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Update on the youngest Lojbanists

This is another in my occasional reports on the learning status of my
adopted Russian kids Angela (age 7) and Avgust (shortly to turn 6), who
are of course learning English the hard way, by total immersion in American
culture, but also are showing signs of naturally acquiring Lojban (truly
significant if it really happens).

I can;t recall if I cc'd conlang on my posting last month that reported that
the kids, Angela especially, had started speaking gibberish which they called
Lojban.  Almost none of the words really WERE Lojban, but the speech rhythm
made it clear that they had internally grasped that Lojban words were
predominantly penultimate stress, and that they were mostly limtiing their
speech to sounds that are the preferred phones for Lojbanic phonemes.  Again
this was more true for Angela than for Avgust.

In the ast week or so things have taken a further, major, step forward.
Angela has clearly learned some actual Lojban words, picking them out of
my own speech and associating them with their meanings - sometimes I have
actually told her what the words meant in English or Russian, maybe in all
cases for the words she has learned, but it is clear that she has internalized
them in some sense, since here random Lojban gibberish tends to sport these
words or variations thereon quite heavily.

The words in question are tixnu (daughter), (mamta) mother, patfu (father)
and dargu (road = Russian dorogo, a good cognate), and to a lesser extent, other
 familial words for son, brother, and words for book and eat and sit and chair.

There is no sense that she really has grasped the grammar in any significant
way yet.  She clearly knows that something goes between the subject and the
selbri, but she is putting in a disyllabic like cunta or cuntu rather than
the cmavo "cu", penultimately stressing it like other multisyllable Lojban

She tends to mark all sumti with "la" or perhaps "lei" rather than the more
common and probably correct Lojban "le".  But she is putting such a word in
front of each of the sumti - the same one as far as I can tell on each
such sumti.  And these AREmonosyllables and hence not subject to the
penultimate stress effects, and she correctly does not have them
interfere with penultimate stress on the content words even though the
result is an odd number of syllables.

Thus her speech sounds like 'real Lojban' even more than it did last month,
with clearly identifiable sumti, and if you ignore the extra syllable on her
"cu" word, a clear demarkation between sumti and selbri.

There is no clear indication that in any recall sense that she knows what
the words she is saying actually mean, and I am inclined to think that she
is probably thinking "in Lojban" to the extent that she does attribute
meaning to the words.  I may ask her to tell me what she said sometime in
translation, and see if it indeed has anything to do with the words she
is using.  I also need to record her speech  as much as possible to document
what she is doing rather than what I am hearing.

The other feature that is noticeable is that all of her content words seem
to have final vowel harmony, usually with all words ending in 'a' or in 'u'
(this also may correlate with her choice of "la" vs "lei" as an article come
to think of it, I'll have to note next time).  I suspect that this is
an artifact of her Russian background, where words ending in vowels are
usually feminine and end with 'a' if nominative and 'u' if accusative, the most
common cases in Russian (I think).  But she doesn't do it with some words 'a'
and some 'u', so this may be a red herring, or it may be that she doesn't
really associate any of the words with particular cases.  In any event, the
selbri or 'verb' also has vowel harmony, which doesn't sound particularly
 Russian to me.

IT is fascinating, and it is clear that Angela is motivated and learning a lot
from a very small amount of input (she'll go off and spout Lojbish for 15
 minutes after one or two sentences out of me in Lojban to my wife).  Avgust is
motivated, says far less gibberish, and exhibits the patterns and word
recognition much less strongky than his sister.  On the other hand he seems to
be learning what she learns somewhat after she learns it, and gaining this
learning with much less playing around with the language. He may thus actually
be learning 'faster' in an efficiency sense, than his sister is, since he
probably ventures fewer Lojban sentences than he hears from me, rather than
many more, in his language play.

Angela now wants to participate in our Monday noght sessions, and we are having
to deal with how to dissuade her while encouraging her to learn the language
- when she is present, she tends to demand and dominate everyone's attention,
which makes for very little Lojban spoken by the rest of us (as well as
leaving her brother out), and she really isn;t speaking communicatively
enough to enhance the rest of our Lojbanic efforts.

But this may not be that far from changing at the rate she is progressing ...