Children's strategies when reporting appropriate and inappropriate speech events

Maya Hickmann and David Warden

Abstract

This study examines the effects of utterance form and appropriateness on how children report conversations. Children between 7 and 9 years were asked to narrate filmed dialogues that contained two types of target utterances: (a) declaratives, interrogatives, or imperatives that were used appropriately as directives; (b) declaratives and interrogatives that were inappropriate from the point of view of information exchange, i.e., that should not have been used by the interlocutors as means of giving or requesting information, given background knowledge conditions. When reporting the appropriate directive targets, the 7/8-year-olds frequently transformed declaratives into more explicit imperatives, while the 9-year-olds' reports did not vary systematically with directive types. With respect to the inappropriate targets, omissions were more frequent at 7/8 years, transformations at 9 years. Transformations consisted most often of changing the mood or modality of inappropriate declaratives to make them appropriate. Some role reversals also occurred with inappropriate interrogatives. Finally, children of all ages omitted or transformed other events preceding or following the target utterances, so as to make the dialogues coherent more globally. These findings show children's sensitivity to the forms and functions of utterances in conversations, but they also suggest developmental changes in their reporting strategies. The younger children prefer functionally transparent reports and they omit utterances in cases of inadequate conditions of use. With increasing age, children use more complex strategies to adapt some inappropriate utterances locally by transforming systematically their form, their conditions of use, and/or their functional value.

Quick links
A browser-friendly version of this article is not yet available. View PDF
Aksu-Koç, A
(1988) The acquisition of aspect and modality: The case of past reference in Turkish. Cambridge University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Aller, W. K., Aller, S. K., Saad, L. M
(1977) The acquisition of ‘ask’, ‘tell’, ‘promise’, and ‘show’ structures by arabic-speaking children. Paper presented at the 6th Annual Linguistics Symposium, University of Wisconssin, Milwaukee.
Andersen, E. S
(1990) Learning to speak with style: a study of the sociolinguistic skills of children. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Bamberg, M
(1987) The acquisition of narratives: learning to use language. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Bassano, D., Champaud, C., Hickmann, M
(1988) Epistemic modality in French children’s reported speech. Paper presented at the Third European Conference on Developmental Psychology, Budapest, Hungary.
Bates, E
(1976) Language and context: the acquisition of praqmatics. New York: Academic Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Bock, J. K., Hornsby, M. E
(1981) The development of directives: how children ask and tell. Journal of child language, 8, 151-163. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Bowerman, M
(1979) The acquisition of complex sentences. In P. Fletcher and M. Garman (Eds.), Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
(1983) How do children avoid constructing an overly general grammar in the absence of feedback about what is not a sentence. Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, Stanford University, Department of Linguistics.
Bruner, J. S
(1983) Child’s talk: learning to use language. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
Champaud, C., Bassano, D., Hickmann, M
in press) Modalité épistémique et discours rapporté chez l’enfant français. To appear in N. Dittmar and A. Reich (Eds.) The acquisition of modality Berlin Springer Verlaq Crossref
Chomsky, C
(1969) The acquisition of syntax in children from five to ten. Cambridae, MA: M.I.T. Press.Google Scholar
(1982) ‘Ask’ and ‘tell’ revisited: a reply to Warden. Journal of Child Language 9, 667-78. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Clark, E. V
(1973) What’s in a word? on the child’s acquisition of semantics in his first language. In: T. Moore (Ed.), Cognitive development and the acquisition of language. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Clark, E.V
(1980) Awareness of language: some evidence from what children say and do. In A. Sinclair, R.J. Jarvella, and W.J.W. Levelt (eds.), The child’s conception of language. Berlin, Heidelberq: Springer Verlag.Google Scholar
Ervin-Tripp, S
(1976) Is Sybil there?: the structure of some American English directives. Language in Society 5, 25-66. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Ervin-Tripp, S., Mitchell-Kernan. C
(Eds.) (1977) Child discourse. New York: Academic Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Gombert, J. E
(1990) Le développement métalinguistique. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.Google Scholar
Harris, R. J
(1975) Children’s comprehension of complex sentences. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 19, 420-433. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Hickmann, M
(1985) Metapragmatics in child language. In: E. Mertz and R. Parmentier (Eds.), Semiotic mediation: psychological and sociocultural perspectives. New York: Academic Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(Ed.) (1987) Social and functional approaches to language and thought. Orlando, Florida: Academic Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
(1991) Le discours rapporté: aspects métapragmatiques du langage et de son développement. Bulletin de Psychologie. Tome XLIII, No. 399, to appear.Google Scholar
in press) The boundaries of reported speech in narrative discourse: some developmental aspects. To appear in: J. Lucy (Ed.) Reflexive language: Reported speech and metapragmatics Cambridge University Press Crossref
Hickmann, M., Bassano, D., Champaud, C
in preparation) Pragmatics and metapragmatics in the development of epistemic modality. To appear in C. de Lemos and C. Sinha (Eds) Discourse in the construction of language and self Harvester-Wheatsheaf
Maratsos, M
(1974) How preschool children understand missing complement sentences. Child Development, 45, 700-6. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Karmiloff-Smith, A
(1979) A functional approach to child language: a study of determiners and reference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Ochs, E., Schieffelin, B. B
(Eds.) (1989) Developmental pragmatics. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Tanz, C
(1983) Asking children to ask: and experimental investigation of the pragmatics of relayed questions. Journal of Child Language 10, 187-94. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Tunmer, W.E., Pratt, C., Herriman, M.L
(eds.) (1984) Metalinguistic awareness in children. Berlin, Springer Verlag. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Warden, D
(1981) Children’s understanding of ‘ask’ and ‘tell’. Journal of Child Language 8, 139-49. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(1986) How to tell if children can ask. Journal of Child Language 13, 421-428. CrossrefGoogle Scholar