Social Interaction, Social Context, and Language: Essays in Honor of Susan Ervin-Tripp

By Dan Isaac Slobin; Julie Gerhardt et al. | Go to book overview
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16
THE MICROGENESIS OF COMPETENCE: METHODOLOGY IN LANGUAGE SOCIALIZATION

Bambi B. Schieffelin
New York University

Elinor Ochs
University of California, Los Angeles


1. INTRODUCTION

The discussion that follows centers on the enterprise of conducting language socialization research. We consider practical and theoretical issues and tools that enhance description and analysis of communicative practices and their socialization within culturally organized speech communities. Our discussion outlines five goals of language socialization research. In so doing, we suggest a framework for comparative research on language socialization across communities.

A turning point in the history of research on the cultural organization of children's talk was a symposium on child discourse organized by Susan Ervin-Tripp and Claudia Mitchell-Kernan at the 1974 Meetings of the American Anthropological Association. Both authors of this paper participated, one as presenter (Ochs) and the other as a member of the audience (Schieffelin). The session stimulated at least two important outcomes: one, an enduring collaborative partnership between the co-authors of this chapter; and two, the volume, Child Discourse ( Ervin-Tripp & Mitchell-Kernan, 1977), which was the first comprehensive appraisal of the complexity of children's discourse across speech communities and genres. This volume inspired a number of research projects that formed the basis for a second collection, Developmental Pragmatics ( Ochs & Schieffelin, 1979). In the last fifteen years developmental pragmatics has become an important theoretical domain of inquiry, examining children's developing competence in the use of language within and across socially organized contexts. Ervin-Tripp's studies of children's competence in performance of speech acts, conversational turn-taking, and verbal activities more broadly ( Ervin-Tripp, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982) have been a model for many of us engaged in research on children's pragmatic competence (cf., Andersen, 1990; Clancy, 1986; Garvey, 1984; Iwamura, 1980; Keenan & Schieffelin,

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