‘But I want to say “I means love you”’

A child’s development of stancetaking in parent-initiated language-focused sequences


  • Hanh thi Nguyen Hawaii Pacific University
  • Minh Thi Thuy Nguyen University of Otago




child language development, language learning, language socialization, stancetaking, parent–child interaction, longitudinal conversation analysis


Family talk is a rich site for children’s language learning as well as navigating into cultural values, social roles and stances. This study examines a child’s stancetaking in language-focused interaction initiated by the parent, in order to understand children’s role in language learning as a social activity and in their own language socialization. Conversation analysis of audio-recorded child–parent conversations in family settings over eight months reveals the varied epistemic and affective stances that the child displayed towards language forms, cultural norms, the parents’ stances, and the language-focused activity itself. We show that the child changed over time to orient to a correctness norm as part of his socialization into the family’s beliefs and values regarding language. We argue that talk about language forms is deeply connected with participants’ stances towards language and cultural norms as well as toward others’ stances and actions, and that for a sound understanding of language learning as a social activity, detailed examinations of children’s and caregivers’ stancetaking in interaction are indispensable. 

Author Biographies

Hanh thi Nguyen, Hawaii Pacific University

Hanh thi Nguyen, PhD, is professor of applied linguistics at Hawaii Pacific University, USA. Her research interests are the development of interactional competence in child language learning, second language learning, and workplace communication; classroom discourse; and Vietnamese applied linguistics.

Minh Thi Thuy Nguyen, University of Otago

Minh Thi Thuy Nguyen, PhD, currently teaches TESOL at University of Otago, New Zealand. Her research interests include pragmatics in language teaching and learning, interactional competence, second language acquisition, heritage language maintenance and child language learning.


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How to Cite

Nguyen, H. thi, & Nguyen, M. T. T. . (2021). ‘But I want to say “I means love you”’: A child’s development of stancetaking in parent-initiated language-focused sequences. Research on Children and Social Interaction, 5(2), 211–238. https://doi.org/10.1558/rcsi.17523