Skip to main content

Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

THE SPEECH OF THE CHILD                   313

them with the writing hand and of their associations with the
images corresponding to spoken language—that is, the component
sounds of words and the acts which reproduce them by means of
the organs of speech. Then is practised a formative analytical
work on a new language capable of setting up mechanically the
analysis of the spoken word which already exists. The letter of
the alphabet presented to the child may be compared with a watch-
spring which gives off a sound and interests him much more than
a surprise-box. Every now and then he remains absorbed in it
(periods of concentration). The work of association described
above is in vigorous action during a period of six or more months,
from the age of about three and a half to four years—a period in
which the word of the child is still uncertain and easy to break up
(analyse) because it is still very near to and in sympathy with the
preceding period in which is stabilized the articulate word in the
language of the child.

It is only later (after four years and a few months) that the
child masters the analytical mechanism and utilizes it fully in the
interesting work of the composition of words. Then he displays
his power over the mechanism as a peacock spreads out its
feathers, and connects up the two analyses. He has become
competent through the preceding exercises in perceiving words
clearly sound by sound, and in recognizing with an ease which
might be called the mechanism of them, the alphabetic sounds
which correspond to them. Thus the word composed from the
alphabet" represents the external projection of the spoken word
and the teacher is able to penetrate, if the expression may be per-
mitted, into the inner labyrinths in which words are definitely
elaborated. She can then intervene with help for the two lan-
guages, and lead the child on the one hand to the perfect spoken
word and on the other to the perfect orthography of the written

The same mechanism exists fundamentally in the non-phonetic
languages. The sounds represented by a letter of the alphabet or
by a phonogram, when once they are associated with this, may be