adult-child discourse

Denis Donovan dmd at
Wed Feb 8 15:23:52 UTC 2012

Please note that my focus here is on a very specific characteristic of adult/parent-child discourse. This is the huge amount of child-directed adult language that is NOT purposefully crafted to promote or correct children's utterances. I view the latter rather like the driving one does for the examiner to obtain a driver's license. It's the everyday driving that's more consequential in the everyday real world.

Nor am I interested in the vast amount of literature devoted to adult language believed to promote the internalization of social values or conventions such as politeness.

It seems to be taken for granted -- not just in linguistics but across a wide variety of fields, including child psychiatry -- that the responsibility for successful communication in adult-child exchanges lies with the child and that all adults can do is to tailor their language to the child’s “developmental level.” With the exception of one researcher, Maita Schneiderman who left academic research in the early 1980s, explanations of failed adult-child communication tend to be in “child development” terms regardless how nonsensical, contradictory or self-defeating adult utterances may be. It is that language, occurring spontaneously in everyday life, that specifically interests me.

If you have worked on this subject, or are aware of others who have, I would be most grateful to receive (electronic) reprints and references.

With sincere advance thanks,

Denis Donovan
- - -

Denis M. Donovan, M.D., M.Ed., F.A.P.S.
Director, EOCT Institute

Medical Director, 1983 - 2006
The Children's Center for Developmental Psychiatry
St. Petersburg, Florida

P.O Box 47576
St. Petersburg, FL 33743-7576
Phone:	727-641-8905
DenisDonovan at
dmdonovan1937 at

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