In this study, CoAI JRC members Katharina Rohlfing and Angela Grimminger explored pragmatic frames as a tool for analyzing the performance of very young children in word learning tasks, as an alternative to more conventional category coding analyses that evaluate performance in simple binary terms of “1” for correct use of the new word and “0” for incorrect use.
The researchers analyzed a standard laboratory word-retention task as a pragmatic frame made up of a series of “jobs,” incremental steps to be taken by the child learner and the experimenter to achieve the task together.
The frame included a series of interactive jobs structuring the child’s pragmatic role in the interaction with the experimenter, such as visually orienting towards the frame, and articulating an understanding of being addressed by the experimenter. This allowed the researchers to measure performance in more fine-grained terms, by looking at how much of the complete job sequence each child was reliably able to perform.
One key finding of the study is that the job accepting the role of addressee marks an important step in the child’s pragmatic development, because it shows the child’s readiness to take an active role in the interaction.