The communication role of adults in child-addressed talk is critical for shaping children’s language learning experiences. This study examined differences in communication role between male and female educators in their spontaneous interactions with preschool children during free play, as well as children’s responses to their educators’ initiations. According to systemic functional linguistic theory (SFL)，communication role comprises four interpersonal functions: offer, command, statement, and question. Children's responses to these functions can be either positive or negative.
The data was collected with video recording on three male and three female university-qualified educators’ interactions with children during one hour of free play in the same preschool. Educators' language and children's responses were transcribed verbatim and then broken down into clauses. A total of 3,892 clauses were initiated by the educators, and these clauses were coded according to the four interpersonal functions of SFL. Children’s responses to educators’ initiations were also coded that was either positive or negative.
This study found significant differences in certain aspects of communication role between male and female educators. Male educators used more offer and question, while female educators expressed more commands. However, the frequency of statement was similar between the genders. Children responded more negatively to male educators' commands than they did to female educators.
This study revealed both similarities and differences in the daily interactions of male and female educators. The implications to children’s language learning opportunities created by male and female educators were discussed.
Jiangbo Hu, Zhejiang Normal University, China
Kai Li, Zhejiang Normal University, China