Language Structure Problems

First Language Acquisition

Detective Work!


A boatload of very fancy jewelry has just been lifted from a local pawn shop. Your bosom pal, Madame Flambeaux, is accused of the crime. By some extremely quirky twist of fate (understood only by those who write homework questions), the only witnesses to the crime are a pair of twenty-month-old twin boys. The prosecutor reports that one twin (Freddy) said:

'Wady taked de diamonds.'

The other twin (Frodo) reportedly said

'lady gun.'

You have been called as an expert witness. What can you tell poor Madame F about the legitimacy of this evidence? Is the prosecutor telling the truth in both cases, or are his data suspect? Be specific about what you think it each case and support your claims. Focus on the linguistic evidence found in semantics, phonology, morphology and syntax not on your oppinion about whether 20 month old children are to be believed or should be left alone overnight in pawn shops. Is it possible that someone spent a long, anxious night teaching one or both of these kids what to say to the prosecutor? Explain.