The Development of Dialogue Competence in Children (Russian Data Corpus)

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The Development of Dialogue Competence in Children (Russian Data Corpus)

The debate regarding linguistic or communicative competence has not subsided since the publication of N. Chomsky's keynote works (Chomsky 1965; 1968). The structure of competence, its aspects, levels and components, and their content and correlation (with regard to both native and foreign language acquisition) are actively discussed in many diverse scientific fields and schools (Pinker, Jackendoff, 2005; Lehmann, 2007). The study suggests that conversational competence, as well as the linguistic-system competence, constitutes a relatively independent component of communicative competence. It also plays an important role in the development of communicative competence, as long as participation in a dialogue serves as a trigger for other types of linguistic competence.

This paper explores the following hypothesis. Although the language-system and dialogue components show traces of parallel development, their divergence may be observed at the early stages of speech ontogenesis. At this time the development of dialogue competence outstrips the development of other linguistic skills and is a catalyst for the formation of communicative competence generally. This study has two primary aims: to investigate some of the normal aspects of the acquisition of dialogue competence (based primarily on communicative failures), and to discover the conductive factors and basic prerequisites for the acquisition of dialogue skills.

The observations are based on the Russian language corpora, including longitudinal audio and video recordings and diary notes (Child Language Database of the Chair of Child Language1). The longitudinal method is the principal method employed in this investigation. Dialogue acquisition is analyzed regarding the extent to which the process relates to the functions of dialogue units initiated by questions.

Analysis of the dialogue skills of children at pre-verbal and early-verbal stages has shown that the communicative failures or breakdowns (just like the child's general mistakes) mark the development of communicative competence in a dialogue and the correlation of different components. Simultaneously developing specific strategies (those of partial understanding, participation and "the end of phrase") enable the child to participate or imitate participation in a dialogue whilst lacking cognitive and linguistic-system skills. The language behavior tactics of the mother are the leading factor in the development of the child's dialogue competence and these tactics, in many respects, are characterized by a specific use of questions2.

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