Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/808

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alongside of the proper name, the child, for example, saying sometimes "baby" or "Ilda," sometimes "I" or "me." In some cases, again, the two forms are used at the same time in opposition, as in the delightful form not unknown in older folk's language, "Hilda, my book." The forms "I" and "me," are, moreover, confined at first to a few expressions, as "I am" "I went," and so forth. The dropping of the old forms, as may be seen by a glance at C—— 's lingual jargon and at Preyer's correct diary, is a gradual process.

Quaint solecisms mark the first stages in the use of these pronouns. As in the case of the earlier use of substantives, one and the same form will be used economically for a variety of meanings, as when "me" was used by the boy C—— to do duty for "mine" also, and "us" for "ours." Sometimes new and delightful forms are added, as when the same little experimenter struck out the possessive form "she's."

The perfect and free use of these puzzling forms comes much later. Preyer quotes a case in which a child, Olga, aged four years, would say, "She has made me wet," meaning that she herself had done it. But this perhaps points to that tendency to split up the self into a number of personalities to which reference was made in an earlier chapter.

There is one part of this child's work of learning our language of which I have said hardly anything—viz., the divining of the verbal context, of the meaning we put or try to put into our words. A brief reference to this may well bring this study of childish linguistics to a close.

The least attention to a child in the process of language-learning will show how much of downright hard work goes to the understanding of language. If we are to judge by the effort required, we might say that the child does as much in deciphering his mother tongue as an Oriental scholar in deciphering a system of hieroglyphics. Just think, for example, how many careful comparisons the small child-brain has to carry out—comparisons in the several uses of the word by others in varying circumstances—before he can get anything approaching to a clear idea, answering even to such seemingly simple words as "clean," "old," or "clever." The way in which inquiring children plague us with questions of the form "What does such and such a word mean?" sufficiently shows how much thought-activity goes in the trying to get at meanings. This difficulty, moreover, persists, reappearing in new forms as the child pushes his way onward into the more tangled tracts of the lingual terrane. It is felt, and felt keenly, too, when most of the torments of articulation are over and forgotten. Many of us can remember how certain words haunted us as uncanny forms, into the nature of which we tried hard but in vain to penetrate.