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Sorsana, C., Guizard, N., Trognon, A.(2013). Preschool children's conversational skills for explaining games rules: communicative guidance strategies as a function of type of relationship and gender. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 28, 1453-1475.


Ten trios of children from 4 to 6 years old were observed in a situation where one child (the expert) who had learned the rules of a game explained theses rules to two other children at the same time (the novices): one with whom s/he had a positive relationship and the other with whom her/his relationship was negative. Within this asymmetrical situation created artificially, the children functioned on the basis of a complex tutorial contract. The results indicated that, at these young ages, children are capable to strongly manage three dimensions of the explanatory goal:interactional, ideational (management of the object), and linguistic. However, the errors made by the novices were regulated differently, depending on the type of relationship and gender: the experts in boy trios intervened less frequently when erros were made by the novice with whom the relationship was negative (i.e., the not-friend novice) than with the other novice; conversely, the experts in girl trios intervened less frequently when errors were produced by the novice with whom the relationship was positive (i.e., the friend novice) than with the other novice. An analysis of the communicative strategies observed here highlights early sophisticated pragmatic skills in this interactive assigned design.


Preshoolers, Peer relations, Conversation, Friendship, Gender.

Main conclusion

This exploratory study has revealed multiple performances from young children age 4 to 6, engaged in a very complex tutorial relation, within which an expert had to explain the rules of a game simultaneously to two novices: on of them was a friend of him/her, whereas the other was a not-friend. These performances mobilize linguistic, logical, as well as social complex knowledge, even in their elementaty levels. The linguistic knowledge is related to the three fields of linguistics: syntax, semantics (i.e. logic) and pragmatics. The pragmatical level constitues the first integrating level since it «code» in a single «formula»the interindividual relations (i.e., intersubjectivity), the social relations, and the relations with the object of knowledge. the dialogue, as a dynamic super-ordinate structure ramified in multiple games of language, constitutes the second level of this integration (st11, sbss11, ts11, tsbl08). It is on this level that, thanks to adapted methodologies among which interlocutory logic (tb10), the interactive communication -in its structures and its functions- which is the typical machinery to mankind connecting individuals to culture, is grasped. The children studied here obviously have a great expertise in the use of this machinery.

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