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Child’s native language acquisition as a synergetic process

Liberal Arts in Russia. 2019. Vol. 8. No. 4. Pp. 288-300.
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Tseytlin S. N.
Institute for Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences; Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia
9 Tuchkov Lane, Saint Petersburg, Russia; 48 Moyka Embankment, Saint Petersburg, Russia


The author of the article considers the process of first language acquisition by children. The process is regarded as a typical synergetic phenomenon, because it can be seen as an example of self-organization of the communicative system. Nobody teaches children language purposefully: children create their own language unconsciously transforming speech input they receive from adult speakers. They create their own grammar, which is a system of rules of choice of morphological forms and rules of construction of word forms. The article describes two early stages of acquisition of morphology by Russian-speaking children. The names for these stages were introduced by Prof. W. Dressler (Austria): pre-morphology and proto-morphology. At the pre-morphology stage, word forms used by children look like adult language word forms only externally. They lack grammar features, because ideas of categories of nominal gender, case, number, verbal mood, tense, person, etc. have not developed yet. For example, nouns meaning objects or instruments and demanding forms of Accusative or Instrumental cases, respectively, may be used by children in a Nominative form that is called in this case “frozen”: “Risuyu kartinka ” ’I draw a picture.Nom’, “Hochu kopat’ lopatka ” ’I want to dig with a spade.Nom”. At the proto-morphology stage, children have already mastered basic grammar categories and know their main semantic functions and prototypical ways of word formation. They, however, don’t know neither structural functions of grammemes, for example, the rule of choice of a noun form in numeral-noun phrases: “p’at’ mal’chikov” ’five boys.Gen.Pl.’, but “chetyre mal’chika” ’four boys.Gen.Sg.’, nor particular rules of word formation complicated with consonant changes: “eto ushi” ’these are ears’, but “odno uho” ’one ear’, vowel changes: “eto orel” ’this is an eagle.Nom’, but “net orla” ’there is no eagle.Gen.’, accent shifts, stem growth, etc. Children build word forms disregarding specific, more difficult rules involving also lexicon and, therefore, make mistakes. Furthermore, children don’t know that adult language system has lacunae (empty cells) and fill them basing on the rules extracted from the system. This also leads to mistakes. In fact, all children’s mistakes obviously prove that they acquire their native language in a creative way. The analysis of this process is very important for linguists, because it enables us to see language as an open, dynamic, hierarchically organized system of procedural language rules.


  • • linguistic synergy
  • • language system
  • • building of morphology
  • • paradigmatics
  • • word form
  • • morphological form
  • • language rules


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