Ensisanoista ja esimorfologiasta varhaismorfologiaan. Lapsen sijajärjestelmän ja verbintaivutuksen alkuvaiheita

  • Klaus Laalo
Avainsanat: lapsenkieli, morfologia, sananmuodostus (ks. myös johto-oppi), sanastontutkimus (ks. myös lainasanat, leksikografia, sanahistoria)


From first words and premorphology to protomorphology (englanti)

3/1999 (103)

Klaus Laalo (skklla@uta.fi)


When a child learning its first words imitates the forms it hears others using, it perceives the phonetic shapes and the meanings of the words in an undifferentiated manner at first. In Finnish, the main stress is on the first syllable, which is therefore discernible in the flow of speech more easily and is often also pronounced more clearly than syllables which are not given the same stress. A child can concentrate on the main-stress syllable when it starts to learn vocabulary. Shortening words to single syllables in this way easily leads to the creation of such identical forms as kii (< kiitos 'thank you') and kii (< kirja 'book'), or pii (< piirakka 'pie') and pii (< piirt/piirr 'to draw/draw!').

When a child progresses from its early word outlines towards the word forms of the surrounding language community, it initially uses only one form for most words. This stage, at which the child has not yet learnt to inflect words, can be called premorphology. Morphology has not yet become differentiated from the lexicon: most of the forms used by the child are produced as fixed entities in the form in which it recorded them in its memory.

Children growing up as speakers of Finnish use most of their first nominals in the nominative form, but for many mass nouns children first use the partitive form: vett 'water', pullaa 'sweet bun', etc. Children soon also start to use their first illatives: kotiin '(to) home', syliin 'into the lap/arms', tohon '(to) there', etc. These very early partitives and illatives give the child its first contact with suffix elements of nominals and their use: in using language, word forms ending in a particular phonological element are connected with certain kinds of situation and prove themselves to be more effective means of communication than crying or other non-linguistic utterances. By using certain case forms, the child thus succeeds in carrying out a number of important speech functions as early as the one-word stage: simply uttering the partitives maitoo or peip corresponds in the context of their use to requests such as tahtoisin maitoa 'I'd like some milk' or saanko leip? 'Can I have some bread?'; correspondingly, the illatives kotiin and tohon are equivalent to expressing wishes such as mennn jo kotiin 'let's go home now' or se kuuluu tuohon 'it belongs there'.

An important early oblique case in Finnish child language can be termed the genitive-accusative (both the n-accusative and the genitive singular end in -n). In acquiring the morphosyntax of the language, a significant step for a child is to learn the object case-marking: in Finnish the suffix -n is a morphological marker for the (singular) object, which in sentences with two noun phrases distinguishes the object from a nominative subject. At about the same time as the child becomes aware of this, it begins to show an interest in expressing to whom things belong. There are thus two kinds of need for learning the -n case. Once the child starts to use the genitive-accusative, its grammar changes considerably. Whereas previously the child had typically used only one form for each nominal, which it had memorised as a ready unit, it now has a new case form contrasting with the first one, and so nominal inflection begins. At around the same time, and with the support of case forms frozen into particles, the child begins to familiarise itself with the semantics of more and more local cases and begins to learn to use the suffix elements of local cases; a preliminary miniparadigm thus starts to appear in nominal inflection. The child is leaving behind the premorphological stage and is also starting to use plural forms, initially nominatives and partitives.

The first verb forms of Finnish-speaking children are generally the 2nd person singular imperative and the 3rd person singular indicative. These forms are morphologically unmarked and are central to communication: imperatives are linked with expressions of desire (e.g. anna 'give', kato 'look'), and indicatives with statements (e.g. kaatuu 'is falling', nukkuu 'is sleeping'). Many Finnish-speaking children also soon begin to use such verb forms as mennn 'let's go' or symn 'let's eat', which as dynamic expressions of movement can be paralleled with the early particle-like illatives of nominal forms learnt as fixed entities.

Regarding verb inflection, the beginning of the child's morphological awareness at the start of the protomorphological stage is often demonstrated by its use of analogies concerning preterite formation, such as aji ('ajoi'; 'drove'), autti ('auttoi'; 'helped') and keri ('kersi'; 'collected'). Also, s-preterites often appear in analogical forms such as auttas ('auttoi'; 'helped'), ikkes ('itki'; 'cried'), laittas ('laittoi'; 'put') and yltts ('ylti'; 'reached').

A child who has advanced to the protomorphological stage is experiencing a creative period in its language development. The child no longer merely repeats the forms heard from others as such but actively processes language elements; at this stage the most productive, transparent and general inflectional classes often attract members of other inflectional classes, and the child simplifies the language system. The overall complexity of the language, the system comprising all its inflectional classes, takes shape only later, at the stage of modular morphology.

tammi 3, 1999
Laalo, K. (1999). Ensisanoista ja esimorfologiasta varhaismorfologiaan. Lapsen sijajärjestelmän ja verbintaivutuksen alkuvaiheita. Virittäjä, 103(3), 354. Noudettu osoitteesta https://journal.fi/virittaja/article/view/39181