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The emergence of communicative competence: detection of conversational topics*

  • Mary A. Luszcz (a1) and Verne R. Bacharach (a2)

Abstract

The use of linguistic and extralinguistic information in identifying conversational topics was studied in 3- and 5-year-old children. Pictures portraying an actor–action–object relation were used to guide conversations. Both active pictures, emphasizing an action relating actor and object via postural cues, and static pictures, which did not, were used. Linguistic topics were implied by prefacing each picture with comments topicalizing actor, action or object. In neutral control groups no topic was implied and, in an explicit control group of 3-year-Olds the actor's action on the object was directly topicalized. While implicit topic definition was sufficient for 5-year-olds' production of contingent replies, explicit definition of a topic was necessary to evoke a similar pattern of replies from 3-year-olds. These findings are discussed in terms of different modes of topic definition and their order of acquisition.

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The emergence of communicative competence: detection of conversational topics*

  • Mary A. Luszcz (a1) and Verne R. Bacharach (a2)

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