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The Everyday Use of pretend in Child Language and Child-Directed Speech: A Corpus Study

Pleyer, Michael

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This dissertation investigates the everyday use of the lexical item ‘pretend’ in child language and child-directed speech. More specifically, it analyses corpus data on the use of ‘pretend’ from the perspective of usage-based approaches, Cognitive Linguistics, and developmental psychology. Pretend play is of central importance in children’s daily lives. It has also been shown to be an important factor in children’s social and cognitive development as well as in their language development. (e.g. Bergen 2002; Quinn et al. 2018). In turn, language acquisition also has an important relationship with the complexity of pretend play (e.g., Quinn et al. 2018). Pretend play has also been shown to be an important context in which children learn how to share perspectives using language. It is therefore not surprising that, as Lillard (2007: 136) notes, “[l]inguistic cues to pretending are the most researched topic in the area of how pretend differs from real.” There have been numerous experimental and diary studies of children’s use of pretend language (e.g. Bunce & Harris 2008). The pretend lexicon of children is therefore of immense research interest. However, little is actually known about how children use these words in their everyday life (Bunce & Harris 2008: 446). In particular, we lack corpus studies investigating how the lexical item ‘pretend’ is actually used by children and caregivers in their everyday interactions. This dissertation represents such a study, using two CHILDES corpora: The Thomas-Corpus (Lieven et al. 2009) and the Manchester Corpus (Theakston et al. 2001), focusing on the use of the lexical item ‘pretend’. The study examines the distribution and use of the lexical item ‘pretend’. It also investigates the conceptual domains evoked by and associated with ‘pretend’ utterances using methodological tools from Cognitive Linguistics. The data show that pretend play utterances become more complex over the course of language acquisition, both in terms of the complexity of children’s utterances and in terms of the types of pretend play they engage in. In addition, as they grow older, children become more active negotiators and initiators of pretend play. Children thus express and negotiate increasingly complex perspectives on pretend play scenarios in interactions with their caregivers.

Document type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Kleinke, Prof. Dr. Sonja
Place of Publication: Heidelberg
Date of thesis defense: 12 December 2019
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2020 08:32
Date: 2020
Faculties / Institutes: Neuphilologische Fakultät > Anglistisches Seminar
DDC-classification: 150 Psychology
400 Linguistics
420 English
Controlled Keywords: Spracherwerb, Linguistik, Semantik, Entwicklungspsychologie, Kognition
Uncontrolled Keywords: pretend play, symbolic play, language acquisition, corpus linguistics, developmental psychology, cognitive linguistics, usage-based linguistics, perspective, construal
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