Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

Goose! Feed it!

Gareth now consistently prefers a sentence structure he can't have learned from any of the adults in his life. I wonder if he invented it, or if it's a typical pattern at this point in kids' language development. He puts the direct object of the verb first, then the verb, then the pronoun "it" to refer back to the object. The subject of the verb is always implied, never stated, perhaps because whenever he goes to the trouble of assembling a sentence the subject is himself, his father, or me. With such a narrow field, why bother specifying? The result sounds like this:

Pine cone! Have it!
Shell! Want it!
Cracker! Eat it!

Yes, always with exclamation marks. He's a very enthusiastic little fellow.

Sometimes these proto-sentences are simple declarations of what's happening, but more often they're requests, demands, wishes, some odd combination of the imperative and the subjunctive. Translations vary with context: Ah, the pine cone! Would that I could have it! The snail shell! Tell Daddy about how I wanted it this morning! The cracker! You must let me eat it immediately!

When I described my grammatical observations to Dan this morning, Gareth demanded that I explain what a verb was. Verb! That! That! Dan and I gave examples of the verbs Gareth uses most often, and then Little Guy ran around the kitchen waving his arms over his head and yelling all the participles he could think of. Raining! Seeing! Walking! He was like that about vowels, too, a few weeks ago when I mentioned to Dan that Gareth's vowel pronunciation was getting more precise and varied. Vowel! That! That! Now every time "The Vowel Family" comes around on They Might Be Giants's Here Come the ABCs album, Gareth starts yelling, Vowel! Vowel!

It's been an odd week among the junior naturalists. Pine trees, according to Gareth, produce both cones and ningles, much the way Chinese restaurants produce noogles.

We spent the warmest of the week's sunny days in a park with a duck pond, communing with Gareth's avian friends. There is simply nothing in his world more exciting than waterfowl. Duck! See it!

I've never written a fairy tale--it's just not a form that usually comes to me--but that may be changing soon. We met a little boy who looked to be about four years old. He was out at the duck pond with his grandmother. The boy informed us solemnly that his parents were geese. Not just any geese, but those two Canada geese right there in the pond, the ones he and his grandmother were feeding. His grandmother smiled and denied nothing. When he and his grandmother ran out of bread crumbs, the boy plucked several small pebbles out of the mud and started throwing them at the geese. The grandmother, of course, insisted that he stop throwing the pebbles. Gareth, who is more and more interested in imitating older boys, tried throwing pebbles, too, but he's not very good at letting go of things he's trying to throw, which is now a good thing for waterfowl everywhere.

So now I have a fairy tale germinating in my head. Just what I needed, a new project to work on in my copious writing time. Story! Write it!
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