If a baby growing up in an English-speaking home squeals “a my pencil!” dad might correct him, saying, “that’s my pencil, sweetie.” If a toddler points to an older brother and complains, “tickled me,” mom might say, “You mean, ‘Joey tickled me.” ” And the toddler who declares, “I don’t want no spinach,” is told to say, “I don’t want spinach.”
Yet, the first child is speaking perfectly grammatical Greek, the second is uttering correct Chinese and the third is speaking proper Spanish, argues linguist Charles Yang.
Not literally, of course. They are obviously speaking English words. But in a bold new theory of how children learn to speak their native tongue, Prof. Yang argues that the errors babies make are “entirely grammatical — in other languages.” In his new book, “The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn the Languages of the World,” he writes, “Children’s language differs from ours not only because they occasionally speak imperfect English but because they speak perfect Chinese,” or German or Greek or …