|Contextual variability and communicative competence: reference and cohesion strategies in narrative discourse by Black working-class children|
Denise G. Borders-Simmons
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Pockets: Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations
Tags: Adolescent psychology, African American children, African American students, educational psychology, English language, Study and teaching
CONTEXTUAL VARIABILITY AND COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE: REFERENCE AND COHESION STRATEGIES IN NARRATIVE DISCOURSE BY BLACK WORKING-CLASS CHILDREN
Denise G. Borders-Simmons
Results from previous research have strongly suggested that social-class distribution of linguistic strategies (e.g, restricted and elaborated codes) in communication provides a plausible explanation for the highly differentiated performance of middle-class and lower/working-class school children.
Clarity and coherence are directly influenced by the strategies used to link ideas and ˘meaning÷ throughout a verbal text. Text cohesion is essential to the organization and interpretation of messages in the communication process. Reference choice (explicit designation of topic) is thought to play a major role in text cohesion.
This study investigates variation in childrenĂs talk within and across contexts. Its particular interest is how situational variation may be related to referential linguistic choice and the strategies chosen to achieve cohesion in childrenĂs narratives.
Eight working-class Black girls of elementary school age were subjects for the study. All subjects told three story narratives elicited from pictures in four contexts (two school, two community).
The data were analyzed sociolinguistically. Data were coded for reference type, cohesive ties, conjunctive use, embellishment and nominal vs. pronominal use, and compared across contexts, A 2 x 2 x 3 repeated measures analysis of variance was also performed.
Measures of cohesion were most affected by contextual differences. In effect, narrative cohesiveness is significantly altered by setting constraints. Specifically, school settings, for these children, restrict the use of successful cohesion strategies while community contexts foster their use. A similar result occurs with reference measures of exophora (atextual reference), and ambiguity.
Results indicate that individual linguistic measures, analyzed separately, do not contribute to a full understanding of the interaction of form and context in the generation of clear communication. Contexts differentially support or encourage the use of particular language forms. For example, school does not inhibit use of conjunctive, nominal, adjective or adverbial forms.
Findings suggest that for older children school imposed contextual constraints become less severe deterrants to linguistic elaboration (however broader constraints encountered in high school may reverse this effect). Additionally, the somewhat less complex features of the narrative tasks are performed--narrative framing, more frequent use of standard English pronunciation and embellishment--while the ˘core÷ discourse, the devices contributing to text cohesion, remain depressed.