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Mama wild dogs?

In one of my classes we just read a couple of papers about the transition from one word to two-word speech. I’ve assigned them many times, and the students pore over the little charts summarizing longitudinal data from visits to the homes of kids between 10 and 24 months, and talk about the awesomeness therein. But this time I’m living it. I tried to pay attention to my students yammering, but I kept thinking about my very own 21 month old, and spent the class a bit dewy-eyed. It’s an amazing thing to witness, the act of language acquisition. Children go from doing things the average chimpanzee can do (reaching for things they want and vocalizing, otherwise known as shrieking hideously) to doing things no chimpanzee does naturally, despite endless training. Commenting on things. Showing things for the purposes of discussion.

Every day Bun Bun performs some linguistic feat that astonishes me (How the fuck did she learn that word! How the hell did she remember that from last week?), but one of my favorites so far occurred last night. It’s not impressive in terms of syntax or complexity of communicative act, just a simple request based on a game we’ve played since she was tiny.

Mama wild dogs?

Or, Mama will you pretend to be a wild dog disemboweling me?

As you can imagine, I complied.

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Methinks we are at the chimpanzee stage.

    Tiny Boy has me wondering what counts as a word. Like, “ba” means pretty much anything that starts with a “b.” Bottle, book, ball, sometimes bread, muffin (because it’s shaped like a ball?). Most other things, not me or LG: “dat” (accompanied, of course, by pointing and flailing about).

    February 19, 2013
  2. Amazing, isn’t it? And I must say, the wild dogs game sounds thoroughly entertaining. 🙂

    February 19, 2013
  3. Heidi #

    Watching my two boys–especially the older one–acquire language is probably one of the most mind-blowing and absorbing experiences of my life. It beats even the process of gestating them in terms of sheer wonderment.

    February 19, 2013
  4. Love the choice of game. 🙂

    The language explosion is something that I am awaiting with great delight. Already we’re seeing the cusp of it, with “gee-deh” (kitty), “pu-peh” (puppy), “yah”, “nee nee nee” (pronounced as in Dutch, somewhere between \neh\ and \nay\), and “daddy” showing up regularly. Yesterday I realized that “ba” now has semantic content, referring to either one of her bears or her rag bunny depending on context. If I’m having so much fun with single words, I can hardly imagine the delight that will come with two-word combinations. Oh, the combinatorics possible!

    February 19, 2013
  5. You are such a Natural Mother.

    Seriously, this language gig is the best. My mind is thoroughly blown. Recently it h become obvious that the Bean can produce words to describe things he remembers from before the time he had descriptive language for them. He may, I admit, have had some of those words as receptive language at the time, but he certainly didn’t know how to say them until months after the event happened. And yet he can talk about it now. How do they DO that?

    February 19, 2013
  6. Language is pretty amazing – I mean, so is walking, but somehow less of a range to it, y’know? Tatoe is just starting to spontaneously put words together (usually “pretty” and a noun, but still) and sometimes he can tell me what he wants and oh, it’s just wonderful. Also there is hope of less banshee shrieking.

    February 19, 2013
  7. That’s gorgeous! I remember just a few months ago, I was noticing that my daughter had a whole range of words based on the ‘ba’ sound, which I could understand based on their inflection. Now she blows me away with four to five word phrases. It’s such a fascinating thing to observe.

    February 20, 2013
  8. Mama Wild Dogs. It sounds like she may bust out into some slam poetry at any moment:) We’re still at the one word at a time stage. I think two may well blow my mind.

    February 20, 2013
  9. We’re starting to notice that Monkey is picking up new words more often now, although they cone and go. Loving it… Can’t wait until we get sentences and I can finally find out what’s going on in that little head!

    Also , wild dogs? Sounds awesome! I request a video tutorial :p

    February 20, 2013
  10. One of my favorite posts of all time. Love, love, love Bun Bun and her exploding language. (and her mama pretending to be a wild dog with a propensity for pretend disembowelment).

    February 20, 2013
  11. Jen #

    Favorite words: antelope (“annie-wope”), armadillo (perfect pronunciation, sounded out carefully), Matthew (“Ma-few”). The emerging use of language to verbalize observations is the truly wondrous part for me. I’m finally getting a glimpse into his tiny toddler mind. He likes to provide running commentary on when he sees someone is happy or sad, on whether the dog is behaving badly or well, on whether or not it’s snowing outside (daily reports are either “it IS snowing!” or “it is not snowing today”), on whether his shoes are really shoes or actually slippers (calling things by a wrong name so he can “correct” us is a fun new game), etc. It’s remarkable. And fun. Wild dogs, indeed.

    February 20, 2013
    • Jen #

      Also, he recently picked up: “my bad” (used in context). Whoa.

      February 20, 2013
  12. It is the most fantastic thing. I’m loving this stage too, though I only do diesel trains not wild dogs. Bun Bun and Bee would have a blast together.

    Incidentally, Bee participated in the infant learning lab language study at 10 months and again on Monday. The 10 month was spoken word to picture recognition with a camera following his eyes. This week it was stringing 3 spoken words together and identifying which sentences had the correct grouping and which ones were off. It was amazing to see that he knows much more than I ever imagined! This is my favorite Mommy stage so far.

    February 20, 2013
  13. I am just waiting for the post where you tell us your two year old has actually used the word “disemboweled.” It’s totally going to happen. Language has by far been the best part of toddlerhood so far. Except the words frog and fork which unfortunately both sound an awful lot like another four letter word that starts with F and must be yelled loudly, and often..

    February 20, 2013
  14. Misfit Mrs. #


    February 20, 2013
  15. Well, yes, I am willing to concede that sometimes humans are better than monkeys. Even trained ones!

    It’s extraordinarily startling, isn’t it, when they do the talking at that age. “There’s someone in there!” I seem to remember thinking when my nephew started it. Ah, wild dogs.

    February 21, 2013
  16. Hi there…I’m a pretty new reader, but I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award, I hope that’s okay!

    February 21, 2013
    • Aww, how sweet! I love learning neat stuff about people! I never actually do the pass it on part, though, so don’t take it personally.

      February 22, 2013
  17. Second the request for a video tutorial on Wild Dogs–it sounds awesome.
    Yes, this language stuff is amazing. It’s so cool to find out more about what’s going on in their heads and to practically watch the little neural pathways forming. And so far at least, it continues to be really cool. My funny language-acquisition moment from tonight with Mr. 4-year-old: Roo was asking me a question about Reverend M, a minister we know. Tadpole interrupted, “Wait, is their names all ‘Reverend’???” It had never occurred to me that we hadn’t explained that “Reverend” is a title, not a first name…

    February 22, 2013
  18. Awwww!!! Love it! Soon she’ll drop an indirect object on your proud ears!

    February 23, 2013

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