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The development of speech acts by a blind child and his sighted identical twin Klincans, Lisa Helena


The current study compares the types of speech acts used by a blind child and his sighted identical twin. To describe the children's speech acts, a taxonomy was developed based on Searle & Vanderveken's (1985) Speech Act Theory. The taxonomy incorporated categories from Ninio & Wheeler's taxonomy of speech acts in mother-child interactions. The children who participated in the study were a pair of identical twin boys, one of whom is blind due to retinopathy of prematurity, and one of whom has functionally normal vision. Data for this study were obtained from audio-videotapes of the twins interacting with family members at home, and transcripts of these interactions. The twins' utterances were coded for speech act types. Speech act types and frequency were analyzed for each child at four different ages: 2 years 3 months (2;3), 3;0, 3;6 and 4;0. Results indicate that the order of emergence of speech acts was essentially the same for both boys. The main difference in the twins' speech act use was in the relative frequency with which each twin used particular speech act types. The blind twin produced more requests for action, information and clarification than the sighted twin, suggesting strategic use of language to manipulate others in his environment and to gain some control in social interaction. His tendency to refer to others' activities was lower than his sighted brother's tendency to do so. In addition, temporal reference in the assertions of the blind child was predominandy to ongoing events; he referred to future, past and make-believe events less often than his sighted twin. These differences may be attributable to the blind child's inability to perceive events occurring around him that do not involve him or that cannot be perceived auditorily. The current taxonomy succeeded in describing children's early speech acts in accordance with the principles of Speech Act Theory presented by Searle & Vanderveken (1985). The taxonomy facilitated description of the children's speech act development better than previous taxonomies because it maintained the integrity of discourse and illocutionary levels of language.

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