Language Acquisition

So most of you know that I study second language acquisition. I find the acquisition of first languages equally as interesting, especially when I see it first hand. Kids can be so creative with language and they gather so much information from what is sometimes pretty sparse input. When we talk to children, we often simplify our speech. Yet somehow they eventually learn to put together quite complex sentences and they will throw in a word that they may have only heard once. It is really quite amazing when you think about it.

During first language acquisition, children are searching for patterns in their native language and they often apply patterns very generally until they really acquire the irregulars. I heard one of my kindergarten students say the cutest thing today. They were trying to decide who really knew something and someone implied that none of the children really knew for sure. One little boy yelled “¡Yo sí sabo!” meaning I do know.

Saber is a verb meaning to know (a fact or a skill). It has an irregular “yo”, I, form. The conjugation is as follows:


singular plural
1st person sabemos
2nd person sabes sabéis (in Spain)
3rd person sabe saben

Regular verbs in the present tense always end in -o, so he over-applied the rule to this irregular verb.

As a linguist, I understand it completely on an intellectual level. As a human being, I have to say it was so cute. And it helps me understand my Spanish students a little better. They make the same mistakes because just children learning their first language, they are also trying to find the patterns and apply them. I love moments like this. They are little linguistic treasures!


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