Do educational backgrounds make a difference?

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For decades there has been a debate about whether parents with different socioeconomic status have differential influences on their children’s language development. This study focuses on the features of language use of Mandarin-speaking mothers with different educational backgrounds in interaction with their 3–6 year old children to explore the similarities and differences between the mothers’ communication with their children. Data were collected from videotaped semi-structured mother–child interactions among different age groups. The main research finding reveals that the communicative acts of these Chinese mothers are similar at the levels of social interchange and the speech act; the common types of communicative acts show a cultural consistency among Chinese mothers in interacting with their young children. However, the language inputs of mothers of the two differing social groups show significant differences on linguistic productivity, vocabulary measurement and pragmatic flexibility. These findings are discussed in the context of the role of mothers’ input in language development.


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