In praise of 'overanalysis'

From: Mari Broman Olsen (
Date: Fri Jun 06 1997 - 13:59:20 EDT

Certainly when we speak with each other in a language we both
understand, we do not analyze (consciously) each word, we "just
understand", as a recent post-er suggests. However, i) we need to find
a way to understand languages, especially those that are not spoken
now, we do NOT understand, and ii) we learn different aspects of a
word when we analyze it, it's distribution, for example. Did you
know, for example, that German children ages 2-3 appear to have very
advanced syntax, even though they are not uttering many propositions
larger than 3 words, in that they use infinitives primarily in final
position and inflected forms primarily in second position (like the
adult), e.g.

Thorsten Caeser (doll) haben.
Ich hab' Glas.

(AND they capitalize their nouns :-D )

So much for cocktail party linguistics.


Mari Broman Olsen
Research Associate

University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies
3141 A.V. Williams Building
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742

(301) 405-6754 FAX: (301) 314-9658


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