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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/56

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50
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
right,—Yes. M., S. want those two pieces paper,—give S. some paper. S. have to roll up. M. cover S. Where P.? Where P.? M., where P.? M. sing loud. M. lie down on P. bed,"

when the Männlein suddenly fell off to sleep.

How considerably the range of a child's interests can vary even in substantially the same environment can be seen by a comparison of the entire vocabularies of our three children. For out of the 2,170 different words used by some one of the three up to two and a half years of age, less than a quarter, 489, were used by all; while 2 (b.) used 480 and 3 (g.) used 586 words that were not used by either of the other children. The varying interests in these cases are partly due to the difference in sex. But in the case of Professor Holden's two girls, whom he expressly says were exposed to surroundings as similar as was possible, we find at two years of age 246 words in common, while the older had used 241 and the younger 154 exclusively.[1] These wide individual differences in the stock of words children use seem to us on examining the complete vocabularies in chronological order to be much better accounted for by the varying pleasure-pains or interests of the children than by the oft-quoted law of the ease of utterance.[2]

For though the stock in common is on the whole the easier and the individual variations are toward the harder, yet the short words with their easier initial or imitative sounds seem to be used because of their necessity or interest to the child's life, as, e.g., the early words baby, cow, Papa, Mama, book, horse, dog, bottle, water, doll, pin, mittens; burn, see, take, want, eat, wash; pretty, hot, dirty, warm, broken, clean, sticky, another, there, off, away, quickly; good-bye, hurrah, peek-a-boo, etc., etc. The growth of language in the race has brought it about that the words most necessary to the child's life are the shorter and easier sounds. Thus the child uses them first because of their interest and serviceableness, and not because of their ease. So glancing down the chronological columns of our children's vocabularies,


  1. Holden: 'On the Vocabularies of Children under Two Years of Age,' Trans. Amer. Philological Assn., Vol. 8, 1877, pp. 58-68.
  2. See Schultze, 'Die Sprache des Kindes' (1880), S. 27, for the use of this principle in the sounds used by the child for words. But Holden had already applied this principle to the words which the child successively used and thus made up his vocabulary. "I am inclined to take it as a result of my inquiry that the ease of pronunciation, far more than the complexity of the idea, determines the adoption of the word" (ibid. p. 60). But of this principle Humphrey said: "Although it had some influence before the child was one year old, when she was two, it had ceased to have any effect whatever. She had, by that time, adopted certain substitutes for letters which she could not pronounce, and words containing these letters she employed as freely as if the substitutes had been the correct sounds" (ibid., p. 7). For Preyer's arguments against the principle in both its applications to the sounds and to the real words see his pp. 367, 373 and 374.