I have the distinct pleasure of being godfather to several of my friends' children, including all 3 of gaetanus' awesome kids, to whom I am known as Gaffer for reasons of etymology and ease of pronunciation. The older two (5 years old and below) always fascinate me with all the various ways they absorb and use language. For instance, when the second child, D, wanted to offer to the general public a gamepiece he didn't need, he announced, "Whobody needs a ....?" Sure, he could have just said "Who"--it's not like he didn't already know the word--but instead he chose to create the word "whobody" at 3 years old by analogy with words like nobody and anybody.
When I play hide-and-seek with members of my god-horde, I rarely count in English: it's a perfect opportunity to familarize them with other languages in a context that's fun, while not taking away at all from their understanding of what's going on, since they already know I'm counting. I did this recently, and while we were taking a break, I had the following exchange with the oldest, T. Oh, and keep in mind that her father, gaetanus, is a Semitics scholar.
Me: Do you guys know what language I was just counting in?
Me: Very good! Now do you remember what language I used the first time I counted?
Me: I'll give you a hint; this is what I said: eins, zwei, drei, vier, ... [etc.]
T: [after a moment's thought] Is it Coptic??
T is almost 5. Coptic is just more a part of her world than German is. (I promise to get out to their house more often and insert more German into her life.) :-)
One more story. T went through a phase a while back that reminded us of Tolkien's musing about why it was wrong to say "a green great dragon". Whenever she would get something new--shoes, a shirt, a jacket--she would say, "Gaffer, see my new nice shoes?" or "I got a new nice jacket!" I believe gaetanus' theory was that the adjective that we conceive of as more inherent to the nature of the thing tends to go closer to it. Hence we say "great green dragon" b/c a green dragon is a thing that may or may not be great. Greatness is more accidental, greenness is essential to what it is. So also with why we feel "new nice shoes" is "wrong": we say "nice" to indicate how we feel about the thing, not really to describe the thing, the way we use "new". But, for its part, "new" is only relatively essential; "green" is more so, so that we would say "Do you like my nice new green dragon?" (hypothetically, of course). Notice that I don't have a comma even though I have three adjectives. I think this is because a comma (replacing "and") would erroneously imply an equal footing or level of attribution for whatever words are so linked. We would never speak of a "green new nice dragon", and even T would at least have said "new nice green dragon".
The best part of the "new-nice" phase T went through came several months after we all spent a day checking out my old neighborhood in Brooklyn. Somebody said something about the trip, which prompted T to add, "we got to see Gaffer's New nice York!"
That's right: It's my island! :-)