Printer Friendly

Argumentative discourse of kindergarten children: features of peer talk and children-teacher talk.

Taking into consideration the central role played by argumentation in children's culture, comparative studies regarding the relative contribution of peer talk and children-teacher talk to children's argumentative discourse at kindergarten are relatively scarce. In this study, the researchers gathered ethnographic data of natural peer interactions and small-group discussions with the teacher to identify characteristic features and analyze the argumentative events along different aspects: discursive, interactional, and textual.

Keywords: argumentation, preschoolers, peer talk, classroom discourse


In accord with our assumption that argumentation is highly context dependent, the researchers expected polarized differences among both settings. Instead, our findings indicate that although certain features present a dichotomous distribution among the settings, others do not show a clear delineation, reflecting the fact that projected differences also may result from a variation in the affordances of each one of both dialogical scenarios.

Discourse (1) involves particular usages of language (Gee, 1999). Thus, when children immerse in different discourse worlds, they are apprenticed into ways of using language and socializing that make sense in particular social settings and cultures (Rogoff, 1990). In this sense, when children attend kindergarten, they join the "practices and traditions of dynamically related cultural communities across generations" (Rogoff, 2003, p. 77) and take part in multiple discourses, some of which are tied to literacy (Heath, 1982). In fact, in kindergarten and preschool, children are immersed in two central discourse worlds. The first one is the informal discourse that children develop within their own peer group. The second one is more formal and is developed with their teachers. In both discourse worlds, the talk emerges differently. Within the peer group, the talk emerges "on the spot," as children share activities, symbolic or social play, language games, or just "talk for the talk" with other children. In this case, the thematic frames, as well as the organization of turn-taking, are open to negotiation. Seemingly, the talk is internally framed by the children's process of sense-making, according to their social, action, and cultural agendas (Blum-Kulka & Snow, 2004; Kyratzis, 2004; Kyratzis & Cook-Gumperz, 2008; Rogoff, 1990).

With the teacher, the talk is more "institutionalized," as it appears in the case of officially defined learning events as "circle time" or small-group meetings. Children participate in these organized activities, seen as priming activities for schooling, in which the talk is usually externally framed and predetermined and the thematic frames are mostly brought by the teachers and motivated by instructional goals. In this scenario, the ways of talking and the turn-taking organization are deeply immersed in what is known as "classroom discourse" (Cazden, 1988) or "pedagogic discourse" (Christie, 1995).

These two main dialogical scenarios--children-teacher talk (henceforth, CT) and peer talk (henceforth, PT)--have been studied separately through two different research tracks. Studies that focus on the relative affordances of these two arenas based on similar criteria are scarce or lacking (Blum-Kulka & Snow, 2004). Moreover, there is an increasing interest in evaluating the contributions of both discourse worlds to build a bridge between theories of cooperative learning and theories of communicative interaction (Baker, 2009). Putting it in simple words, the underlying concept is to connect between what is known about how children communicate and how they learn in different settings, to bridge between them.

In this context, the current study aims to compare and characterize PT and CT by focusing on the analysis of argumentative events identified in both settings. These events may vary in both settings, because argumentation depends upon the participants sharing a common perspective on the objects or topics discussed, on the means by which argumentations occur, on the criteria of endorsement or acceptance within a certain community, and on the nature of power relations between the participants.


Overall, two main stances have been identified in the field of argumentation studies that project differential definitions of argumentation, as well as on establishing the proper methods of evaluating arguments (Antaki, 1994): a monologic stance and a dialogic one. The former stance advances a pure logic-semantic perspective and considers argumentation as a decontextualized propositional form that is evaluated by abstract or universal principles. The latter emphasizes the highly context-dependent nature of argumentation and views argumentation as a dialogic activity. Within a dialogic approach, the study of "arguing that" is intertwined with the study of "arguing with." This stance contrasts with traditional views that treated both of them in isolation. Thus, the dialogic stance adopts a sociocultural perspective, considers argumentation as a contextualized social practice, and evaluates the ways that subjects and communities are socialized though argumentative discourse (Baker, 2002, 2009; Billig, 1996; Pontecorvo & Sterponi, 2002). However, upon closer inspection, dissimilarities can be noted between different dialogical approaches. (2) In spite of these dissimilarities, all "dialogical approaches" share the view of argumentation as a social and discursive phenomenon (Antaki, 1994; Billig, 1996; Goodwin, 1990; Hirsch, 1989; Plantin, 2002; Rowland, 1987; Walton, 1992, 2008), and as a "form of communication" (Willard, 1989, p. 12) characterized by conflicting or alternative points of views.

In the current study, the researchers adopted a dialogical stance to argumentation associated with a discourse analytic tradition and defined an argumentative event as a contextualized form of social practice, in which at least two parties take alternative positions on the same issue (whether reconcilable or mutually exclusive), including, but not restricted to, discussions that emerge out of controversy. This definition includes instances that range from rationally based discussions to disputes that are generally "governed by extra-rational factors" or are emotionally motivated (Dascal, 1988). We adopt an emic view that does not impose an a priori clear-cut demarcation between argumentative situations. This stance stems from the realization that emotions and reasons may be entangled in argumentative events, even in adults' argumentations (Plantin, 2002; Weigand, 2006); or be dynamically intertwined within one single argumentative event in PT. In our opinion, a sharp delineation between argumentative situations, based on an ethic perspective or "adult-grown-up" viewpoint, would fail to capture the overall dynamics that argumentative events may have in PT.


Studies that focus on argumentation as a social practice point to the centrality of argumentation in PT and to the display of disagreement as an important feature of peer culture (Corsaro & Maynard, 1996; Goodwin, 2006; Goodwin & Kyratzis, 2007; Kampf & Blum-Kuika, 2011; Kyratzis, 2004; Maynard, 1986). Children maintain or transform their social order and, at the same time, coconstruct shared meanings in their own culture when they participate in argumentative events (Goodwin, 2006; Goodwin & Kyratzis, 2007; Kyratzis & Gut, 2001); and they show emotional involvement until the point that they do not often take up opportunities for resolution but instead continue their efforts to maintain argumentative sequences (Corsaro & Rizzo, 1990).

Argumentative events are frequent in PT and arise as part of the children's ongoing shared activities (Howe & McWilliam, 2001). Developmentally speaking, most argumentative events appear to center on physical issues associated with possession and "territory disputes" (Genishi & DiPaolo, 1982; Howe & McWilliam, 2001), which also involve some sort of social control (Shantz, 1987). These disputes are manifested in the course of freeplay activities as well as in shared computer activities, when "mouse wars" develop and children use the computer mouse to gain or establish control (Waller, 2002).

Pretend play is a fertile ground for argumentations, because plans, intentions, and actions are negotiated and coconstructed. Thus, it promotes the use of stylish arguing tactics to justify positions or select between alternatives (Eisenberg, 2006; Ervin-Tripp, 1991; Garvey, 1990; Howe & McWilliam, 2001; Nicolopoulou, 1993; Sawyer, 1997). By kindergarten, children also discuss topics related to social issues, such as friendship values (Corsaro & Rizzo, 1990), differences in opinions or beliefs (Chen, Fein, Killen, & Tam, 2001), conventions (Kyratzis & Gut, 2001), or game rules (Cobb-Moore, Danby, & Farrell, 2009). In contrast, less documented are topics related to distant spheres (for some exceptions, see discussions about ethnicity in Hamo & Blum-Kulka, 2007 or Aukrust & Rydland, 2009).

Although argumentative events are oppositional acts by nature, they reflect children's willingness to maintain friendship values (Dunn, 1999, 2004; Stein & Albro, 2001) and uphold solidarity within the group (Goodwin, 2006). Children use sophisticated methods to solve ambiguous situations (Garvey, 1990; Singer, Michnik-Golinkoff, & Hirsh-Pasek, 2009); they employ indirect moves to avoid direct confrontation or metaphorical frames to mitigate a conflict (Kampf & Blum-Kulka, 2011; Zadunaisky-Ehrlich & Blum-Kulka, 2010) and even demonstrate a willingness to pay a price to reach solutions (Stein & Bernas, 1999). Thus, children's deep commitment to sociality is also manifested in situations of adversative character.


In education, argumentation has been mainly investigated as an epistemic issue. Argumentation plays an essential role in the construction of thought and in setting the foundations for the building of new knowledge (Asterhan & Schwarz, 2007; Baker, 2002; Leitao, 2000; Mercer, 1995, 2000; Muller Mirza & Perret-Clermont, 2009). In the classroom, children are expected not only to interact but also to interthink (Howe & Mercer, 2007; Mercer, 2000), reflecting a twofold process in which they "learn to argue" or learn ways of arguing; in addition, they "argue to learn" (Andriessen, 2008). In this setting, children learn to expose reasons, explanations, and challenges and examine sources of knowledge. Thus, an epistemic attitude toward the commitment to the truth value of propositions and sources of knowledge (Kiefer, 1987) is adopted in the education setting.

Studies conducted in advanced and primary-school grades (Mercer & Littleton, 2007; Rojas-Drummond & Zapata, 2004; Wegerif & Mercer, 2000; Wegerif, Rojas-Drummond, & Mercer, 1999) describe the ways in which teachers manage argumentative activities or "orchestrate" discussions to provide a "site for aligning students with each other and with the content of the academic work while simultaneously socializing them into particular ways of speaking and thinking" (O'Connors & Michaels, 1996, p. 65; O'Connors & Michaels, 2007). Similarly, studies that were conducted at preschool focused on teachers' strategies that promote dialogue and collaborative thinking (see, for instance, the concept of exploratory talk, (3) in Mercer, 2000; Rojas-Drummond, Mercer, & Dabrowski, 2001; Rojas-Drummond, Mercer, & Rupert, 1999; Wegerif et al., 1999). For instance, it was found that preschool teachers use discourse markers (4) (such as "because") to appeal to causality, reasons, and justifications; participation framework markers (such as "let's see" or "well") to manage the flow of a discussion (De Fina, 1997; Rojas-Drummond et al., 1999); and acts of reuttering the children's speech selectively to establish, in explicit or implicit ways, the degree of acceptability of children's contribution during group discussion (Yifat & Zadunaisky-Ehrlich, 2008).

Peer collaborative learning at preschool also has been evaluated, indicating that contrasting standpoints in argumentative sequences trigger children to exercise argumentative skills to defend a position or to undermine those of others. For instance, when preschool children collaboratively retold a narrative and dealt with alternative or contradictory narrative versions, they did not simply juxtapose one version on another, but rather negotiated and often transformed their positions into new reasoning paths while employing refined discursive strategies and rhetorical moves for achieving consensus (Pontecorvo, 1987; Pontecorvo & Sterponi, 2002).

Broadly speaking, argumentation in PT and CT has been studied apart as two separate research tracks. The main goal of the current study was to gain a deeper understanding about argumentations in both settings, employing similar criteria of comparison. To do so, the researchers developed a scheme of analysis that comprises different features of argumentative events to compare both settings. Based on the above-mentioned theoretical considerations, the researchers predicted that:

1. PT, which is anchored in children's common activities and actions, would be characterized by argumentative events that emerged mostly tied to goal-oriented tasks, and to themes related to the ongoing activity. In contrast, argumentative events in CT would be the outcome of learning-defined situations in which abstract or distant topics would be introduced by the teacher, and therefore, they would be decontextualized or detached from the activity at hand.

2. Personalized reaction and an appeal to social values would abound in PT, due to the interpersonal character of argumentation between peers. CT would be characterized by a propensity to deal with the content of the arguments or the ways they are formulated, disregarding the participants who voiced them.

3. Because stance-taking (5) and participants' attitudes are responsive to social contexts and interactional requirements (Englebretson, 2007; Karkkainen, 2003), deontic (judgmental and evaluative) or affective attitudes would abound in argumentative events between peers, whereas children would adopt epistemic attitudes in CT, highly associated to classroom discourse.

4. Due to the fact that teachers promote the use of explanations and justifications, children would show more elaborated responses in CT, appealing to causality and authoritative resources that provide ground-based responses.

5. Due to the emotional involvement of children in argumentative events with peers, argumentation formulated by children would be characterized by high degrees of certainty.



Two cohorts of 15 preschool children participated in the study (ages ranging from 4.8 to 6.2 years). The first one, observed in natural peer interactions (PT), consisted of children from three preschools. The second one, originating from a single preschool, consisted of children engaged in conversations with their teacher during circle time or small-group meetings (CT). Both groups attended the secular education stream in Israel and had equal gender composition. Demographic information on the children's families was obtained for both groups via a questionnaire, regarding the education and professional occupation of the parents, completed by the parents and teachers. The entire sample consisted of a socially mixed parental background that presented a broad distribution of professions and years of education and was classified as having an average socioeconomic status (2.5-3.5, ranked according to the Hartman's scale [Hartman, 1979]).

Data Gathering

The data-gathering process combined ethnographic fieldwork (Hymes, 1974) with conversation analysis (CA) methods of transcription (Hutchby & Wooffitt, 1998). The ethnographic work provided comprehensive contextual knowledge that enriched the analysis, whereas CA tools provided a careful moment-by-moment documentation of the ways that children accomplished coordinated action and talk. The advantages of integrating ethnographic fieldwork and CA methods of transcription were found to be particularly relevant for the study of peer talk (Hamo, Blum-Kulka, & Hacohen, 2004). The process of data gathering differed between both groups, due to the particularities and constraints that characterize each of them.

Peer talk (6) (PT). The database consists of observations and recordings of children's natural interactions at different places or activities. A participant observer was present in all recorded interactions. This participant took field notes of two kinds: the first, mainly contextual information, included a detailed description of the participants, situations, and action; the second type of field information was more interpretive, pointing to a short summary of events often taken shortly after observation, and consisting of the impressions the observer formed regarding them. Except for a few instances of video-recording, the researchers mainly gathered audio-recordings in two forms: child-focused recordings of children wearing lapel microphones connected to a small pouch, and setting-focused recordings of groups of children spotted as engaged in joint play in various areas or times at the preschool. The children were recorded for relatively extended periods of time (from 90 to 120 minutes). Recorded data underwent a preliminary screening, consisting of a partial transliteration of the tape, and parts of the data were transcribed (a minimum of 20 minutes of interaction originating from a combination of the different recordings).

Children-teacher talk group(CT). The data from this group was gathered by recording conversations in two settings: circle time and small-group meetings. Circle time is a plenum-like meeting. Because it is a routine activity at preschool, it becomes part of the shared history of the class. This shared history endows it with its associated set of participants' structures and ways of using language (Cazden, 1988). In the circle-time transcriptions, we excluded the recording of opening and ending scripted routine activities, such as singing or playing a guessing game. Small-group meetings also were documented, because they are more likely to foster dialogic talk than are whole-class interactions (Haworth, 1999). In both settings, plenum and small-group interactions, a tape recorder was placed in different positions so that it captured as much of the talk as possible with minimal interference. In addition, a participant observer was present in all the CT interactions, taking field notes that accompany each recording session. These notes included extensive and detailed description of participants, situations, and actions to integrate them into the transcriptions of the audio data.

Both databases were compared on the basis of equal time, which consist of approximately 300 minutes of transcription time for each group (see Table 1 below). However, it is important to note that each setting had its own constraints, as it was far more complex to gather data from peer talk, in which the children's presence was optional, in contrast to well-defined and predetermined conversations with the teacher, in which the children's presence was mandatory. Thus, the peer talk recordings lasted for different lengths of time, depending also on the circumstances and contextual issues, and only part of the data was transcribed. After the observations and recordings and before the transcriptions, a partial transliteration of the tapes that combined field notes with the audio data in the general outline was used as a basis for segment selection for transcription.

Identification of Argumentative Events

Argumentative events, the basic unit of analysis, were identified in the transcriptions according to the following criteria: (1) a subject matter of opposition expressed as disagreement, denial, refusal, or contradiction; (2) a minimum duration of more than two exchanges that must evolve beyond the simple divergence; and (3) a linkage of a single thematic frame, or of the action to which they refer. Due to the nature of peer talk, these argumentative events often unfolded across multiple speakers.

Data Analysis

The argumentative events were analyzed according to various features related to different aspects: discursive, interactional, and textual.

1. The discursive aspect includes the following features:

Activity types: This feature refers to the types of activity or general frameworks wherein the argumentative events arise. Namely, whether they occur as subordinated to a physical action or activity; a pretend play; or a discussion not directly derived or subordinated to any physical activity of play.

Thematic frames: This feature refers to the domains or topics under discussion that create an underlying coherence along the argumentative event, such as physical or concrete issues, personal preferences, behavioral issues, conventions, feelings or internal states, abstract topics, and language topics.

Genre embeddedness: This feature refers to the extent by which the argumentative event is intertwined or occurs simultaneously to an explanation, a narrative, a definition, or an instruction.

2. The interactional aspect refers to features that characterize the participants' reactions and responses, including the diverse types of knowledge they appeal to as arguments (epistemic values).

Reaction types: Children's reactions were characterized as oriented to the way or manner the arguments are formulated (as in "Don't say things like that"); the content of the arguments; or the arguers themselves (as in "I'm mad at you"). (7)

Responses: Children's responses were classified as content supportive simple (as in the case of confirmation or simple acceptance), content supportive elaborated (as in the case of acceptance with expansions), content nonsupportive simple (as in the case of simple disagreements or insistence), and content nonsupportive elaborated (as in the case of counterclaims or justifications).

Epistemic values: Children's types of knowledge were classified as appealing to generalizations, causes, authorities or sources of information, evaluative comments, examples, language issues, hypothetical cases, comments about thinking, or in a predicative way (such as in the case in which children just assert something about a topic without any evaluative dimension).

3. The textual aspect refers to features related to the participants' stances (8) (following Berman, 2004; Berman, Ragnarsdottir, & Stromqvist, 2002); that is, the participants' attitude, and the extent by which generality, immediacy, and certainty play roles in the way children formulate their argumentations.

Attitude: Children's attitudes were classified as epistemic, attitudes that focused on the relation between the participants and their argument in terms of their truth and evidentiality (as in "It's not Superman's suit because it has no wings"); deontic, attitudes that expressed judgmental, prescriptive, or evaluative viewpoints (as in "You shouldn't talk like that with a friend"); and affective, attitudes that referred to the relation between the participants and the expression of their feelings or emotions (as in "I want the name 'cat' for the group because I love cats").

Degree of generality: The extent to which generality or specificity of people, places, events, and times were referenced in arguments; this was classified as ranging from an impersonal, broad, or high degree of generality (as in "All cats are black") to a particular or specific low degree (as in "Once I know to do the speed").

Degree of immediacy: Refers to the extent by which argumentations were anchored in the "here and now" (as in "You don't do it well, do like me") or moved toward a more distant or abstract course (as in "We need rules to know what to do").

Degree of certainty: Refers to the extent by which argumentations were assertively formulated (as in "You promised and you don't keep your word. You're a liar") or were formulated at the level of a probability (as in "I'm not sure, maybe").


A second coder analyzed 25% of the transcripts. Agreement between the two coders was calculated by dividing the number of agreed cases by the total number of cases (85% for all categories). High agreement was reached at the discursive and interactional aspects (92% and 90%, respectively), because most features related to these aspects were transparent and easily detectable. However, features related to the textual aspect were subject to ambiguous interpretations. For instance, stance-taking markers are particularly sensitive to inconsistencies, due to their dependency on co-textual and contextual information. (9) Thus, in a first attempt, the agreement between coders was relatively low (70%). After discussions of vague cases and an additional short training period for the second coder, agreement between coders at the textual dimension rose to 75%. Few of the aforementioned analysis features, as activity types and thematic frames (Table 2, A-B), were mutually exclusive, whereas most of the features were copresent in the same event. For instance, in the same argumentative event, some of the participants' reactions (Table 3, A) were personally oriented, whereas others were oriented toward the way the argument was advanced. The researchers counted the number of occurrences of each of the features and computed their distribution. Due to the fact that the distribution was not normal, we used dichotomous measures (i.e., the feature was present/absent) and chi-squared tests (calculated with SPSS software, version 18.0) to examine the associations between participants (PT and CT) and the occurrences of each of the features.


The initial phase of the current study consisted of the identification of argumentative events embedded in the PT and CT transcriptions. Toward this end, both coders analyzed the entirety of the acquired data and classified it according to the stipulated criteria (see Method). The researchers identified argumentative events in the transcriptions, counted the number of utterances in each event, and found a relatively high proportion of argumentative utterances out of the total number of utterances (Table 1). Note that an utterance refers to a complete communicative unit that may consist of a range from single words or phrases to clause combinations in uninterrupted speech (Carter & McCarthy, 2006).

Once identified, the argumentative events were characterized along the features in the discursive, interactional, and textual aspects (see below).

Discursive Aspect

Characterization of the events, according to activity types' features, yielded a significant association resulting from a higher frequency of discussion in the CT group, and higher frequency of activity and play in the PT group (Table 2, A). In PT, argumentative events not only emerged as subordinated to activity goals, but also presented a widespread distribution along the different features.

A significant association also was found regarding the thematic frames of the argumentative events (Table 2, B). In PT, children dealt with themes related to physical issues and shared activities, or magical themes related to the media or pretend play; whereas in CT, children talked about language use and meaning, or abstract themes. Other themes, such as personal preferences, reference to past events, or conventions, were proportionally dealt with in both groups.

Concerning genres, the researchers found frequent use of explanations intertwined with argumentations in PT and CT (Table 2, C); they also detected significant differences between CT and PT. Namely, argumentative events were intertwined with instructions in PT, but in CT they were mainly related to the genre of definition. The prominence of explanation, as the most frequent feature among PT and CT, in conjunction with the differential frequency observed for other genres, confirmed our initial predictions.

Interactional Aspect

To assess the interactional aspect of the argumentative events, the researchers characterized the participants' reactions, responses, and epistemic values (types of knowledge). Different types of reactions (Table 3, A) in CT and PT yielded significant associations. Namely, reactions toward other arguers were significantly more frequent in PT than in CT, whereas reactions toward the way or manner the arguments were formulated were more frequent in CT than in PT, thus confirming our predictions.

In contrast, and against our prediction, nonsupportive content responses (whether simple or elaborated) were more frequent in PT than in CT; but content-support responses (simple or elaborated) were more frequent in CT than in PT (Table 3, B).

Concerning epistemic values, significant associations between PT and CT regarding the different types of knowledge that children appeal to were found (Table 3, C). In PT, children appeal to social values, evaluative comments, examples, generalizations, causality, and predicative comments more frequently than in CT, while an appeal to linguistic issues was more present in CT than in PT.

Textual Aspect

Last, the researchers characterized the participants' stances by referring to their attitudes and to the degrees of generality, immediacy, and certainty in their arguments. The comparison of attitudes yielded significant associations in PT and CT, thus confirming our predictions (Table 4, A). Namely, epistemic attitudes were more frequent in CT than in PT, and deontic and affective attitudes were associated with PT more than with CT. On the axis of immediacy-distancing (Table 4, C), the researchers found that reference to past events, remote worlds, or abstract levels were more frequent in CT than in PT.

High as well as low levels of generality were more frequent in argumentative events in CT than in Fr (Table 4, B). Although children formulated their arguments between peers with high degrees of certainty, a significant association was found concerning low degrees of certainty in CT (Table 4, D).


In the current study, the researchers quantitatively characterized children's argumentative events in PT and CT and compared them based on similar criteria. Our findings show that although certain aspects of the features of each one of these dialogic scenarios are dichotomous, others do not show a clear delineation.

The Centrality of Argumentative Events

Argumentation assumed a central place in both groups, which is reflected in the proportion of argumentative utterances out of the total utterances (Table 1). Argumentative events lasted for longer periods in CT in comparison to PT, due to the fact that the teacher, as an authoritative partner, not only controls the events but also "holds" them for relatively long periods of time. In CT, argumentative events were mainly initiated and conducted by the teacher, and, as such, they evolve into discussions linked to the activity of "knowing," in "a sphere which can be set up as a virtual space, independent of action and its consequences" (Pontecorvo & Sterponi, 2002, p. 129). Per unit of time, the number of argumentative events was higher in PT as compared to CT, but they were shorter in duration. In PT, arguments emerged as anchored in children's ongoing activity and shared "doing" and were tightly related to the possible consequences of children's actions in their play and activities. However, albeit to a lesser extent, children also discussed about topics or issues that were not directly related to the activity or without being goal-oriented (Table 2). For example, a group of children were busy drawing and coloring and a discussion evolved about distant themes as people of the world and features of different ethnicities (also qualitatively analyzed in Hamo & Blum-Kulka, 2007; and in Zadunaisky-Ehrlich & Blum-Kulka, 2010). The researchers conclude that although argumentative events in CT seem to be one-dimensional and strictly related to learning-knowing contexts, the web created in argumentative events between children's acts of knowing and doing makes argumentative events in PT a room for "shaping meaning," because they tap all aspects of peer relations.

Decontextualization and Thematic Frames

The data presented here point to significant differences between groups regarding the argumentative events' thematic frames (Table, B). In PT, children dealt mainly with physical-behavioral issues or topics derived from the ongoing activities (how to draw a heart, how to make up a child as a lion, how to solve a conflict in a pretend play, and so on); whereas in CT, attention was significantly directed to discussion about language, language meaning, and abstract topics (for instance, "What is a city council? .... What is an expression? .... Who is able to decide about a convention?"). This finding is underscored by the integration of other genre types within argumentative events. In PT, argumentative events were intertwined with instructions, whereas in CT, they were intertwined with the children's attempts to define words/concepts or expressions (Table 2, C). For instance, in one occasion, the children discussed how to arrange a pretend costume store by mixing costumes with other accessories. Disagreements regarding which accessories would be sold at the store prompted the teacher to initiate a discussion about the meaning of the word costume, whether it is a collective noun, and which referents it includes. In other words, at first glance, the quantitative findings in Table 2, C portray a picture in which argumentative events are highly contextualized in PT (tied to instructions and themes related to ongoing activities), and decontextualized in CT (related to word meaning or distant topics). However, the picture is more complex. First, reference to past events was one of the most frequent topics in both PT and CT, which by itself decontextualized the talk from the here-and-now. Second, a more refined qualitative analysis of the same data source (Zadunaisky-Ehrlich & Blum-Kulka, 2012) showed that there is shifting in PT on a continuum of decontextualization (also described by Blum-Kulka, Huck-Taglicht, & Avni, 2004). This shift is difficult to quantify, because it occurs subtly and very dynamically. For instance, during a pretend play episode, a group talked about using a code to enter a pretend "baby cage"; it was stipulated that only those who did not like Tarzan were allowed to know the code. A girl claimed that she hated Tarzan and grounded her claim by telling a narrative of having taken home a booklet of Tarzan and transforming it into a Barbie magazine: "ye::s yes (I threw it in the garbage), I put on it garlic sau::ce .... I threw it in the garbage.., as if ya::. the garlic sauce can was finished ..and I also put on it TOMATO SAUCE, I also put ON it tomato sauce ... I:: so look I took different kinds of sauces and also e<veggies>, and made from all this a<Barbie:::s> magazine" (for an additional analysis, see Hamo et al., 2004). (10) On another occasion, children played in a pretend store and discussed the stuff in the store, and a girl tried to convince her friends that the store also sells robes by recalling a shared past event: "> Do you remember that on[up arrow]ce we had a sale < to the: buyer." Then she made a generalization by saying that "clothes stores have also robes." In these instances, children ground their claim by decontextualizing the talk from the here-and-now. On another occasion, a boy argued with a girl because she didn't want to share grapes. At some point in the arguments' interchange, the children talked explicitly about the act of promising and what that speech act implies (as in "You promise but you don't keep your word .... You're a liar"). This type of talk is an instance of language's reflection and it occurred as a sort of "parenthesis" detached from the ongoing activity (for a full analysis, see Zadunaisky-Ehrlich & Blum-Kulka, 2012).

In summary, the shifting on the continuum of decontextualization, between the here-and-now of the ongoing activity and acts of distancing the talk, is underlined in the first example by the narrative that was told to ground the claim of hating Tarzan, by a past event recalled and a generalization in the second example, and by comments that deal with language use (defining a speech act) in the third example. These instances indicate that although argumentative events are tied to the ongoing activities in PT and the themes are related to physical or behavioral issues, children dynamically move back and forth from the here-and-now activity and themes to other contexts and themes that are more decontextualized.

In contrast to these subtle and dynamic ways, the act of decontextualizing and moving to further themes was clearly and explicitly done in CT by the teachers' intervention. For instance, a discussion that started about the prohibition of taking shoes off at the kindergarten's playground evolved, by the teacher's initiative, into a discussion about the need for rules in society, the legitimacy of certain authorities to rule in certain contexts, and the arbitrary or conventional nature of rules in society. That is, the theme of conventions or "local" rules moved from the present context (prohibition of taking off shoes in the playground) to other contexts of reference that distanced the theme from the children's everyday experience toward a more generalized, social, and universal view.

Reactions' Types and Stance Taking

In PT, the arguments were more oriented toward the other participants than in CT (Table 3, A). In this setting, children's arguments were mainly fOrmulated at the interpersonal level and questioned the general competence of other arguers. In this respect, the ways that children portray each other while they argue help to shape the group social order (Goodwin, 1990; Zadunaisky-Ehrlich & Blum Kulka, 2010). This may also explain why social values were one of the most frequent types of knowledge children appealed to when they argued (Table 4, B), reflecting the fact that the diversity of types of knowledge that are appealed to depends on the values or attitudes adopted by a certain community (Baker, 2002).

Children also adopted a deontic stance in PT (Table 3, C). That is, they adopted judgmental, prescriptive, and evaluative attitudes related to their understanding of social reality (Kalish, 2005). For instance, they stated conventions about what should or shouldn't be done or said between friends (as in "Don't say things like that to friends"), or talked about what was required, permitted, or prohibited in their interaction. Note that these conventions or evaluative comments frequently arose in the magical or imaginary world that children coconstructed, sometimes even based on how characters from the media they impersonated were expected to behave in pretend play scenes. The prevalence of a deontic attitude in PT fits developmental findings based on experimental studies that indicate that deontic modal forms precede the understanding of epistemic ones (Bascelli & Barbieri, 2002; Kalish & Lawson, 2008).

In CT, the teacher encouraged an epistemic attitude that was clearly adopted by the children. This attitude indexes sociocultural information highly associated with schooling and serves as a vehicle for the children to constitute themselves as learners (Ochs, 1996), as there is an increasing demand of a less subjective and personalized attitude toward "a general outlook, distanced, and universalistic view on given states of affairs" (Berman, 2004, p. 111). A clear example of this, extracted from a long event in our data, illustrates this point. The children discussed possible names of what to call their own group ("the horses," "the elephants," "clowns," and so on), grounding their proposals on affective attitudes ("I want the 'cats' group because I like cats" or "It's cute"; Table 4, A). As the discussion evolved, the teacher made the following remark: "Just a minute, try try try <to convince ((them))>, D'you know what convince means? What does it mean to convince? Do or explain, say something so they will agree with you, try to think about something you can tell them so they'll agree to accept your idea." In this manner, the teacher clearly promoted an epistemic stance by asking the children to apply "thinking tools"--that is, to use justifications or explanations for their proposals to be accepted. On other occasions, the teacher also made explicit her expectations regarding the degrees of knowledge required to justify or base an explanation, even at the price of creating increasing uncertainty in children's responses (see low certainty in Table 4, D). For instance, on one occasion, a child used the phrase a floating floor when trying to explain the duties of a city council. After he admitted he didn't know exactly what "a floating floor" meant, the teacher remarked, "So, how can you explain to us something you don't know?" In contrast to the above-presented examples, a "natural" drive to provide reasons, causes, or justifications characterized argumentative events in PT (see causality in Table 3, C), and this also was manifested in the elaborated responses children produced in PT, in comparison to CT.

Elaborated Responses

In the current study, nonsupportive elaborated responses were related to argumentative events between peers more than with the teacher. Children provided causes and explanations, made generalizations, and illustrated with examples or appealed to social values, thus producing more elaborated nonsupportive responses in PT than in CT (Table 2, B and C). The oppositional nature of argumentative sequences provides the children with opportunities of finding grounds, explanations, counterexamples, and so forth, so that they succeed in the co-articulation of far more complex arguments than any one of them would have achieved alone (Pontecorvo & Pirchio, 2000). Our observation of the enhanced level of elaboration of nonsupportive responses in PT

might be explained by the fact that argumentative events were highly related to their shared activities and themes, as well as aimed at the achievement of social goals. That is, in PT, the further elaboration of children's arguments is an outcome of pragmatic constraints.

Contrastingly, in CT, further elaboration was explicitly demanded for nearly every response, independently of its nature as supportive or nonsupportive. For instance, a group of children were looking at a book and disagreed about the gender of a figure ("It's a girl because she has a pony-tail" or "No, boys also have pony-tails"). When the teacher joined the group, she asked the children to state the criteria upon which gender assessment is based: facial features, different behavior, and so on. In this case, the teacher demanded elaboration of the children's responses. This elaboration was a pragmatic requirement or natural outcome of the disagreement situation. However, and surprisingly, further elaboration was also demanded in case agreements--that is, when there is no need of providing further elaboration (in Grice's [1975] conversational norms, this is considered a violation of the principle of quantity). For instance, the teacher explicitly formulated, "The one who says yes should say why he/she fancies, the one who says no, should say why he/she does not fancy it, because just saying yes or no does not help (the children keep silent) so let's think together." By this, she asked that claims, grounds, and arguments be fully lexicalized according to what is expected in a "literate style" (Michaels & Cook-Gumperz, 1979, p. 658), thereby encouraging the children to make their claims more publicly accountable and more visible in the talk (Mercer, 1995). Note that the disregard for pragmatic needs and the lack of pragmatic motivation clearly contrasts with the situation in PT, where disagreements or lack of clarity were the generators of further elaboration.


Blum-Kulka and Snow (2004) observed that "the question of adult-child or peer interaction is not one of 'more' or 'less' learning but rather of context-specific gains" (p. 298). The main goals of the current study were to gain a deeper understanding regarding these gains and to look for the affordances of peer talk and children-teacher talk to children's argumentative discourse. The current research has shown that argumentative events with the teacher bring children closer to the realm of what is known as literacy schooling. In this setting, children are aligned with each other and with contents, while being simultaneously socialized into particular ways of arguing and thinking that echo schooling conventions. In contrast, with peers, children are deeply committed to sociality and are genuinely immersed in events of argumentative character that arise in shared activities and play at the interpersonal level, thus shaping social roles. In this setting, it is quite understandable that children spontaneously elaborate their arguments, make personal remarks, or adopt deontic and affective attitudes. The polarized picture emerging from these statements is reminiscent of the discussions that oppose play or child-centered approaches, highly associated with PT, to skill-centered approaches, generally associated with CT (see Nicolopoulou, McDowell, & Brockmeyer, 2006; Singer et al., 2009). Our data indicate that along specific affordances of peer talk and children-teacher talk, both settings share similar features and display similar phenomena but with different nuances. Thus, our proposal is to adopt an integrative or complementary view that brings to the dedichotomizationll of this matter. In this view, situations of adversative nature in PT and CT settings, which constitute a ground for development and growth, should serve as sources of information and knowledge. Teachers and educators should consider the uniqueness of both of these settings and employ both as resources in theft attempt to bridge these different discourse worlds.

DOI: 10.1080/02568543.2011.580040


The current study was conducted as part of a doctoral thesis at the Hebrew University under the supervision of Professor Emerita Shoshana Blum Kulka. The data from peer talk is part of a large-scale longitudinal study of pragmatic development, designed to provide a context-sensitive developmental account of the acquisition of different discourse genres. This study focused on children from three preschools, following them over the duration of three years, and also included 20 target children of an older cohort (9 to 10 years old at the onset of the study), recorded over the same period and in the same speech events. The study further included a cross-cultural component, based on data collected in American preschools.

Submitted May 27, 2010; accepted December 1, 2010.


Andriessen, J. (2008). Arguing to learn. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 79-96). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Antaki, C. (1994). Explaining and arguing: The social organization of accounts. London, England: Sage.

Asterhan, C. S. C., & Schwarz, B. B. (2007). The effects of monological and dialogical argumentation on concept learning in evolutionary theory. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 626-639.

Aukrust, V. G., & Rydland, V. (2009). "Does it matter?" Talking about ethnic diversity in preschool and first-grade classrooms. Journal of Pragmatics, 41, 1538-1556.

Baker, M. (2009). Intersubjective and intrasubjective rationalities in pedagocial debates: Realizing what one thinks. In B. Schwarz, T. Dreyfus, & R. Hershkowitz (Eds.), Transformation of knowledge through classroom interaction (pp. 145-158). Abingdon, England: Routledge.

Baker, M. J. (2002). Argumentative interactions, discursive operations and learning to model in science. In P. Brna, M. Baker, K. Stenning, & A. Tiberghien (Eds.), The role of communication in learning to model (pp. 303-324). Mahwah, N J: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Bascelli, E., & Barbieri, M. S. (2002). Italian children's understanding of the epistemic and deontic modal verbs dovere (must) and potere (may). Journal of Child Language, 29(1), 87-107.

Berman, R. (2004). Introduction: Developing discourse stance in different text types and languages. Journal of Pragmatics, 37(2), 105-124.

Berman, R. A., Ragnarsdottir, H., & Stromqvist, S. (2002). Discourse stance. Written Language and Literacy, 5, 255-290.

Biber, D. (1995). The comprehensive analysis of register variation: A cross-linguistic comparison. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Biber, D., & Finnegan, E. (1988). Adverbial stance types in English. Discourse Processes, 11, 1-34.

Billig, M. (1996). Arguing and thinking: A rhetorical approach to social psychology (Rev. ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Blum-Kulka, S. (1993). "You gotta know how to tell a story": Telling, tales, and tellers in American and Israeli narrative events at dinner. Language in Society, 22, 361-402.

Blum-Kulka, S., Huck-Taglicht, D., & Avni, H. (2004). The social and discursive spectrum of peer talk. Discourse Studies, 6(3), 307-328.

Blum-Kulka, S., & Snow, C. E. (Eds.). (2004). Peer talk and pragmatic development, Special issue. Discourse Studies, 6(3), 291-307.

Carter, R., & McCarthy, M. (2006). Cambridge grammar of English: A comprehensive guide to spoken and written English grammar and usage. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Cazden, C. B. (1988). Classroom discourse: The language of teaching and learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Chen, D. W., Fein, G. G., Killen, M., & Tam, H. E (2001). Peer conflicts of preschool children: Issues, resolution, incidence and age-related patterns. Early Education & Development, 12(4), 523-544.

Christie, F. (1995). Pedagogic discourse in the primary school. Linguistics and Education, 3(7), 221-242.

Cobb-Moore, C., Danby, S., & Farrell, A. (2009). Young children as rule makers. Journal of Pragmatics, 4(8), 1477-1492.

Corsaro, W., & Maynard, D. W. (1996). Format tying in discussion and argumentation among Italian and American children. In D. I. Slobin, J. Gerhardt, A. Kyratzis, & J. Guo (Eds.), Social interaction, social context, and language: Essays in honor of Susan Ervin-Tripp (pp. 157-174). Mahwah, N J: Erlbaum.

Corsaro, W., & Rizzo, T. (1990). Disputes in the peer culture of American and Italian nursery school children. In A. Grimshaw (Ed.), Conflict talk: Sociolinguistic investigations of arguments in conversation (pp. 21-66). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Dascal, M. (1988). Types of polemics and types of polemical moves. In S. Cmerjkova, J. Hoffmannova, O. Mullerova, & J. Svetla (Eds.), Dialoganalyse VI-I (pp. 15-33). Tiibingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer.

Dascal, M. (2009). Review articles. Mental diversity and unity. A pragmatic approach to the debate. Pragmatics & Cognition, 17(2), 403-420.

De Fina, A. (1997). An analysis of Spanish Bien as a marker of classroom management in teacher-student interaction. Journal of Pragmatics, 28, 337-354.

Dunn, J. (1999). Introduction: New directions in research on children's relationships and understanding. Social Development, 8(2), 137-142.

Dunn, J. (2004). Children's friendships: The beginnings of intimacy. Oxford, England: Blackwell.

Eisenberg, N. (2006). Introduction. In W. Damon, R. M. Leruer, & N. Eisenberg (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Social, emotional, and personality development (6th ed., pp. 1-23). Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons.

Englebretson, R. (Ed.). (2007). Stance taking in discourse. Amsterdam, The Netherlands/Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Ervin-Tripp, S. M. (1991). Play in language development. In B. Scales, A. Almy, M. Almy, A. Nicolopoulou, & S. M. Ervin-Tripp (Eds.), Play and the social context of development in early care and education (pp. 84-98). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Garvey, C. (1990). Play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gee, J. P. (1999). An introduction to discourse analysis: Theory and method. London, England and New York, NY: Routledge.

Genishi, C., & DiPaolo, M. (1982). Learning through argument in a preschool. In L. C. Wilkinson (Ed.), Communicating in the classroom (pp. 49-68). New York, NY: Academic.

Goodwin, M. (1990). He-said-she-said: Talk as social organization among black children. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Goodwin, M. (2006). The hidden life of girls: Games of stance, status, and exclusion. Oxford, England: Blackwell.

Goodwin, M., & Kyratzis, A. (2007). Children socializing children: Practices for negotiating the social order among peers. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 40(4), 279-289.

Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J. L. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and semantics volume 3: Speechacts (pp. 41-58). New York, NY: Academic Press.

Hamo, M., & Blum-Kulka, S. (2007). Apprenticeship in conversation and culture: Emerging sociability in preschool peer talk. In J. Valsiner & A. Rosa (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of sociocultural psychology (pp. 423-444). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Hamo, M., Blum-Kulka, S., & Hacohen, G. (2004). From observation to transcription: Theory, practice and interpretation in the analysis of children's naturally occurring discourse. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 37(1), 71-88.

Hartman, A. (1979). Prestige grading of occupations with sociologists as judges. Quality and Quantity, 13, 1-19.

Haworth, A. (1999). Bakhtin in the classroom: What constitutes a dialogic text? Some lessons from small group interaction. Language and Education, 13(2), 99-117.

Heath, S. B. (1982). What no bedtime story means: Narrative skills at home and school. Language in Society, 11(1), 49-76.

Hirsch, R. (1989). Argumentation, information, and interaction: Studies in face-to-race interactive argumentation under differing turn-taking conditions. Gothenburg Monographs in Linguistics 7. Gothenburg, Sweden: University of Gothenburg.

Howe, C., & McWilliam, D. (2001). Peer argument in educational settings. Variations due to socio-economic status, gender, and activity context. Journal of Language & Social Psychology, 20(1/2), 61-80.

Howe, C., & Mercer, N. (2007). Children's social development, peer interaction and classroom learning (Primary review research survey 2/1 b). Cambridge, England: University of Cambridge Faculty of Education.

Hunston, S. (2007). Using a corpus to investigate stance quantitatively and qualitatively. In R. Englebretson (Ed.), Stancetaking in discourse (pp. 27-48). Amsterdam, The Netherlands/Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Hutchby, I., & Wooffit, R. (1998). Conversation analysis. Oxford, England: Polity Press.

Hymes, D. (1974). Foundations in sociolinguistics: An ethnographic approach. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Kalish, C. (2005). Becoming status conscious: Children's appreciation of social reality. Philosophical Explorations, 8(3), 245-263.

Kalish, C., & Lawson, C. A. (2008). Development of social category representations: Early appreciation of roles and deontic relations. Child Development, 79(3), 577-593.

Kampf, Z., & Blum-Kulka, S. (2011). Why Israeli children are better at settling disputes than Israeli politicians. In F. Bargiela-Chiappini & D. K-6dhr (Eds.), Politeness across cultures (pp. 85-105). Palgrave Macmillan.

Karkkainen, E. (2006). Stance taking in conversation: From subjectivity to intersubjectivity. Text & Talk, 26(6), 699-731.

Kiefer, E (1987). On defining modality. Folia Linguistica, 21, 67-94.

Kyratzis, A. (2004). Talk and interaction among children and the co-construction of peer group and peer culture. Annual Review of Anthropology, 33, 625-649.

Kyratzis, A., & Cook-Gumperz, J. (2008). Language socialization and gendered practices in childhood. In P. Duff & N. H. Hornberger (Eds.), Encyclopedia of language and education, 2nd edition, Vol. 8: Language socialization (pp. 1-13). New York, NY: Springer Science.

Kyratzis, A., & Guo, J. (2001). Preschool girls' and boys' verbal conflict strategies in the US and China: Cross-cultural and contextual considerations. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 3, 445-475.

Leitao, S. (2000). The potential of argument in knowledge building. Human Development, 43(6), 332-360.

Maynard, D. W. (1986). The development of argumentative skills among children. In A. Adler & P. Adler (Eds.), Sociological studies of child development (Vol. 1, pp. 233-258). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Mercer, N. (1995). The guided construction of knowledge. Talk amongst teachers and learners. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Mercer, N. (2000). Words and minds: How we use language to think together. London, England: Routledge.

Mercer, N., & Littleton, K. (2007). Dialogue and the development of children's thinking: A socio-cultural approach. London, England: Routledge.

Michaels, S., & Cook-Gumperz, J. (1979). A study of sharing time with first grade students: Discourse narratives in the classroom. In C. Chiarello (Ed.), Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (pp. 647-660). Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Linguistics Society.

Muller Mirza, N., & Perret-Clermont, A-N. (Eds.). (2009). Argumentation and education: Theoretical foundations and practices (1st ed.). Berlin, Germany: Springer.

Nicolopoulou, A. (1993). Play, cognitive development, and the social world: Piaget, Vygotsky, and beyond. Human Development, 36, 1-23.

Nicolopoulou, A., McDowell, J., & Brockmeyer, C. (2006). Narrative play and emergent literacy: Storytelling and story-acting meet journal writing. In D. Singer, R. Golinkoff, & K. Hirsh-Pasek (Eds.), Play=Learning (pp. 124-144). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Ochs, E. (1990). Cultural universals in the acquisition of language: Keynote address. Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, Stanford University, 29, 1-19.

Ochs, E. (1996). Linguistic resources for socializing humanity. In J. Gumperz & S. C. Levinson (Eds.), Rethinking linguistic relativity (pp. 407-437). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

O'Connors, M. C., & Michaels, S. (1996). Shifting participant frameworks: Orchestrating thinking practices in group discussion. In D. Hicks (Ed.), Discourse, learning and schooling (pp. 63-103). Cambridge, England& New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

O'Connors, M. C., & Michaels, S. (2007). When is dialogue "dialogic"? Human Development, 50, 275-285.

Plantin, C. (2002). Argumentation studies and discourse analysis: The French situation and global perspectives. Discourse Studies, 4(3), 343-368.

Pontecorvo, C. (1987). Discussing and reasoning: The role of argument in knowledge construction. In E. De Corte, H. Lodewijks, R. Parmentier, & P. Span (Eds.), Learning and instruction: European research in an international context (pp. 239-250). Oxford, England: Pergamon Press.

Pontecorvo, C., & Pirchio, S. (2000). A developmental view on children's arguing: The need of the other. Human Development, 43, 361-363.

Pontecorvo, C., & Sterponi, L. (2002). Learning to argue and learning to reason through discourse in educational settings. In G. Wells & G. Claxton (Eds.), Learning for life in the 21st century (pp. 127-141). Oxford, England: Blackwell.

Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Rojas-Drummond, S., Mercer, N., & Dabrowski, E. (2001). Collaboration, scaffolding and the promotion of problem solving strategies in Mexican pre-schoolers. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 16(2), 179-196.

Rojas-Drummond, S., Mercer, N., & Rupert, W. (1999). Language for the social construction of knowledge: Comparing classroom talk in Mexican preschools. Language & Education, 13(2), 133-150.

Rojas-Drummond, S., & Zapata, M. P. (2004). Exploratory talk, argumentation and reasoning in Mexican primary school children. Language & Education, 18(6), 539-557.

Rowland, R. C. (1987). On defining argument evaluation. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 20, 140-159.

Sawyer, R. K. (1997). Pretend play as improvisation: Conversation in the preschool classroom. Mahwah, N J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Schiffrin, D. (1987). Discourse markers. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Singer, D., Michnik-Golinkoff, R., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (Eds.). (2009). Play = Learning: How play motivates and enhances children's cognitive and social-emotional growth. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Stein, N. L., & Albro, E. (2001). The origins and nature of arguments: Studies in conflict understanding, emotion, and negotiation. Discourse Processes, 32, 113-133.

Stein, N. L., & Bernas, R. (1999). The early emergence of argumentative knowledge and skill. In G. Rijlaarsdam & E. Esperet (Eds.), & J. Andriessen & P. Coirier (Vol. Eds.), Studies in writing, vol. 5: Foundations of argumentative text processing (pp. 97-116). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: University of Amsterdam Press.

van Eemeren, E H., & Grootendorst, R. (1984). Speech acts in argumentative discussions. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Foris Publications.

Waller, T. (2002, September). Cognition and technology: Scaffolding early literacy through ICT. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal.

Walton, D. (2008). Informal logic: A pragmatic approach (2nd ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Walton, D. N. (1992). Types of dialogue, dialectical shifts and fallacies. In E H. van Eemeren, R. Grootendorst, J. A. Blair, & A. Willard (Eds.), Argumentation illuminated (pp. 133-147). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: The Foundation international centre for the study of argumentation and speech communication (Sic Sat).

Wegerif, R., & Mercer, N. (2000). Language for thinking: A study of children solving reasoning test problems together. In H. Cowie & D. Aaslvoort (Eds.), Social interaction in learning and instruction: The meaning of discourse for the construction of knowledge (pp. 179-193). Oxford, England: Elsevier.

Wegerif, R., Rojas-Drummond, S., & Mercer, N. (1999). Language for the social construction of knowledge: Comparing classroom talk in Mexican pre-schools. Language & Education, 13(2), 133-151.

Weigand, E. (2006). Argumentation: The mixed game. Argumentation, 20, 59-87.

Willard, C. A. (1989). A theory of argumentation. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.

Yifat, R., & Zadunaisky-Ehrlich, S. (2008). Teachers' talk in preschools during circle time: The case of revoicing. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 23(2), 211-226.

Zadunaisky-Ehrlich, S., & Blum-Kulka, S. (2010). Peer talk as a "double opportunity space": The case of argumentative discourse. Discourse & Society, 21(2), 1-23.

Zadunaisky-Ehrlich, S., & Blum-Kulka, S. (2012). Discursive literacy indicators in children's conversational arguments. Manuscript under review.

Sara Zadunaisky Ehrlich

School of Education, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, and Beit Berl

Academic College, Kfar Sara, Israel


(1.) Discourse can be defined as a socially accepted association among ways of using language, of thinking, and of acting, that can be used to identify oneself as a member of a socially meaningful group or network (Gee, 1999).

(2.) A dialogical stance in argumentation studies is not homogeneous and includes different programs or lines of study. For further details, see discourse analytic traditions in the study of argumentation (as in Plantin, 2002), a "Pragmadialectic approach" (see van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1984), or approaches that combine principles of rhetoric with Gricean pragmatics (see, for instance, Dascal, 1988; or Weigand, 2006).

(3.) In our view, studies that focus on what is known as "exploratory talk" or "collaborative reasoning" share essential elements of what we have defined in the current study as an argumentative sequence or event.

(4.) Note that the definition of discourse marker (DM) includes all the "linguistic, paralinguistic, or nonverbal elements that signal relations between units of talk by virtue of their syntactic and semantic properties and by virtue of their sequential relations as initial or terminal brackets demarcating discourse units" (Schiffrin, 1987, p. 40). In this work, we focused exclusively on markers that were linguistically marked and not those that were derived implicitly from the talk.

(5.) There are several approaches in the study of discourse stance. Some focus on the analysis of lexical and grammatical "expression of an author's or speaker's attitudes, feelings, judgments, or commitment concerning the message" (Biber & Finnegan, 1988, p. 1). This approach analyzes stance in terms of statistical distribution of different clusters of linguistic markers that are disconnected from the particularities of the communicative settings (Biber, 1995). Others focus mainly on the relation between stance taking to culture (see, for instance, Ochs, 1990) and advance the idea that the meaning of a stance marker depends on its context and on the participants' perspective and, as such, it becomes part of the overall social dimension of language (Karkkainen, 2006). Hence, they promote conversational interaction and ethnographically based studies to focus on linguistic forms that occur in different socio-cultural settings (Englebretson, 2007). The current study is closer to the latter approach.

(6.) The data from this group was gathered longitudinally over a period of 3 years as part of a research project called Gaining Autonomy in Genres of Extended Discourse (Blum-Kulka et al., 2004). This project explores children's use of genres of extended discourse. The children's discourse was recorded during three types of speech events: (1) natural peer interactions, (2) mealtimes, and (3) semistructured adult-child interviews. The database for the current research paper refers to data gathered on peer interactions in the first year of study (2001-2002) when the participants attended preschool.

(7.) This classification was originally developed by Blum-Kulka (1993), who proposed a threefold conceptual framework for the analysis of conversational narratives referring to the "telling" act, the "tales," and the "tellers" We adapt it to the study of arguments by referring, correspondingly, to the "arguing act," the "arguments" themselves, and the "arguers."

(8.) Stance is not a monolithic notion and is used in different disciplines to deal with unrelated types of phenomena. To override this difficulty, it was suggested to define it in operative ways that stipulate the range of phenomena it encompasses (Englebretson, 2007). We've adapted Berman et al.'s definition of stance (2002) and analyzed every time expressions of stance were explicitly formulated. For instance, high level of certainty was evaluated when children use adverbials as "batuax"--"for sure," and low level of certainty was evaluated in the case of children using adverbials as "ulay"--"perhaps."

(9.) Quantifying stance is problematic because there is an absence of one-to-one correspondence between individual words and stance functions. In addition, stance expressions do not only depend on the words but also on the phraseology; that is, on how phrases are typically used (Hunston, 2007).

(10.) Transcription conventions (fully developed in Hamo et al., 2004)
[words]--overlapping talk         = - overlatch

wor-cut off                       ,--a continuing rising intonation

.-falling intonation at the end   --rising intonation the end of an
of an utterance                   utterance

(0.5)--timed intervals            (.)--intervals of less than 0.2

[up arrow]--a sharp rise in
pitch                             [down arrow]--a sharp fall in pitch

word---high volume                [degrees]word[degrees]--low volume

>words<--fast rhythm              <words>--slow rhythm

word--emphasis                    wo::rd--sound stretch

(...)--incomprehensible words     (words)--transcription doubt

#words#--unusual tone, indicated
in a comment                      ((comment))--transcriber's comments

(11.) The concept of dedichotomization was initially advanced by Dascal (2009). In his discussion about "diversity mentality or unity," he argued that the contribution of a pragmatic approach consists in expanding the contexts considered as relevant for the interpretation of the issues under debate. He proposed that the "dedichotomization" of the debate opens the arena for alternative views other than the two poles of the dichotomy (p. 409).

The project was funded by the American-Israeli Binational Science Foundation Grant No. 980031, 1999-2002, and Grant No. 98301, 2002-2005, and by ISF Grant No. 83201, 2001-2004.

Address correspondence to Sara Zadunaisky Ehrlich, School of Education, Beit Berl Academic College, Kfar Sava, Israel. E-mail: Zadu
Argumentative Events and Argumentative Utterances in PT and CT
Out of the Total Number of Utterances

                              Session's Time                (Total
                                Transcribed      Events    Number)

Peer talk (PT)               303 min. (20) (a)     60        4603
Children-Teacher talk (CT)   315 min. (11)         45        1335

                                               Percent of
                             Argumentative   Utterances out
                              Utterances      of the Total

Peer talk (PT)                   1407             31%
Children-Teacher talk (CT)        774             58%

(a) This number also includes three transcriptions from which the
researchers have no exact information regarding the  time that
was transcribed from the recordings. It is possible to assume
that both groups are almost equivalent in the transcriptions'

Frequency of Features at the Discursive Aspects in Argumentative
Events in PT and CT (in %)

Discursive Aspect    Features               PT (n = 60)   CT (n = 45)

A. Activity Types    Activity                   42              0
                     Discussion                 20            100
                     Play                       38              0

B. Thematic Frames   Physical                   37              4
                     Personal preferences       25             24
                     Past events                17             22
                     Conventions                 3              2
                     Affective                   8             16
                     Linguistic                  2             20
                     Magical                     8              0
                     Abstract                    0             11

C. Genres            Narrative                  15              7
                     Explanation                67             76
                     Definition                  5             38
                     Instruction                18              0
                     Argumentation              77             80

Discursive Aspect    Features               Total   [chi square]

A. Activity Types    Activity                24      66.31 ***
                     Discussion              54
                     Play                    22

B. Thematic Frames   Physical                23      32.87 ***
                     Personal preferences    25
                     Past events             19
                     Conventions              3
                     Affective               11
                     Linguistic               9
                     Magical                  5
                     Abstract                 5

C. Genres            Narrative               12       1.76
                     Explanation             70       0.97
                     Definition              19      17.91 ***
                     Instruction             10       9.21 **
                     Argumentation           78       0.16

The values in the table represent the percentage of argumentative
events in which the feature is present. For instance, instruction
(18%) means that in 18% of the argumentative events, the
argumentations were intertwined with instructions, in contrast to
72% of the argumentative events that were not related to this

** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001.

Frequency of Features at the Interactional Aspect in Argumentative
Events in Peer Talk (PT) and Children-Teacher Talk (CT) (in %)

Interactional Aspect         Features        PT (n = 60)   CT (n = 45)

A. Types of reactions   To the arguer             67             9
                        To the content            93           100
                        To the way/manner          3            20

B. Responses            CS content                75            95
                        CS elaborated             53            84
                        CN content               100            89
                        CN elaborated             87            64

C. Epistemic values     Linguistic                33            56
                        Cognitive                 43            53
                        Causality                 70            47
                        Social values             37             4
                        Evaluative                48            16
                        Generalizations           28             7
                        Predicative               43            56
                        Appeal to an               3             4
                        Appeal to examples        22             7

Interactional Aspect         Features        Total   [chi square]

A. Types of reactions   To the arguer         42       35.26 ***
                        To the content        96        3.11
                        To the way/manner     10        7.61 **

B. Responses            CS content            83        8.00 **
                        CS elaborated         67       11.20 ***
                        CN content            95        7.00 **
                        CN elaborated         77        7.20 **

C. Epistemic values     Linguistic            43        5.18 *
                        Cognitive             47        1.03
                        Causality             60        5.83 **
                        Social values         23       15.14 ***
                        Evaluative            34       12.26 ***
                        Generalizations       19        7.82 **
                        Predicative           49        1.53
                        Appeal to an           4        0.087
                        Appeal to examples    15        4.47 *

* p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001.

Frequency of Features at the Textual Aspect in Argumentative Events
in Peer Talk (PT) and Children-Teacher Talk (CT) (in %)

Textual Aspect   Features           PT (n = 60)   CT (n = 45)   Total

A. Attitude      Epistemic              45            80         60
                 Deontic                52            29         42
                 Affective              40            22         32

B. Generality    Generality--high       30            69         47
                 Generality--low        10            40         22

C. Immediacy     Immediacy              22            13         18
                 Distant                38            74         53

D. Certainty     Certainty--high        73            64         69
                 Certainty--low          7            49         25

Textual Aspect   Features           [chi square]

A. Attitude      Epistemic            13.12 ***
                 Deontic               5.48 *
                 Affective             3.71 *

B. Generality    Generality--high     15.62 ***
                 Generality--low      13.12 ***

C. Immediacy     Immediacy             1.20
                 Distant              12.65 ***

D. Certainty     Certainty--high       0.95
                 Certainty--low       24.60 ***

* p < 0.05, *** p < 0.001.
COPYRIGHT 2011 Association for Childhood Education International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Ehrlich, Sara Zadunaisky
Publication:Journal of Research in Childhood Education
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 1, 2011
Previous Article:Mother-child attachment representation and relationships over time in Mexican-heritage families.
Next Article:Assessment of the design efficacy of a preschool vocabulary instruction technique.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters