"Hey! I've got something to tell you": A study of the initiation of conversational exchanges by preschool children

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    Abstract

    In this paper I examine the spontaneous conversations of preschool children to discover the conversational ‘work’ they perform when initiating conversational exchanges. This ‘work’ includes getting the attention of the intended addressee as well as taking appropriate account of his knowledge, the situational context etc., so that he/she can identify persons, objects, events etc. referred to in the initiation. Various verbal and non-verbal devices are described which children use to accomplish initiations. Children's reinitiations following non- and unsatisfactory responses are examined as evidence that children expect appropriate responses to their initiations and that they have the pragmatic ability to diagnose the source of communicative breakdowns and to effect appropriate repairs. Reinitiations also indicate their ability to rephrase utterances in various ways, e.g. by isolating, reordering, reducing and expanding on sentence constituents. Thus children are shown to have not only communicative intent but also communicative ability from an early age.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)321-336
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Pragmatics
    Volume3
    Issue number3-4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 1979

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