By Stephen Shimanek . Last update : 10 July 2007. (trans. by Stephen Shimanek)
The first extant journal on child language was written by Jean (Jean) Héroards, King Louis’s personal physician. Le journal de Jean Heroard
As early as 1850, researchers have either kept daily journals or have noted when a particular (linguistic) phenomenon appears, is repeated, reemerges or disappears. The interest of these journals lies in the fact that parents know their children well, and are thus well placed to observe the development of "distinctive and interesting traits" — to use Grammont’s formulation ("faits particuliers et intéressants").
Example: Cooley’s 1908 journal
After having taken notes on the language use of his first two children, Cooley began to take interest in self-designation, and working from the notes he took on his third child’s use of self-designating terms from birth to 33 months, he concluded that the pronominal system is in place at this latter age.
The journal contains observations:
on the importance of conflictual situations around 2 years of age, which would seem to be related to the differentiating operation necessary to the the child’s expression of his/her subjecthood.
on pronominal inversions
on the use of several forms in the same utterance
on the disappearance of forms different than "I"
Extract (the numbers indicate the age of the child in months and days):
20-25: B when asked "Who is this, " (touching her on the chest) answered "baby." This is the first time she has been observed to name herself.
25-21: M said, "I want some bread." [the stress seems to show a sense of the self-assertive meaning of "I".]
For more information on diary studies (site in English).
This article was written from work done in collaboration with Mireille Brigaudiot, which was presented at the Colloquium of the Societas Linguisticae Europaea., ENS-LSH, Lyon September 2004.