Toddler language: Getting past

Time for another toddler language update! Today’s topic: gender agreement and past tenses.

For the most part, my younger son doesn’t exhibit have any gender agreement yet. He has only a handful of adjectives, and for they’re fixed forms, usually the masculine. However, there’s one word that he has acquired in the feminine form: obosită "tired".(The reason for this acquisition is that the word is most often applied to his mother. Yes, that sounds like a bad joke, but it’s true.)

This leads to some amusing mismatches, as when he says of himself Sebi obosită ("Sebi is tired [fsg]"), or when he talks about the horses near our house and says Cai obosită ("The horses [mpl] are tired [fsg]"). We do usually correct him when he makes mistakes of this sort, but as you might expect this isn’t terribly effective.

The other exciting development is that Sebi appears to be acquiring (slowly) the past tense. We have heard him occasionally using past-tense forms over the past few weeks, but it seemed likely that those were fixed forms. Today, however, I heard him correctly and appropriately contrast the present and past of a ploua "to rain". When returning to the car after preschool it was raining, and he repeated after me plouă! ("It’s raining!"). This is a word that he’s used frequently, but once we reached the car he pointed to the window and said A plouat geam ("It rained [on] the window"). This is the first time I’ve ever heard him switch from present to past tense on a verb, and a ploua is not a verb that we use most often in the past tense. So I don’t think this is something that he acquired as a fixed form, but rather appears to be him accurately applying regular past-tense morphology.

This acquisition is still intermittent, at best, and I expect it’ll be some time before he regularly uses any past tense, regular or irregular. But it is a fun milestone.

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1 Comment

  1. I still remember bits of when both my siblings (5 and 6 years younger than me, respectively) were small and learnt to speak. I seem to recall that it took some time for them to master declension in German when they were up to producing more complex sentences. All those articles must be pretty confusing… I’m already very curious about seeing my own future children learn to speak.

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