Amyisms: yeah

Sunday, 17 July 2011 20:36
pne: A picture of a six-year-old girl (Amy)

Amy seems to have decided to use "Yeah" for affirmative replies.

I wonder whether she picked this up from a film, or where it comes from. The phonetic similarity to German "Ja" presumably plays a role.

I mean, sometimes "Yeah" is appropriate in colloquial English, but it carries a certain stylistic connotation, which I don't think she intends at all.

Unrelatedly, the other day, while talking about rhyming words, I mentioned "need", and she asked me what that meant. I told her, and she said, "No, that's 'meed'." Which is how she always pronounces it. So apparently that's what she thought it was supposed to be? Not sure whether she believed me when I said that no, it's really "need". Ah well.

pne: A picture of a six-year-old girl (Amy)

The other day, Amy said something along the lines of “wanted to know what it look likes”.

Took me a sec until I realised that she had added the third-person singular present marker -s to the “verb” to look like. Amusing parse :)

However, she seemed to have realised her mistake; at any rate, two sentences later she had one with “what it looks like”.

Still fun :)

pne: A picture of a six-year-old girl (Amy)

Amy seems to be getting the hang of the difference between say and tell (which are the same verb in German, cognate with say): the other day, she said something wrongly, then corrected herself.

On the other hand, she still hasn’t internalised all the rules for auxiliary do: when (not) to use it and what forms it goes with.

Common errors are:

  • Using do not with the infinitive of the main verb, but with an inflected form (“It doesn’t works”)
  • Using do for negating even verbs which normally simply take not/-n’t, such as auxiliary verbs (“You don’t may come in”)
  • As a special case of the preceding one, using do with do, if you want to ask a negative question (“Why do you don’t know?”)
  • Using do to form the (positive, non-emphatic) past tense of verbs, especially ones with an irregular past; sometimes with infinitive (“At the circus, I did see an elephant!”), sometimes with inflected past (“Yesterday, I did went to school”)

She also tends to say “I were” instead of “I was”; getting the correct form isn’t helped both by the fact that it’s “you were” (and the “I” and “you” forms are identical for essentially all forms of essentially all verbs) and that it’s “ich war” in German.

She’s also starting to show more disfluencies where she’s visibly struggling to produce a coherent sentence: her lack of vocabulary and remaining unfamiliarity with the finer points of syntax make it difficult for her to always express what she wants to say. I wonder whether she’ll get to a point where her desire to communicate quickly and clearly is stronger than her desire to speak to me in English, and will switch to German. Ah well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In other language news, she may be ready for having chapter books read to her; she has always strongly preferred picture books so far, so it’s sometimes been difficult to find appropriate books in the library’s English section.

But now she occasionally listens to stories on CD, and the other day, she let me read a few chapters of Yuit and, on another occasion, also some of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

pne: A picture of a six-year-old girl (Amy)

Today, Amy told me about her stuffed-animal rabbit “Mopple”.

I was amused that she had anglicised its name from the German original “Moppel” when talking to me: instead of quoting the name (as she would with, say, her friend Erik), she turned it into English /mɒpl/ (i.e. variously [mɒpəɫ]~[mɒpɫ̩]—with English velar/“dark” L rather than German “light” L—or [mɒpoʊ] with L-vocalisation).

In spoken German, reflexives and reciprocals are sometimes not distinguished; thus, sie brachten sich alle um could mean not only “they all killed themselves” (mass suicide) but also “they all killed one another” (mass homicide). (The basic meaning of the pronoun sich is reflexive, I would say.)

If desired, one can distinguish with sie brachten sich alle gegenseitig um “they all killed sich reciprocally” vs. sie brachten sich alle selbst um “they all killed sich themselves”, or with an explicit object rather than a reciprocal/reflexive construction sie brachten einander alle um “they all killed one another”.

Anyway, this optional lack of distinction in German has made Amy occasionally mix up reflexives and reciprocals in her English. I don’t remember any examples offhand, though, so I don’t remember whether she consistently chooses one of the two or whether she sometimes gets it wrong one way and sometimes the other way. (I vaguely recall something like “They all fell down and hurt each other”, but I’m not sure whether that’s a real memory. That would be reciprocal when reflexive was intended.)

pne: A picture of a six-year-old girl (Amy)

For Amy, them seems to have no distinct strong form; instead, she has generalised the weak form /ðəm/ (for her, [dəm]) for the strong form as well.

For example, recently we were looking at a car where the windows on our side had frost on them and we couldn’t see inside; she suggested, “Let’s see whether there’s frost on the other windows, otherwise you can look through [ˈdəm]”, with a stressed final them. But her stressed form still had a schwa / neutral vowel in it, which doesn’t really work in English phonology (though it’s perfectly cromulent in some other languages, Albanian being an example that comes to mind). (For me, for example, that word in that position would be [ˈðɛm] with a DRESS vowel.)

Fun stuff.

Anglicisms FTW

Sunday, 21 March 2010 20:13
pne: A picture of a six-year-old girl (Amy)

It’s always fun to hear Anglicisms in Amy’s German—where her weaker language is influencing her stronger language.

This morning, about a toy “windmill” shaped like a ladybird: “Es dreht sich bei sich selbst, wenn der Wind bläst”, where I’d say “Es dreht sich von selbst/dreht sich selbst/dreht sich von alleine, wenn der Wind weht”; the “bei sich selbst” is clearly from English “by itself”, and while “wenn der Wind bläst” is not wrong, I think that “weht” would be better or more usual here.


Thursday, 3 December 2009 09:31
pne: A picture of a six-year-old girl (Amy)

Amy, this morning, to Jana, about a card that she got:

„Guck mal, da ist Schreibung drin!“

I wonder where she got “Schreibung” from, since that’s not a German word, to the best of my knowledge; I imagine it’s a morpheme-by-morpheme translation of “writing” (as in “it’s got writing in it”).

Fun stuff!

pne: A picture of a six-year-old girl (Amy)

For doing two things simultaneously, Amy used to borrow an expression from German into her English: she'd say, for example, "I want to watch television by eating" (= while eating), based apparently on German "Ich möchte beim Essen Fernsehen gucken" (I want by/at-the eating television to-watch). I'd usually repeat the sentence using "while", making it into a question ("Oh, you want to watch television while you eat?"), but without further comment.

However, recently she started using the correct English structure... and transferring it into German! The other day, I heard "Ich möchte Fernsehen gucken weil ich esse", which is grammatical German but means something else ("I want to watch television because I eat")—but in this instance, she clearly wasn't using "weil" with its German meaning but as a loanword for English "while"!.

Fun stuff.

Unrelatedly, Amy was up for quite a while last night.

When Stella went upstairs at about 9:30 to tell her to get to bed already, she thought she'd play with Amy's mind a bit first: when she came up, she said, "Good morning! Time to get up!"

Amy looked a bit shocked and said, "Oh... I've been playing here the whole time." Apparently, she had believed Stella and figured she must have played the whole night through without noticing. (Stella figured her sense of time wouldn't be developed enough to tell the difference between an hour and eight... or to know how long nights are supposed to be in the first place.)

Stella then went on with, "We're going to the doctor's soon; do you want to get dressed already or do you want to catch some sleep first?", to which Amy replied that she wanted to get dressed—at which point Stella told her she had just been kidding, and told her to go to bed.

pne: A picture of a six-year-old girl (Amy)

Heard from Amy today, "I am later again there".

This probably makes next to no sense for those who don't know both German and Amyish.

It means, in fact, My hovercraft is full of eels )

The Amyism in there is the use of "later" for "gleich"; this is something that a statistical translator such as Google's might produce, since while the two words are not particularly close equivalents, I'll typically use "later" where Stella often (ab)uses "gleich".

"Gleich" means something like "in a short while" or "in a moment"; it's somewhere in between "immediately" (sofort) and "soon" (bald). You might say, for example, "I heard their car turning the corner onto our road! Your uncle will 'gleich' be there!".

But Stella occasionally uses it for things that are a bit further away than "in a moment", typically when trying to put Amy off a little (e.g. "Gleich sind wir zu Hause", we'll be home in a moment), where I'd use "soon" in English—or, for that matter, "bald" in German.

Or, in some cases, I'll use "later" where she might use "gleich", where I feel that I can't promise any particular soon-ness but can only tell her that it won't be now but, well, later. Sometime during the same day but not in the next quarter of an hour, for example. At any rate, she seems to have equated "later" with "gleich".

(She also has a few other time-related Amyisms, not all of which I understand. For example, "one day"/"einen Tag" is something time-related but I'm not quite sure what; I think it might be something like "sometimes" or possibly "there was this occasion when".)


pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)
Philip Newton

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