Language Overextension

Three of my nephews fall in the 2-3 year old range.  One of my nephews was over today and he wanted to touch and use every new toy or object we brought out.  He kept declaring “MINE!”  It’s easy to think things like “Oh, kids are so greedy at this age” or “He is so egocentric and thinks everything belongs to him.”

But today as I heard this sweet little guy declaring that everything was his I had a thought.  While studying I read learning about overextension.  Feel free to read about it on Wikipedia.  Basically when kids overextend language they use one word to label anything that falls within a category.  For example they use the word “dad” for any grown male or “dog” for any animal with four legs.

As I heard my nephew announcing that everything we brought out was ‘his’ I thought about this principle.  Maybe, I thought, he doesn’t really think everything belongs to him, but he doesn’t have the words to express just what he wants to say.  Maybe he really means, “Wow!  This new toy is cool!  I want to hold it and use it for a while.” Or maybe he thought, “This is new to me and I’d like to figure out how it works.  Please don’t take it away before I find out how it works.”

Overextensions decrease as a child gains a larger vocabulary.  It also decreases as they receive corrective feedback.  So next time you hear a child yelling “MINE!” help model what they may be trying to convey.

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