Sequencing events in time or sequencing events in storytelling?: From cognition to discourse-with frogs paving the way

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Book Chapter


It was very clear, from early on, that the child was somewhat of an agent in the process of conducting the learning task. The child had to gure out the language specic intricacies all by him/herself-albeit with the kind of cognitive equipment s/he was developing, which in turn was assumed to be nested within the processes of a universal cognitive development. Thus, the course of the child’s general development proceeds from mental development to linguistic development, placing the language learning task squarely within the domain of the child’s cognitive development. Again, it comes as no surprise that, within this general framework of setting up the task of ‘cracking the linguistic code,’ the child’s social development was consistently reduced to the right exposure to the right input that the well-equipped mind subsequently could process ‘actively’ into the right linguistic knowledge. In sum, it appeared as though Jerry Bruner’s inuence on Dan Slobin’s early stages of developing ‘Basic Child Grammars’ in solving the puzzle of how meanings become mapped onto linguistic forms was minimal. Still, fast forwarding to Slobin’s more recent formulations of the language acquisition task, which frame the child as ‘learning to think for speaking and to listen for understanding in terms of the exposure language(s)’ (2001, p. 441), these formulations equally give little space to the child’s active explorations in his/her everyday language practices. Rather, the language itself comes to organize the child’s language practices along the underlying typology of the target language (Slobin, 1997, 2001). Thus, what still sounds like a very cognitive solution of the language acquisition task, one that pays little attention to children’s active role in the making of grammatical structures, nevertheless attempts to give language a major role in children’s cognitive socialization. I will return later to potential implications of this perspective.

Publication Title

Crosslinguistic Approaches to the Psychology of Language: Research in the Tradition of Dan Isaac Slobin

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children, development, socialization, narratives