3V0769.1

3V0769.01 Miriam’s Pillow; idea: function words as pause fillers (3/1/80)

Because in the worst periods of her allergies, Miriam slept better sitting
up, we bought her a king sized pillow. It is longer than Peggy is tall and
wider. Thus Peggy finds it perfect for falling on. Miriam tried to take it
away while Peggy was falling on it, “Mimi pillow.” Peggy responded. ”
Peggy pillow,” and, after a pause, “My pillow.” This is clear evidence
for her understanding of at least the first person possessive pronoun.

When Robby tried to lay with his head on the pillow, Peggy lifted that
corner and said, “Sleep on boards.” — referring to our oak flooring.

Late in the day, she passed me at the table and said, “Get the pillow//
Down the bed.” (Where // = pause.) Here we have two separated
phrases as before we had separated words. What is the quality of “the”
in these phrases ? First, she said something that could easily be
interpreted as “the” — because it was unaccented and the vowel was at
least close to a schwa. The initial consonant ? I believe it was /th/ in
both cases. What is the function of “the” in these utterances ? I can
see it as a pause-filler of no semantic significance but permitting a
continuous flow of speech which connects related elements together as
the caesura between “pillow” and “down” separates them.
We should attend closely to such utterances.

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