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

10
FORMAT TYING IN DISCUSSION AND ARGUMENTATION AMONG ITALIAN AND AMERICAN CHILDREN

William A. Corsaro
Douglas W. Maynard
Indiana University, Bloomington

Nearly twenty years ago I 1 arrived in Berkeley ready to undertake what was one of the very first ethnographies of preschool children. Fresh from the completion of my dissertation which relied heavily on videotaped records of primarily adult-child interaction, I was eager to use this new technology to videotape naturally occurring peer interaction and discourse in a nursery school. I had been told that videotape equipment would be available for my use in the postdoctoral research. What I found out was that there was indeed equipment available -- an early model, reel-to-reel Sony video tape recorder. The video recorder and separate camera were large, bulky, and very cumbersome to operate. Worse, nearly fatal, was the restriction that any recordings made on the machine could only be played back on the same model. Given that this model was already becoming an antique, I realized immediately that I had a big problem.

I was in a new place. I knew few people. I was doing unorthodox research involving videotape recording. I was not sure how to go about dealing with the problem. So I moped around for a week. I stewed. Then things got better.

I met Jenny Gumperz who became a great friend and collaborator. I still today pursue theoretical ideas regarding children's language and socialization that had their origins in my first conversations with Jenny. Second, Jenny came up with the solution for my problems with the equipment: Sue Ervin-Tripp. Jenny told me Sue had just received a grant to study children's discourse which included funds for videotape equipment. However, Sue had always relied on audio recording in the past and was not sure about exactly what video equipment she needed or how to go about using it.

I was somewhat in awe of Sue back in 1974. She was one of the very first scholars to develop theoretical ideas and carry out empirical research on children's development of communicative competence. Sue was very open and gracious in our first meeting. I learned about her ongoing research and shared with her my knowledge and experience regarding videotaping naturally occurring adult-child and peer interaction. We worked

____________________
1
In this section of the paper the first person pronoun refers to the first author ( Corsaro).

-157-

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