Early Development of Narrative Skills Revisited: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Stories Told by Toddlers
Conversational storytelling is an important source through which very young children learn about themselves, their families, and their culture's beliefs and values (Miller et al., 2012). Sperry and Sperry (1996) examined the semantic-syntactic content of narratives told by eight African American toddlers (ages 24 to 42 months) from rural Alabama during their everyday conversation. This work demonstrated that the amount of new information contributed to a narrative by the child varied by both the narrative genre (temporal versus fictional) and child gender. For the present study, I analyzed verbatim transcripts from 67.5 hours of observations of 15 European American toddlers (ages 24 to 42 months) living in rural Indiana working-class families. Episodes of narrativelike talk were identified and coded for the semantic-syntactic content (operationalized as free and bound morphemes) children incorporated into their telling of the story. All morphemes were additionally coded as originating in the talk of the adult interlocutor or in the talk of the child. Earlier work with these data demonstrated that although the Alabama children told far more narratives per hour, both the Alabama and Indiana groups of children incorporated similar numbers of events, state, and goals into their narratives. The current analyses suggest a similar finding regarding the number of morphemes children incorporated into each story.