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Linguistics

We’ve gotten to the point where Gwen is talking. Most of it is jibber-jabber but it’s definitely part of some conversation that only one of us understands. What makes it more interesting is to watch her get frustrated when she tells me something and I don’t respond correctly. It really got me thinking about how the little baby develops her language skills.

Sure the first word is a random sound that we interpret as having meaning. This isn’t really the first word it’s just the first sound that they make in a direction. It has to have reference and when that connection is made you can almost see the spark of a new emerging intelligence. Now she understands that the world isn’t just a random blur of shapes but that those shapes have an existence that is independent of her perception of them. Not to say that she has already developed object permanence, that comes later, but that the things she perceives have that aforementioned existence and also have meaning. They have names to which she is giving them in her own way.

This is probably the most creative that any of us has ever been. Free from being slaves to the language that we are born into which limits our expression. Gwen was naming things, then remembering what those things were and calling them whatever it was that she was saying. It was a true trial and error system to figure out what it was that she pointed to. Now, however she has moved past the language of things and into expressions of will. Thomas Hobbes said that what we deem “good” are the things that we find pleasurable/like and thus “bad” are those things that we dislike. Gwen is a good proof of this rudimentary concept as now she expresses with words what she used to by frantic pushing and crying.

On the one hand it makes things more calm when she doesn’t want applesauce she shakes her head and utters the word “no.” On the other hand she does it in a way that makes you feel dumb for asking. She’s been saying “no” for a little over a month now, only recently has she been nodding and saying “Ya.” This has made the job of deciphering her little language that much easier, she still gets frustrated when I don’t find the object that she is specifically asking for but she is a bit easier on me now that she sees that I am making progress.

Which is nice and ironic because it is her that is actually making the progress. The biggest leap for her will be to draw the connection between the sound I am making as I hand her the thing she has asked for linking that as the thing’s name. This will ultimately be our Rosetta stone, she has no real choice but to learn that language that she hears every day, necessity will motivate these connections in her little brain which is why immersion is the best way to learn a language.

It did make me wonder this: if aliens land on this planet the only way to really get the languages down pat is going to be to take an infant alien and an infant human and raise them together so that at least they will be talking to each other…that or geometric forumlas.

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