#918: The “Fis phenomenon” and other linguistic developments

As a student of linguistics at uni, I remember sitting around with a friend one day and marvelling over the “Fis phenomenon” as one of our greatest pieces of acquired knowledge in all our courses. We were so eager to see if, one day when we had kids, all our theoretic knowledge would be reflected in our offspring; perhaps they too would demonstrate the same ability to develop a deep, instinctive linguistic understanding that would be far ahead of what their little tongue could figure out on its own.

I was reminded of this in the past few days, as the Boy was trying to figure out something on his own that even some adults still mangle: possessive pronouns. He was telling me about something involving himself and his sister (C) and in the middle of his sentence, he stopped his story to try to make sense of it, on his own.

“C’s and I’s bathroom . . . um, C’s and my’s bathroom? Uh, C’s and mine . . . C’s and my’s bathroom . . . C’s and I’s? . . .”

I got such a kick out of hearing him try to decipher this on his own for a while that I did not interrupt him, just so I could see his cute little face scrunch up in concentration. (I don’t know if his sister was listening attentively at the time, but she didn’t interrupt either, so maybe she was just as amused as I was.) Anyway, after a few seconds of this, he finally requested help: “Which is it, Mama? How do I say it?”

“It’s ‘C’s and my bathroom.’ And I’m happy to see that you’re figuring out that there’s a right way and a wrong way. Now, back to your story.”

“Oh yeah. Thanks. Anyway, C’s and my bathroom is really messy . . .”

I couldn’t be prouder to have in the family another stickler for correct language.

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