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    Investigating the grammatical features of a child Essay

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    At this stage I had only just turned three years old, and therefore one would expect that my linguistic and vocabulary knowledge is not yet as exhaustive and extensive as it would be in another two or three years. It seems that in this situation, I am not aware of the correct verb use, and the ‘stutter’ could be a way of trying to express something that is not yet in my vocabulary. Georgie (mumbling on phone) Hello… but erm don’t touch that salt, ‘cos you don’t like salt do ya? It’s ready now Jamie You have to put the salt in there

    Georgie (undecipherable) Jamie! Don’t play with it! You don’t… you don’t have to… you don’t… don’t have to play games with it! This conversation shows me getting annoyed with my brother, and I stuttered slightly before getting my words out. The fact that I had to repeat some words more than once perhaps suggest that I was not particularly comfortable with that sentence structure; I was still learning how to use commands, and therefore could not yet use them with ease. 09/06/92 Georgie One day, she rided a trolley, she had to walk in there.

    She had to walk ‘cos she didn’t have her buggy! This sentence taken from the 09/06/92 data shows briefly the sort of grammatical mistakes made by myself at the age of three. It seems feasible that a young child would make the highlighted mistake; since they have been learning the structure and forms of language, they have been taught the “rules” of the English Language. One of these rules is that in the past tense, one adds an “ed” to the end of the word. Simply put, a young child cannot yet understand the idea that some words don’t follow the standard conventions.

    Therefore when it comes to an irregular verb, a child will assume the rules of language automatically and not think anything of it. Hence, the child will use the verb incorrectly, yet it is still understandable what they mean. Grammatically, at the age of three a child is capable of structuring a sentence, yet in some cases, the morphology and syntax may interfere with the accuracy of the sentence. Sometimes a child will not know exactly which order to phrase the words in, or in which context to use certain words.

    In the majority of cases, a child will express an utterance which is mildly or dramatically incorrect and yet an adult will still be able to fathom the main point of the sentence. Possibly, this shows that syntax is the not the dominant factor in understanding a child’s speech, and that, although grammar is important in language use, perhaps it is not essential for actually understanding a situation; if a situation is accompanied with various prosodic and paralinguistic features in order to emphasise the context, it is likely that a recipient will be able to understand the semantic field of the utterance.

    This can be seen in the above transcript, where I made some grammar mistakes, and whilst my lexical choices were correct, the syntax was slightly jumbled; yet the utterance is still, in fact, understandable. 25/12/92 Georgie That was what Father Christmas eat last night? The first sentence shows the wrong verb tense being used; however this could be more of a pronunciation issue than grammar, as the correct form ‘ate’ could be pronounced differently by a young child. Again, it is still fathomable what is meant by it. Georgie No, I’ll set it all up after

    This sentence shows my capability of forming a fairly complex sentence; everything is Standard English – from the subject pronoun, to the verb tense and general syntax of the utterance. This is only nine months after the first transcript shown above, and it shows how important and rapidly language development occurs in a child, as nine months ago, I stuttered and was unable to accrue the grammatical knowledge to form a ‘perfect’ sentence. This utterance shows my newly acquired knowledge and even demonstrates my ability to use the future tense accurately. Georgie I’ll leave it there with that one

    Similarly, this sentence is formed in a parallel way to the former, and therefore I am once again capable of developing it accurately, further highlighting my grammatical development in just nine months. Georgie Mind me Jamie! You nearly lost my, made my eyes water! Made my eyes water! This utterance shows me lecturing my brother; however I couldn’t find the words in my vocabulary to express what I meant, therefore making it grammatically incorrect. This appears to be a form of regression, as it illustrates my incapability of expressing a standard sentence, when in previous utterances I have been able to form them accurately.

    Perhaps this suggests that whilst a child is comfortable expressing emotionless sentences, it may be more difficult to form a phrase with an emotion attached – i. e, anger, in this example. Georgie What she say? Mum This is fun. This is fun Georgie What did she say? Oddly enough, this conversation shows me saying the same thing twice; however the first time, I omitted the verb, and the second time I used the verb. This perhaps suggests that a child does understand the formation of a sentence, but maybe it is laziness or other external factors that causes a child to miss out a vital part of a sentence.

    11/03/93 Mum Open some cards then Georgie I’m opening this one In this conversation, I was able to turn my mother’s sentence in the present tense into a similar sentence in the present continuous; obviously, by this point in my language development I had managed to acquire the knowledge of conjugating a verb, even into more complex tenses like the present continuous. By this time I was four years old, and therefore my language would inevitably have been more advanced than a year before. This sentence also illustrates my knowledge of distance in linguistic terms; this is evident in the usage of “this one.

    ” Georgie I love it I have chosen to include this sentence to purely show that I am capable of forming this type of sentence correctly; it is a simple sentence yet it proves that I, by this point, could use an object pronoun in the Standard English manner and show emotion. Georgie Yeah I love being my birthday. ‘Cos I’m 4 today aren’t… aren’t I. In contrast to previous comments made about object pronouns, it appears here that I have excluded the word ‘it’ from the first sentence. Perhaps I was not yet aware of this usage of the word ‘it,’ in this context, or maybe I simply forgot to include it.

    The second sentence shows that I am looking for confirmation from a parent or sibling that I am indeed four years old. Grammatically, the sentence is correct. Georgie And he’s done some kisses and love Although this sentence theoretically makes sense, perhaps a more accurate choice of verb would have been ‘put’ rather than ‘done. ‘ Once again, it is obvious what is meant, however the sentence could have been more grammatically correct. I have managed to use the correct pronoun for my brother, nonetheless. Georgie That’s my dolly what I brought! I knew it was that! I knew it was that mum! I knew it was that!

    (undecipherable). I like it. I like it. Here I am showing excitement at a dolly I have received for my birthday. The first sentence does not necessarily fit the rules of the English language, however it generally typifies the kind of language used by a four year old child. Most children have the knowledge to express themselves; they just sometimes don’t have the words. It can also at times be difficult to compose the correct word order for a particular utterance; this, I believe is what has happened here. Perhaps a more grammatically correct sentence could have been; “This is the dolly that I bought!

    ” By changing ‘that’ to ‘this’ and ‘my’ to a more generalised ‘the,’ it makes the sentence more coherent. It would also make more sense to say ‘that’ rather than ‘what. ‘ Noticeably, I have confused the verb ‘to bring’ with the word ‘to buy,’ which is a mistake many young children make in the past tense, as both are very similar. The rest of my utterance is generally logical and accurate. 25/12/93 Mum You’re joking, ain’t ya? Jamie A mountain bike! Georgie No, we’re not By this point in my transcripts, I am only three months away from turning five, and therefore one would expect my language to be almost fully acquired.

    In keeping with this, I have shown in the above conversation that I understand pluralistic subject pronouns, by using the word ‘we’re. ‘ However, I appear to have missed the point of my mother’s question; having not realised that the question was rhetorical and somewhat sardonic! This is typical of a young child, but nevertheless it shows that I am capable of answering such a question. Georgie Unlock the door, someone please Although this utterance is grammatically correct, it could perhaps have had more syntactical consideration.

    Instead of making it a statement, a more polite and rational way of expressing this sentence would have been to turn it into a question: “Can someone unlock the door please? ” However, this sentence still shows that I have now acquired a wider range of vocabulary and verbs. Georgie Let me take the fruit bowl off mum This sentence is entirely correct in all formats, and I have chosen to include it in the analysis as it shows that by the age of over 4 1/2 a child is capable of forming a rather complicated and difficult sentence, which perhaps a year ago, wouldn’t have been possible. Georgie Gonna open this one now.

    This one. It’s really, really big! Not another Barbie thing Dad, I’ve got another Barbie thing! Oddly enough, I have once again left out a subject pronoun for the first sentence; I have shown at various points throughout the analysis that by this point I was capable of subject pronouns, however this data would suggest otherwise. However, later on in the same utterance, I incorporate the subject pronoun ‘I’ve. ‘ This shows that I do in fact understand their uses. Perhaps I was conforming to conversational language whereby many adults omit pronouns in order to make the conversation more chatty and informal. December 1994

    Georgie Look how much I’ve got… whoa you’ve got more than me! This sentence shows that I have confused the word ‘many’ with ‘much’ and used it incorrectly. The rest of my utterance is grammatically correct, and I have used the correct subject pronouns and verbs. Georgie I’ve got more than you Thomas Tom I’ve got more than you Georgie No, I have got more than Thomas haven’t I? I was obviously aware of how to stress something by the time I was this age; starting with stringing the subject pronoun and verb together (I’ve), to saying ‘I have,’ shows that I knew how to make a statement and exaggerate my utterances.

    I was trying to make a point that I have more strawberries than Tom and needed reassurance from a parent. Georgie ‘Cos if you do she’s gonna be mine and Jamie’s step-mum. Would we call her mum or would we still call her Shelley? Here, I form a perfect grammatical sentence, in the accurate tenses, based on an unpredictable and random conversation. A couple of years ago, it is unlikely that I would have been able to form such an accurate sentence; showing clearly my language development over time. Georgie No no! No, James! Jamie just put some of my strawberries in your pot…

    in his pot This sentence sees me making a grammatical error in terms of pronoun use, but then correcting myself. This shows just how much I have developed linguistically, as I no longer need an adult to correct my mistakes. Georgie It was on holiday and we went on the swings and we see it land in the… on the grass The grammatical error made here is fairly obvious; I have mixed up the past tense with the present tense and said ‘see’ instead of ‘saw. ‘ This shows that even by this age, I was still prone to making a few grammatical mistakes.

    However, it is also evident from my transcripts that no effort was made to correct me, which perhaps suggests that as a child grows older, the amount of child directed speech used dwindles. 3. Does a child display confusion on a particular conversational aspect of language at the age of three but fully understand the concept by the time they reach five? ANALYSIS When trying to analyse the findings to fulfil the requirements of this question, it became apparent that there were two specific transcripts that could provide useful.

    At Christmas 1992, I was three years old and couldn’t grasp the concept of showing appreciation for a gift that I didn’t actually ask for: 25/12/92 Georgie Oh, just what I didn’t want mum Mum Just like you didn’t want? Georgie No, I didn’t want (undecipherable) look. I didn’t even want it did I? Jamie I’ve got a big present Georgie Look mummy, I didn’t even want it Mum Let’s have a look Georgie No I didn’t even want it I didn’t Dad You didn’t even want it? Georgie But I like it, I want it Mum (laughs) Georgie I do want it, now Jamie She didn’t ask for it did she Mum Is that what she’s saying?

    That’s what she’s saying At the age of three, a child is still learning the basic foundations to build more complex forms of language. Context is important in this situation – I have received a gift that I had not asked for, and whilst I possessed the knowledge to show that the gift was not something I had previously requested, I was unable to express this thought in accurate language. Firstly, the verb ‘to ask’ was swapped for the verb ‘to want,’ which is socially thought of as ruder in this particular context. By saying I ‘didn’t want’ something, it may have come across as unappreciative and impolite.

    What is also noticeable about this specific transcript is that everything else within my walls of language use was precise and accurate. In terms of sentence structure, I was able to form a perfect and understandable sentence, with subject and verb agreement. In this case, it was my sibling who was able to decipher the actual meaning of my sentence, rather than my parents. This perhaps shows that my brother and I have an important bond, where we can understand each other’s language, even if it doesn’t fit the conventions of Standard English. This will be discussed later on in the investigation.

    Interestingly, I didn’t understand the concept of what I was saying, yet in every single utterance of this conversation I used the word “want. ” It is a very repetitive dialogue, and it clearly shows I was trying to get my point across, which may suggest that I knew that what I was saying was incorrect, but thought that by recasting and expanding my utterances, those around me would be able to understand my meaning. What I am saying has an obvious pragmatic meaning; I am expressing my excitement at having received something I hadn’t previously asked for. 25/12/1994 Geor.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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