A discussion tonight about my nephew and his linguistic development at 1 year and 11 months, gradually turned to the broader issue of child language acquisition. Apparently, and this is new knowledge to me, infants learning English (we didn’t discuss any other languages and I’m not enough of a Chomsky to presume to speak for all languages) latch onto first person possessive pronouns before nominative or accusative, and will then use them in sentences. That is, they’ll say my do it before they say I do it.

Now, I have no expertise in child language acquisition and will defer to anyone who gives even the slightest impression that they do, so I’m perfectly happy to accept the above. But I thought I’d offer the discussion to my knowledgable and erudite readership to enlighten me.

I suppose there may be some reasonable foundation to this theory. Infants probably learn possession quite early (my pencil, my car and so on), and then later, when constructing sentences with subjects and verbs (and perhaps objects, though I doubt the ‘it’ is segmentable from the verb at this early stage) they may draw analogy from the possessive constructions that they’ve practiced with every noun they know. Furthermore, the fact that “I” [ai] and “my” /mai/ are rather phonologically similar wouldn’t do a great deal to constrain this generalisation.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has any more expertise in child language acquisition than I do – that is, anyone at all.