The interactional context of language learning in Tzeltal

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This paper addresses the theories of Eve Clark about how children learn word meanings in western middle-class interactional contexts by examining child language data from a Tzeltal Maya society in southern Mexico where interaction patterns are radically different. Through examples of caregiver interactions with children 12-30 months old, I ask what lessons we can learn from how the details of these interactions unfold in this non-child-centered cultural context, and specifically, what aspects of the Tzeltal linguistic and interactional context might help to focus children’s attention on the meanings and the conventional forms of words being used around them.


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