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The functions of imitation in child language

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2008

Zita Réger*
Affiliation:
Mta Nyelvtudományi Intézete
*
Zita Réger, MTA Nyelvtudományi Intézete, Szentháromság utca 2., H-1250 Budapest, Hungary

Abstract

Earlier studies demonstrating the discourse function of imitation have been inconclusive for methodological reasons. In the present study three discourse-related formal aspects of model-imitation pairs are analysed longitudinally in successive samples from two Hungarian children. Examination of the types of modification introduced by the children revealed an unbroken developmental trend leading to lexically coherent conversational replies. As development progressed, questions were imitated significantly more often than nonquestions. The children's selection from multiword utterances showed convergence on a language specific discourse rule. Imitation served (i)lexical learning, (ii) the phonological approximation of adult word forms, and (iii)grammatical learning, in this temporal order. The high rate of grammatically and lexically progressive items in the earliest sample was attributed to nonselective echolalia, supposedly a genetically earlier form of imitation.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1986

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