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Communicative abilities in children: An assessment through different phenomena and expressive means*


Previous studies on children's pragmatic abilities have tended to focus on just one pragmatic phenomenon and one expressive means at a time, mainly concentrating on comprehension, and overlooking the production side. We assessed both comprehension and production in relation to several pragmatic phenomena (simple and complex standard communication acts, irony, and deceit) and several expressive means (linguistic, extralinguistic, paralinguistic). Our study involved 390 Italian-speaking children divided into three age groups: 5;0–5;6, 6;6–7;0, and 8;0–8;6. Children's performance on all tasks improved with their age. Within each age group, children responded more accurately to tasks involving standard communication than to those involving deceit and irony, across all expressive means and for both comprehension and production. Within each pragmatic phenomenon, children responded more accurately to simple acts than to complex ones, regardless of age group and expressive means, i.e., linguistic or extralinguistic. Overall results fit well with the Cognitive Pragmatics theory (Bara, 2010).

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This research was supported by Regione Piemonte, Project: Institutions, Behavior and Markets in Local and Global Settings (Project IIINBEMA).

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Journal of Child Language
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