Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Amy's syntax

Amy's using more complicated sentences now. She'll also use adjectives not just predicatively (apple—green "the apple is green") or attributively in a lone noun phrase (green appa "Look, there's a green apple") but attributively in sentences (bear—green appa—ee "The bear is eating the green apple").

She produces some SVO sentences, but many of her sentences are SOV instead, as in the above example.

I'm wondering whether this is under the influence of German, where the content verb goes at the end if there's an auxiliary verb as well (e.g. Ich(S) möchte den Apfel(O) essen(V) or Ich(S) habe den Apfel(O) gegessen(V); compare English "I(S) want to eat(V) the apple(O)" and "I(S) have eaten(V) the apple(O)").

I got that idea after hearing a sentence along the lines of Amy—Daddy—found "Amy's found Daddy", which she repeated to Stella in German as something like Amy—Daddy—funden "Amy hat Daddy gefunden"—with a stem of fund-, which is in the German past participle (used to form the compound past, the most common past tense form in my colloquial German) but not in the infinitive (find-), present tense (find-) or simple past (fand-), making me wonder whether her sentence structure comes from German sentences with auxiliary verbs.

One point of syntax where she obviously makes a difference is with also, too. At first, she only had a German word for this: auch "auch" ("also"), and she'd usually place it after the subject: Daddy—auch—cake—ee "Daddy's also eating cake".

Recently, however (starting not more than a couple of days ago), she's started using too when speaking English—and she'll put that at the end of the sentence. The previous example would then be Daddy—cake—ee—too "Daddy's eating cake, too".

So she's obviously picked up this different syntax. (I think I use "also" and "too" about the same amount when speaking with her; it's possible that some of her auch when speaking English are calques, as it were, of "also", rather than a use of a German sentence structure.)

Another word she picked up a while ago is noch'n—orthographically two words in standard German, "noch ein" or, a bit closer to pronunciation, "noch 'n", but often pronounced as one word. She seems to use it as a single word. It means "another", as in Daddy—noch'n appa—ee "Daddy's eating another apple".

Finally, she uses nein or, occasionally, no to mean "not", as in Amy nein haus "Amy (möchte) nicht raus" (Amy doesn't want to go outside, with her typical [h] for /r/), or nein hoho, nein tajts "(Amy möchte) nicht die Hose (anziehen), (Amy möchte) nicht die Strumpfhose (anziehen)" (Amy doesn't want to put on her trousers or her tights).

On the phonology front, she seems to have trouble with labial consonants, which surprises me a bit—I thought they'd be the easiest to pronounce for children, not to mention the easiest to copy on sight. However, she has [tI:] for "pig" and [tiN] for "pink", despite being able to say [pi:] clearly, for the name of the letter P.

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