Our Native Tongue by Osmosis

Our language…

Pilgrim on a Long, Long Journey

And so the NYT obituaries today included one entitled: “Lila Gleitman, Who Showed How Children Learn Language, Dies at 91.” She did essential research throughout her life to show us.

She affirmed some of her thinking with her two-year-old daughter: “One day when she was driving and Claire was in the car, Dr. Gleitman took a sharp turn and said, ‘Hold on tight.’ Her daughter immediately replied, ‘Isn’t that tightly?’” The utterance showed how even a toddler could understand linguistic nuances, without having been taught them.”

I am fascinated by our original language, which we seem to learn by osmosis, unlike other languages. The essay says about the incident with Claire, “Dr. Gleitman called the process “syntactic bootstrapping” — the use of an innate grasp of linguistic structure and its relationship to meaning to figure out new words.”

She describes the child as discovering what he or she already knows…

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With Purpose

“You must believe it is your destiny to create beauty in this world. To shape your life with love and purpose, touch it ever so briefly with your weary hands and leave it a little more cherished than it was.” Land Leave, an American poet. 

Each of us by God’s grace, has some tender and purposeful acts to leave behind. A son or daughter nurtured to the brim with attention and goodwill. Particular words of encouragement a daughter or son will never forget. A tranquil moment with a loved one overflowing with smiles and gratitude. A thoughtful letter that becomes a keepsake to a mother or father. 

These may appear small, but are oh-so-large gifts we can leave one another touched by our weary hands.