Perhaps I’m going all Chomskian in my senescence. The house was full of nephews and neices over the weekend. As I was repeatedly jumped on, hid & sought, bounced, and was endlessly nattered at by various toddlers and crawlers, my mind naturally turned to the knotty question of language acquisition.
In particular, I noted the way one of little chaps got all of his endings right while mislaying the starts entirely. So, the toy binoculars of which he was so proud were “noculars”. A rabbit was an “abbit”. His younger cousin, who has come up with a fine little language of his own consisting entirely of monosyllables, showed the same tendency. So, cat was “aaa” (not to be confused with that bird beloved of Scrabble players and cruciverbalists, the a’a).
When I look at my own frankly horrible attempts at adult language acquisition, I sense that I’m concentrating far too much on the start of the words, when I should be getting down with the kids and skipping straight to the ending.
The ending is after all where most of the subtle action tends to be, with your verb endings, plurals and suchlike. I never delved very deeply into the realms of the universal grammar, so of course I suspect that my thoughts are either very well known to everyone else or else empirically incorrect. All the same, I can’t help thinking that if only I could force myself to peep, burble and mangle my words like a child, I’d soon be able to communicate with the peoples of the world, or at least their kids.