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Introducing information in dialogues: forms of introduction chosen by young speakers and the responses elicited from young listeners*

  • Anne H. Anderson (a1), Aileen Clark (a1) and James Mullin (a1)


Young speakers in dialogue must establish mutual knowledge. Traditionally, researchers have focused on how children used indefinite and definite articles to signal novel and shared information. In this study of 170 children aged seven to thirteen, the form of introduction chosen, whether question or statement, is more significant than the type of article used. No developmental effects on article use emerge, with statement + indefinite always the least common choice. However, young speakers use question introductions significantly less than older children. There is also a developmental interaction between speakers' and listeners' behaviour. Question introduction elicit effective listener responses at all ages, but only twelve-year-olds respond reliably to statements. Unfortunately, young speakers prefer just those forms of introduction to which young listeners are least likely to provide informative feedback. Thus two separate developmental effects appear to combine to hamper young subjects' chances of achieving successful communication in dialogues.


Corresponding author

H.C.R.C., Department of Psychology, University of Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK


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This research was supported by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (RCOO232458), and the researchers gratefully acknowledge their assistance. We thank the staff and pupils from the participating schools for their help in this study.



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Introducing information in dialogues: forms of introduction chosen by young speakers and the responses elicited from young listeners*

  • Anne H. Anderson (a1), Aileen Clark (a1) and James Mullin (a1)


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