Toddler conlangs- aka idiolects, plans to teach toki pona to baby

I read about this a long time ago- the story was that twins would speak to each other in their own language. But while reading Baby Brain Rules (which happens to be on sale on amazon, cheap $3) the author mentioned his own son used “dah” to mean vehicle and a modified version for car, plane and boat. A boat was a “wet-dah”. What is amazing is the author related this story as just an amusing anecdote, unaware of what a big deal this is for the research of creoles, the origin of language and study about the “in-built-ness” of language. Elsewhere, I’ve read that kids creating language was a rare and uncommon thing, the result of contact situations, twins, parents incompetent in their own language (e.g. immigrants who refuse to speak their mother tongue but can’t speak the local one very well either). It might be that no one is paying attention and just attributes toddler’s language innovations to non-sense or language errors.

Teaching toki pona to baby
Ha, not like you think. I’ll be speaking Russian to baby, mom will speak English (one-parent-one-language) and when the baby is near his vocab spurt, I plan to do 30 hours of imaginative play using sock puppets and those sock puppets speak toki pona. It’s important for babies to work out who speaks what language, so I can’t be seen as the one that speaks toki pona, but it’s fine if sock puppets do.

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3 Responses to Toddler conlangs- aka idiolects, plans to teach toki pona to baby

  1. Delfi says:

    Gah this is a great idea, too bad I’ll have to wait a while to hear your progress!
    I’m planning myself to teach my children some conlang, but if it will be Toki pona or Lojban isn’t decided yet.
    I heard someone say that children can learn sign language quicker, do you think tp-sign could be a good idea?

    • matthewdeanmartin says:

      This I can actually answer! I recently took an intro class to ASL and read a bunch about the linguistics of sign languages. The toki pona spec might be a basis for inspiring a toki pona sign language, but so far no one has written one. If we created 125 signs for each word, we’d have “exact signed toki pona” a sort of way of writing toki pona in the air. Signing has a much lower rate of transfer of bits of information per second. So systems to sign what works as a spoken language lead to systems that are incredibly slow. A usable sign language needs to use all the possible tricks to reduce the number of signs you need to express something– including stacking (simultaneous signs, in ASL on the face & the hands), polysynthesis (incorporating subject, verb & object into a single sign), etc, etc.

      Kids do learn sign earlier because comprehension and the ability to think in a language races far ahead of the ability to master the fine motor skills need to move the tongue and the lips that fast and accurately. That said, the period for which this is true is often short, just a few months to a few years.

      If you are conversationally fluent in lojban, it would help the lojban community and your kid more to speak that at home. toki pona can say many things with the few moving parts it has, but lojban, as far as I can tell can say everything. toki pona has areas where there just isn’t a good way to say it and speakers have to innovate. So a fluent toddler would likely innovate and speak a toki pona that is a superset of “canonical toki pona”

      Be sure to read up on the huge literature about how to raise bilingual kids– the pitfalls are many (mostly in the area of failing to teach the minority language, not so much in the area of “harming the child”) I’m teaching my newborn Russian, which for me is a 2nd language, I keep getting to semantic areas where I’m just at a loss for words, I worry if this would harm my relationship- this situation would be far more common were I to try to speak toki pona for long stretches with my son. On the otherhand, once he’s older, its an excellent way to teach someone how to learn a 2nd language, one that doesn’t take decades (like chinese) or months (like esperanto).

  2. Neicen says:

    Baby sign language has like 600 signs, which is 5 times as many as TP but TP collocations could have their own signs as though they’re phrasal words.

    This reminded me of Where are your keys? which uses sign exact language to teach yourself and others languages.