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The Give and Take of Everyday Life: Language Socialization of Kaluli Children.

This volume is based on Bambi Schieffelin's Ph.D. research on language acquisition and language socialization among the Kaluli people of Papua New Guinea over the period 1975-79.

The perspective adopted is that of language socialization - 'the perspective that children are socialized to use language and socialized through the use of language'. The author's reasons for adopting this perspective are spelled out in Chapter 2. She points out that language acquisition studies, while carried out in 'pragmatically sensitive ways', have largely ignored cultural factors such as social organization and belief systems. Similarly, anthropological studies of child socialization and human development have disregarded language used by and to children in social interaction, and not acknowledged the role of language in the acquisition and transmission of sociocultural knowledge.

Schieffelin's own view, influenced by work on the ethnography of speaking, is that acquisition of language and acquisition of culture are interlinked and are 'natural contexts for each other and should be studied as such'.

The methodology used is microethnography - the microanalysis of stretches of discourse between caregivers and children in everyday situations, for '... these everyday routines are for the most part what constitute the child's world'. Using the technique of participant-observation, the author lived among the Bono clan, collecting the 'naturalistic data' that form the basis of her enquiry.

The locus of her study is Sululib on the Great Papuan Plateau, a village of 101 individuals, 38 males, 63 females, out of whom 61 were under ten years of age. The Kaluli are speakers of Bosavi, a non-Austronesian language. A typical village is composed of male members, descended from two or more patrilineal clans, their wives, children and other female relatives. Marriage is exogamous and residence patrilocal. Social organization is nonstratified and hierarchical structure nonexistent. In both the political and economic spheres, Kaluli society is highly egalitarian.

Two concepts, taiyo ('soft') and halaido ('hard') feature strongly in Kaluli socialization. Children are perceived as taiyo in their natural state, getting what they want from others by appealing, whining and begging. They need to be socialized to become halaido -- independent and assertive. Thus mothers 'show language' to children so that they know what to say in different situations.

Throughout, the author focuses on social relationships and reciprocity. Chapter 1 introduces her study. Chapter 2 spells out the theoretical frameworks, assumptions and methods she employs. Chapter 3 is devoted to her subjects, the four Kaluli children (two males, two females), their families and their social practices and cultural observations.

Assertion is a major modality of Kaluli children's language socialization. In Chapter 4, the author examines interactional sequences in which assertion is socialized through direct instruction, through the elema routine ('say like this'). When a Kaluli mother wants her child to say something to someone, she provides the utterance, followed by the imperative elema. This direct instruction in language use is paralleled by similar methods applied to actions elefoma ('do like that').

Chapter 5 addresses the socialization of another important modality - appeal - based on the ade relationship between younger brothers and older sisters. Girls are socialized from a very early age to 'feel sorry for and give in to' their younger brothers, something they do for life. By virtue of their taiyo natures, children do not have to be taught to appeal but need to learn how to respond sympathetically to the appeal of others and to give.

Chapter 6 focuses on reciprocity and the creation of social relationships through sharing. While sharing is important, Kaluli regard refusal as part of socialization too. However, there is a clear dispreference for direct refusals. Instead, a variety of indirect strategies is often used. In the socialization of give and take, Kaluli children learn that one does not just take, but one asks first.

Chapter 7 turns to the development of children's requests. Much of the research data examined here concerns young children's requests for the mother's breast. Even here mothers eschew direct refusals. Instead, by a choice of rhetorical questions to challenge the children's claims, mothers turn down such requests. It is through such interactions that children develop strategies for modifying their requests and learn to respond to refusals without feeling rejected.

Chapter 8 addresses the interesting question of gender-appropriate behaviours. Mothers treat sons and daughters differently in the construction of sociocultural identity. Using interaction routines, mothers encourage cooperation between same-sex siblings and more aggressive behaviour between cross-sex ones. No aggressive tendencies are tolerated from girls, whereas boys are allowed to have their own way. As one mother observed: 'Boys do bad things; girls go along quite easily'. Only girls are socialized to repeat the elema routines to younger siblings in imitation of their mothers. It is clear that Kaluli fathers play almost no role in their children's early socialization.

The concluding chapter takes up three structural themes that emerge from the study: autonomy vs. independence, authority and gender, and reciprocity - themes which are problematic in this nonstratified society.

This is an interesting study in the tradition of ethnographic research. As tends to happen in such studies, much of what is reported is the product of the analyst's interpretation of events observed. As the author admits, 'our transcribed data are interpretive records, selected and edited'.

SAW-CHOO TEO Macquarie University
COPYRIGHT 1993 University of Sydney
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Teo, Saw-Shoo
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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