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ISSN : 1226-4822(Print)
ISSN : (Online)
The Sociolinguistic Journal of Korea Vol.26 No.2 pp.119-165

Private Speech and Mutual Engagement in Preschoolers' Playtime Interaction : Talk and Embodiment

Younhee Kim
Research Scientist, Nanyang Technological University


Preschoolers' playtime interaction presents a unique context where private speech/self-talk and mutual conversation are co-present as well as within and out-of-(pretend play) frame talk. Preliminary observation of the data from the larger project revealed an overall pattern where the two children would play together and soon one child or both of them wander off to his/her own private speech/play mode, and then mutual engagement is achieved again. The current study examines this phenomenon from a conversation analytic perspective by showing what types of sequential resources are employed by the children to manage the transition. The resources include making an announcement, a noticing comment about the shared environment, repetition, code-switching, and embodied resources such as gaze, postural orientation, and spatial positioning in the play space (Kendon 1990). The transition from mutual conversation to private speech often accompanies transition from reality to pretend play talk, though not exclusively so. Making a meta-pretend play comment and making a reference to the theme of the joint play also served as an effective way to achieve re-engagement. Based on detailed interactional analysis, the study suggests that the playtime interaction of preschoolers affords more self-oriented speech (self-repair, private speech) and is characterized by rather loosened expectation for responsivity while “playing together” takes close orientation to the other child's behavior as they co-ordinate moments of mutual engagement and separate play throughout their co-presence.