Further grammar

It has been a little while since I took stock of the Toddler’s language development and it has come on a lot since my last post. This is a snapshot of our bilingual toddler’s speech at two years and four months old.

He has been interested in who things belong to for a little while now, especially whether things are his. When we leave the house to go on an adventure – or just to the supermarket – he will start to look out for “Mummy car” and once in the car, he will wave goodbye to “S house”. When Fat Cat comes prowling along the dining table, he gets told off: “No, Pike, not table. S food.”

Very recently, though, I was excited to hear that he has started adopting “my”. The other day he would not relinquish a story book when it was bedtime and said: “No. My book.”

Aside from “my”, we also get “you”. He is handing out plastic plates to eat plastic cake off: “You plate, you plate, you plate.” Or I am handed a Duplo brick: “You present, Mummy.”

“Everyone” is also new. “Hello, eddy-wan!” he says when faced with a room full of people.

Indicative pronouns have also appeared. My favourite is “zwis” [this], as in: “No, Mummy, not zwis way anymore.”

“I” appeared for the very first time recently, but only in a phrase that he had obviously heard someone say: “I did it! Yay!”

Verbs are now usually conjugated. He is my little spy on the backseat of the car, and will report: “Mama, A. slaapt!” [the baby is sleeping]. Previously, he would have used the infinitive only, but now he correctly uses the third person singular. The verb ‘to be’ is usually left out, though: “Mama, A. wakker.” [the baby awake]

He is also working on auxiliary verbs. In fact, he has invented his own to cover most eventualities: “a”. A little like the French verb ‘avoir’, in fact. Proudly, he displays the completed Maisie mouse puzzle: “S a maakt puzzel!” [S has made puzzle!]

His most complex sentence to date, including various verb phrases, was: “S a maakt zitten billen Teddy.” [S has made sit bottom Teddy]. There are many wonderful things about this sentence, for one that although it is in Dutch, the expression ‘to make someone do something’ is English, and he has translated it. Also, it shows that “zitten billen” is an expression to him, in the way that the two words always occur together and in that order, although in Dutch you would split them and put “zitten” at the end of the sentence in this case.

At bedtime, we read two stories. The Toddler can choose which.

“Which book would you like to read?”
“Zwis one.”

We read one story and he picks number two. He clearly knows the drill, because as he opens it, he says: “Last one.”

He has been using adjectives for a little while, but they are now modified as well.

We are reading Monkey Puzzle at bedtime. Is this the monkey’s mummy? “Nooooo, issa slake [snake]! Very long, Mummy.”

Mummy has romantic notions of entertaining the Toddler by playing some classical music on the piano. It is not popular: “Oh, too noisy, Mummy!”

He can do it in Dutch as well. If I suggest some kind of interaction with the baby that he considers her incapable of he will set me straight: “Heel klein, mama.” [very little, Mummy]

Colours are now used as adjectives too, usually the correct ones but not always. Colours and numbers can also be combined, as in “two black cats”.

The Toddler knows quite a few prepositions now, but often mixes up the opposites. He will ask “uit [off], Mummy?” when he wants the light on or “beneden?”[downstairs] and then set off up the stairs.

Sometimes he will improvise if he is not sure of the right word. He will point at a toy he wants that is on top of his bookcase and say: “High, Mummy. Top.”

Question words
He still only really uses ‘where’, although that has progressed from “wawa Teddy gone?” to “Where’s Teddy gone?”. ‘What’ is usually silent: “doing, Mummy?”, “Happened, Mummy?”. Same in Dutch: “Beurd, mama?”. ‘How’ only appears in the stock phrase: “Hello, Mummy, hawa you?”. ‘Why’ and ‘when’ I assume are not due until later, when he has developed concepts of cause/effect and time.

What I find both interesting and frustrating is that he also has trouble understanding question-word-questions, particularly if he is already feeling frustrated. When he is in a rage about something and I don’t know why, asking “What did you say?” or “What is it you want?” throws him into an even more hysterical fit of sobbing. The only way out at that point is yes/no questions: “Do you want milk?” will often cause the crying to subside and he will nod, his face still buried in a chair cushion.


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