The Acquisition of Interjections in Early Childhood
- Art: Magisterarbeit
- Autor: Ulrike Stange
- Abgabedatum: Juni 2008
- Umfang: 122 Seiten
- Dateigröße: 1,4 MB
- Note: 1,7
- Institution / Hochschule: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz Deutschland
- Bibliografie: ca. 49
- ISBN (eBook): 978-3-8366-2481-7
- Sprache: Englisch
- Arbeit zitieren: Stange, Ulrike Juni 2008: The Acquisition of Interjections in Early Childhood, Hamburg: Diplomica Verlag
- Schlagworte: Interjektion, Spracherwerb, language acquisition, childhood, Kindheit
Magisterarbeit von Ulrike Stange
The question of how and if children acquire language has long been of perennial interest: is language innate or not? If it is, what then is the proto-language? The first phylogenetic ‘study’ was conducted as early as the 7th century BC: pharaoh Psammetich I. undertook to determine what the proto-language is by giving two infants to a foster father who was not allowed to talk to them. After two years of no linguistic input they could only speak one word – ‘bek’ – which was assumed to be the Phrygian word for bread (bekos). In the 16th century Akbar the Great initiated the first ontogenetic study. By having two infants raised by a mute woman he proved that children do not learn to speak if they do not hear anyone speak. Since then ample questions concerning first language acquisition have been faced and replied to in detail and at great length. Yet, there are still some left unanswered or even unasked. One of the topics that have not been of great interest so far is the acquisition of interjections not only in first language but also in foreign language learning.
In fact, interjections play an important role in communicative as well as non-communicative contexts, and their actual linguistic value and role were underestimated and misjudged for quite a long time:
Interjections are among the most little studied of language phenomena; as one looks for references to them in the works of linguists, one is struck by the fact that they are very rarely mentioned, and where they are mentioned, it is usually only briefly and cursorily.
Only recently have linguists delved into the subject of interjections and discovered that this particular linguistic phenomenon provides in fact ample opportunity for study and research. Moreover, with the interest in interjections the problem arose to determine what actually defines an interjection. As we shall see, opinions on this point differ considerably and attempts at agreeing upon the definition of interjections have been unsuccessful so far. Yet, there are some general tendencies which will form the basis for how the term interjection is used in this paper, and discussion of this point will be postponed until part II.
Now, this M.A. thesis aims at gaining an insight into the acquisition of interjections in early childhood. This field has been neglected so far but merits in fact extensive and thorough inspection. This paper consists of three main parts, with the first two parts forming the basis for my study in part III.: in the first part I will provide a brief overview on child language acquisition, focussing particularly on phonological development. The second part consists of a theoretical disquisition on interjections to illustrate what characteristics they have and what peculiarities they show. In the third and final part I will come to my study on the acquisition of interjections in early childhood.
Table of Contents:
|I.||Part I. - Child Language Acquisition||3|
|I.1.1||Why Do We Learn to Speak at All?||3|
|I.2.3||The Babbling Period||6|
|I.2.5||Early Word Comprehension and Production||8|
|I.6||Summary: Child Language Acquisition||14|
|II.||Part II. - Interjections||17|
|II.1||What Is an Interjection? Approaches and Introduction||17|
|II.2||Brief Overview: History of the Study of Interjections||18|
|II.3||Primary and Secondary Interjections||20|
|II.4||Features of Interjections||21|
|II.4.1||Why Are There Similarities across Different Languages?||21|
|II.4.1.1||The Pooh-pooh Theory||22|
|II.4.2||An Attempt at Classifying Interjections||25|
|II.4.2.1||Tesnière’s Classification of Interjections||26|
|II.4.2.2||Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s Classification of Interjections||28|
|II.4.2.3||Ameka’s Classification of Interjections||29|
|II.4.3||Parameters of Interjectionality||31|
|II.4.3.1||Functional and Pragmatic Features||32|
|II.126.96.36.199||Emotivity and Expressiveness||32|
|II.188.8.131.52||The Role of Interjections in Speech Acts||33|
|II.184.108.40.206||Prosodic and Suprasegmental Characteristics||40|
|II.220.127.116.11||Phonotactics and Syllable Structure||41|
|II.4.3.9||Summary: Features of Primary and Secondary Interjections||54|
|II.4.3.10||The Linguisticality of Interjections||55|
|II.5||Interjections in the English Language||55|
|II.5.1||Interjections of Disgust||56|
|II.5.2||Interjections Containing an Element of Surprise||57|
|II.5.2.3||Whoops! and Oops!||58|
|II.5.3||Interjections of Pain||58|
|II.6||The Acquisition of Interjections||60|
|III.||Part III. - Study: The Acquisition of Interjections in Early Childhood||62|
|III.1.1||Definition of Interjections||62|
|III.1.3||Purpose of Present Study||66|
|III.2||Criteria for Selection and Detailed Description of the Interjections for Analysis||67|
|III.2.1||Interjections of Pain||68|
|III.2.1.3||Degree of Linguisticality||70|
|III.2.1.6||Affiliation to Words and Phrases||71|
|III.2.2||Interjections of Disgust||71|
|III.2.2.3||Degree of Linguisticality||75|
|III.2.2.6||Affiliation to Words and Phrases||76|
|III.2.3.3||Degree of Linguisticality||79|
|III.2.3.6||Affiliation to Words and Phrases||80|
|III.2.4||Preliminary Thoughts and Hypotheses about the Outcome of My Study||81|
|III.2.4.1||Interjections of Pain||81|
|III.2.4.2||Interjections of Disgust||81|
|III.3||Database and Method||82|
|III.3.1||Source and Format of Data||82|
|III.3.2||Characteristics of Data||82|
|III.4.1||Interjections of Pain||84|
|III.4.2||Interjections of Disgust||94|
|III.4.3.1||Whoops! and Its Variants||97|
|III.4.3.2||Whoopsadaisy! and Its Variants||102|
|III.5.1||Order of Acquisition||103|
|III.5.2||Uses and Their Developmental Change||105|
|III.5.3||Comparison of Study Results: Asano - Stange||105|
|III.6||For Further Study||108|
|App. 1 IPA symbols used to transcribe the speech sounds in this thesis|
|App. 2 Reasons for the production of Ow! - interjectional usage only|
|App. 3 Deutsche Zusammenfassung der Arbeit|
Chapter II.4.1.1, The Pooh-pooh Theory:
Wundt claimed that primary interjections represent the transition from the imitation of animal sounds to language, i.e. from natural animal sounds to inarticulate exclamatory sounds to articulate emotional sounds. According to Wundt, language evolved in such a way that the articulate emotional sounds used to express moderate emotions were replaced step by step by language, and were henceforth used with intense emotions only Similarly, the interjectional theory – also nicknamed pooh-pooh theory – claims that ‘language is derived from instinctive ejaculations called forth by pain or other intense sensations or feelings’. This theory was also put forward by the abbé Regnier, quoted in Beauzée: ‘l’interjection … est peut-être la première voix articulée dont les hommes se sont servis’. Hence, interjections may open up the way for an ontogenetic and phylogenetic approach to the development of language.
Sapir, however, negates the possibility of interjections being instinctive: he claims that ‘(interjections) are only superficially of an instinctive nature’ and that their phonetic shape is conventional – using this as evidence that ‘all of language is conventional, and no part of it instinctive’. Jespersen’s also objects to the Pooh-pooh theory but he bases his assumption on a different argument: he maintains that ‘the usual interjections are abrupt expressions for sudden sensations and emotions; they are therefore isolated in relation to the speech material used in the rest of the language’. Thus, his argument is that since interjections are not part of language proper, they cannot be a precursor of language.
At any rate, it has been suggested that interjections represent some kind of protolanguage, which could explain the similarities between interjections across different languages. We should keep in mind, however, that although interjections are universal to all languages, they are not the same in all languages: it follows that interjections must be (at least to a certain extent) language-specific – they might show formal and/or functional similarities in some cases, though.
So let us assume that interjections are not some sort of protolanguage – how then can we account for the cross-linguistic similarities? Although de Brosses claims that interjections are not learnt but are natural expressions of a man’s emotions, he also puts their universality down to physiological causes: ‘toutes (interjections) tiennent immédiatement à la fabrique générale de la machine organique et au sentiment de la nature humaine, qui est partout le même dans les grands et premiers mouvements corporels’. In The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, Darwin also gives an explanation for interjections based on purely physiological reasons:
As the sensation of disgust primarily arises in connection with the act of eating or tasting something, it is natural that its expression should consist chiefly in movements around the mouth. … With respect to the face, moderate disgust is exhibited in various ways: by the mouth being widely opened, as if to let an offensive morsel drop out; by spitting; by blowing out of the protruded lips; or by a sound as of clearing the throat. Such guttural sounds are written ach or ugh; and their utterance is sometimes accompanied by a shudder… Extreme disgust is expressed by movements round the mouth identical with those preparatory to the act of vomiting. … As the sense of smell is so intimately connected with that of taste, it is not surprising that an excessively bad odour should excite retching or vomiting in some persons, quite as readily as the thought of bad food does; and that, as a further consequence, a moderately offensive odour should cause the various expressive movements of disgust.
Note that gestures, facial expressions and body language are biologically determined, hence universal. This fact might account for the resemblance between interjections of different languages, for there is a close link between gestures and the like and interjections.
Taking the above extract into consideration, I can assuredly claim that the sounds produced in these circumstances can indeed resemble the English interjections of disgust, namely Phew! and Ugh!. Later on in the same work Darwin notes the following on the expression of surprise:
‘… whenever astonishment, surprise or amazement is felt …, our mouths are generally opened; yet the lips are often a little protruded… As a strong expiration naturally follows the deep inspiration which accompanies the first sense of startled surprise, and as the lips are often protruded, the various sounds which are then commonly uttered can apparently be accounted for … One of the commonest sounds is a deep Oh; and this would naturally follow … from the mouth being moderately opened and the lips protruded’.
Oh! is the most common interjection in the English language, and it is also frequently used in many other (if not all?) languages, e.g. in the Romance languages, in German, Welsh, Russian, etc. For further comments on Oh! see chapter II.5.2.1 below.
So basically, some of the primary interjections can indeed be explained by physiological attributes. These are by definition not language-specific because they are biological, hence universal. This phenomenon elucidates why interjections might have been misconceived as some sort of protolanguage.
A third explanation for the similarities between interjections across different languages refers to formal constraints. To clarify this point I need to go a bit farther back. Even though interjections might not elicit a response from the hearer, they do serve nonetheless a communicative purpose: they do mean something, and this meaning is expressed orally. Now, the usage of interjections and especially which interjection is used depends on the context or circumstances and the mental process in the speaker. Different interjections have different functions which concern the hearer. Thus, interjections are an important communicative means for the processing of the common communicative system of speaker and listener. The communicative function of the interjections requires an extremely economic form: the phonetic units of interjections are of minimal complexity due to the shortness and the simple forms. Besides, their prosodic features facilitate their identification in the ongoing discourse. The argument that interjections are similar because of formal constraints is as follows:
Aufgrund der formalen Erfordernisse, die durch die funktionalen Zwecke des Gesamtbereichs der Interjektion bedingt sind, bieten sich bei der Sprachbildung nicht beliebig viele Arten von Mitteln an, die diesem Zweck optimal genügen. Die Verwendung kleinster Einheiten und deren Kombinatorik ist optimal geeignet, den funktional geforderten Ökonomiebedürfnissen Rechnung zu tragen. So ist es nicht erstaunlich, dass Sprachen unterschiedlichsten Typs und ohne Rücksicht auf die Bildungsformen zu diesem Mittel der Interjektionsbildung gegriffen haben. Somit ergibt sich eine Erklärungsweise für die Übereinstimmung von Interjektionen in den verschiedenen Sprachen, die nicht auf deren ‘Vorsprachlichkeit’ zurückzugreifen braucht.
So in principle their universality is traced back to formal constraints due to economic reasons. Tesnière observes with regard to the semantic complexity of interjections: ‘certaines interjections arrivent même à exprimer des états d’âme et d’esprit si nuancés et si complexes, qu’elles en disent à elles seules plus qu’une phrase entière, et qu’il faut de longues périphrases pour en analyser et en définir le contenu sémantique’. This is another criterion for the economic aspect of interjections: they express in a clear and brief manner what is going on in the speaker’s mind, and the listener can understand easily and without delay what is being expressed.
All the above mentioned efforts to account for the quasi-universality of (some primary) interjections make sense to a certain extent, and I presume the truth lies somewhere in a blend between all of them. Nevertheless, I need to stress that, for the most part, interjections differ considerably cross-linguistically and are often among ‘the most characteristic peculiarities of individual cultures’.