Recycling, socialization and formulae use in kindergarten: A longitudinal case-study

Karrebæk, Martha Sif

Copenhagen University, Denmark


In this paper I present a longitudinal study on the recycling behaviour (Čekaite & Aronsson 2004) or repetition and use of idiomatic formulae by a novice kindergartner. Among other things, recycling facilitates participation, communication (Pallotti 2001) and acquisition (Wong-Fillmore 1976; Lightbown & Spada 2003), it ensures discourse coherence (Tannen 1987), it underlines group solidarity, and it defies the authorities (Rampton 2006; Björk-Willén 2006)). The same seems to be true about the use of formulae recognized within a community (Wray 2002).

In this case-study I demonstrate that there are close relations between the gradual socialization of the novice child, his use of language, and his recycling behaviour. During his first months, his doing being a participant depends much on the use of non-verbal recyclings and culturally highly significant formulae. This ensures him participation although it proves itself to be insufficient for extended participation. Over time the child starts relying more on verbal recycling and on several different formulae, and this with relative success in terms of peer group integration and central play participation. By the last recordings he has almost given up the use of recycling and of kindergarten idiomatic expressions. Although this change of strategy may seem to point towards successful language acquisition and socialization, it is shown to be a sign of quite the contrary. By the end of the study, the child is less socially integrated, and he even speaks less than in earlier phases. The less socially oriented behaviour, thus, is clearly reflected linguistically, communicatively, and strategically.

The empirical basis of the study consists of 33 hours of video recordings of child-child interaction. These were collected during a 9 months long fieldwork in a Danish kindergarten among 3-6 years old children of mixed ethnic descent. The analytic methodology is inspired by Conversation Analysis.


Björk-Willén, P. (To appear): “Participation in multilingual preschool play: Shadowing and crossing as interactional resources”. Journal of Pragmatics.

Čekaite, A. & K. Aronsson (2004): “Repetition and joking in children’s second language conversations: Playful recyclings in an immersion classroom”. Discourse Studies 6. 373-92.

Lightbown, P.M. & N. Spada (1999/2003). How Languages are Learned. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.

Pallotti, G. (2001). “External Appropriations As a Strategy for participating in Intercultural Multi-Party Conversations”. A. Di Luzio, S. Günthner & F. Orletti (eds.): Culture in communication: Analyses of Intercultural Situations. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 295-334.

Rampton, B. (2006). Language in Late Modernity: Interaction in an urban school. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tannen, D. (1987): “Repetition in conversation: Toward a poetics of talk”. Language 63(3). 574-605.

Wong-Fillmore, L. (1976). The Second Time Around. Unpublished ph.d.-diss., Stanford University.

Wray, A. (2002): Formulaic Language and the Lexicon. Cambridge University Press.

Session: Paper session
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 11