Exploring the recognisability of early story-telling through an interactional lens


  • Anna Filipi Monash University, Australia




story-telling, conversation analysis, parent-child interaction, story structure


This study analyses two interactions between a parent and her child aged 23 months. The interactions provide examples of stories that begin to emerge when the child moves from talk that is highly dependent on the objects or activities in the physical space to talk about events that have occurred in a recent past and are not part of the immediate context. In the child language literature these interactions are referred as narratives. They are reported to emerge from the age of two, typically at the age of 2;6 (Miller & Sperry, 1988). Using the micro-analytic methods of conversation analysis where the focus is on interaction as the outcome of the joint, collaborative actions of both parent and child, and how they make visible to each other how they have understood the previous action or turn in talk, the analysis will show how one of the stories “fails” to progress while the second is successful. Analysis will proceed from using a set of features extrapolated from adult story-telling. They include what triggers the story-telling, how speakers resolve the interactional problem of creating a multi-unit turn, how story-telling is achieved collaboratively, what the purpose of the story is and who it is for, and how the story is oriented to as being newsworthy.

Author Biography

Anna Filipi, Monash University, Australia

Anna Filipi is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education, Monash University. She has researched the interactional skills of children aged 12 months to 12 years of age. Her research on early childhood has focused on the development of interaction in both monolingual and bilingual children and on the emergence of story-telling. Her investigations of children aged 7 to 12 has been on their discourse organising skills in task based talk. She is also interested in the application of findings on interaction to L2 pedagogy and learning.Senior Lecturer


Bamberg, M. (1997). A constructivist approach to narrative development. In M. Bamberg (ed.), Narrative development: Six approaches (pp. 89–132). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Bateman A. & Carr, M. (2017). Pursuing a telling: Managing a multi-unit turn in children’s storytelling. In A. Bateman & A. Church (eds), Children and knowledge: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 91–110). New York: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-1703-2_6

Bateman, A. & Church A. (eds), (2017). Children and knowledge: Studies in Conversation Analysis. New York: Springer.

Bateman, A. & Danby, S. (2013). Recovering from the earthquake: Early childhood teachers and children collaboratively telling stories about their experiences. Disaster Prevention and Management, 22, 467–479. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-10-2013-0177

Bateman, A., Danby, S. & Howard, J. (2013). Everyday preschool talk about Christchurch earthquakes. Australian Journal of Communication, 40, 103–121.

Bliss L. & McCabe A. (2011). Educational implications of narrative discourse. In S. Levey & S. Polirstok (eds), Language development: Understanding language diversity in the classroom (pp. 209–226). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Press.

Bruner J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner J. (1987). Life as narrative. Social Research, 54, 11–32.

Bruner J. (1991). The narrative construction of reality. Critical Inquiry, 18, 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1086/448619

Bruner J. (1997). The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Carmiol, A. & Sparks, A. (2014). Narrative development across cultural contexts. In D. Mathews (ed.), Pragmatic development in first language acquisition (pp. 279–296). Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Cortazzi, M. (2001). Narrative analysis in ethnography. In P. Atkinson, A. Coffey, S. Delamont, J. Lofland & L. Lofland (eds), Handbook of ethnography (pp. 384–395). London: Sage. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781848608337.n26

Coupler-Kuhlen, E. & Thompson, S. (2005). A linguistic practice for retracting overstatements: ‘Concessive repair’. In A. Hakulinen & M. Selting (eds), Syntax and lexis in conversation: Studies on the use of linguistic resources in talk-in-interaction (pp. 257–288). Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Company. https://doi.org/10.1075/sidag.17.14cou

Cristofaro, T. & Tamis-LeMonda, C. (2012). Mother–child conversations at pre-kindergarten: Relations to children’s school readiness. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 12, 68–97. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468798411416879

Engel, S. (1995). The stories children tell: Making sense of the narratives of childhood. New York: W.H. Freeman.

Feagans, L. & Appelbaum, M. (1986). Validation of language subtypes in learning disabled children. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 78, 358–364. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.78.5.358

Filipi, A. (2009). Toddler and parent interaction: The organisation of gaze, pointing and vocalization. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Company. https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.192

Filipi, A. (2013). Withholding and pursuit in the development of skills in interaction and language. Interaction Studies, 14(2), 139–159. https://doi.org/10.1075/is.14.2.01fil

Filipi, A. (2014a). Speakers’ orientations to directional terms in a map task. Discourse Studies, 16(3), 365–384. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445613508896

Filipi, A. (2014b). The shift from talking about the ‘here and now’ to talk about the ‘then and there’ in interactions with young children. Paper presented at the 4th International Conference of Conversation Analysis, UCLA.

Filipi, A. (2015). The development of recipient design in bilingual child-parent interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction 48(1), 100–119. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2015.993858.

Filipi, A. (2017). The emergence of early story-telling. In A. Bateman & A. Church (eds), Children and knowledge: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 279–296). Singapore: Springer.

Filipi, A. (In press). Making knowing visible: Tracking the development of the response token yes. In S. Pekarek Doehler, J. Wagner & E. Gonsález-Martínez (eds), Longitudinal studies on the organization of social interaction (pp. 279–96). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Fivush, R. (2009). Sociocultural perspectives on autobiographical memory. In M. L. Courage & N. Cowan (eds), The development of memory in infancy and childhood, 2nd edn (pp. 283–301). Psychology Press.

Forrester, M. (2008). The emergence of self-repair: A case-study of one child during the early preschool years. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 41, 99–128. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351810701691206

Forrester, M. (2015). Early social interaction: A case comparison of developmental pragmatics and psychoanalytic theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gardner, R. (2001). When listeners talk: Response tokens and recipient stance. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Company. https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.92

Heath, S. B. (1983). Ways with words: Language. Life, and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heritage, J. (2012). Epistemics in action: Action formation and territories of knowledge. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 45, 1–29. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2012.646684

Heritage, J. (2013). Epistemics in conversation. In J. Sidnell & T. Stivers (eds), The handbook of conversation analysis (pp. 370–394). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Heritage, J. & Raymond, G. (2005). The terms of agreement: Indexing epistemic authority and subordination in assessment sequences. Social Psychology Quarterly, 68, 15–38. https://doi.org/10.1177/019027250506800103

Hutchby, I. & Wooffitt, R. (2008). Conversation analysis. Cambridge: Polity Press. Jefferson, G. (1984). Notes on a systematic deployment of the acknowledgement tokens ‘yeah’ and ‘mm hm’. Papers in Linguistics, 17, 197–216. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351818409389201

Jones, S. & Zimmerman D. (2003). A child’s point and the achievement of intentionality. Gesture, 3, 155–185. https://doi.org/10.1075/gest.3.2.03jon

Kidwell, M. (2005). Gaze as social control: How very young children differentiate ‘the look’ from a ‘mere look’ by the adult caregivers. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 38, 417–449. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327973rlsi3804_2

Koshik, I. (2002). Designedly incomplete utterances: A pedagogical practice for eliciting knowledge displays in error correction sequences. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 35, 277–309. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327973RLSI3503_2

Laakso, M. (2010). Children’s emerging and developing self-repair practices. In H. Gardner & M. Forrester (eds), Analysing interactions in childhood: Insights from conversation analysis (pp. 74–100). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Labov, W. & Waletzky, J. (1967). Narrative analysis. In J. Helm (ed.), Essays on the verbal and visual arts (pp. 12–44). Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.

Liszkowski, U. (2013). Using theory of mind. Child Development Perspectives, 7, 104–109. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12025

Liszkowski, U., Carpenter, M., Striano, T. & Tomasello, M. (2006). 12- and 18-month-olds point to provide information for others. Journal of Cognition and Development, 7, 173–187. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327647jcd0702_2

Liszkowski, U., Carpenter, M. & Tomasello, M. (2007). Pointing out new news, old news, and absent referents at 12 months of age. Developmental Science, 10, F1–F7. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7687.2006.00552.x

Mandelbaum, J. (2013). Story-telling in conversation. In J. Sidnell & T. Stivers (eds), The handbook of conversation analysis, (pp. 492–508). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

McKeough, A. (2007). Best narrative writing practices when teaching from a developmental framework. In S. Graham, C. MacArthur & Fitzgerald, J. (eds), Best practices in writing instruction, (pp. 50–73). New York: Guilford Press.

McKeough, A. & Genereux, R. (2003). Transformation in narrative thought during adolescence: The structure and content of story compositions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 537–552. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.95.3.537

Miller, P. & Sperry, L. (1988). Early talk about the past: The origins of conversational stories of personal experience. Journal of Child Language, 15, 293–315. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000900012381

Ninio, A. & Snow, C. (1996). Pragmatic development. Oxford: Westview Press.

Norrick, N. (2005). The dark side of tellability. Narrative Inquiry, 15(2), 323–343. https://doi.org/10.1075/ni.15.2.07nor

Ochs, E. & Capps, L. (2001). Analyzing narrative: Discourse and sociolinguistic perspectives. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Olson, D. R. (1977). Oral and written language and the cognitive processes of children. Journal of Communication, 27(30), 10–26. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1977.tb02119.x

Parnell, M., Patterson, S. & Harting, M. (1984). Answers to wh-questions: A developmental study. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 27, 297–305. https://doi.org/10.1044/jshr.2702.297

Peterson, C. & Jesso, B. (2008). Parent/caregiver: Narrative development (37–48 months). In L. Phillips (ed.), Handbook of language and literacy development: A roadmap from 0–60 months (pp.1–10). London, ON: Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network.

Raymond, G. (2003). Grammar and social organization: Yes/no interrogatives and the structure of responding. American Sociological Review, 68, 939–967. https://doi.org/10.2307/1519752

Reese, E. (1995). Predicting children’s literacy from mother–child conversations. Cognitive Development, 10, 381–405. https://doi.org/10.1016/0885-2014(95)90003-9

Rome-Flanders, T., Cronk, C. & Gourde, C. (1995). Maternal scaffolding in mother–infant games and its relationship to language development: A longitudinal study. First Language, 15(3), 339–355. https://doi.org/10.1177/014272379501504505

Ross, S. (1992). Accommodative questions in oral proficiency interviews. Language Testing, 9, 173–186. https://doi.org/10.1177/026553229200900205

Rowe, M., Coker, D. & Pan, B. (2004). A comparison of fathers’ and mothers’ talk to toddlers in low-income families. Social Development, 13, 278–291. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9507.2004.000267.x

Sacks, H. (1992). Lectures on conversation (vols 1 and 2). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Schegloff, E. (1997). ‘Narrative analysis’ thirty years later. In M. Bamberg (ed.), Oral versions of narrative experience: Three decades of narrative analysis, special issue, Journal of Narrative and Life History, 7, 97–106. https://doi.org/10.1075/jnlh.7.11nar

Schegloff, E. (2007). Sequence organization in interaction: A primer in conversation analysis, vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791208

Schegloff, E. & Sacks, H. (1973). Opening up closings. Semiotica, 8, 289–327. https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.1973.8.4.289

Sidnell, J. (2010). Conversation analysis: An introduction. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Snow, C. (1999). Social perspectives on the emergence of language. In B. MacWhinney, (ed.), Emergence of language (pp. 257–276). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Snowman, J. & Biehler, R. (2000). Psychology applied to teaching, 9th edn. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Stivers, T. & Rossano, F. (2010). Mobilizing response. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 43, 3–31. https://doi.org/10.1080/08351810903471258

Stokoe, E. & Edwards, D. (2006). Story formulations in talk-in-interaction. Narrative Inquiry, 16(1), 56–65. https://doi.org/10.1075/ni.16.1.09sto

Svennevig, J. (2008). Trying the easiest solution first in other-initiation of repair. Journal of Pragmatics, 40, 333–348. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2007.11.007

Tarplee, C. (1996). Working on young children’s utterances: Prosodic aspects of repetition during picture labelling. In E. Coupler-Kuhlen & M. Selting (eds), Prosody in conversation (pp. 406–435). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511597862.012

Tarplee, C. (2010). Next turn and intersubjectivity in children’s language acquisition. In H. Gardner & M. Forrester (eds), Analysing interactions in childhood: Insights from conversation analysis (pp. 3–22). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Üstünel, E. (2016). EFL classroom code-switching. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-55844-2

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky. R. W. Rieber & A. S. Carton, (eds). New York: Plenum.

Wahler, R. & Castlebury, F. (2002). Personal narratives as maps of the social ecosystem. Clinical Pyschology Review, 22, 297–314. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-7358(01)00092-7

Wang, Q., Leichtman, M. D. & Davies, K. I. (2000). Sharing memories and telling stories: American and Chinese mothers and their 3-year-olds. Memory, 8(3), 159–178. https://doi.org/10.1080/096582100387588

Waring, H. Z. (2016). Theorizing pedagogical interaction: Insights from Conversation Analysis. New York: Routledge.

Wells, G. (1986). The meaning makers: Children learning language and using language to learn. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational Books.

Wigglesworth, G. & Stavans, A. (2001). A cross-cultural investigation of parental interaction in narrative with children at a range of ages. In K. Nelson, A. Aksu-Koc & C. Johnson (eds), Children’s language, vol. 10: Narrative and discourse development (pp. 73–93). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Wood, D., Bruner, J. & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Psychology and Psychiatry, 17(2), 89–100. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.1976.tb00381.x



How to Cite

Filipi, A. (2017). Exploring the recognisability of early story-telling through an interactional lens. Research on Children and Social Interaction, 1(2), 141–163. https://doi.org/10.1558/rcsi.31370