Why historical linguists need children: Birch bark letters in light of written language acquisition
Early vernacular writings reveal intriguing similarities to texts produced by modern children. This study shows that these similarities result from the fact that both text varieties are the products of incipient writing. Examining medieval vernacular Russian correspondence and letters written by contemporary Russian children, this study (a) identifies the specific similarities between the two language varieties, (b) formulates a theoretical framework for interpreting these similarities, (c) applies measures of children’s writing competence to medieval vernacular writing, and (d) reevaluates the role of oral strategies in early vernacular writings. The study’s findings provide an important tool for investigations of incipient writing.