Archive for the ‘Child language’ Category

O tasty Tweety! O Tweety, my prey!

July 26, 2022

… What a delicious Tweety you are!

The 7/24 Mother Goose and Grimm strip, with a police line-up of cartoon cats, for little Tweety to pick out the threatening pussy cat that he thought he saw:


(#1) The potential pussy predator perps on parade, left to right: 1 the Cat in the Hat (Dr. Seuss picture book), 2 Stimpy (Ren & Stimpy tv animation), 3 Sylvester (Looney Tunes film animation), 4 Catbert (Dilbert strip), 5 Attila (MGG strip — note self-reference), 6 Garfield (Garfield strip)

The number of domestic cats in cartoons is mind-boggling — there are tons of lists on the net — and then there are all those other cartoon felines: tigers, panthers, lions, leopards, and so on. Out of these thousands, the cops rounded up the six guys above — all male, as nearly all cartoon cats are, despite the general cultural default that dogs are male, cats female — as the miscreant. (It might be that male is the unmarked sex for anthropomorphic creatures in cartoons as for human beings in many contexts; females appear only when their sex is somehow especially relevant to the cartoon.) And that miscreant, the smirking Sylvester, is the only one of the six known as a predator on birds, though in real life, domestic cats are stunningly effective avian predators, killing billions of birds annually.

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proofreading

July 14, 2021

🇫🇷🇫🇷🇫🇷 The One Big Happy strip from 5/28:

We all, from time to time, come across a word we haven’t experienced before (or didn’t register having experienced it), and just guess, often tacitly, at its approximate meaning as the world goes on around us. Little kids, having had much less linguistic experience, do this all the time; they pretty much have to.

To this end, they use similarities to words or parts of words they do know, and Ruthie is an especially analytic kid, keen on finding word-parts in unfamiliar material — plenty of examples in earlier OBH postings on this blog. In this case, the word is in fact straightforwardly analyzable into two familiar parts, and Ruthie gets that.

Oh, but what are those parts? Phonologically /pruf/ (a N spelled proof) and /rid/ (a BSE-form V spelled read).  No problem with the second, but there are several Ns proof; the compound proofread is an idiom with one of those Ns in it, but not the one that Ruthie detects.

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Learning culture

January 28, 2021

The One Big Happy cartoon from 1/6, recently up in my comics feed:

Ruthie and Joe are engaged in picking up elements of culture — American commercial culture, to be specific — beginning this particular bit of learning by reproducing material they’ve heard on tv, without much appreciation for what it means.

This is in line with kids’ learning of other bits of culture — song lyrics, joke routines, patterns of swearing and insulting, greeting and leave-taking routines, and much much more. At the same time that kids are picking up new words at a great rate, they are also incorporating those words into ways of performing the verbal bits of social life. (Meanwhile, they’re learning gestures, facial expressions, the physical elements of dances, games, and sports, and the rest of a vast universe of nonverbal behavior, which then has to be coordinated with verbal behavior.)

And much of this has to be picked up “on the fly”, from observing what people around you do, without being explicitly instructed — a fact that guarantees that their first efforts at performing these bits of culture will be decidedly imperfect and will have to be honed by practice.

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What question are you asking?

December 20, 2020

The 11/27 One Big Happy strip, which came up in my comics feed recently:

The father’s question, asking for a choice, appears to be an opinion-seeking question, of a sort that adults often exchange amongst one another to make pleasant small talk or as a kind of game. But note the father’s open laptop: the opinion-seeking question is being used here as a form of test question, in which the kids are supposed to display their knowledge of culturally significant people. And the kids are perfectly aware that the exercise is some kind of test.

There is, unfortunately, another variable here: the father’s question offers choices at two points: what person (that’s the question he’s intending to ask) and living or dead (which the father intends to be clarifying the range of persons that could be possible answers, but which the kids take to be the question at issue.

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Childish reanalyses

March 18, 2020

From Heidi Harley on Facebook yesterday, a dialogue in her household:

[Heidi, about a Terry Pratchett book]: “this story is set on a strange magical planet called Discworld”

Jasper [7,2]: “so the whole place has no squirrels, because it’s been de-squirreled?”

To which I wrote:

Every so often I complain about the reanalyses shown by the kids in Rick Detorie’s comic strip One Big Happy, as being strained and implausible. Then I see things like this.

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Locatives, inalienability, and determiner choices

July 31, 2019

All this, and more, in two recent One Big Happy cartoons, from 7/2 (I broke a finger — the determiner cartoon) and 7/4 (Where was the Declaration of Independence signed? — the locative cartoon). Both featuring Ruthie’s brother Joe.  I’ll start with the locatives.

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Choosing the words

July 19, 2019

Two One Big Happy cartoons in which young Ruthie confronts word choices: once in the name of a food, which is yucky or not, depending on what you call it; and once in the telling of a joke you know is incredibly funny, but you have to get all the right names of things in it:

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Avocado Chronicles: 4 avotoast

July 15, 2019

Although, or perhaps because, I live in one of the world’s avocado toast hot spots, I’d hoped to avoid posting on the silly fad for avotoast, but then this Mother Goose and Grimm cartoon — with its pun on toast — appeared in my comics feed:


(#1) Up off the counter and onto the table

Three things: avocados, toast, and avocado toast.

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Asking questions and giving commands

August 21, 2018

The text for the day is a dialogue posted on Facebook on the 19th by John Beavers (a guitarist who moonlights as a linguistics professor at the University of Texas, Austin), between John’s son Ezra and John’s wife / Ezra’s mother Janice Ta:


Ezra on his 3rd birthday (July 28th)

Ezra: Mommy, do “boy” and “toy” rhyme?

Janice: Yes, they do! You’re very good at rhyming. Do “boy” and “man” rhyme?

Ezra: No. You’re not very good at rhyming.

Ah, a significant ambiguity in the use of interrogative sentences: between information-seeking interrogatives (infoseek questions, I’ll call them), like Ezra’s do “boy” and “toy” rhyme?; and examination interrogatives (test questions, I’ll call them; they’re also known as quiz questions), like Janice’s do “boy” and “man” rhyme?

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Annals of casual speech

March 9, 2018

The One Big Happy from February 9th:

in other words > nudder words. Part of this is just ordinary stuff in connected casual speech. Then there’s the [d] for standard [ð] in other.

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