ERIC Number: ED209920
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1981-Oct
Taking Away the Supportive Context: How Preschoolers Talk about the "Then-and-There."
French, Lucia; Nelson, Katherine
Linguistic and cognitive competencies of preschoolers were revealed by interviewing them about routine activities. It was found that freeing preschoolers' speech from constraints inherent in talking about the immediate context results in their demonstrating control over a variety of language-related skills that are generally assumed to be beyond their competence. These include: (1) the simple ability to talk about, and thus presumably to represent, events not taking place in the here-and-now; (2) the ability to, and preference for, talking about these in general rather than specific terms; (3) the use of timeless reference; (4) the sensitivity to the temporal structure of activities and the ability to move "backwards" within a temporal structure to effect a "repair"; and (5) the appropriate use of a variety of relational terms that are infrequent in context-bound speech and that preschoolers appear not to understand in direct tests of comprehension. Attention is focused on the way in which the use of "if" and "or" indicated the flexibility and complexity of preschoolers' representations of familiar activities, and on the possibility of interpreting many of their "if" statements as timeless hypothetical references. In addition, the evidence that preschoolers' knowledge of familiar activities includes a representation of alternative and conditional pathways suggests that questioning them about such activities might provide a means of assessment of their ability to use the verb forms "could" and "would." (SW)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (6th, Boston, MA, October 1981). Pages 17-18 may not reproduce clearly because of faint type.