Language acquisition fascinates me. The ways in which small people hear, process, and develop language twinkles with neuroscience and social acclimation. It’s different from the process by which adults learn multiple languages, and by nature of the subject’s biological needs, simply adorable.

Since he crested his first year, Butter has used the word “dato” for “that.” Peanut was a “dat” kind of guy, and I couldn’t quite figure out why the younger guy added an “oh” to the end of his word. But he has done it for other words, too, so I just chalked it up to a lingual quirk.

But last week after he asked me for “dato” and I gave it to him, he said, “Dato kay, Mommy.” I figured out that, because of an infant and toddler’s basic “uh-oh” relationship with objects, physics, and social expectations, more often than he’s heard “that,” Butter has heard “that’s okay.”

So his concept of “that” is framed by how it exists in this moment. Dato just is. Dato kay is fine.

Made me smile a little Foucaultian smile about the parameters Butter uses to bound his reality. In an The Order of Things kind of way, I’m rather impressed that our family has taught this little person to see those two categories: thing, thing that is okay.

Hope we retains that as he ages. Heck, I hope I do, too.

8 thoughts on “Okay.

  1. Language is fascinating: so much more than arbitrary acquisition. I graduated in Speech pathology, but tons of language/linguistics/neurophysiology classes in my background just for the reason that I find language and the way our brains process: as symbols full of meaning, fascinating.

    I could have 20 kids, and each time one began speaking, I’d be just as riveted as if it was my first.

  2. I immediately thought of Martin Buber’s writings on language. He wrote about human relationships with things and how humans describe the world around them. Some humans/cultures describe things in relation to themselves, others describe things abstractly. Things and people can seem distant, close, unknown, or disconnected, etc., just based on how the words are put together in sentences. The relationships between humans and the things around them are built into the language. Fascinating stuff.

  3. Very cool, Naptime. And the Foucault reference? Likewise!

    My younger son – who barely spoke for a couple of years except for occasional words when he felt like it – had a multi-syllable word for taxi cab which took the longest time to figure out! It was so strange and funny, and it bore no resemblance in pronunciation to anything we could ever figure out. Yep, eternally fascinating, this language business.

    • My eldest started saying “doot” when he was ten months old. I had no idea what it was until the day, months later, that a truck rolled by and he pointed and hollered “doot!”

      He called trucks doots until he was maybe four. And every time he did I recalled how dense I had been not to know what a “doot” was.

      We should collect all the words our children used for things that sound nothing like the language the rest of us use. I love those tiny-person-malapropisms.

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