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3V0371.01 Three words: “I want that”. A well formed English sentence; progressive structuration 1/28/79

THREE WORDS — When Peggy has requested this or that, a common response has been the question “You want that?” If we see her smile when we are pointing to a specific object, we give it to her. Today at lunch, trying to communicate to her obtuse parents that she wanted a cookie, Peggy pointed to the counter where they are normally kept (through a table full of other possible desiderata) and repeated with pointed and increasing insistence /ae/aen/∂aet/, the central syllable at a rising tone and stressed.

RELEVANCE — Peggy now owns three verbal forms for saying the same thing. /∂aet/, /hae/∂aet/, and /ae/aen/∂aet/. She uses them to express her desire for some object to other people. She knows, and expects others to know, that these signifiers express her desire. She knows what they are FOR; and she uses them interchangeably — the distinction of impute to her usage (to the extent they are not absolutely interchangeable) is that the more sounds she says, the more emphatic is the pronouncement.

We hear three words in what Peggy utters. I make no claim or implication that Peggy understands words at all. However, what is most striking in this last phrase is that Peggy has uttered (albeit inarticulately) a well formed English sentence with terms for subject, verb, and object. Of course, she does not know THAT. The next development to be expected is her conjunction of naming with this primitive verbal object (to which she relates much as we adults to an unanalyzed idiom), probably in some such sequence as the following (based on the use of naming for further specification and the deletion of the “unnecessary” pronoun /∂aet/.
/object-name/…/ae/aen/∂aet/object-name/…–>> /ae/aen/∂aet/object-name/
/ae/aen/∂aet/object-name/…–>> /ae/aen/object-name/
i.e. the development of structure is progressive discrimination, conjunction, and simplification.

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