A narrative discourse is a form of communication that describes events, mostly from the past, which employs actions and speech verbs to explain a sequence of events that tangent to each other and focuses on several action performers. In a narrative discourse, events are chronologically arranged and use a first or third person. Examples of narrative discourse include folk stories, historical events, myths and personal experience stories. Language study is often categorized into syntactic, semantics and pragmatics. The difference between syntax, which is the sentence form and semantics, which is the meaning of words and sentences is crucial to language study.
The syntax is the study of the correct layout (structure) of sentences about certain rules and principles of grammar. According to the principles of grammar, a good sentence should have a subject and a predicate. Also in narrative discourse sentences ought to be complete with the right structure so as to put out the intended meaning. For example in children spoken narratives, children who talk like books tend to match teachers expectations by constructing well-structured sentences. In young children, parent plays a vital role in their narrative structure formulation. The parents scaffold children skills by giving guidance and comment on their tasks. In children as young as two years, first, the adults or parent takes the lead and gives both the narrative structure and the content. Also, adults guide the young by asking close-ended questions (yes or no) in sharing of the experience, by the end of pre-school, parents turn to the use of more open- ended question to assist the child to scaffold their personal contribution to the story. As time goes by children slowly withdraw from relying on their parental scaffolding and become adapted to selecting and framing information to construct and narrate stories. Therefore the contribution of the child’s conversational partner(parent or caregiver) help the child in effective story constructing in the right discourse layout giving a correct syntax making the story tellable. Classroom conversations among children and their teacher also help children in formulating well-structured stories in relation to the types of narratives shared in class and the features of these narratives.
Semantics is a study that examines what a word phrase or words themselves mean. Young children point at things using their fingers and name what they have pointed. This pointing and naming activity become an inherent part of human life. When children name this by pointing this enables them to describe immediate objects so make abstract statements of activities or events. To understand the meaning of a sentence one needs to understand that the words in the sentence mean and the how syntactically they are organized. Parents especially mothers, are highly elaborative and involve their children in conversation that are long, giving the structure and very descriptive and detailed information to their children. It enables these children to understand the specific meaning of words as well as the syntactical correlation of the sentence. These parents enable their children to formulate narratives as they ask questions that are open-ended to widen and expand on their children utterances. Research has shown that the characteristics of a child are contributed the mother’s elaborateness. Children who are more attentive and active tend to improve the mother’s elaborateness and create a relationship among them which helps in developing the child’s skills. According to research, greater mother elaborateness is essential for the future construction of narratives and literacy skills. Highly elaborate mothers tend to have children who share tales that are richer, more descriptive and longer. Children whose parents were trained tell a more complicated narrative that those children whose mothers were not in any training group. These kids also tend to give more accurate and richer narrations. The descriptions of a mother and child concerning experience are the earliest context for building up narrative skills in young kids, but also, adult –child book reading is crucial for developing emergent literacy such as vocabulary, critical thinking and read and write. Of equal importance also is how the books are shared, because it follows set textual or pictorial cues, this means that book-sharing interactions between parents and children are more organized and structured than oral narrative interactions. An interesting study showed that there are three particular book-reading styles adopted by mothers of preschoolers in this context, these showed that these forms were predictive of the child’s emergent literacy skills. A section of mothers adopted the describer style; users of this method included descriptions filled with vocabularies, descriptive language, and concept but could not involve the children in discussions about events that happened. Collaborators engaged their children and encouraged them to participate in the telling of the story and also gave them positive feedback. Finally, comprehenders involve their children but in high-level extra- textual discussions and challenge them to draw conclusions and make predictions. According to the results, the children of the comprehenders and collaborators showcased more print, decoding, vocabulary and story comprehension better those of the describers. For children to understand and construct a tellable story, the parent scaffolding is very necessary, as this will gradually open up the child’s mind to better know how of story formulation and narration. The parent or caregiver guides the child in story content selection and necessary organization or construction of the story for it to be meaningful and valuable to the larger community.
Pragmatics is a study of how language is used and how the diverse use of language determines semantics and syntactic. It tries to explain how humans use language to meet their daily needs by achieving their goals. To begin with, language is a way of communication and humans are social beings which live and work in groups which require strong and sound communication, forming a relationship, broadcasting warnings and sound, and gestures. Pragmatics can be considered through various forms such as stories, myths, gossip, and humor. In children narratives, children must be informed two main tasks, coherence, and cohesion in stories development. Coherence talks about children using their traditionally shared knowledge to temporarily organize a narrative into a series with meaning to themselves and their listeners. This means that the parts of the story must be well organized to bring out the entire sequence in a more meaningful way. This is accomplished by determining the schematic information of the narrative and the content through the grammar.
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Cohesion, on the other hand, is developed with linguistic styles like connectivity, which tie sentences together to form a complete sentence. Therefore, the story coherence is the degree of the structure of a narrative fulfills how well a story has been formed while cohesion talks about how linguistically connected are the propositions and how characters are referred in the narrative.
There are contradictory research results about child’s capability to construct and tell the coherent and cohesive story. Some researchers report that young children cannot tell narratives that coherent and cohesive. Whereas others admit that even preschoolers can have the ability to tell coherent and cohesive stories. The requirements of a good structural one- episode story involves the following, (a) beginning devices and orientation to introduce a character and setting, (b) initiating events that motivates internal responses from protagonist, (c) attempts to achieve the goal, (d) consequences, (e) reactions to goal attainment and ending. But most preschooler’s scripts and descriptions do not show this format but instead are based on events sequences of their knowledge about the world. This due to the overload of working memory or the results might require more cognitive efforts than they can. At the age of 6years, most children will provide a narrative with a relevant setting, with initiative action highlighted, well develop the plot and a with a referred character goal. With time and age, they begin to incorporate dialogues and characters engaged in several social interactions. According to Stein and colleagues children’s narrative ability is linked to the development of specific cognitive skills making children stories more complete with time. In the age of 3-5 years children basically tell stories that are of general description of the protagonist actions without order of presenting information, but at the time they enter kindergarten, they begin to develop skills necessary to share well-structured goal based stories that are complete coherent and cohesive.
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The integration of syntax, semantics and pragmatics are guided or motivated by the notion that pragmatics as to the point of departure in natural language interface and that pragmatics can only be successfully explored in connection to syntax and semantics. Pragmatics cannot exist without these two aspects of natural language. A pragmatic approach is interested in the purpose which determines the meaning of utterances. Syntax approach, on the other hand, organizes the sentence based on the underlying principles while semantics derives meaning from the well-structured sentence so to pragmatically communicate the same meaning to meet a certain goal or objective. Therefore for children narratives to convey the relevant information there need for well-structured sentenced guided by the parent if at an early age, with a mean so as to transmit information that’s complete and beneficial to themselves and their listeners.
In conclusion, oral storytelling is a discourse that has been used across most societies in which norms and culture are embedded in the way that stories are shared. Communities also tend to differ in the way children and adults take part in the creation of stories and how these narratives contribute to socialization in the societies. As the children engage in daily interaction with their caretakers, they learn the culturally preferred ways of constructing and structuring narratives. As these children get early exposure to this type of discourse use, there is a high predictor for high literacy skill development in future. Thus, narratives are viewed as typically emergent literacy skill. Contemporary work on early narrative development has taken roots on mother’s role in narrative scaffolding as they involve their children in discussions about their personal experience. Maternal elaboration has been regarded here has the main scaffolding feature, particularly for children development of literacy skills and narrative development skills.