word order (was Re: Random DWJ discovery of the day)

Anna Zofia Skarzynska ania at gnomic.freeserve.co.uk
Wed Apr 6 06:40:18 EDT 2005

> > No, this is the crux of my point. I am making the (admittedely
> > provocative) claim that 'It is I' is NOT part of English, in the sense
> > that it is not (pace Philip Belben) part of the language that *any*
> > English speaking child acquires as his or her native language.
> Nonsense. I learnt to say it, my child learnt to say it; both of us are
> native speakers. I learned this phrase exactly as I learned the rest of
> my language.

With all due respect, the learning would have taken place long before you
were capable of remembering the actual learning process (and before your
child were capable of communicating its learning to you)

> > I am claiming that in 'It is I' is not part of any natural variety of
> > English because there is no rule that will produce it, that is
> > deduceable from the evidence available to an English-speaking child.
> > (Actually I have to admit a caveat here - children may learn this
> > particular sentence as a chunk - an idiom, if you will - and thereby
> > not have to analyse it or apply a rule).
> So if there are circumstances in which it is learnt, then how can you
> say no child ever acquires it?
> Robyn

I think the learning in question is of the 'deep' variety, the type that
makes children say 'he bited me' (not learnt through repetition, but by
instinctive application of a rule), as opposed to being TOLD that a word or
expression is incorrect.

I think this is the right time to recomment two books to the list. I have a
feeling that they are not unfamiliar to at least a few of you.

Both are by Steven Pinker and they are called The Language Instinct and
Words and Rules.
I dug them out last night and they Have The Answers! A lot of time is
devoted to the study of just how children acquire language- all very
pertinent to this discussion and much better put than I could ever hope to
do. Absolutely fascinating and very illuminating (from the historical
linguistics background and point of view I found it filled gaps and
contributed to the elaborate 3D interactive and ever expanding construct in
my brain which is labelled Language).


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