Recasting and related conversational techniques for triggering syntactic advances by young children

Nancy D. Baker, Keith E. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


In 'recast' replies in conversation a first utterance is recast or re displayed in a changed sentence structure that still refers to the central meanings of the first sentence. Two intervention studies were conducted to explore the effects of recasting on children's language acquisition. The two subjects in Study One were ages 3;5 and 3;10 with MLUs of 4.81 and 4.23. The six subjects in Study Two ranged in age from 2;6 to 3;2 with MLUs of 3.07 to 4.17. Syntactic forms targeted for input intervention using recasts and related replies were the passive transformation, relative clauses, and non-used auxiliaries. All but one child acquired use of at least two targeted forms, with some producing more. In addition, the children used the passive with complexity and semantic variability comparable to passive use by children much older than themselves. It is argued that recasting is one powerful conver sational means for enhancing the young child's attention to and analysis of to-be-acquired syntactic structures. Moreover, it is concluded that most 3 1/2 - to 4-year-olds may be cognitively ready to acquire passives and many other complex structures, but that success in analysing and producing these structures hinges upon the availability in input of at least a small number of the target forms embedded in salient ways (e.g., as recasts) in discourse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-21
Number of pages19
JournalFirst Language
Issue number13
StatePublished - Feb 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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