‘You all go to check there’

Egalitarian directive use by Baka children during group hunting


  • Koji Sonoda The Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University, Japan




egalitarian directive, self-selection, ‘you all do’ construction, authoritative position, mobile activity


Previous studies of children’s directive use in peer interaction have paid attention to practices related to hierarchical relationships. This study demonstrates egalitarian directive use by Baka hunter–gatherer children engaged in giant rat hunting as a group activity. Self-selection and ‘you all do’ construction were identified as the ways they proceeded with this activity. These two egalitarian directives were not limited to specific persons with authority or power; rather, the children interacted with each other on an equal footing using these forms. Trajectories of action described the difficulties of being in an authoritative position in during activity. This study identified alternative ways to construct equal footing in children’s group activities.

Author Biography

Koji Sonoda, The Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University, Japan

Koji Sonoda is a postdoctoral researcher of the Center for African Area Studies at Kyoto University. His research interests focus on childhood in the Baka hunter–
gatherer society of eastern Cameroon, specifically regarding face-to-face interactions among children and between adults and children. He investigates how children negotiate actions and activities and what they learn about the social orders of everyday activities. His methodology employs ethnographic description and conversation analytical techniques.


Bahuchet, S. (2014). Cultural diversity of African pygmies. In B. S. Hewlett (ed.), Hunter-Gatherers of the Congo Basin: Cultures, Histories, and Biology of African Pygmies (pp. 1–29). New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203789438-1

Becker, J. A. (1982). Children’s strategic use of requests to mark and manipulate social status. In S. A. Kuczaj II (ed.), Language Development (pp. 1–35). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Blum-Kulka, S. & Gorbatt, N. (2014). ‘Say princess’: The challenges and affordances of young Hebrew L2 novices’ interaction with their peers. In A. Cekaite, S. Blum-Kulka, V. Grøver & E. Teubal (eds), Children’s Peer Talk: Learning from Each Other (pp. 169–193). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139084536.013 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139084536.013

Bock, J. K. & Hornsby, M. E. (1981). The development of directives: How children ask and tell. Journal of Child Language, 8(1), 151–163. https://doi.org/10.1017/S030500090000307X DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S030500090000307X

Brisson, R. (2010). Petit dictionnaire baka-Français [Baka–French Small Dictionary]. Paris: L’Harmattan.

Cekaite, A., Blum-Kulka, S., Grøver, V. & Teubal, E. (eds). (2014). Children’s Peer Talk: Learning from Each Other. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139084536 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139084536

Cobb-Moore, C., Danby, S. & Farrell, A. (2008). ‘I told you so’: Justification used in disputes in young children’s interactions in an early childhood classroom. Discourse Studies, 10(5), 595–614. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445608094214 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445608094214

Dehart, G. B. (1996). Gender and mitigation in 4-year-olds’ pretend play talk with siblings. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 29(1), 81–96. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327973rlsi2901_5 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327973rlsi2901_5

De León, L. (????). Emerging learning ecologies: Mayan children’s initiative and correctional directives in their everyday enskillment practices. Linguistics and Education, 41, 47–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.linged.2017.07.003 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.linged.2017.07.003

Djoupee, B. (2017). Description du Baka, Une Langue Oubanguienne du Cameroun [Description of Baka, An Ubangian Language of Cameroon]. Unpublished PhD thesis, Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, Paris, France.

Ervin-Tripp, S. (1976). Is Sybil there?: The structure of some American English directives. Language in Society, 5, 25–66. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404500006849

Ervin-Tripp, S. (1977). Wait for me, roller skate. In S. Ervin-Tripp & Mitchell-Kernan, C. (eds), Child Discourse (pp. 165–188). New York: Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-241950-8.50015-0 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-241950-8.50015-0

Gallois, S. (2015). Dynamics of Local Ecological Knowledge: A Case Study among the Baka Children from Southeastern Cameroon. Unpublished PhD thesis, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

García Sánchez, I. M. (2006). More than just games: Language socialization in an immigrant children’s peer group. Texas Linguistic Forum. Proceedings of the Thirteen Annual Symposium About Language and Society, 49, 61–71.

Goffman, E. (1981). Forms of Talk. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Goodwin, C. (2003). Pointing as situated practice. In S. Kita (ed.), Pointing: Where Language, Culture, and Cognition Meet (pp. 217–241). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Goodwin, C. (2007). Participation, stance and affect in the organization of activities. Discourse & Society, 18(1), 53–73. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926507069457 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926507069457

Goodwin, M. H. (1990). He-Said-She-Said: Talk as Social Organization among Black Children. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Goodwin, M. H. (2006). The Hidden Life of Girls: Games of Stance, Status, and Exclusion. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470773567 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470773567

Goodwin, M. H. (2017). Sibling sociality: Participation and apprenticeship across contexts. Research on Children and Social Interaction, 1(1), 4–29. https://doi.org/10.1558/rcsi.28317 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/rcsi.28317

Goodwin, M. H. & Cekaite, A. (2019). Embodied Family Choreography: Practices of Control, Care, and Mundane Creativity. London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315207773 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315207773

Goodwin, M. H. & Kyratzis, A. (2007). Children socializing children: Practices for negotiating the social order among peers. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 40(4), 279–289. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351810701471260 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/08351810701471260

Griswold, O. (2007). Achieving authority: Discursive practices in Russian girls’ pretend play. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 40(4), 291–319. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351810701471286 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/08351810701471286

Hewlett, B. S. (2014). Hunter–gatherer childhoods in the Congo Basin. In B. S. Hewlett (ed.), Hunter–gatherers of the Congo Basin: Cultures, Histories, and Biology of African Pygmies (pp. 245–275). New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203789438-9

Howard, K. (2007). Kinterm usage and hierarchy in Thai children’s peer groups. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 17(2), 204–230. https://doi.org/10.1525/jlin.2007.17.2.204 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/jlin.2007.17.2.204

Howard, K. M. (2014). Language socialization and hierarchy. In A. Duranti, E. Ochs & B. B. Schieffelin (eds), The Handbook of Language Socialization (pp. 341–364). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444342901.ch15 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444342901.ch15

James, S. L. (1978). Effect of listener age and situation on the politeness of children’s directives. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 7(4), 307–317. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01068112 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01068112

Kamei, N. (2005). Play among Baka children in Cameroon. In B. S. Hewlett & M. E. Lamb (eds), Hunter–Gatherer Childhoods: Evolutionary, Developmental & Cultural Perspectives (pp. 343–359). New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203789445-23

Kilian-Hatz, C. (2000). Baka Grammar: A Grammaticalisation Account. Yaounde: SIL Cameroon.

Kirsh, B. (1983). The use of directives as indication of status among preschool children. In J. Fine & R. O. Freedle (eds), Developmental Issues in Discourse (pp. 269–290). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Kyratzis, A. & Goodwin, M. H. (2017) Language socialization in children’s peer and sibling-kin group interactions. In P. A. Duff & N. H. Hornberger (eds), Language Socialization: Encyclopedia of Language and Education (pp. 1–16). New York: Springer. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02327-4_10-2

Kyratzis, A. & Marx, T. (2001). Preschoolers’ communicative competence: Register shift in the marking of power in different contexts of friendship group talk. First Language, 21(63), 387–429. https://doi.org/10.1177/014272370102106308 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/014272370102106308

Kyratzis, A. & Tar?m, ?. D. (2010). Using directives to construct egalitarian or hierarchical social organization: Turkish middle-class preschool girls’ socialization about gender, affect, and context in peer group conversations. First Language, 30(3–4), 473–492. https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723710370547 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723710370547

Ladegaard, H. J. (2004). Politeness in young children’s speech: Context, peer group influence and pragmatic competence. Journal of Pragmatics, 36(11), 2003–2022. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2003.11.008 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2003.11.008

Lampert, M. D. & Ervin-Tripp, S. M. (1993). Structured coding for the study of language and social interaction. In J. A. Edwards & M. D. Lampert (eds), Talking Data: Transcription and Coding in Discourse Research (pp. 169–206). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Lewis, J. (2014). Egalitarian social organization: The case of the Mbendjele BaYaka. In B. S. Hewlett (ed.), Hunter–Gatherers of the Congo Basin: Cultures, Histories, and Biology of African Pygmies (pp. 219–243). New York: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203789438-8

Mitchell-Kernan, C. & Kernan, T. K. (1977). Pragmatics of directive choice among children. In S. Ervin-Tripp & C. Mitchell-Kernan (eds), Child Discourse (pp. 189–208). New York: Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/C2009-0-22078-2 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/C2009-0-22078-2

Mondada, L. (2013). Coordinating mobile action in real time: The timely organisation of directives in video games. In P. Haddington, L. Mondada & M. Nevile (eds), Interaction and Mobility: Language and the Body in Motion (pp. 300–341). Berlin: De Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110291278.300 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110291278.300

Sacks, H., Schegloff, E. A. & Jefferson, G. (1974). A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language, 50(4), 696–735. https://doi.org/10.2307/412243 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.1974.0010

Sanders, R. E. & Freeman, K. E. (1998). Children’s neo-rhetorical participation in peer interactions. In I. Hutchby & J. Moran-Ellis (eds), Children and Social Competence: Arenas of Action (pp. 87–114). London: Routledge.

Sonoda, K. (2016). Constructing social learning in interaction among the Baka hunter–gatherers. In H. Terashima & B. S. Hewlett (eds), Social Learning and Innovation in Contemporary Hunter–Gatherers: Evolutionary and Ethnographic Perspectives (pp. 113–124). Tokyo: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-4-431-55997-9_9 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-4-431-55997-9_9

Takada, A. (2013). Generating morality in directive sequences: Distinctive strategies for developing communicative competence in Japanese caregiver–child interactions. Language & Communication, 33(4), 420–438. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langcom.2013.03.012 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.langcom.2013.03.012

Walker, S., Irving, K. & Berthelsen, D. (2002). Gender influences on preschool children’s social problem-solving strategies. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 163(2), 197–209. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221320209598677 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00221320209598677



How to Cite

Sonoda, K. . (2021). ‘You all go to check there’: Egalitarian directive use by Baka children during group hunting. Research on Children and Social Interaction, 4(2), 292–321. https://doi.org/10.1558/rcsi.12410