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Learning discourse topic management in the preschool years*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2008

Susan H. Foster
Affiliation:
Northern Arizona University

Abstract

The ability of children aged 0;1 to 2;6 to initiate and maintain topics of conversation is explored using videotaped data of mother–child interaction collected at home. An analysis of both verbal and non-verbal behaviours suggests that initially children attract attention exclusively to themselves as topics of conversation. The emergence of manipulative skills from 0; 5 and the development of deictic gestures from around the end of the first year facilitate the initiation of topics concerned with items in the physical environment. Finally, with the development of language, reference to intangibles becomes possible. In maintaining topics, children are initially capable of extended sequences only within the context of routines, but by 2;6 are able to maintain coherent topics independently. The implications of the analysis presented for understanding the role of prelinguistic communication in language development are discussed against the background of a modular framework.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1986

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