Conversational Topics of 4-Year-Olds Young children's ability to participate in conversation has been of particular interest in the study of pragmatic aspects of language. In this study, topics of conversation were investigated by videotaping 10 dyads of 4-year-old children during play. Ten-minute samples were analyzed according to a number of topic-dependent measures. Results revealed ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 1989
Conversational Topics of 4-Year-Olds
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Debra Schober-Peterson
    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Cynthia J. Johnson
    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Article Information
Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 1989
Conversational Topics of 4-Year-Olds
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1989, Vol. 32, 857-870. doi:10.1044/jshr.3204.857
History: Received April 4, 1988 , Accepted April 21, 1989
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1989, Vol. 32, 857-870. doi:10.1044/jshr.3204.857
History: Received April 4, 1988; Accepted April 21, 1989

Young children's ability to participate in conversation has been of particular interest in the study of pragmatic aspects of language. In this study, topics of conversation were investigated by videotaping 10 dyads of 4-year-old children during play. Ten-minute samples were analyzed according to a number of topic-dependent measures. Results revealed that all dyads evidenced some lengthy topics (13–91 utterances). Longer topics were characterized by three text-level functions: Enacting Scenarios, Describing, and Problem Solving. Nevertheless, three fourths of all dialogues were considered relatively short. Generally, partners contributed equally to dialogue, but in some dyads, 1 child dominated initiation. Findings of the study suggest that 4-year-olds are capable of extended participation in dialogue, at least part of the time. Naturalistic play settings may elicit samples of conversation that are representative of preschoolers' ability.

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