October 12, 2004

Thank the children of linguists, but pity them, too

SUNY Buffalo professor Dr. Jeri Jaeger researches how children develop language skills by studying how they slip up. Turning "one, two, three," into "one, twee," for example.

In this previously unstudied field, it was necessary to be very familiar with how the child speaks normally, so she spent years studying her own children.

Collecting slips at home was often a challenge. She tried to be discreet, often excusing herself from the dinner table to go write down a slip, only to hear her husband, Robert Van Valin, himself a linguist, tease the children: "Somebody made a speech slip! Who made a speech slip?"


"Being a child of linguists is, like, very odd," [daughter, Ann] Van Valin said, "because your parents get excited about these technical, very boring things. Most 5-year-olds don't know what a phoneme is. I did."

Jaeger's book, Kids' Slips, is out next month.

A Lesson in Linguistics From the Mouths of Babes [NYT]
Pre-order the as-yet unpriced Kids' Slips at Amazon

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