The patterns of negotiation for meaning in child interactions

Document Type

Journal Article


Blackwell Publishers Ltd


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


School of Education




Oliver, R. (2002). The patterns of negotiation for meaning in child interactions. The Modern Language Journal, 86(1), 97-111.

Available here.


This research examines conversational interactions between children aged 8 to 13 years. The 192 participants were paired to form 96 age- and gender-matched dyads of native speakers (NS) and nonnative speakers (NNS): 32 NNS–NS; 48 NNS–NNS; and 16 NS–NS dyads. The pairs worked together on 2 communication tasks, a one-way and a two-way task. Transcriptions were made from recordings of these conversations and examined to determine the effects of native/nonnativeness, language proficiency, age, and gender on the negotiation for meaning strategies used by the children. The mean and standard deviations were calculated for each group and, because of the nature of the data, the results were compared using nonparametric statistical procedures.

These results suggest that in child-child interactions the nativeness and proficiency of pairings influence the amount of negotiation for meaning that occurs. In terms of native/nonnativeness the results showed that in nearly all cases, NNS–NNS dyads used more negotiation for meaning strategies than did the NNS–NS dyads who, in turn, used more than did the NS–NS dyads. With respect to proficiency, age, and gender, the effect of these factors was slightly different than it was in adult-adult dyads. The general trend with respect to language proficiency was that the least native-like pairs (i.e., matched low proficiency nonnative dyads) produced the most amount of negotiation, with gradually decreasing amounts as the pairings became more native-like in proficiency (i.e, L–L > H–L > H–H > L–NS > H–NS > NS–NS) and, unlike the results in adult studies, age and gender comparisons showed no significant differences.





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