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The Composition and Sequencing of Communicative Acts to Solve Social Problems: Functionality and Inventiveness in Children's Interactions

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A close examination of peer interactions of children between the ages of 5;0 and 7;0 reveal occurrences where children composed and sequenced their communicative acts in intricate ways that were functional as solutions to a suddenly emergent social dilemma. Their acts and act sequences functioned to place constraints on what followed in the interaction, such that they opposed the other's unwanted actions by making the other's cessation of the unwanted actions relevant, and interpretable in a socially positive way. These same acts and act sequences simultaneously steered the interaction away from conflict by not making a conflictful response relevant. Besides their dual functionality, these communicative acts were so tailored to the immediate context and situational dilemma that they have an inventive aspect. These data raise the theoretical question of what basis the children had for composing and sequencing communicative acts in situ that anticipate their interactional consequences and promote desired ones. A proposal is made in the concluding discussion that the basis for this capability is acquisition of "knowledge" of a set of Principles of Relevance in interactions and discourse.
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Keywords: Children's Practices; Interaction Strategy; Inventiveness; Message Composition; Social Influence

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-12-01

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