Re: The need for accuracy?(Language acquistion)

Subject: Re: The need for accuracy?(Language acquistion)
From: Jo Francis Byrd <jbyrd -at- byrdwrites -dot- com>
To: bbatorsk -at- admin -dot- nj -dot- devry -dot- edu
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 15:05:24 -0600

Once upon another lifetime, I took a course dealing with how humans acquire
language. I used my own three-year old and a neighbor's three and six year old
kids as sample sources - their grasp of abstract concepts, how they used
language, their sentence structure. It was fascinating to watch the progression.

Any language (human language, at least, can't speak for the non-human ones,
although a talkative canine has me
convinced canines have grammar rules, too! Sounds like punctuated sentences to
me!) has strict grammar rules
which we internalize; we all have a "native dialect," whether it is informal
standard American English, nonstandard
American English, Canadian French, French French, whatever. Whatever our parents
speak, how they speak to us,
that tends to be our "native dialect."

I found the whole course fascinating, especially since I had a miniature test
subject to observe! Helped me understand the necessity for all the why"
questions that can drive you batty...

Jo Byrd

bbatorsk -at- admin -dot- nj -dot- devry -dot- edu wrote:

> Geoff,
> At 11:50 AM 12/15/99 -0500, you wrote:
> Once, my 6-year-old sun asked me why the sky was blue. I started with simple
> explanation, but each answer generated another "why". I completely lost him
> long before the time I got down to the quantum mechanical properties of light
> and the interaction of light waves with atoms, but he kept asking right up to
> the final answer, which was "because that's the way the universe is". That
> sort of curiosity is highly atypical.
> Your point is well taken, but in the interest of accuracy, as far as I
> understand, that kind of curiosity is typical in children as they begin to
> acquire their language. Language acquisition is the most complex mental and
> physical feat human beings do(especially physical--involving incredibly subtle
> muscle coordination). And we do it to a significant extent idiosyncratically.
> Children work on it day and night, and they take every chance they can to see
> and hear statements being begun, sustained and ended. Most learn early how
> "Why?" works to get them what they need.
> Incidentally, I attribute the anti-method, "just-do-it" propensity in naive
> rhetoricians to a nostalgia for this sense of the overwhelming power of the
> mind and body to learn to produce language without a textbook, or manual.
> If only we could spend "quality time" with our audiences and clients, and just
> keep asking "Why, why why?" then we could really learn to speak their
> language. Alas, the only paradise is the paradise lost.
> Barry

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