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The significance of the adversative connectives aber, mais, ma (‘but’) as indicators in young children’s argumentation

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Abstract

Adversative connectives have been analyzed as articulating explicit and implicit facets of argumentative moves and have been thus recognized as potential argumentative indicators. Here we examine adversative connectives Ger. aber, Fr. mais, It. ma (‘but’) in young children’s speech in the context of the ArgImp project, a research endeavor seeking to understand in which situations children aged between two and six years engage in argumentation and how their contributions are structured. Two multilingual corpora have been collected for the project: (1) everyday family conversations, (2) semi-structured play activities and problem solving in a kindergarten setting. Through the detailed analysis of a small collection of examples, we consider the indicative potential of adversative connectives for identifying argumentative episodes in interactions involving young children and for the reconstruction of the inferential configurations of children’s contributions to these argumentative discussions. The results show that fully fledged argumentative interpretations of adversatives occur as a possibility in children’s speech, and that adversative connectives can be used profitably to identify less apparent argumentative confrontations and implicit standpoints in children’s speech.

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Keywords: adversative connectives; argumentative indicators; argumentative semantics; but; children’s argumentation; counterargument; implicit standpoints; rebuttal; undercutter

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 4, 2020

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