The use of evaluative devices in the narrative discourses of young second-language learners

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Mason, Ruth
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SIL International
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SIL e-Books 13
xvi, 514 pages

The narrative skills of young second-language learners have not attracted much attention from researchers in the field of second language acquisition. This study describes, and seeks to explain, some of the regularities of L2 narrative development and, also, some of the inherent variability which is found in any corpus of L2 performance data.

The focus of enquiry is Labov’s model of narrative structure and the distinction made between referential and evaluative functions in narrative, especially the phonological, lexical, and syntactic devices young L2 learners use to carry out those functions of moving the plot-line forward and articulating the narrative point. The particular focus is evaluation, but a somewhat broader view of the notion is taken than that of Labov (1972a) and the study draws on, among others, the work of Polyani (1981a), Tannen (1982b), Wolfson (1982), and for child language, Bamberg and Damrad-Frye (1991).

The data consist of 45 retellings of six model stories by eight Panjabi-speaking pupils aged 5 years 7 months to 7 years 9 months. It is claimed that the majority of these are uniquely the child-narrators’ own productions, differing from the originals in interesting and creative ways, particularly in the selection of evaluation devices; the best count as true performances.

After a brief introduction, chapters 2 and 3 deal with theories of narrative, a selective discussion of evaluation in narrative, and the emergence of narrative skills. Chapters 4 and 5 describe the collection and analysis of the data, and report on the overall findings, correlating evaluation with other indicators of storytelling ability and comparing the L2 narratives with L1 productions. Chapters 6 and 7 present detailed accounts, with examples, of all devices reported, and chapter 8 presents the conclusions and an appraisal of the model.

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Language acquisition
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