Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tense moments

I pay a lot of attention to the evolution of Bud's language, not just because language acquisition has been one of his greatest challenges and not just because his language skills seem to be an indicator of his development overall, but also because, when you come right down to it, I'm just a big old grammar geek.

I've written previously about Bud's use of the phrase "What did I did?" to call our attention to something he's done. As has sometimes happened with other phrases, "What did I did?" has come to have a variety of meanings for Bud. Sometimes "What did I did?" means "Do you recognize my achievement, and will you shower me with praise?" Other times "What did I did?" means "Can you tell me the words I should use to describe the thing that I just did?" Still other times "What did I did?" means "Are you aware of this thing that I did... and am I going to be in trouble for it?"

"What did I did?" is a question in the simple past tense: it indicates that his activity has been completed. However, in recent months, as Bud's language has continued to develop, he's started playing with tenses and we've been hearing the question earlier, while the activity is still in progress: "What I'm doing?"

Fittingly, with questions like "What I'm doing?," Bud is moving his language forward by using the "present progressive" tense.

In the past week or so, he's been playing with a new tense by using the helping verb have, or, more accurately, the contraction 've, as he did on Monday when he asked me, "What you've got?" and this morning when he tried a new form of "What did I did?" and asked me "What I've did?"

As I drove to work this morning I tried to remember the name of the tense that uses "have," but I couldn't come up with it. So, this afternoon I pulled out my handy reference guide and looked it up:

What I've did? = past perfect tense

What you've got? = present perfect tense

Past perfect. Present perfect.

My hunch is that pretty soon he will have mastered it all.

And for those keeping score at home: that makes the future perfect, too.


kristina said...

And when Bud will have mastered the "fuperfect" (as my students sometimes refer to it), much celebrating---and talking---there's be!

Maddy said...

Grammarians of the world unite. Yes, it drives you nuts and then [for me] I remember that I'm glad that they're talking at all! But thats the price I pay for being picky.

Daisy said...

Wonderful take on language development!

Anonymous said...

Won't you miss it when he starts to master typical grammar? I love Bud's "What I did?" and "What you have?" But I'm a sucker for that kind of language. Not sure why. I like it.

MOM-NOS said...

Yes, I'll miss "What did I did?" the same way I miss all of the adorable Bud-isms that get left behind. Just this week I was reminiscing about "ishdish" and "dishdish", which were early-Bud for "upstairs" and "downstairs". (It was hard to let go of them, too.) What's cool is that these days I can talk to Bud about "what you used to say when you were little," and he enjoys the conversation. I think he really likes being able to reflect on his own development.

Anonymous said...

that is adorable!! i love bud speak! i do!

and, frankly, as you've said before, it's ALL perfect. past, present, future. all of it.

joker the lurcher said...

we still use our son's old ways of saying things even after him stopping them years ago. so teabags are "begads" and cups of tea are "cuppa teas". in fact my work colleagues sometimes say cuppa teas as well now!

i studied grammar (funnily enough at a grammar school) at a period when children were not taught the names for the tenses so this is very impressive to me!

Connie Deming said...

This is so wonderful -- I still say your book is all right HERE!

molly_g said...

I just stumbled onto your blog here. What a brilliant name for it, too! I will be bookmarking you!

LAA and Family said...

I admire your ability to observe Bud in such detail! I notice things with my son, but I haven't gotten to the point yet where I take the time to note them in such detail. I should, and you are an inspiration for me to get started!

My son's speech and communication have come a long way in the last year, he just turned 8. We've been happy that he moved on from just articulation in his speech therapy to grammar use, which happened the beginning of this school year.

Your blog is fun to read, Bud reminds me a lot of my son Samuel.

Anonymous said...

I love this post, and have the exact same reaction with my son. I'm so excited when his articulation improves, but a little melancholy too when he stops saying things that were just so damn cute: "spoonie" for "smoothie," for example.