Simon Palmer’s blog

January 7, 2010

Clever little fella

Filed under: Uncategorized — simonpalmer @ 2:52 pm

I was talking to Jack this morning and he was repeating back to me what I said. Then he suddenly started changing the odd word so that it was funny. This is a nice little game that he and I play quite often and I’m sure is quite common between parents and kids. It causes him to belly laugh when he finds a word which changes the meaning of the sentence and makes it funny.

If you think about it a sense of humour is a very sophisticated layer of communication which sits above mastering the mechanics of speaking, the detail of language and the meaning of words.

I was amazed. 6 months ago he was in nappies and barely able to talk. Now we are playing word games and he is deciding what is funny. That sort of transformation must belie a huge change inside his head.

I think I subscribe to the Noam Chomsky, Stephen Pinker view of the world that we have an innate ability to master language, and I suspect that the real key to it all is the development of memory. If you consider everything that is necessary to be able to communicate, vocabulary, syntax, grammar etc. it is all predicated on being able to remember things. I suspect that the transformation I have witnessed in Jack is the development of his memory.

He suddenly has an amazing vocabulary. Yesterday as he was struggling with unzipping his coat and he said quite clearly “absolutely ridiculous”. Later that day he was sitting on the loo and he looked at me and said “concentrate”. These are very sophisticated ideas and there is a complex context necessary for them to be applied appropriately, which they were.

Memory development is supported by the other amazing things he has started to do which is remember directions and locations. If we drive out from our home towards the North of London he can now tell whether we are going to the shopping mall, the chinese grocery store or Nanny’s house by the route we take right at the last moment.

So I’m obviously a proud dad – he’s only 2 1/2 – but I am also an amazed observer of the rate of development of the human brain.

1 Comment »

  1. Agreed, it is astonishing. In those scenarios, my Jack (3 1/2 now) would say something like “Dad, say: “What’s going on? That’s ridiculous” “, essentially thinking of what he wants to say, then instantly flipping it into the perspective of the observer and rephrasing it. When doing puzzles, he will figure out the correct choice, then point to each incorrect choice and say something like “Dad, say: “Is it this one? No”, until the only one left is the correct choice he knew all along. (A crafty ploy for stringing out his bedtime story endlessly, I might add). And they seem to intuitively understand the Art of Negotiation without needing to study for an MBA..

    Comment by spedding — July 2, 2010 @ 5:06 am

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