Teaser for an interesting article

rogersgeorge on February 26th, 2014

Other people besides me are good with English (duh) and I ran into an article by one of those folks; I think you might like to read it. The article is about an internet-based linguistic meme called doge (pronounced “doggy,” I say). Read the article for a full understanding of how it works.

The article, by Gretchen McCulloch, is here: http://the-toast.net/2014/02/06/linguist-explains-grammar-doge-wow/. The paragraph below is toward the end of the article.

The first factor is the kind of “baby talk” that we do towards our pets, known in the literature as pet-directed speech (yes, there are actual studies on this). It tends to involve speaking with exaggerated pitch and using simplified sentence structure. By comparison, the “baby talk” that we do towards actual children involves these two factors plus extra-precise articulation of sounds and is known as infant-directed speech (formerly motherese until some genius realized that it’s not only mothers who talk to babies).

Of course I can’t resist adding value for my dear readers, both of them, by making a comment or two. Two things: I had a post about baby talk a while back, which I recommend. The other thing is about the word “towards.” It has a synonym, “toward.” Perhaps it’s a personal quirk, but there is absolutely no difference in meaning between the two words, but one is longer, with that s tacked onto the end.

Use the shorter word, I say.

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Language lesson for the new year

rogersgeorge on January 2nd, 2014

This comic reminds me of some early lessons in my early language training (as in learning to speak, not classes in German or Greek). It’s a new year, so I recommend you resolve to follow these rules when you interact with new users of language.

The first rule: Don’t refer to yourself in the third person. Use the normal pronouns when you speak. So don’t say, “Mommy doesn’t like that.” Instead, say something like “AAK! Don’t do that!!!”  Much more realistic—the child won’t have to relearn how to speak. In the comic, (Leigh Rubin’s December 22, 2013 effort), Polly breaks the rule while she complains about it, you’ll notice.


While I’m on the subject of teaching new speakers how to talk, here’s rule two: Don’t talk baby-talk. This includes both vocabulary and pronunciation. Children can learn the real words for things just fine, thank you, and by using the normal term and correct pronunciation, you make language learning easier for them. They don’t have to unlearn anything. Children constantly experiment with pronunciation. So don’t say “twain,” say “train.” The English “R” sound is hard to say, but if children hear it only correctly, they’ll work on it until they get it right.

Rule three: Speak at your normal pitch. Ever hear people speak an octave higher when they’re talking to small children? Don’t.

I can remember the first time I heard “choo-choo train.” I thought it sounded stupid. I knew it was a locomotive. I was three.

Postscript: The day after I posted this, I ran into this related comic from Strange Brew. It’s another parrot talking about using the third person.