Adult-child discourse: Developmental interaction between information processing and linguistic knowledge

Bloom, Lois; Rocissano, Lorraine; Hood, Lois

In the present study, the discourse interaction between adult and child was examined in terms of the content of their utterances, and the linguistic and contextual relations between their messages, in order to investigate how children use the information from adults' input sentences to form contingent responses. The analyses described were based on longitudinal data from four children from approximately 21 to 36 months of age. Categories of child discourse, their development and their interactions with aspects of prior adult utterances form the major results of the study. Child utterances were identified as adjacent (immediately preceded by an adult utterance), or as nonadjacent (not immediately preceded by an adult utterance). Adjacent utterances were either contingent (shared the same topic and added new information relative to the topic of the prior utterance), imitative (shared the same topic but did not add new information), or noncontingent (did not share the same topic). From the beginning, the adjacent speech was greater than nonadjacent speech. Contingent speech increased over time; in particular, linguistically contingent speech (speech that expanded the verb relation of the prior adult utterance with added or replaced constituents within a clause) showed the greatest developmental increase. Linguistically contingent speech occurred more often after questions than nonquestions. The results are discussed in terms of how the differential requirements for processing information in antecedent messages is related to language learning.


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Cognitive Psychology

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Academic Units
Human Development
Published Here
September 13, 2016