The development of conversational and communication skills
This thesis investigates the development of children's conversational and communication skills. This is done by investigating both communicative process and outcome in two communication media: face-to-face interaction and audio-only interaction. Communicative outcome is objectively measured by assessing accuracy of performance of communication tasks. A multi-level approach to the assessment of communicative process is taken. Non-verbal aspects of process which are investigated are gaze and gesture. Verbal aspects of process range from global linguistic assessments such as length of conversational turn, to a detailed coding of utterance function according to Conversational Games analysis. The results show that children of 6 years and less do not adapt to the loss of visual signals in audio-only communication, and their performance suffers. Both the structure of children's dialogues and their use of visual signals were found to differ from that of adults. It is concluded that both verbal and non-verbal communication strategies develop into adulthood. Successful integration of these different aspects of communication is central to being an effective communicator.