Volume 30, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0929-998X
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9765
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This study analyzes the L1-acquisition of discourse and its pragmatic functions in American English based on the component of the (CHILDES). The data show that discourse is already present in the speech of 3- and 4-year-old children and that even very young children employ to perform distinct pragmatic functions with specifying uses being dominant until age 8;5. The analysis also shows a notable increase in discourse as children mature, mainly driven by an increase in attention-directing , the dominant function of discourse among children older than 8;5. Conditional inference trees show that the use of discourse by children is affected by a child’s age, the situation type and the frequency of discourse in caregivers’ input. Children younger than 7;10 use discourse only rarely in formal contexts as well as in informal contexts if their caregivers do not use discourse frequently. However, children use discourse substantially more if they are older than 7;10 or, in informal contexts, when their caregivers use discourse frequently. The changes in frequency and the functional shifts in the use of around the ages of 7 to 9 is interpreted to show that peers become more important as linguistic role models when children enter school. The results thus substantiate research which suggests that the pragmatic and social meanings of discourse markers are learned alongside linguistic constraints rather than after the form has been acquired.


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