2. The dragon in the cave

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This chapter looks at how children first start to engage with the material representation of cultural meanings, including stories in different modes and media, and the structure of inscriptional systems such as writing. It suggests there is a continuum of representational activity that starts from early infancy and that rather than being driven primarily by language, is a multimodal process driven by cultural and psychological histories, and the social interactions between child and adult sign-makers. It considers evidence that children under the age of three already understand much about the generic underpinnings of texts, and have extensive semiotic repertoires. It examines the relationship between conventional, practically-lived, and appraising texts through a discussion of the findings of a study that examines the mark-making of children under the age of three, and the kinds of textual interpretations and structures that they work with at this age. This is exemplified through an extended discussion of the textual activity generated between a 2-year-old subject and her mother, and involving a family visit to Disneyland. The paper presents a micro, multimodal analysis of ways in which the child recognizes and acknowledges distinct generic forms and textual structures in her mark-making.


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