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The Handbook of Conversation Analysis by Tanya Stivers, Jack Sidnell

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25

 Interaction among Children

MARDI KIDWELL

University of New Hampshire

Introduction

The study of children in CA, particularly children in the pre- and early verbal stages of language use, requires the analyst to take seriously the early claims by Sacks and Schegloff that CA’s central object of inquiry is not conversation per se, but rather the detailed and empirical orderliness of social action in interaction. Conversation, they asserted, is an important form of human social action, one worthy of study in its own right, but one that, nonetheless, should not be accorded a special theoretical primacy (Sacks, 1984b; Schegloff & Sacks, 1973: 289–90; Schegloff, 1988c: 93–4).

The world of very young children is one in which the movement and positioning of bodies, the shifting and focusing of eyes, the manipulation and placement of objects, and the design and production of nonverbal vocal behaviors constitute the primary elements of communication with others. Taking social action as the main analytic object necessitates considering how these elements are configured to make action meaningful, and how they are produced and organized to fit with the actions of others. In so far as the study of ‘inter-action’ consists of the study of how action by one sets up and constrains the possibilities for action by another, the concern with the early communicative conduct of children must be a concern with the diverse range of communicative resources that children employ, and how they mobilize, ...

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