Development of Metalinguistic Awareness: Evidence from Children’s Overt Productions

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Introduction. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the frequency of overt metalinguistic utterances increases and types change with age in children with typically developing language. Metalinguistic awareness refers to the conscious and deliberate ability to manipulate and reflect upon language properties. Development of metalinguistic awareness is an indicator of future reading skills, but little is known about its development in preschool children. Spontaneous, overt metalinguistic utterances are rare and tasks developed to assess metalinguistic sills are too complex for young children. This study is unique in the number of overt metalinguistic utterance it elicited in young children. It was hypothesized that the metalinguistic utterance rate would increase with age and that types would change. Methods. Thirty-two children ages 3:0-5:11 were exposed to irregular verb forms of nonsense words (e.g., dake- doke) through recast intervention, which involves quick corrections of children's grammar by adults during conversation. Language samples of the intervention sessions were digitally recorded and then coded for the presence and type of metalinguistic utterances, including: challenges, rehearsals, requests for clarification, self-corrections and self-statements. Twenty percent of the language samples were randomly selected and independently coded for reliability. Results. Thirty-one of the 32 children produced at least one metalinguistic utterance. The 5-year-olds produced a higher rate per minute of metalinguistic utterances than the 3-year-olds. The 5-year-olds produced a significantly higher rates of challenges than any other type of metalinguistic utterance than any other group, except the 3 and 4-year-olds' rates of self-correction. The increased rate with age and observed trends in the use of metalinguistic types generally supported a theoretical model of developmental emergence.


Johnson City, TN

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