As adults we confidently grasp the concept of searching for context when information in a few words spoken to us is not enough. Moreover, we apply logic and cause-effect dependencies, filtering out meanings that do not make sense. But the problem arises when grammatical construction of the sentence does not represent any context. That is when we, as adults, use logic, even when we are not aware of it. But what if you take away the logical reasoning? Does this mean I would be stuck with 2 or more possivle interpretations of spoken words?
"Hey, please be careful on the edge of the bed. You may fall and hit yourself."
Can you spot the problem?
I have a 2-year old bilingual daughter, speaking english and russian. The social surroundings are russian, but from me, her father, she rarely hears russian speech. In russian language the verb transforming to the form of passive voice grammatically changes acquiring a very special ending, which roughly translates to "self".
RU: ударить <--> ударить[ся] (written without square brackets, duh :)) EN: to hit <--> to hit yourself
In russian language any verb (95-98%) in the passive voice has this ending. When the verb has no chance to acquire this ending, it transforms in some way, all to serve a specific purpose - to make the verb in the form of a passive voice unique, not only grammatically, but also logically. English language does not have this "feature", some irregular verbs do not change their form at all.
When my baby daughter gets carried away while playing, I of course immediately verbally warn her of the implications of this behavior. Once she got 2 she started having pretty weird and shocking reactions to scolding, when she either misbehaves or is being carried away while playing. She starts to knock her head with her hand, usually the palm. As a parent I have a policy of talking out any problem and communicate my thoughts to another person in a way he/she understands. I was absolutely stumbled by reasoning of a kid, hitting herself in a nervous situation.
All of a sudden I have figured out why she is doing that. Exactly because the english verb "to hit" does not change. Devoid of logical reasoning, a child will interpret the meaning of a parent literally. Every time I'm telling my daughter "Careful, you may fall and hit yourself" she hears exactly that, if she falls down she would have to [actively] hit herself.
Let this sink for a minute.
Would appreciate hearing any constructive thoughts on how to explain this linguistical quirk to my daughter, lest she hits herself thinking she was told to, despite not understanding why.