Metapragmatic comments indexing conversational practices of preschool children in institutional discourse

Rachel Yifat, Sara Zadunaisky-Ehrlich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of the present study was to reveal the criteria of conversational appropriateness displayed to children (age range: 3;01-4;09 and 5;0-6;05) through adults' metapragmatic comments in preschool and kindergarten settings. The study focused on two categories of comments: violation of a discourse maxim and discourse management. The results indicate a distinct pattern of use of metapragmatic comments by the adults. Teachers tend to conduct the discourse mainly by allocating turns to the children and to indicate the violation of the degree of informativeness (maxim of quantity), signaling to the children the shortcomings of their responses. Considering the differences between the educational frameworks of the two age groups (preschool vs. kindergarten) we expected to find that teachers' comments reflect their acknowledgement of the level of the children's developing conversational skills. However, this expectation was not met in any of the categories and subcategories of metapragmatic comments. The findings lead us to discuss their impact on the children's pragmatic and conversational skills that are still in the process of forming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-347
Number of pages19
JournalFirst Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008


  • Child-directed speech
  • Conversational skills
  • Discourse management
  • Discourse maxims
  • Metapragmatic comments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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