Volume 9, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1387-6740
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9935
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Recently, researchers have been interested in narrative as a conversational point-making activity. Some of the features of narrative (e.g., its "objectivity", Benveniste, 1971) render it ideally suited for self-exploration and positioning of the self with respect to societal institutions (Polanyi, 1989), especially in the context of conversations within friendship groups (Coates, 1996). While past research has often focused on self-constructing and political uses of narratives of personal experience, the present study examines such uses with respect to narratives produced during preschoolers' dramatic play in friendship groups. An ethnographic-sociolinguistic study that followed friendship groups in two preschool classrooms of a California university children's center was conducted. Children were videotaped in their two most representative friendship groups each academic quarter. Narrative was coded when children used explicit proposals of irrealis in one of three forms: the marked subjunctive (past tense irrealis marking in English, e.g., "they were hiding"); the paraphrastic subjunctive (unmarked irrealis proposals such as "and I'm shy"); and pretend directives such as "pretend" ("pretend we're Shy Wizards"). Also, instances of character speech were counted as narrative. Children used con-trastive forms (subjunctive, coherence markers vs. absence of subjunctive; pitch variation) to mark different phases within narrative. Collaborative self-construction was seen in the linguistic forms they used (pretend statements; tag questions; "and-elaborations") and in the identities the children constructed for their protagonists. Girls' protagonists suggested they valued qualities of lovingness, graciousness, and attractiveness. The protagonists the boys constructed suggested they valued physical power. Girls had a greater reliance on story for self-construction than boys did. It is notable that the dramatic play narratives produced during children's play in friendship groups serve some of the same functions in positioning participants with respect to one another and exploring possible selves collaboratively with one another that personal experience narratives serve in adult intimate social groups.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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