3V0622.01 [mama got eye]: MAJOR NOTE on cognitive structures behind speech; topic and comment at “discourse” level, not a word level. 10/6/79
Gretchen long ago began instructing Peggy in the names of body parts,
especially of the face. Recently, Peggy has surprised me by making
comments about the commonality of the body parts. For example,
pointing to her eye, she says [eye], then she points to me and repeats
[eye], then to Gretchen and Scurry, saying [eye] in all cases. I take this
point cum word as equivalent to the assertion that each of us creatures
has an eye.
The behavior is not restricted to eyes or to animate things. Today, we
gave Peggy a toy Scotty, which she referred to as /kuhl/dae/ and now
carries everywhere with her. Investigating it, Peggy noted its nose, its
eyes; pointed also to Scurry and me and made similar “assertions.”
The clearest proof of the positive assertion is the denial of its negation.
Peggy rarely says “no”. She usually indicates disagreement or
frustration by crying. In one of her rounds of assertions about noses, I
pointed to my nose and said “eye.” Peggy denied it at once [no]. The
response is vague in its interpretation. Could she have meant “nose” ?
(I think not. She always says /noz/, but I will have to try this negation
Sitting in my lap this evening before the fire, Peggy once again pointed
out owners of noses. She pointed to her nose and mine and then said
[mama got nose]. This is clearly a three word sentence. Is the order
standard by accident or necessity ?
The best indication of the real situation is shown by observing the more
extended context into which the locally coherent productions are
embedded. Today, comparing her toy Scotty and Scurry, Peggy went
through this sequence:
[eye (pointing at Gretchen)]
I have imposed order on these productions by putting brackets around
them… but those brackets are in my mind, not in Peggy’s. What is the
structure of this tirade in Peggy’s mind flux ? There is a clear assertion
that dogs have eyes. Then we infer the generalization that others have
eyes, as exemplified by Gretchen. The conclusion is the expression in
standard (agent/ copula/ property) of the instantiated generalization.
The structure of this utterance is thematically anchored, at the
discourse level. Sentence structure is derivative and secondary.
– – – –
Marginal notes (by Bob) made on 10/8/79:
I tried this (misnaming of body parts) with my ear. No clear result.
Peggy’s “ear” is not very well defined.
Peggy is much caught up with explicit specification of classes, e.g. all
things with noses. This gives thematic coherence to her discourses.
My ideas is that standard order derives from audiences recasting
speech into standard form at sentence level while Peggy’s focus is on
the discourse. She may take recasting, rephrasing as local corrections
to much approved discourse. Auditors do not notice they are
“correcting”, in their view they are just asking for confirmation of