Analyse and Comment on the Language Use in the Extract "Spider"

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The short spoken extract evolves between Rebecca, aged 3 and her mother conversing in a familiar, domestic scenario. It exemplifies a naturalistic approach where the environment is neither constructed nor forced. It only shows a synchronic snapshot with only 8 lines of conversation being transcribed. One limitation of the extract is the factor of the “Observers Paradox” where the speech may be affected due to the fact that either participant may become aware of close observation and change their speech behaviour. Rebecca seems to be on target in relation to the speech milestones, showing signs that she is beyond the telegraphic stage. The function of the child’s speech is complex: following Halliday’s terminology, it is mainly interactional but also shows regulatory elements through imperative sentence moods and imaginative aspects.

In terms of discourse and structure, Rebecca and her mother seem to be taking the form of adjacency pairs in their speech and turn-taking is prominent throughout the extract. The opening of the snapshot exemplifies a discourse marker “so” showing a change in topic, and suggests that the mother is in control of the conversation. She then leads into an interrogative, a typical feature of parentese, which helps provoke a conversation and engages the child. Rebecca responds to her mother’s questions appropriately and relevantly as shown in Line 2, proving how she adheres to Grice’s Maxims of manner and relevance. Pragmatically, and in terms of Goffman’s face theory, the toddler refuses to be polite towards the end, where the mother implies she wants to hear the word “please” by using the phrase “what’s the magic word?” Rebecca manages to ignore it, perhaps due to the fact that she sees the politeness marker as a loss of face and hence doesn’t want to lose it. The imperative in Line 6 also suggests a face-threatening act and the overlapping speech all leads us to believe that the social skills haven’t quite developed yet. However, the...
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