Do children apologize to each other?
Apology events in young Israeli peer discourse
ZOHAR KAMPF and SHOSHANA BLUM-KULKA
Children’s apologies are greatly under-researched. Though there is wealth of information available on the pragmatics of apologies generally, we know much less about whether and how children apologize. Our study explores modes of remedial work by Israeli children in peer discourse. The data were collected through ethnographic observation of Israeli preschool and preadolescents, and consist of 57 (taped and transcribed) apology events identified in natural peer interactions. The analysis of children’s apology events revealed a rich range of apology strategies used by 4 6 year old children, indicating the acquisition of remedial competencies for face management at a relatively early age and showed that with age, a richer range of potential violations is identified, and more elaborate forms of repair are being used, indicating a growing sensitivity to the other’s face needs. Furthermore, we found that adult intervention in children’s conflictual situations serves to model remedial strategies, but is not necessarily effective for conflict resolution. Importantly, peer talk apology events index the centrality of friendship in young children’s social world: breaches from expected behavior in play are taken as face threatening to the core of friendship, namely the children’s shared face as friends, and hence can function to end (even if temporarily) the friendship. Consequently, in such cases, the restoration of friendship becomes a necessary precondition for the felicitous realization of an apology.
Keywords: apology, remedial work, remedial competencies, pragmatic development, peer talk, social norms 1. Introduction
The apology as a speech act has recently received a great deal of attention in a variety of disciplines philosophy, sociology, psychology, law, Journal of Politeness Research 3 (2007), 11 37
Walter de Gruyter
Zohar Kampf and Shoshana Blum-Kulka
political science, international relations, communication and discourse studies
and through diverse methodologies. Nevertheless, there are
still surprising lacunae in this field, such as the lack of knowledge on the pragmatic development of children’s apologies in natural discourse. The pragmatic study of apologies to date has been mainly adult-usage oriented, whether conducted within the framework of gender differences (Holmes 1989, 1993; Tannen 1994), cross-cultural (for example, Olshtain 1989, Suszczynska 1999; Rieter 2000) or interlanguage pragmatics ´
(Trosberg 1987; Garcia 1989; Bergman and Kasper 1993).
Children’s apologies have been most frequently studied from the standpoint of social psychology, using mainly experimental methodologies. In this approach the experiments conducted focused primarily on judgments of the perception and effectiveness of apologies (Meier 2004). As Meier stresses in her brief but exhaustive review, the study of children’s apologies has been “developmental in nature, precipitated by an interest in the overall socialization process. Focuses have thus been on apology production as it relates to cognitive maturation and concomitant changes in perceptions of responsibility, intentionality and self.” (Meier 2004: 5). However, as far as we are aware, no study to date has examined the speech act realization of apologies in natural child discourse (in both peer and adult-child interactions). Thus, research is needed to address questions such as strategy choice in relation to contextual and social factors; the types of violations triggering apologetic behavior in children’s social worlds; and face-management as related to face-threat and remedial work in the sequence of interaction. The dearth of research concerning children is puzzling, particularly in view of the importance of apologies from a developmental perspective. Mastering the ability to...
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