The power of the first words

Children know that “all things, events, and people have a name” and with the first words they seem to discover that they can start using them to name or better yet, to recreate reality every time they name it.

They have entered the world of “ideas”. They use the actions, but they begin to anticipate them and ‘know’ what happens when they apply them. Before turning on the lamp, they say “light” and do not have to apply the action of turning the switch to account for its existence. A few months before turning two, they show the inventive power that they are capable as a result of the combination of ideas and the privileged vehicle in this new world are words. These result from a set of actions that previously had to be carried out and that now, based on ‘ideas’, they are able to understand.

Learning to speak implies re-building relationships with the world, learning it in a different way from actions. The following example illustrates this moment: Guido’s caretaker is called Luz, someone enters the room and says “Luz, please turn on the light.” Little Guido, a little over a year old, points to the light on the bulb and repeats “light,” and then points to his caregiver and says “light” with a laugh. With the same word, it designates a person, neither more nor less than their caregiver and the phenomenon of light. Discovering that the same word has different protagonists amazes him and laughs perhaps for the pleasure of discovering the power of words.

This example recapitulates the generalization process that was discussed at the beginning of the chapter. Although the cart is not suitable for drinking, there is now an unexpected generalization and that is that there are two very different meanings for the same word. These changes affect children’s possibilities to investigate their world and accelerate the construction of knowledge about it, since not only are they capable of producing words, but things can be named and delimited into categories that can also be named.

The first words have a communicative dimension that is concretely concretized with language. The initial communicative exchanges were observed in the alternation of shifts of the first months, in the vision and joint attention, and in the shared emotions of the babies and their caregivers during the first year. But now, when children start to ‘say things’, there is greater certainty of the communicative dimension, which comes from their own desires, from the reasons they have to formulate them.

A little before they are two years old they learn to name themselves ME. Along with the period of opposition and the conquest of autonomy, the turn game or the joint gaze disappears and begins to be replaced by the third person singular I or ME used to designate itself. The ME, in the midst of so many beings in the world, defines its individuality, but demands of others. In front of the others, it is ME, but simultaneously when the others speak to him they call it YOU. No less important is that the child can be ME and can be YOU at the same time, it only depends on their positions with respect to the other.

In this process of the appearance of the first words and of the “I”, the discovery of the proper name is equally important. Before knowing how to speak, the children discover that they are identified with a name. That name not only identifies and distinguishes them from others, but a very strong sense of identity accompanies the awareness of having a name. This means a unique site secured in the world of others and that discovery is part of the set of “being able to do.”

It is important to mention that the formation of symbols and access to the representational world, where children begin to use words to name things, to express their characteristics, to count them and to use different notational systems to communicate those names, those quantities, and All these particularities of the objects, have enormous importance in the artistic expressions of children. This inclusion becomes more pertinent because precisely the period from two to five years is very sensitive and is known as a ‘literal stage’26. Precisely, children manage to function with the full range of symbols of their culture.

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