3V0537.03 The use Peggy makes of language: she takes what she needs to
comprehend the situation and achieve her objectives (7/13/79)
Peggy surely recognizes the word “cup” as the name of her two handled
(one now broken) cup. There is no confidence in the belief she knows
“Go get your” though she may have heard it a multitude of times.
After lunch Peggy came to the table where I was reading and where
Miriam had left a large soda bottle (root beer) on the table. By
wordless cries and gestures, Peggy indicated she wanted a drink. (In
the past, I have dripped enough beer on her tongue to wet her whistle
from my bottle of 12 oz. This bottle was 32 oz.) When I rejected her
plea at first, Peggy insisted. I concluded “O.K. Go get your cup.”
Peggy paused, backed away from the table edge, and circumnavigated it
to the place where her cup lay on the floor. It was 180 degrees from
her initial location and the high chair also intervened. That is, she
could not have seen it (I believe) from where she was. She returned
with the cup for her root beer.
Importance — This incident, as those others involving phrases or
sentences, emphasizes the role of ‘pragmatics’ as opposed to
semantics and syntactics in Peggy’s understanding. That is, she appears
to take what she can and needs to from an utterance to make sense of
her situation in terms of acting to achieve an objective she owns.
How should we conceive of the knowledge structures in her mind to
which Peggy fits the situation she confronts?