Ouston, Janet (1975)
Conversations between children aged eighteen months to three years and their mothers.
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A study was made of the conversational patterns used by 24 children aged eighteen months to three years and their mothers. Tape recordings were made of the mothers and the children both in a free speech situation and while they were talking about a picture book. The mean length of utterance, frequency of usage of different types of utterance, and the way that these different types of utterances formed conversational units were examined, and related to the child's age, social class, sex, and whether the conversation was directed towards the picture book or was in a free situation. It was found that the child 1s mean length of utterance was related both to his age and to the situation. The patterns of utterances which made up the conversations were also related to both age and situation. It was also found that in the book situation the mother's and the children's speech became less complex and similar in form to the free speech of younger children and their mothers. The patterns of utterance types within conversational units was found to be very stereotyped with a small number of patterns repeated frequently. Computer sorting of these patterns showed that they did not often consist of more than two items, and higher order patterns consisted of repetitions of shorter frequently occurring patterns. The mother's speech was found to be related to their child's own level of complexity, but to be slightly in advance of the child's own competence. It was proposed that this kind of simplified speech would be a highly appropriate setting for language learning to take place.
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Institution: University of London, Bedford College (United Kingdom).