Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Anthropological linguistics

It's been interesting to see ways in which Pete's language acquisition takes unexpected turns. Last week, he was bending his head sideways whenever we read a book's page that said, "A train runs across this track." It took us a while to figure out that he was hearing "track" and "neck" (of another book's "bend my neck") as the same word. He separates them now. And sometimes his metonymies are strikingly clear: he saw the big wooden cross at church and immediately made his sign for "fan," and as soon as he learned a sign for "train," he explored how well it worked for other big wheeled things such as trucks. And he started calling me "baba" (for "papa") a while ago. When he figured out that he could use "baba" to mean himself ("baby"), that meaning took over. Forget papa! But now, there's a fascinating confusion between the meanings. For instance, if he's downstairs with Carolyn and hears me upstairs, he'll listen, point to himself, and say, "baba?" I've heard that other male babies use the same name for themselves and their fathers, too, even when the same isn't so similar to "baby." Hmm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting Baba.