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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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Birgit Hellwig: Children’s narratives in Papua New Guinea: A case study of Qaqet

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Birgit Hellwig

Children’s narratives in Papua New Guinea: A case study of Qaqet

Abstract: Research on narrative production is often conducted in semi-experimental settings that make use of, e.g., standardized picture book tasks. There are undeniable advantages to such an approach: it allows us to control for different variables and it ensures comparability across children and languages. But there are also recognized weakness, as this approach cannot easily cater to the sociocultural environment and the narrative practices into which children are being socialized. This chapter takes a cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspective on the ecological validity of elicited narratives, reporting on the implementation of such a study among the Qaqet of Papua New Guinea.

Keywords: language documentation, anthropological linguistics, cross-linguistic research, Papuan languages, methodology, ecological validity

1. Introduction

The introduction to this volume highlights the ecological validity of narrative elicitation. This chapter follows up on the issue of ecological validity from a cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspective, reporting on the implementation of a picture book elicitation using the Frog Story (see Mayer 1969 for the stimulus) among Qaqet-speaking children of Papua New Guinea.

For very good reasons, research on narrative production is predominantly conducted in semi-experimental settings, e.g., we commonly elicit narratives by means of standardized picture books such as the Frog Story. This setting allows us to systematically control for different variables and it ensures the comparability of the results, thus making it possible to trace and compare the...

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