How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 13:44:22 -0300 From: Jeanette Ireland Subject: Talking to Adults
EDITORS: Blum-Kulka, Shoshana; Snow, Catherine E. TITLE: Talking to Adults SUBTITLE: The Contribution of Multiparty Discourse to Language Acquisition PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates YEAR: 2002
Jeanette Ireland, St. Mary's University, Halifax, NS
OVERVIEW The principal objective of this edited volume is to draw together empirical research which focuses on children's language learning in naturalistic contexts. That is, in contexts which are ''multiparty and multigenerational'' (p.4). Nine contributors were each asked to submit a chapter focusing on new empirical work which investigates the development of specific discourse dimensions as opposed to traditional, descriptive, anthropological approaches which pay simultaneous attention to the full array of opportunities for children to become socialized into appropriate language use in any given context in any given society. Consequently, the editors hope to adopt, and project, a cognitive- psychological perspective on exactly what and how children learn, and how these factors relate to their opportunities to learn. That is, they are interested in the ways in which this approach deals with ''the process of learning, its analysis of the learning task, its demand for evidence about what the child has learned'' and its ''focus on individual differences among children'' (ibid).
SUMMARY and DISCUSSION This collection of twelve papers is organized into three thematically related parts and in the introduction, the authors establish for the reader, the theoretical context and framework. This is done via a comprehensive discussion of the rationale for investigating multiparty rather than dyadic interaction, and it situates the current volume within the framework of changes which have occurred in the study of language acquisition over the past thirty-five years. The discussion also previews for the reader, some of the issues emerging from the data contained in the chapters. Some of these issues, for example, ''varieties of language'', ''genre shifting'', ''decontextualized language, reasoning, and argumentation'', ''indirectness'', would appear to be predictive of findings which contain significant implications for dealing with the pragmatic, linguistic and cognitive problems that young children face in the transition from speaking and conversational understanding to writing and print-based understanding (Cook-Gumperz, 1986). This conjecture is supported by the fact that although the volume is devoted to multiparty, multigenerational discourse, the editors view the principles as being equally relevant to the investigation of multiparty peer interactions. In addition, and what makes this preview particularly valuable is that each issue listed is supported by reference to studies and research findings related to, but outside the scope of the current volume - a very good list for comparative and supplementary reading.
PART 1: ISSUES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF EXTENDED DISCOURSE: NARRATIVES AND EXPLANATIONS. The five chapters in this first section deal with the examination of the means and opportunities available for children to learn how to participate in, and produce extended discourse, in both family and peer settings. As the title suggests, the particular discourse dimensions examined are storytelling and explanation.
Ch. 1: Beals and Snow, ''Deciding What to Tell: Selecting and Elaborating Narrative Topics in Family Interaction and Children's Elicited Personal Experience Stories''. The authors begin with the premise that previous studies of storytelling among children, have viewed the activity as a skill with respect to features which define mature narrative and therefore, contribute little to our understanding of how children spontaneously and naturally tell stories in the course of peer play and family talk. They argue that for an understanding of how narrative competence develops, it needs to be studied in the context of ''varying settings and participation structures, many of which involve more than a single adult'' (p.15).
Drawing on narrative data from the Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development (Dickinson & Tabors, 2001; Snow 1991) where the focus was on identifying oral language situations and environments which might be predictive of later language and literacy development, the authors explore the relationships between the natural storytelling experiences which children engage in at home (at the dinner table) and the more performative experiences designed to elicit a scary story. They were particularly interested in the possibility that ''children who had considerable practice at the dinner table'' would turn out ''to be better autonomous narrators in the elicitation settings.'' (p.30). Autonomous narrators are defined according to their ability ''to select a tellable topic, to produce a coherent narrative and to engage the audience'' (p.16) in effective ways.
Although the children achieved narrative success in the multiparty context of the family dinner table, in the task designed to elicit a scary story, very few were able to initiate a story and tell it independently. This, the authors conclude is a result of the fact that ''the demand characteristics and participation structures in these two settings were very different''; and that narrative success depends more on the interactants' abilities to recognize and support each other's topic selection, and [to collaborate in enabling the] storytelling as much as it does on any individual's narrative competence.
Coming at the beginning of the book, this chapter raises many issues that are dealt with in later chapters. It also firmly establishes the fact that much more can be learned about how children acquire narrative and other interactive skills by examining multiparty interactions rather than dyadic ones.
Ch 2. Georgakopoulou, Greek Children and Familiar Narratives in Family Contexts: En Route to Cultural Performances. This chapter further develops the study of children's participation in narrative events occurring within family activities. The author posits that these events are ''modes of sociocultural, symbolic action...a joint, discursive achievement that is [both] locally occasioned and... enmeshed in larger (cultural) structures of meaning'' (p.33). The discussion centres on the main participation roles and social relations that Greek children enact and gain experience in through multiparty family interaction; and important cultural functions of Greek storytelling and its uses for pragmatic socialization are uncovered.
In a society characterized as narrative and performance oriented in its everyday interactions, familiar stories are salient in Greek family conversations. Shared or familiar narratives, occurring in mealtime conversations, present storytelling events which have ''immense potential for reformulation'' (p.34). This has significance for the examination of the ways in which Greek children participate in, and perform in the storytelling events. The analysis of their participation as co-tellers and as main tellers-performers reveals culturally defined regulatory patterns of story ownership, contextualization, and family positionings and alliances within the narratives and within the storytelling activity itself. The most important question (I believe) arising from this preference for shared experience and (re)telling, is associated with a child's movement from a negotiated, oral performance- based understanding to written-text-based access to inter-culturally accumulated knowledge. Blum-Kulka and Snow (1992) argue that stories, the events of which are known only to the teller (A-event stories), provide a better preparation for the autonomous, decontextualized language that is demanded of children in school. However, Georgakopoulous presents a very compelling argument that for education systems which focus on the rhetorics of ''how'' [and why] rather than ''what'', recontextualization, such as occurs in the present data should not be omitted. Such reformulations (Wells, 1986) are integral to the development of literacy skills and should not be discarded as irrelevant or invalid.
Ch 3. Aukrust, ''What Did You Do in School Today?'' Speech Genres and Tellability in Multiparty Mealtime Conversations in Two Cultures. This chapter is also concerned with the opportunities offered during family mealtimes to young children for conversational participation and pragmatic learning; but this time, in families from two different cultures - Norwegian and N. American. While discussing the merits of theories of ''scaffolded'' (Bruner, 1983) or ''fine-tuned'' (Snow, 1995) dyadic interactions Aukrust assumes a balanced approach between these and other studies, including cross-cultural studies, which favour the benefits of learning in multiparty interactions. It is argued that accounts of both the notion of speech genres and of culturally specific tellability need to be considered. Speech genres, although relatively stable, may invite different types of participation, some more frequent or more complex in multiparty settings and some may invite only two participants, even when more are present; also, cultures may differ with respect to what is worthy of talk.
The discourse domains, narratives and explanations, are jointly selected for this chapter because although they differ in their specific rules and organization, they are both produced during conversational exchanges in extended segments of text, and often over several turns. Data analyzed by this reviewer confirms these observations and adds that in extended conversations these domains continually overlap, inviting multiple layers of participant structure. The discussion is divided into two main sections, each reflecting the differences across these two cultures in the focus of mealtime conversations, that is, the primacy of narrative in the Norwegian data versus the more asymmetric explanatory genre in the American data. Both of these sections involve extremely complex analyses and explorations of pragmatic skills that children may acquire in certain participant structures within certain culturally molded parameters. Nevertheless, both reveal that the developmental impact of participation in multiparty versus dyadic interaction in different cultures cannot be discussed separately from cultural codes of what is worthy of talk.
The initial premise is very well defended, but however, because of the complexity of interrelationships among the participant structure categories and subcategories, speech genres and cultural tellability factors, it is often difficult to sort out exactly what has been revealed. That is, at times the discussion appears to be dealing with the impact of genre on the participant structures and at other times, the obverse appears to be the case. Perhaps this is the major difficulty of this type of inquiry that each of these factors has reciprocal impact on the others. Fortunately, the excellent concluding section (pp.80, 81) not only clarifies the findings but also propels the reader back to the relevant section(s) for further clarification and confirmation.
Ch 4. Blum-Kulka, ''Do You Believe That Lot's Wife Is Blocking the Road (to Jericho)?'': Co-Constructing Theories About the World With Adults. In this chapter, Blum-Kulka makes a close examination of how children learn to explain in everyday multiparty discourse. The analytical approach treats explanations as ''interactional moves emerging in natural discourse in response to some need or problematic state of affairs'' (p. 87); and ways in which participants recognize and orient themselves to stretches of explanatory talk are examined. That is, the actual stretch of discourse is examined as a text type, a genre, and not simply as a speech act. This raises the methodological problem of identifying explanatory sequences in natural discourse and the author devotes a section, complete with examples from the data, to the discussion of a set of criteria for identification, and to the listing of six discourse indicators which justify the inclusion of each type in the genre. The final item in this list, comprised of two categories, is probably the most critical and the most useful for analytical purposes is, ''Talk embedded in narratives to explain the motives of the protagonists, and narratives used to explain an overall principle''. This genre mixing clearly identifies the sequences as explanatory, and as belonging to a specific subgenre within family talk.
The analysis of explanatory sequences by identity of initiators and explainers shows the active participation of all present. Although parents provide most explanations (49.5%), children initiate more than a third (37%). In this way, the talk is collaborative and symmetrical in that children and parents are alternatively set up conversationally as being the authoritative source of particular kinds of knowledge. What is most interesting is that nowhere in the sample sequences, is a child's initiation/contribution dismissed and obviously, the children have no fear that it might be. This is in sharp contrast to fears discovered among children in classroom contexts where either they were afraid to initiate explanations in case they might look silly (Allwright, 1998), or that their contribution would not be accepted as relevant or perhaps be dismissed as nonsense (Michaels, 1986). Apparently, educators need to seriously consider Blum-Kulka's concluding discussion of the potential contribution that explanatory talk in the naturalistic context of the family can make to pragmatic development and consequently to school success.
Ch 5. Nicolopoulou, Peer-Group Culture and Narrative Development. This chapter, coming at the end of the first section, attempts to reinforce the central organizing theme by extending the investigation of the impact of multiparty discourse on children's language development beyond the context of the family dinner table. The author provides a lengthy discussion of how powerful theoretical resources such as the works of Vygotsky and Piaget have yet to be fully interpreted and exploited with respect to the developmental significance of peer-group, i.e. child-child narrative activity. While a substantial body of research has found that the mastery of narrative skills is crucial for success in formal education, Nicopopoulou suggests that these studies have been limited in two key respects; first, that they have dealt with ''factual'' accounts of experience, neglecting fantasy or fictional narratives, and second, that the ''social context'' of narrative development generally, has been ''conceived narrowly in terms of adult- child interaction'' (p.119). Consequently, this study is focuses on the transcripts of spontaneous stories dictated to the teacher by individual children, which were later read aloud, by the teacher, to facilitate the enactment and participation by the entire child-child group. The transcripts were later analyzed for linguistic complexity and representations of character.
This chapter suffers from over-explanation of the theoretical framework for the concept of ''social context'' and the dynamics of narrative collaboration in a peer group culture. The many referrals to extensive other sources for ''a useful review'' or ''some elaboration'' etc., disrupt the reading and interfere with the flow of the argument. In addition, although the evaluations of the data confirm that this peer-oriented storytelling-acting practice can serve as a powerful context for promoting young children's narrative development, the description of the actual classroom practice is vague and very little story data is included in the discussion. In fact, it is not until nearly the end of the chapter that we find actual transcripts of the stories, and then, only two are provided. As an educator with long experience of ''taking dictation'' from young children and knowing the compelling urge to enable and elicit elaboration, I found myself constantly questioning the extent to which these activities were truly child-child narrative building exercises, or indeed, multiparty as opposed to dyadic. A more explicit exposition of the classroom data might have helped to resolve these questions.
PART II: THE LANGUAGE OF AFFECT AND HUMOUR: PRAGMATIC DEVELOPMENTAL PERSPECTIVES The three chapters in this section focus on the affective and nonliteral aspects of language use such as: socialization of pragmatic rules of appropriate affective displays, the value of humor in cognitive development, and the functioning and characteristics of verbal playfulness when parents and children are involved in the interactions.
Ch 6. Hérot, Socialization of Affect During Mealtime Interactions Working with the same mealtime data which is examined in Ch.1, Hérot examines how affect, positive and negative, is conveyed in the context of family dinner talk, and what effects, if any, are the result of multiparty versus dyadic interactions. Warmth and patience, central tenets of successful childrearing which must be taken into account in family interactions, are expressed both verbally and non-verbally through body language and tone of voice. In order to more clearly delineate these non-verbal contributions, the author utilizes her own coding system for measuring the characteristics of warmth and patience exhibited in each mother's tone of voice. This approach to the socialization of affect offers ''two complementary vantage points'' from which to analyze the affective environment (p. 162).
Unlike the previous chapter, a wealth of data is provided to support the discussion and analytical results, and a considerable amount clearly demonstrates that tone of voice is a strong indicator of the warmth or coldness of the environment within which the children are raised. This in turn, impacts on their cognitive and socio-emotional growth in that experiencing positive or negative parental affect can induce parallel affective reactions in the child.
Family configurations varied from single parent dyadic settings to multiparty, extended family groupings, yet analyses from each, positive or negative are treated with great sensitivity such that, it is reported that although the highest percentage of negative affect occurred during family meals where the mother was the only adult among more than one child, a large number of these mothers still displayed consistent positive nonverbal affect. The author concludes with the recommendation that while the analyses were made on a single mealtime event for each of the families, our understanding of parental socialization as children become older, could be furthered by a similar analysis of additional mealtime conversations.
Ch 7. Nevat-Gal, Cognitive Expressions and Humorous Phrases in Family Discourse as Reflectors and Cultivators of Cognition. Using both sets of Blum-Kulka data (this volume, Ch.4, and Blum-Kulka and Snow, 1997), Nevat-Gal focuses on two linguistic phenomena which routinely occur during the family dinner conversations. These are, ''the multiple usage of cognitive expressions and versatile linguistic usage to create a humorous effect'' (p. 181). These are shown to induce the enculturation of thinking modes and the enhancement of cognitive development.
The recorded conversations were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively, cognitive expressions being marked following the technique used in Snow (1991) for identifying reminiscences. All instances of the use of cognitive verbs such as ''know'', ''think'', ''intend'', ''remember'', ''understand'', etc.; as well as nouns pertaining to thought, for example, ''problem'', ''plan'', ''experiment'' etc. were examined. For humorous expressions, judgments were made with respect to the intentions of the expressions, that is, their illocutionary force. The analysis was performed on all expressions and speech acts based on the assumption that discourse socializes whether the children are participants as talkers or as listeners.
The author demonstrates that many of the features characteristic of metacognitive activity such as critical thinking, problem awareness and responsibility, strategies for managing thought processes, planning and exchanging ideas etc., are indicated through and by the use of both cognitive and humorous expressions. In addition, these expressions are used to ''regulate communication, to express awareness of the maxims of quality and relevance needed for continued cooperation'' (p.206). Nevat- Gal's analytical insight, that this dual function, concerned with both communication maintenance and thinking management is indicated by the very same expressions, clearly has implications for investigations of conditions for academic success.
Ch. 8. Fasulo, Liberati and Pontecorvo, Language Games in the Strict Sense of the Term: Children's Poetics and Conversation. Following logically from the previous chapter, the authors examine the poetics of the playful exchanges which they found to be recurrent in the dinner table talk of twenty families, each consisting of 2 parents plus 2 children. The data revealed frequent occurrences of ''prepatterned'' speech such as that identified by Tannen (1989) including poems, songs, different types of rhymes and instances of folklore. This raises theoretical questions concerning whether spontaneous poetics should be studied under ''speech play'' (non-purposeful, creative and exploratory) or ''verbal game'' (roles linked to particular positions in the structure of the activity) or even ''ritual'' (rigid, routine-like). After weighing the merits of each of these perspectives the authors conclude that family conversations exhibit many features which are characteristic of verbal games. That is, they represent an ordered system of activity having ''sequential relevance, turn taking as a machinery of distribution of speaking role, and the constitution, through different types of turns, of the relative kinds of speakership'' (p.212). This is aligned with ''speech play'', as per Basso (1979), that '''as an instrument of metacommunication...play is intrinsically purposeful and inevitably consequential''' (Ibid).
Long series of poemlike units appear in the dinner table speech play performances. These are demarcated with clear points of transitional relevance where turn taking can occur and the shaped similarity between each verse appears to assist in the recognition and evaluation of the innovated parts. Although these young children seem to hold a strict connection between sign and signified, they nevertheless appear to be aware of the arbitrariness of what is being invented. Neologisms appear in these sequences as a kind of verbal play in which everyone gets to share, including the younger child and in addition, the end of each unit is signaled by a concluding intonation, followed by an evaluative section.
Thus it is clearly demonstrate that prepatterned strings of language occasioned by the family corpus of folklore, songs, etc., help children attain the speaker's position and provide the scaffolding that helps them perform at a higher level of competence in interaction with their parents and siblings. In addition, evidence is provided that playing with language is not random or chaotic and devoid of pragmatic functionality. Instead, the ''poetics'' of rhymes and song, embedded in conversation, are timed and shaped in conversationally appropriate ways.
PART III. ISSUES OF CONTEXT AND CULTURE IN PRAGMATIC DEVELOPMENT. These three chapters focus on cultural influences in socialization practices which impact on pragmatic and cognitive development. Each examines a specific context for adult- child interaction to discover what the children learn that is culturally appropriate and how they go about putting it into practice in their interactions with others.
Ch 9. Brown, Everyone Has to Lie in Tzeltal. Here, the author examines the concepts of ''lies'' and ''truths'' as they apply to socialization practices in a rural Mayan community and asks the question, ''How do children learn the meaning of lie, in their society, and the culturally appropriate ways of lying?'' (p. 243). Brown describes how in this small-scale, face-to-face community where forms of social control and decision making are almost exclusively oral, routine lying or indirect use of language is the cultural norm. Lies in the form of scare threats and warnings in efforts to control behaviour, are routinely told to children between the ages of 1.6m and 4 years, but threats are rarely carried out. There are surprising consequences of this practice, not the least of which is the earliness of the age (2-3 years) at which Tzeltal children learn, by virtue of the fact that threats will not, or cannot be enforced and so, can be ignored. Consequently, they appear to understand the difference between the state of the world and the words used to describe it. This is evidenced in their ability to engage in a type of lying, an ironic ''backwards talk'' that is appropriate to this community. By the age of 4, there is a sudden shift in behaviour, and children suddenly comply with caretaker commands, but also begin to participate in issuing scare threats and false statements to younger siblings, with explicit instruction from parents and older family members.
Brown provides several transcripts to illustrate these practices and discusses the data in relation to perceptions of lying cross- linguistically, and to the possible effects of systematic lying on Tzeltal children's linguistic, cognitive and social development. Whereas, theory of mind theorists might consider 4 year olds too young to have the mental awareness that others can hold false beliefs and can also persuade others to hold them, through early training in the use of language which is routinely non-factual, Tzeltal children become very adept at producing lies as well as producing and understanding culturally appropriate ironic utterances. The data also shows that this training leads children into taking on responsibility early, for cooperating with the social unit and ensuring that even younger children also cooperate and are brought ''quickly to culturally stabilized and pragmatically effective indirect uses of language'' (P.273).
Ch 10. Voice and Collusion in Adult-Child Talk: Toward an Architecture of Intersubjectivity. Drawing on Bakhtin (1984), this chapter examines and compares the peer play of preschoolers and school-age children in order to discover how much they know about multivoicedness and multiplicity of roles. The context chosen is a pediatric scenario involving a doctor-patient-parent triad. The assumption is made that children's role play can be seen as a type of fictional genre within a dramaturgic perspective, and that such a fiction reflects societal hierarchies and the complexities of real life discourse. Thus, there is a need to focus on intersubjectivity on different levels, and the stated aim is to disclose some of the complexities involved, through an analysis of multivoicedness in talk, including ways which involve subversive voices, i.e. levels of saying, or double voiced discourse.
While a detailed description of the connectivity between the concepts of intersubjectivity multivoicedness and collusion is potentially confusing, the authors successfully guide the reader through various theoretical considerations from previous studies. There is an interesting argument for not simply equating ''voices'' with ''roles'' which situates the present study within a voice-type model for analysis, rather than a phase (emplotment- enactment) or frame-type model. The selection of this model is effective in that multivoicedness was discovered in the children's fine differentiation between pretend and nonpretend voices as well as between different pretend role voices. In addition, evidence that the children were aware of the subversive quality of adult-child talk (in the Bakhtinian sense) could be found in the ways both age groups employed subversion in indexing speaker roles, particularly, the collusive ''we'' of medical authority. Two very useful tables, Table 10.1 (p.281) ''Levels of Reality - Frame Models and Voice Models'', and Table 10.5 (p. 291), [levels of] ''Intersubjectivity and Social Co-ordination'' clarify the theoretical concepts and contexts. However, it may have been more helpful for readers unfamiliar with Bakhtin or dramaturgy, if these had been arranged closer together in the text. In any event, regardless of background knowledge, this chapter rewards very close reading.
Ch 11. Kasuya, Bilingual Context for Language Development. This chapter focuses on the complex but fascinating concept of growing up to be successfully and actively bilingual in a ''linguistically mixed'' family (p.298). Kasuya discusses the dynamic interrelationships which exist among contributing factors such as family circumstances, social, affective and ethnic goals, and purposes for interacting in either or both languages, particularly when one parent may be the sole transmitter of a minority language. To examine how actual bilingual discourse might promote bilingualism as a goal of language socialization, data was drawn from two bilingual (Japanese/English) families living in the United States and two parallel issues of childhood bilingualism are addressed. These include the circumstances under which it is likely that a child will learn two languages, and the ways in which our understanding of bilingualism might change when we view it as a product of socialization from birth.
Before examining how children participate in bilingual family interactions, the author first examines multiparty conversations among bilingual adults. These demonstrate how the ''language choice mechanism'' functions (p. 299), and with the addition of parental reports on their conscious language strategies in the home (code switching, and mixing), Kasuya was able to focus on how speakers in bilingual situations choose the appropriate language with a particular person in a particular context. Analysis of all the data revealed not only code switching but also extensive language mixing in response to factors such as the degree of shared knowledge, sociocultural and lexical collocations specific to either one of the languages etc. Often, these practices are viewed as signs that the minority language is in jeopardy. However, the author demonstrates that in multiparty interactions with both parents, children need to learn these code switching/mixing strategies if the minority language is to be maintained. Thus we are shown how the different language socialization experiences of bilingual parents can provide an enriched linguistic environment and have a positive impact on their children's bilingualism.
This study is of relevance to all Canadians, since bilingualism has official status, but it is of particular relevance to language communities which are concerned to ensure that their young people become fully competent sociolinguistically as active bilinguals.
Ch 12. Snow & Blum-Kulka, From Home to School: School-Age Children Talking With Adults. In this concluding chapter, the editors pull together the principal important findings which emerged throughout the volume, i.e. the wide range and scope of interactive and discourse skills which are encompassed in the domain of what children need to know about language; and the ways in which participation in multiparty discourse provides opportunities for children to learn how to function as members of their families and peer groups. In addition, they discuss the role that the knowledge and skills acquired in these multiparty conversations plays in the promotion of children's success in school, both in classroom participation and literacy.
While many recent studies of classroom talk have exploited the IRE (Initiation, Response, Evaluation) sequence (Sinclair & Coulthard, 1975), most have been concerned with the overall structure and dynamics of the relation between classroom talk and the progress of lesson plans, as much with respect to the quality of teaching as with the quality of learning. Nevertheless, these studies clearly demonstrate that data on classroom discourse is focused on asymmetrical dyadic interactions and because of the different discourse demands associated with different subject matters, children's contributions may be judged on the basis of criteria that are opaque to the child. Being content in this chapter, to present examples of the kind of learning about communication supported in classroom settings, the editors hope that this volume will stimulate an interest in paying attention to classroom discourse from a multiadic perspective.
EVALUATION This is an important collection of research in two major respects. First, although each chapter deals with the acquisition of a specific discourse domain, the theoretical frameworks encompass a wide range of analytical perspectives. Speech act theory, semiotics, stylistics, translation theory, bilingualism, language maintenance and loss, cross- cultural pragmatics, and more are invoked. Second, with the substantial increase in the number of children who spend a large part of their day in day-care centres and pre- school institutions, the findings here are important for educators at all levels. Each chapter clearly demonstrates that by the time children reach school age, they already know a great deal about language and culturally appropriate ways of interacting. This has obvious implications for teacher assessments of readiness for reading, for assessments of verbal performance, preparation for writing etc.; all domains within which development continues after the preschool years and which ought to be able to build on previously acquired skills. A comparison of Chapters 1 and 5 demonstrates that knowledge of how children express and exploit the cognitive and linguistic skills they have already acquired at home would help educators to design more appropriately, children's opportunities to learn the new skills and patterns of interaction necessary for school success.
Aside from its contribution to early education, this book holds importance for theories of discourse and pragmatics. Its focus on the analysis of one specific domain per chapter emphasizes the wide range of discourse domains that exist in everyday interactions but it also highlights the fact that many more still need to be addressed, particularly those in cross-cultural and bilingual contexts. This is particularly important in modern N. American contexts, not simply because of the multicultural, multilingual features associated with immigration, or economy driven movement within the continent, but also because of the widening socioeconomic gaps which separate middle-class families from other working class or single parent families. Chapters 2,3 and 9 will be of particular interest to those working in communities of a culture and home language different from their own; especially cultures which are concerned to keep alive, the oral traditions which constitute the fabric of their community and society.
This review has taken a sequential approach to the reading and certainly, each chapter appears to build on the previous one, particularly in Part 1. However, this should not discourage any reader from ''dipping into'' sections or chapters of particular interest, because each one firmly situates the current study in the context of previous or earlier investigations. Yet in order for the volume to meet all of its aims, each chapter deserves at least one reading and hopefully, will act as a springboard to further research.
REFERENCES Allwright, Dick. 1998. ''Contextual factors in classroom language learning: an overview''. in K.Malmkjaer and J. Williams (Eds.) Context in Language Learning and Language Understanding. Cambridge; CUP
Cook-Gumperz, Jenny. 1986. The Social Construction of Literacy. Cambridge, London, New York, Sydney; CUP.
Michaels, S. 1986. ''Narrative presentations: an oral preparation for literacy with first- graders'', in J. Cook-Gumperz, The Social Construction of Literacy. Cambridge, London, New York, Sydney; CUP.
Sinclair, J. McH., & Coulthard, R.M. 1975. Towards an Analysis of Discourse. The English used by teachers and pupils. Oxford; OUP
Wells, G. 1986. ''The language experience of five-year-old children at home and at school'', in J. Cook-Gumprez, The Social Construction of Literacy. Cambridge, London, New York, Sydney; CUP.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Jeanette Ireland is a long time educator and is currently lecturing in linguistic analysis at St. Mary's University, Halifax, NS. Her main research interests are in oral discourse genres, particularly multiparty and performance constructions, and in how these differ from, yet contribute to their written counterparts. Work with the translation and structural analysis of Inuit oracy as it pertains to the performances of individual, culturally acclaimed storytellers has involved her in the production and publication of culturally appropriate written texts, to be offered to students in the elementary school system. More recently, she has been examining the impaired conversational and pragmatic abilities of people diagnosed with dementia of the Alzheimer type.