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uno

eniac mailing list / May 1991
By Paola Kathuria

I've been enjoying my three-year-old's attempts to grasp English. [...]

Ah, here's my cue to type in an excerpt from a paper about learning to count: K Durkin, B Shire, R Riem, R D Crowther & D R Rutter (1986) The social and linguistic context of early number word use. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, vol 4.

The paper's about the ambiguities care-givers give to young children which can then lead to conflicts in the children's early experiences. The first is a transcript from a video of a parent and child together, counting the video cameras.

parent (to lucy, 24 months):  How many?
child:   Dor
parent:  That's one        (nods slightly towards a camera)
child:   That's one        (points towards same camera)
parent:  That's two        (looks towards a second camera)
child:   That's two        (points towards second camera)
parent:  Three             (looks towards third camera)
child:   Tree              (looks towards third camera)
parent:  Four              (looks towards fourth camera)
child:   Sor               (smiles at parent, hands in lap)
parent:  One               (raises thumb)
child:   One               (waves arm)
parent:  Two               (raises thumb and index finger)
child:   Two               (waves arm)
parent:  Three             (raises thumb, index and middle fingers)
child:   Sree              (waves arm)
parent:  Four              (raises thumb, index, middle and ring fingers)
child:   Four              (hands in lap, smiling)
parent:  What's that?      (raises index finger)
child:   Two
parent:  Finger
child:   Finger
parent:  And what's that?  (raises thumb)
child:   One two three ror ('one' prounounced empathically)
parent:  Thumb

Or ...

  parent (to Emma, 30 months): Shall we count them?  One yellow one.
  child: Yellow.

And, finally ...

  parent (to Alan, 9 months): The other one, look, one ... two.
  parent (to Alan, 18 months): Put two in.  That's one, that's one.
  parent (to Amy, 18 months): Look, there's another one.  Four.

Hmmm.

Paola.