Thursday, July 23, 2009

Learning to talk is scary

It's a holiday here in Egypt today. We're supposed to be celebrating the Revolution of 1952, but we're not really sure how to celebrate that so we were plain, old lazy, instead. I called my mom at work today to give her some information she needed before she leaves America--she leaves for South Africa on Saturday and gets to our house on August 4th after she finishes with the Viola Congress, which is in Stellenbosch, South Africa, this year. Fun times for her.

I mentioned that we'd have to try to Skype with her on Saturday, but her plane leaves too early in the morning, so we wouldn't be able to...and since she'd have to work all day tomorrow, that was out of the question as well.

"Tomorrow is a holiday," my mom corrected me.

"Oh, it is?" I asked, "Today's a holiday here. How funny. What holiday is it?"

Right, Pioneer Day. It's not like Andrew hasn't been working all week to plan a branch party this Saturday to celebrate that holiday, or anything. Sometimes I'm a little spacey.

Anyway, because of the branch party on Saturday and because we have no food in our house suitable for making salads or desserts, we decided to go grocery shopping. We got Rachel all situated in the stroller and had just closed the door when Rachel said,

"My daddy till you. My daddy till you so bad!"

She said it in her whiny voice, which echoed in the quiet of the stairwell making her sound eerily prophetic, the way a gypsy fortune teller might sound. Stunned silence followed.

Rachel only says the "k" sound sometimes. Usually it is replaced with a "t" or an "f." Following the rules of pigeon-Rachel, the "t" sound was really a "k" sound. My eyes met Andrew's and I could tell we were both thinking the same thing.

Did our daughter really just say that? Did she just say 'My daddy kill you?'

I went through a few more rules in my head. For example the general pronoun confusion that Rachel exhibits. You, me, I, whatever. He, she, him, her, they, whatever. It, those, they, that, this, whatever. Whichever pronoun happens to slip out first is the one she uses. She often says "you" when she should say "me."

Her "l" ended up blending with the "y" in you, so it was hard to tell if it was actually "l" or "r." She gets those phonemes mixed up all the time, anyway.

And then there's the way she habitually elides or epenthesizes syllables in her words. Tortilla, for example, is either "tia" or "tortitilla." Married is condensed into "marr" or something like that. Thinking of "married" is what helped me figure it out. Married sounds a lot like "carried" and if marriage turns into "marr" then carry turns into "carr," or if we follow the rest of the rules in pigeon-Rachel, "till."

"Do you want Daddy to carry you?" I asked.

"Yeah! Pick me up!" she said.

Phew. So all we had on our hands was a whiny child who wanted out of her stroller, not a demonic, possessed being foretelling omens of death. Worse, of murder. This learning-to-talk thing can be pretty scary sometimes, but it usually ends up being pretty hilarious in the end.


  1. I don't know what is funnier. The fact that you thought she said "my daddy kill you" or the thought process that you went throught to figure out what she actually said.

  2. Oh my, that would've freaked me out no end coming from one of my girls! So glad you figured it out!

  3. Wow, that's too much to follow. I'm glad you know her so well. :)

  4. Nancy, no one would be able to follow this reasoning except another linguistics major! Most of us don't even know what "epenthesizes" means! What does it mean?

  5. You are a veritable linguistic genius!

    I always reach a point with my kids where I say, "It's time for you to learn my language, because I am tired of learning yours." :)

  6. @ Mom -- Epenthesis is adding a phoneme or syllable into a word, like Rachel does when she says "tor-ti-tilla," as opposed to elision, which is the subtraction of a phoneme or syllable, like when Rachel chops off the "tor" and ends up saying "-tilla" (which I spelled as "tia").

  7. how you can do that is beyond me - but I think it's a great skill to have. ALSO makes life far less creepy, cuz I was creeped out with the murder threats.