Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/456

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gestive parallels in these developmental changes in children's articulation.

The rapidity of articulatory progress might be measured by a careful noting of the increase in the number of vocables mastered from month to month. Although Preyer and others have given lists of vocables used at particular ages and parents have sent me lists, I have met with no methodical record of the gradual extension of the articulate field. It is obvious that any observations under this head, save in the very early stages, can only be very rough. No observer of a talkative child, however attentive, can make sure of all the word-sounds used. It is to be noted, too, as I have been assured by parents, that a child will sometimes show that he can master a sound, and will even make temporary use of it, without retaining it as a part of the permanent linguistic stock.[1]

It is now time to pass from the mechanical to the logical side of this early child-language, to the meanings which the small linguist gives to his articulate sounds, and the way in which he modifies these meanings. The growth of child-speech means a concurrent progress in the mastery of word-form and in the acquisition of ideas. In this each of the two factors aids the other, the advance of ideas pushing the child to new uses of sounds, and the growing facility in word-formation reacting powerfully on the ideas, giving them definition of outline and fixity of structure. I shall not attempt here to give a complete account of the process, but content myself with touching on one or two of its more interesting aspects.

I have pointed out that a child, in imitating the speech of others, does so by associating the sound heard with the object, situation, or action in connection with which others are observed to use it. Bat the first imitation of words does not show that the little mind has seized their full and precise meaning. A clear and exact apprehension of meaning comes but slowly, and only as the result of many hard thought-processes, comparisons, and discriminations.

It is now recognized that a child's first imitative talk, which might be described as monepic or single-worded—as "wow-wow," "dow" (down)—is essentially vague in so far as the word-sound used covers a number of our meanings. Thus "wow-wow" may mean "the dog is there," or "the dog is doing something," or "I

  1. As samples of the observations the following may be taken: A friend tells me his boy, when one year old, used just fifty vocables. The performances vary greatly. One American girl of twenty-two months had sixty-nine, whereas another, about the same age, had one hundred and thirty-six just twice the number. A German girl, eighteen months old, is said by Preyer to have used one hundred and nineteen words, and to have raised this to four hundred and thirty-five in the next six months. The composition of these early vocabularies will occupy us presently.