Many, Few: Development of Quantifiers and Adverbs in Children’s Speech



There are many birds. There are a few birds.

Quantifiers such as many or a few, started to emerge in R’s speech at about 21 months. But the way she used this was in a different context.

The first time I heard my daughter using this was when we were rehearsing if it was ok for a stranger to kiss her.

I asked, “Can Uncle (term used to refer to anyone older, not familial relation in this context) kiss you?”

“Mai, mai. Many mai” (mai in a local Singaporean dialogue to mean, “no”)

So she was trying to use “many” as an adverb of degree, as you would say, “definitely not” or “extremely nice”.

Today when we walked to the supermarket, my daughter spotted some birds on the ground. Naturally drawn to animals (birds included), she exclaimed, “Bird! Many bird”.

Interesting how this  is picked up at this age which I thought was a bit early. I wonder when she would use this gramatically, though.


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