From: Arika Okrent <arikaokrent.com>
Subject: Linguists Writing About Their Own Children
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Query for this summary posted in LINGUIST Issue:
I'm not going to list every reference here, but I'll try to break down the
general story in a semi-coherent way:
The practice of scientific observation of one's own children goes back at
least as far as Charles Darwin (Biographical sketch of an infant, 1877).
Other classics are Clara and Karl Stern (Die Kindersprache, 1907), J.
Ronjat (Le developpment du langage observé chez un enfant bilingue, 1913),
Milivoj Pavlovitch (Le langage enfantin: acquisition du Serbe et du
Français par un enfant serbe, 1920), A.N. Gvozdev (From first words to
first grade, 1949) and the four volume work of Werner Leopold (Speech
development of a bilingual child, 1939-1949). I particularly like the title
of E. Kenyeres's 1938 article ''Comment une petite Hongroise de sept ans
apprend le Français.''
Bilingual households are well represented in the parent/child literature:
the works of Marilyn Vihman (Estonian/English), Maraget Deuchar
(Spanish/English), Annick de Houwer (Dutch/English), Virginia Yip and
Stephen Matthews (Cantonese/English), Phillip Carr (French/English), Philip
and Elizabeth Prinz (ASL/English) and many more. There are also some
trilingual households represented (who wouldn't take notes in such a
situation?) Jean-Marc Dewaele (French, Dutch, English) and Madalena
Cruz-Ferreira (Portuguese, Swedish, English).
Other well known studies: Robbins Burling (Language development of a Garo
and English speaking child, Word, 15, 1959), Ruth Weir (Language in the
crib, 1962), M.A.K. Halliday (Learning how to mean, 1975), Labov & Labov
(The phonetics of cat and mama, Language 54, 1978)
Also, the works of Melissa Bowerman, Lise Menn, and Ron Scollon.
The observation doesn't always stop at one generation. Neil Smith, whose
''The Acquisition of Phonology'' (1973) was a study of his eldest's son's
phonology, is now studying that son's eldest son's phonology. And Marilyn
Vihman's much studied daughter also became a linguist, and now studies her
Finally, I must point you to the work of Deb Roy, which was described to me
by the person who referred me to it as both ''impressive'' and ''a little
scary.'' From the project web page:
''Roy has begun a pilot project in which he is recording his son's
development at home by gathering approximately 10 hours of high fidelity
audio and video on a daily basis from birth to age three. The resulting
corpus, which already contains over 100,000 hours of multi-track
recordings, constitutes the most comprehensive record of a child's
development made to date. This data provides many new opportunities to
understand the fine-grained dynamics of language development.''
Check out his time-lapse evolution of the word ''water.''
I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do with all this, but if you have
any thoughts/anecdotes/epiphanies you'd like to share with me, please do!
Thanks to Susan Fischer, Michael Silverstein, Anamaria Ducasse, Peter
Daniels, Mirjana Dedaic, Michel DeGraff, Fiona MacArthur, Ruth Carroll,
Philip Carr, Susan Burt, Gabriela Pérez Báez, Sashka Probkin, Bruno
Estigarribia, Nora Wiedenmann, Theresa Heyd, Tom Fritzsche, Nan Ratner,
Peyton Todd, Joshua Viau, Ernest McCarus, Roswita Dressler, Derek Irwin,
Steven Chandler, Armina Janyan, Phaedra Royle, Wayles Browne, Damien Hall,
Bernard Spolsky, Larisa Zlatic, Ginger Pizer, Lise Menn, Madalena
Cruz-Ferreira, Marilyn Vihman, Michael Swan, Sonja Lanehart, Peter
Backhaus, Jean Dickson, Janet Randall
Now, a grab bag of other references, in no particular order:
Susan Iwamura, The Verbal Games of Pre-School Children, 1980
Sussane Döpke, The role of parental teaching techniques in bilingual
German-English families, International Journal of the Sociology of Language
yr.1988 vol.72 pg.493
Saunders, George. Bilingual Parenting: From Birth to Teens. 1988
Salikoko Mufwene. ''On the Language Bioprogram: Hints from Tazie'' in a
volume I edited: ''Language Creation and Language Change: Creolization,
Diachrony and Development'' (MIT Press, 1999).
Daniel Dato, On Psycholinguistic universals in children's learning of
Spanish Developmental Linguistics: Theory and Applications edited by Daniel
P. Dato, 235-254. Washington: Georgetown University Press. 1975
Carr 2003. International Journal of Bilingualism 7.2: 177-202.
'French-English bilingual acquisition of phonology: one production system
S. Burt. 1998.''Monolingual children in a bilingual situation:Protest,
accommodation and linguistic creativity,'' Multilingua 17, 4: 361-378.
Mirror of Language by Kenji Hakuta.
Nora Wiedenmann (2007), ''Später Spracherwerb''. In: Sprache & Sprachen,
35, 33-44 (ISSN 0934-6813).
Nan Ratner, Interactive influences on phonological behavior, J Child Lang
20 1993 case study
Peyton Todd. Tagging after red herrings: evidence against the processing
capacity explanation in child language.Appearing in the Journal of Child
Language, 1982 Feb;9(1):99-114.
Zlatic, Larisa, Peter MacNeilage, Chris Matyear and Barbara Davis. 1997.
''Babbling of Twins in a Bilingual Environment,'' Applied Psycholinguistics
Claire Painter, Into the Mother Tongue 1984
Vihman, M. M. (1982). The acquisition of morphology by a bilingual child: A
whole-word approach. Applied Psycholinguistics, 3, 141-160.
Y.R. Chao ''The Canton Idiolect: An Analysis of the Chinese Spoken by a
28-month-old Child.'' Semitic and oriental studies, University of
California, publications on semitic philology, 27-44, Berkeley, 1951.
(about his granddaughter)
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