Living on my edge: Acquiring articles and determiners

My Facebook friends will know that I love quoting my daughter, now age 2 and 4 months, whose rate of language acquisition is zooming along at a breathtaking pace. In jotting down some of her more interesting and amusing utterances last week, a little pattern quickly emerged that I thought deserved more than a Facebook post.

(Major caveat: I’m not an acquisition expert at all, so my observation here is strictly amateurish. I’m guessing this is a super common phenomenon, but I really have no idea.)

Basically, my kid is using the possessive determiner ‘my’ more often than the articles ‘a(n)’ or ‘the’. Here are some unremarkable uses of ‘my’ that are presumably being extended:

  1. I need my baby [doll].
  2. Where’s my balloon?
  3. I have that [toy] at my nursery.

And here are some examples of the marked use:

  1. It’s in my office.
  2. I’m on my edge.
  3. I have that at my Hemma.
  4. I have that at my bus.

The first one refers to the location of her balloon in the previous set of examples. Since the balloon was in our home office/study, her sentences actually kind of work: it’s a room in her home, so why not call it her office? (She doesn’t use ‘our’ yet.) It’s just cute to hear a two-year-old talk about ‘her’ office.

The second example was something uttered when she was starting to roll toward to the edge of the sofa. Again, it’s a sofa in our home, so in a sense it’s ‘hers’, although I think it’s just as if not more likely that she’s just using ‘my’ in these cases in place of ‘the’.

The other two examples require more context. Hemma is a (wonderful!) family-friendly restaurant-bar where we’ve gone several times for parties and hanging out, so unlike other restaurants, she knows it by name. At Hemma they have a fussball table, and this example utterance occurred when we were at a charity shop and saw another fussball table.

The last example occurred when we were looking at a newspaper and she saw an ad that she had seen on the outside of a bus that had gone by earlier. In both this and the Hemma example, ‘I have that at X’ seems to mean ‘I saw that at X’ or ‘I recognize that from X’.

She does use both ‘the’ and ‘a(n)’, too. For example: she and I both have sniffly colds right now, and this past weekend she said the following, actually self-correcting from ‘a’ to ‘my’:

I need a tissue! I need my tissue!

By far my favorite example of this, which I’m not sure actually counts as an example, was from a moment the other day when she got stuck accidentally in between a chair and a table, and said:

I’m in my way!

What I love about this and ‘I’m on my edge’ is how both could be rather deep and profound statements if not for the very literal contexts they occurred in.


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2 Responses to Living on my edge: Acquiring articles and determiners

  1. alew says:

    “my” is a very powerful word! Looking forward to the emergence of “our”. 🙂

  2. Profe Chaz says:

    I wonder if it doesn’t have to do with the self-centered view of the world that’s oh-so-common with little kids.

    That is terribly intriguing!

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