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What's in a Narrative? Variation in Storytelling at the Interface Between Language and Literacy

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Edited By Christiane Bongartz and Jacopo Torregrossa

Research on narrative production plays a central role in linguistics, psycholinguistics and language acquisition. Narrative elicitation allows researchers to investigate specific linguistic structures and the processes involved in their acquisition in an ecological way. This book provides methodological remarks on how to approach research on narratives, identifying factors that underlie variation in narrative production, including the type of narrative task, cross-linguistic differences, learners’ literacy and cognitive development and the narrative practices in society. The volume features contributions on theoretical and methodological aspects of research on narratives from 16 researchers in linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics and developmental psychology.

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Phyllis Schneider and Allison Laing Menard: Is “narrative ability” a unitary skill?

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Phyllis Schneider and Allison Laing Menard

Is “narrative ability” a unitary skill?

Abstract: The ability to tell or retell a story requires a number of linguistic and cognitive skills. Elicitation methods can have an effect on children’s language in testing situations. We compared 3 standardized instruments that are used to collect and assess children’s narratives to see whether they are tapping “narrative ability” as a unitary skill or are in fact focusing on different subskills that are involved in the (re)telling of a story. A group of 36 children aged 5 were given the 3 instruments according to each instrument’s administration instructions. Group comparisons showed that scores did not differ significantly from one another, suggesting that children as a group performed similarly on the three instruments. However, significant correlations were only found between one of the instruments and the other two instruments, which did not correlate with each other. This indicates that a different pattern of performance exists for the individual tests that does not show up in group comparisons. An examination of how the tests classify children according to below average versus average or above average performance found that only 75 % received the same categorization across all the tests. Therefore, these tests that all aim at providing a measure of narrative ability yield somewhat different evaluations of individual children’s skills. We conclude that “narrative skill” is not a unitary phenomenon. It is important to use a variety of methods to obtain a complete...

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