Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dot Wordsworth

Article excerpt

Here are the first 50 words in the order that they were learnt by a child called Will: 1 uh-oh ; 2 alldone ; 3 light; 4 down; 5 shoes; 6 baby; 7 don't-throw; 8 moo; 9 bite; 10 three; 11 hi; 12 cheese; 13 up; 14 quack-quack; 15 oink-oink; 16 coat; 17 beep-beep; 18 keys; 19 cycle; 20 mama; 21 daddy; 22 siren sound; 23 grrr; 24 more; 25 off; 26 tick-tock; 27 ball; 28 go; 29 bump; 30 pop-pop [fire]; 31 out; 32 hee-haw; 33 eat; 34 neigh-neigh; 35 meow; 36 sit; 37 woof-woof; 38 bah-bah; 39 hoo-hoo [owl]; 40 bee; 41 tree; 42 mimi [ferry]; 43 sss [snake]; 44 ooh-ooh [monkey]; 45 yack-yack [people talking]; 46 hohoho [Santa]; 47 bye-bye; 48 doll; 49 kite; 50 Muriel.

Isn't that extraordinary? This fascinating list is taken from a paper in the Journal of Child Language , 1984, by Carol Stoel-Gammon and Judith A. Cooper. I came across it in something that the language expert David Crystal wrote.

There are surprises: the early incidence of light , and cheese ; the postponement of mama and daddy until after quack-quack . Reduplicative forms feature strongly (oink-oink etc.) even if this is partly learnt from interlocutors. …

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