Sunday, June 19, 2005

Caroline Language Blogging

There are a couple of linguistic tics Caroline has which I have been meaning to note.

First: She reverses word order around the word "because" quite often. Once you realize this, it becomes much easier to parse what she is saying. For instance, yesterday she said

*It's clouds because they're dark.

When she meant

It's dark because there are clouds.

I think she believes that the grammar of "because" is somehow symmetrical. (Also, she actually pronounces clouds as "cwowds")

Second: She has already noticed that "asking nicely," in addition to saying please, means raising the pitch of your voice about a fifth. Some adults don't even realize they're doing this: when you are pleading for something, you talk in a high, feminine voice. Adults go up a full octave, but Caroline's voice is already so high, she really only can go up a fifth. Well, Caroline may not be aware that she is doing this, but she has picked up the habit.

Caroline [fast, loud, normal register]: Iwannadoitmyself!
Me: How do you ask?
Caroline [slow, quiet, a fifth higher than usual]: pleeeaaase.

Third: although she pronounces all her L's as Y's, she knows the difference between an L and a Y and will try to correct you if you talk like her.

Caroline: Daddy, yook at this yeaf.
Me: What a nice yeaf.
Caroline: No! not a yeaf, a yeaf!

Fourth: The motivation for the persistent "why" questions seems to be that she believes "why" is a generic request for more information. Like a lot of liberal parents, I do my best to give honest answers to every why question that comes up.

Caroline: Iwannagooutside.
Me: We can't go outside, because its raining.
Caroline: Why? Why raining?
Me: because the sun causes water on the ground to evaporate, and the water vapor cools as it rises (etc.)

The why questions that bug me most, though, are the ones that seem to ask after essences.

Caroline: What's that? Worm?
Me: Its a leaf.
Caroline: Why? Why yeaf?

I'm puzzled by this construction. Is she saying "Why is that a leaf?" Should I answer, "Because of its leafy essence" or "because it is a flat appendage of a plant with high concentrations of chlorophyll"?

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