this last we have an interesting illustration of a struggle between the imitative impulse to reproduce the exact sound and the impulse to reduplicate or repeat the sound, this last being very apparent in the introduction of the second v and the ff in the first stage, in the substitution of the f's for v's under the influence of the dominant final sound in the second stage. The student of the early stages of language-growth might, one imagines, find many suggestive parallels in these developmental changes in children's articulation.

The rapidity of articulatory progress might be measured by a careful noting of the increase in the number of vocables mastered from month to month. Although Preyer and others have given lists of vocables used at particular ages and parents have sent me lists, I have met with no methodical record of the gradual extension of the articulate field. It is obvious that any observations under this head, save in the very early stages, can only be very rough. No observer of a talkative child, however attentive, can make sure of all the word-sounds used. It is to be noted, too, as I have been assured by parents, that a child will sometimes show that he can master a sound, and will even make temporary use of it, without retaining it as a part of the permanent linguistic stock.[9]

It is now time to pass from the mechanical to the logical side of this early child-language, to the meanings which the small linguist gives to his articulate sounds, and the way in which he modifies these meanings. The growth of child-speech means a concurrent progress in the mastery of word-form and in the acquisition of ideas. In this each of the two factors aids the other, the advance of ideas pushing the child to new uses of sounds, and the growing facility in word-formation reacting powerfully on the ideas, giving them definition of outline and fixity of structure. I shall not attempt here to give a complete account of the process, but content myself with touching on one or two of its more interesting aspects.

I have pointed out that a child, in imitating the speech of others, does so by associating the sound heard with the object, situation, or action in connection with which others are observed to use it. Bat the first imitation of words does not show that the little mind has seized their full and precise meaning. A clear and exact apprehension of meaning comes but slowly, and only as the result of many hard thought-processes, comparisons, and discriminations.

It is now recognized that a child's first imitative talk, which might be described as monepic or single-worded—as "wow-wow," "dow" (down)—is essentially vague in so far as the word-sound used covers a number of our meanings. Thus "wow-wow" may mean "the dog is there," or "the dog is doing something," or "I want (or, possibly, don't want) the dog." These words are "sentence-words"—that is, they are meant to convey a whole process of thought. Only the thought is as yet only half formed or germinal in the degree of its differentiation. Thus it is fairly certain that when the child wants you to sit down and says "dow," it does not clearly realize the relation which you and I understand under that word, but merely has a mental picture of you in the position of sitter.

In these first attempts to use our speech the child's mind is innocent of grammatical distinctions. These arise out of the particular uses of words in sentence structure, and of this structure the child has as yet no inkling. If, then, following a common practice, I speak of a child of twelve or fifteen months as naming an object, the reader must not suppose that I am ascribing to the baby mind a clear grasp of the function of what grammarians call nouns (substantives). All that is implied in this way of speaking is that the infant's first words are used mainly as recognition signs. There is from the first, I conceive, even in the gesture of pointing and saying "da!" a germ of this naming process.

The progress of this first rude naming or articulate recognition is very interesting. The names first learned are either those of individuals, what we call proper names, as mamma, nurse, or those which, like "bath," "wow-wow," are at first applied to one particular object. It is often supposed that a child uses these as true singular names, recognizing individual objects as such; but this is pretty certainly an error. He has no clear idea of an individual thing as yet; and he will, as occasion arises, quite spontaneously extend his names to other individuals, as we see in his lumping together other men with his sire under the name "papa."

This extension of names or generalizing process proceeds primarily and mainly by the discovery of the likenesses among things, though, as we shall see presently, their connections of time and place afford a second and subordinate means of expansion. The transference of a name from object to object through the discovery of a likeness or analogy has been touched on in another chapter. It moves along thoroughly childish lines, and constitutes one of the most striking and interesting of the manifestations of precocious originality. Yet, if unconventional in its mode of operation, it is essentially thought activity, a connecting of like with like, and a rudimentary grouping of things in classes.

This tendency to comprehend like things or situations under a single articulate sign is seen already in the use of the early indicative sign "atta" (all gone). It was used by Preyer's child to mark not only the departure of a thing, but the putting out of a flame; later on, for an empty glass with nothing in it. By another child it was extended to the ending of music, the closing of a drawer, and so on. Here, however, the various applications probably answer to a common feeling, that of "all over," and do not involve a proper process of intellectual assimilation or apprehension of likeness.

Coming to what we should call names, we find that the child will often extend a recognition sign from one object to a second, and to our thinking widely dissimilar, object through a vague feeling of analogy. Such extension, moving rather along poetic lines than those of our logical classification, is apt to wear a quaint metaphorical aspect. A star, for example, looked at, I suppose, as a small bright spot, was called by a child an "eye." Dr. Romanes's child extended the word "star," the first vocable learned after "mamma" and "papa," to bright objects generally—candles, gas, flames, etc. Here we have plainly a rudimentary process of classification. Taine speaks of a child of one year who, after first applying the word "fafer" (from "chemin de fer") to railway engines, went on to transfer it to a steaming coffee-pot and everything that hissed or smoked or made a noise. Any point of likeness, provided it is of sufficient interest to strike the attention, may thus secure the extension of the name.

As with names of things, so with those of actions. The crackling noise of the fire was called by one child "barking," and the barking of a dog was named by another "coughing." We see from this that the particular line of analogical extension followed by a child will depend on the nature of the first impressions or experiences which serve as his starting point.

A like originality is apt to show itself in the first crude attempt to seize and name the relations of things. The child C—— called dipping bread in gravy, "ba"—bath. Another child extended the word "door" to "everything that stopped up an opening or prevented an exit, including the cork of a bottle and the little table that fastened him in his high chair." The extension of the word "mend" to making and keeping whole or right, which I find to be common among children, is another quaint example of how the child mind first essays to set forth the relations wholeness and its opposite.

In this last instance we see an example of childish concretism, as it has been called—viz., the tendency to make use of a concrete idea in order to express a more abstract idea. Children frequently express the contrast big, little, by the pretty figurative language "mamma" and "baby." Thus a small coin was called by an American child a "baby dollar." Romanes's daughter, named Ilda, pointed out the sheep in a picture as "mamma-ba," and the lambs as "Ilda-ba." It is somewhat the same process when the child extends an idea obtained from the most impressive experience of childish difficulty—viz., "too big," so as to make it express the abstract notion "too difficult" in general.

In this extension of language by the child we may discern, along with this play of the feeling for similarity, the working of association. This is illustrated by the case of Darwin's grandchild, who, when just beginning to speak, used the common sign "quack" for duck, then extended it to water; following up this associative transference by a double process of generalization, using the sound so as to include all birds and insects on the one hand and all fluid substances on the other.[10] The transference of the name from the animal to the water is a striking example of the tendency of the young mind to view things which are presented together as belonging one to another and in a manner identical. Another curious instance is given by Prof. Minto, in which a child who applied the word "mambro" to her nurse went on to extend it by associative transference to the nurse's sewing machine, then by analogy applied it to a hand-organ in the street, then through an association of hand-organ with monkey to its India-rubber monkey, and so forth. Here we have a whole history of changes of word-meaning, illustrating in curious equal measure the play of assimilation and of association, and falling within a period of two years.[11]

There seems to be a like impulse to identify things which are closely conjoined in experience, as the extension of the word "spend" by the boy C—— so as to make it cover the idea of "costing." In like manner a child has been known to use "learn" for teach. In other cases we see a similar tendency to transfer a name from cause to effect, and vice versa. Thus, a little girl of four called her parasol when blown by the wind "windy," and the stone that made her hand sore a "very sore stone." In all these cases of transference it is evident that we have to do with two parts of a whole process, two aspects of one relation.

Here, again, one suspects the child is illustrating a common tendency in the growth of language. The etymological connection between the words teach and learn in German (lehren, lernen) shows that the human mind is apt to give a common name to closely related things. A west-of-England yokel still talks of "learning me"—i. e., "teaching me."

There is much, indeed, in the whole of these changes introduced by the child into our language which may remind one of the changes which go on in the growth of languages in communities. Thus the child's metaphorical use of words, his setting forth of an abstract by some analogous concrete image, has its counterpart, as we all know, in the early stages of human language. Tribes which have no abstract signs employ a metaphor exactly as the child does. Our own language preserves the traces of this early figurative use of words; as in the "imbecile" (weak), which originally meant leaning on a staff, and so forth.See Trench's account of poetry in words. On the Study of Words, lecture vi. Similarly we may trace in the development of languages the counterpart of these processes by which children spontaneously broaden out the denotation of their names. The word "sun" has only quite recently undergone this kind of extension by being applied to other centers of systems besides our familiar sun. The multiplicity of meanings of certain words, as "post," "stock," and so forth, point to the double process of assimilative and associative extension which we saw illustrated in the use of the child's word "mambro."

The changes here touched upon have to do with what philologists call generalization. As supplementary to these there is in the case of the growth of a community language a process of specialization, as when "physician," from meaning a student of Nature, has come to mean one who has acquired and can practically apply one branch of Nature-knowledge. In the case of the child we have an analogue of this in the gradual limitation of such a sound as "papa" to one individual. The mental process underlying specialization of words—viz., the gradual differentiation or marking off of narrower classes—shows itself in a very interesting feature of child and savage language, viz., the invention of new compound words.

These new compounds are open metaphors. Thus in the case already mentioned the calling of an eyelid an eye-curtain is a metaphorical way of speaking of the lid by likening it to a curtain. Another example is the compound "foot-wing" invented by the child C—— to describe the limb of a seal. A slightly different kind of metaphoric formation is the pretty name tell-wind, which a boy of four years and eight months hit upon as a name for a weather vane.

In these and similar cases there is at once an analogical transference of meaning (e. g., from curtain to lid) or process of generalization, and a limitation of meaning by the appended or qualifying word ("eye")—that is to say, a process of specialization.

In certain cases the analogical extension gives place to ordinary classing. One child, for example, knowing the word steamship, and wanting the name sailing ship, invented the form "wind ship."

It might be supposed that the qualifying or determining word might come just as naturally after the generic name as before it, as in the French moulin à vent, cygne noir. I have heard of one child who used the form "mill-wind" in preference to "windmill." It would be worth while to note any similar instances.

In these inventions, again, we may detect a close resemblance between children's language and that of savages. In presence of a new object a savage behaves very much as a child; he shapes a new name out of familiar ones, a name that commonly has much of the metaphorical character. Thus the Aztecs called a boat a "water house"; and the Vancouver islanders, when they saw a screw steamer, called it the "kick-kicke."[12]

A somewhat different class of word inventions is that in which a child frames a new word on the analogy of known words. The more common case is the invention of new substantives from verbs after the pattern of other substantives. The results are often quaint enough. Sometimes it is the agent who is named by the new word, as when the boy C—— talked of the "Rainer," or the fairy who makes rain. Sometimes it is the product of the action, as when the same child C—— and the deaf-mute Laura Bridgman both invented the form "thinks" for "thoughts." Similarly, a boy of three called the holes which he dug in his garden his "digs." The reverse process, the formation of a verb from a substantive, also occurs. Thus one child invented the form "dag" for striking with a dagger; and Preyer's boy, when two years and two months old, formed the verb "messen," to express "cut," from the substantive Messer (a knife). This readiness to form verbs from substantives, and vice versa, which is abundantly illustrated in the development of community language, is without doubt connected with the primitive and natural mode of thinking. The object is of greatest interest to a child as to primitive man as an agent, or as the last stage or result of an action.

In certain of these original formations we may detect a fine feeling for verbal analogy. Thus, a French boy, after killing the limaces (snails) which were eating the plants in the garden, dignified his office by styling himself a "limacier," where the inventive faculty was no doubt led by the analogy of voiturier formed from voiture.[13]

In certain cases these original constructions are of a more clumsy order, and due to a partial forgetfulness of a word and an effort to complete it. The same little boy who talked of his "digs" used the word "magnicious" for magnificent. This is a choice example of word transformation. Very probably the child was led by the feeling for the dignity of this termination in other "grand" words, as "ambitious." Possibly, too, he might have heard the form "magnesia" and been influenced by a reminiscence of this sound-complex. The talk of "Jeames," with which Mr. Punch makes us acquainted, is full of just such delightful missings of the mark in trying to reproduce big words.

 

  1. Preyer's boy gave the first distinct imitative response to articulate sound in the eleventh month. This is, so far as I can ascertain, behind the average attainment.
  2. Tracy. The Psychology of Childhood, p. 71.
  3. Recent psychological experiments show that similar influences are at work when a person attempts to repeat a long series of verbal sounds, say ten or twelve nonsense syllables.
  4. Here again we see a similarity between a child's repetition of a name heard and an adult's attempt to repeat a long series of syllabic sounds. In the latter case also there is a general tendency to preserve the length and form of the whole.
  5. It has been noted by Sir F. Pollock that sometimes a consonantal sound is introduced where there was none in order to assist in the pronunciation of an initial vowel sound which by itself would be difficult.
  6. See Tylor, Primitive Culture, vol. i, p. 198.
  7. One of the most painstaking attempts to describe infantile sounds with scientific exactness is that of Sir F. Pollock in his notes On an Infant's Progress in Language. Mind, vol. iii, p. 392 seq.
  8. Children's defective pronunciation has been elaborately compared by Preyer with abnormal speech defects (op. cit., 18 cap.). There seems, no doubt, to be a certain resemblance between the two; yet Preyer's attempts to show a complete parallelism are somewhat forced.
  9. As samples of the observations the following may be taken: A friend tells me his boy, when one year old, used just fifty vocables. The performances vary greatly. One American girl of twenty-two months had sixty-nine, whereas another, about the same age, had one hundred and thirty-six just twice the number. A German girl, eighteen months old, is said by Preyer to have used one hundred and nineteen words, and to have raised this to four hundred and thirty-five in the next six months. The composition of these early vocabularies will occupy us presently.
  10. Quoted by Romanes, Mental Evolution in Man, p. 283.
  11. Logic (University Extension Manuals), pp. 83, 84.
  12. Tylor, Anthropology, chapter v. In the ease of the Chinese and of every savage language, the specific or "attributive" word precedes and does not follow the generic or substantive word.
  13. Compayre, op. cit., page 249, where other examples are given.