3V0594.01 /wae/thaet/: issues: discussion of what a word is. 9/8/79
Peggy has enjoyed playing with my belt as a baby but has not done so
for quite a while. Today, she sat in my lap and, pointing at my belt
buckle, said, “/wae/thaet/?” I told her it was a belt buckle, which
answer seemed to satisfy her.
Relevance: This pair of incidents highlights the difficulty of ascribing
competence from performance — but they also show the extent to
which context of utterance, the pragmatics of speech, makes it
1. it is clear that Peggy uses /wae/thaet/ to mean “what’s that?”
2. she may also use it to mean “wash that”, but such would be a more
restricted meaning and would become, if not be essentially, secondary.
These observations are important because they come down on the issue
of what a word is. That is, is /wae/thaet/ an idiom or two words of
distinguishable meaning ? I believe the former is the case.