Previous research has suggested that the syntactic and semantic characteristics of mother speech are determined by the underlying intention of mothers to control (Newport 1977) or to converse with (Snow 1977) the child. The present study attempts to delineate the structure among functionally categorized mother conversational behaviours, especially those which might reflect the mother's intention to control or converse with her child. The utterances of II mothers with their children (aged 2; 5–3; 0) were categorized according to their illocutionary force or function. Conversational parameters, such as topic change rate and talkativeness, were also measured. Intercorrelations among all these mother variables showed a polarized pattern, reflecting two predominant mother intentions for conversational interaction: the control of the child's physical actions, and the elicitation of his conversational participation. Implications of the findings, especially those indicating the incompatibility of controlling and conversation-eliciting intentions, are discussed.