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30 March 2010 @ 09:09 pm
A question for linguists, about language formation in children, sort of  
In Mercedes Lackey's and James Mallory's two trilogies (Obsidian Chronicles and The Enduring Flame), the Elves do not ask direct questions and rarely make direct requests, except under the most pressing circumstances, known as "war manners". Everything is phrased obliquely, so, for example, "Who is riding in the party approaching the city?" might become, "It would be good hearing to know, of your courtesy, if you had seen which riders are approaching".

Children are not expected to have learned proper manners, though, and do ask questions. "Are you a human? Why are you dressed like that? Are you going to stay here?"

But it occurs to me -- if the children never hear questions, how would they learn how to form questions?
A Wandering Hobbitredbird on March 31st, 2010 01:28 am (UTC)
Maybe the children learn from older children, who pass the grammar down over the years. I'm basing that partly on the idea that the older children would be part of the linguistic environment, and partly on reading about Nicaraguan Sign Language, which has been/is being created almost entirely by pre-pubescent children.

If the children aren't expected to use the indirect phrasing, and aren't corrected when they do ask direct questions (picked up from older siblings, cousins, or playmates), the younger children will learn two ways of seeking information, the direct question and the indirect and oblique "it would be good to know." They might gradually get the idea that one is "the way grown-ups talk," so along with being formally taught polite speech, they might gradually start imitating it in order to be seen as more grown up.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on April 1st, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
That makes sense.