Academic journal article College Student Journal

Conversational Repair Strategies in Response to Requests for Clarification in Typically Developing Jordanian Children Ages 4;0-6;0 Years

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Conversational Repair Strategies in Response to Requests for Clarification in Typically Developing Jordanian Children Ages 4;0-6;0 Years

Article excerpt

Conversational repairs are an important pragmatic language skill. We identified types of responses to requests for clarification and their frequencies in typically developing 4;0-6;0-year-old Jordanian children. This study was motivated by the fact that there are no Arabic data regarding this issue and by the limited range of forms of requests for clarification reported in previous studies in other languages. Repair strategies were identified from videotaped records of 30 Jordanian children. The examiners used seven forms of request for clarification to elicit responses, across two tasks: story and play. Our main result revealed that Jordanian children use the same repair strategies as children who speak different languages, but with different frequencies. Addition was the most frequent repair strategy used. Additional results indicated significant differences among participants in the use of strategies other than addition across forms and tasks. Specifically, certain forms of request for clarification, such as (an Arabic word meaning) "What?" elicited the most age-appropriate responses by the participating children. These results suggest that teachers and speech language pathologists working with this age group, should use easy forms such as "What?" rather than harder forms such as "What do you mean?" when asking for clarification to facilitate communication.

Keywords: Conversational repair strategies, requests for clarification, acquisition of pragmatics.


Interaction between people is important as a means of sharing information, establishing and maintaining relationships, and observing community rules (Brinton & Fujiki, 1991). As one aspect of the achievement of successful interaction, conversation among people should be efficient. Ciocci and Baran (1998) noted that if breakdown in communication goes unresolved, communication failure will be obvious.Volden (2004) considered that repairing breakdown in communication is an aspect of pragmatic skill that is manifested through what is called conversational repair. Stockman, Karasinski, and Guillory (2008) defined conversational repairs as "communicative acts that make unclearly communicated messages better understood."Brinton et al. (1986), Ciocci and Baran (1998) and Zahn (1984) emphasized that conversational repairs are used by the speaker when it is perceived that others have found it difficult to interpret the message. Watson, Chenery, and Carter (1999) added that these repairs are used in order to solve problems in the most efficient way. On the other hand, Hulit and Howard (2002) suggested that in conversational repair, speakers will try something different in order to achieve a successful communicative interaction, but that difference does not always lead to better communication. Yang (2009) emphasized that the skill of conversational repair is composed of two parts: a repair initiation and a repair outcome. The initiation reflects some disjunction(s) with the preceding message, while the outcome includes solutions to this trouble. More concretely, in conversational repair, the first speaker will produce a sentence, and then the second speaker will produce words in order to request clarification, such as "What?" or "What did you say?" After that, the first speaker will respond to requests for clarification by repeating or revising his message. The following is an example of the whole process:

Speaker 1: "I'm happy today."

Speaker 2: "What did you say?"

Speaker 1: "I'm happy today." (Speaker 1 repeats the whole sentence)

Speaker 2: "That's great."

Zahn (1984) emphasized that conversational repair may consist of either self-repair or other-repair. He stated that "self-repair consists of talk which resolves a problematic utterance originally made by the speaker of the trouble source. Other-repair consists of talk by anyone rather than the speaker of the trouble source which resolves the problematic utterance. …

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