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According to Jenny Cook-Gumperz and Amy Kyratzis (2001:591), Ervin-Tripp and Mitchell-Kernan published the first book on Child Discourse (E Ervin-Tripp and Mitchell-Kernan 1977). The interests of researchers have turned away from exclusively psycholinguistic concerns to concentrate on contextually situated learning. They assert that the discourse focus looked at children in naturally occurring settings and activities, and paid attention to their speech and communicative practice in everyday situations.
Child discourse looks beyond linguistic competence to what is known as the child’s acquisition of communicative competence (influenced by Ethnography of Communication – which saw communicative competence as a contrastive concept to the Chomskyan notion of linguistic competence. The sociocultural contexts of speaking, the ways of speaking embedded in specific interactive situations and at the communicative as distinct from linguistic competence that these practices revealed (Heath 1983, Hymes 1962) are also one of the germane areas of child discourse. Socially and psychologically, for the child to have an ever-increasing linguistic control over her or his social environment, socio-linguistic practices and events that are meaningful from the child’s point of view among which are games and pretend play routines and, using language and acquiring language are part of what it means to become a member of a wider society. Cook-Gumperz and Amy Kyratzis (2001:591-592).
Some of the present day studies of children’s discourse include but not limited to Adult-child Discourse which addresses the pragmatics of family life. This looks at family discourse, particularly at mealtimes and other ceremonial occasions, provides the essential testing-ground where children hone their skills as communicators; (children listen and learn to construct narratives, tales that reflect past and future events (Heath 1982). They relate with individuals around them according to how they perceive such in terms of the person’s status and his or her relationship to them. For instance, they issue direct commands to younger children in play while being indirect to those older and with higher status. Whereas, they don’t necessarily employ indirect strategies to parents because they realise that some parents insist on politeness marker as a symbol of nominal deference to their adult status. (Gleason 1988, Ervin Tripp, 1976, 1977; Wootton 1997). This shows that children become competent communicators in everyday settings by use of the right pragmatic choices. For instance, the higher status role will use discourse markers such as “Ok” “now” etc.
A growing control over complex grammatical features like verb aspect and modality is required by a child’s growing ability to refine his or her language to be able to discuss and consider whether events are possible and to contemplate non immediate phenomena. Cook-Gumperz and Kyratzis (p. 596) note that “talk about emotions, caring for others’ feelings, recognizing one’s own feelings and managing one’s body and self in socially appropriate ways all have culturally different and conventionally expected ways of expression. As per rules and routines of daily lives, children do pay attention to adult’s actions and words early in life developing a sense of the infringement of a “moral order” that results from what they see as inconsistencies. This means that children see the adults as their role models in most of what they do and they pattern their lives after them. This can also be seen in the way children reveal and often over-communicate parents’ or caregivers’ caring talk by scolding, shouting, cajoling, and other expressions of concern for the correct behaviours of others.
Cook-Gumperz and Kyratzis also note that children love and do narrate stories in which they justify actions, recall past events, or express opinions about others. In doing these, the extent to which parents stressed that “tall tales” or exaggerations were inappropriate and the extent to which the child is allowed to be the focus of the story telling attention differ along cultural lines as shown by Blum-Kulka (1997) research on Israeli and American middle class families. Heath 1982 found out narratives become not only a means of developing a literate sense of story, but also a means of knowing how to express feelings and thoughts in culturally acceptable ways. The narrative experiences develop a moral sensibility about the consequence of actions for both the self and others especially as concerned adult-child discourse.
In child-child discourse, the attention is on how children produce culture for themselves as different from how they reproduce culture as it is transmitted to them from the adults.
McTear (1985) cited in Cook-Gumperz and Kyratzis observed turn-taking in children’s conversation and proposed that theirs differs from that of adults in that there are fewer overlaps and longer gaps. This is presumably so because children have difficulty projecting possible turn completion points. On turn-taking, older children could respond to statements as well as questions, but they also did this first through repetition, they are more likely to add new information such as justifications and elaborations, to which partners could in turn respond. Younger children’s next contributions tend to be responses without initiations. This means that conversational topics abruptly ended and new ones had to be introduced abruptly lending a choppier feel. In terms of coherence, McTear 1985 and Garvey 1974 observed that there are series of rounds, repeatable exchange units.
Organizing Ranking in the Peer Group
In discourse, children, also organize ranking in the peer group. They not only have linguistic knowledge, but also have the ability to use it in manipulating status, this differentiate the competent speakers from others. Goodwin (1993) found out that older, more powerful girls used pretend directives, e.g. “pretend I’m your elder sister” to show they had the power to shift the frame of play. They achieve this hierarchical rank king in their peer and friendship groups by allocating to themselves more powerful pretend roles e.g. elder vs. younger.

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