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Questions represent a crucial tool of interaction between parents and children from a very early age. This study aims to investigate which function - argumentative or explanatory – most characterizes Why-questions asked by children to their parents in a natural setting such as mealtime at home. In the corpus, the explanatory function largely characterizes children’s Why-questions. Questions we observed play fundamentally an educational role, since they favor the acquisition of new information and the transmission from parents to children of parental behavioral models (social behavior). The argumentative Why-questions, less frequently asked by children of our sample, are also important from an educational point of view. By these questions children challenge their parents to make clear the reasons behind their opinions, suggestions, rules, and prescriptions, which are often largely implicit. Altogether, the results of this study indicate that both explanatory and argumentative type of children’s Why-questions have a knowledge-seeking function, i.e. children asking such questions are seeking knowledge of something.

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This page is a summary of: Investigating children’s Why-questions: A study comparing argumentative and explanatory function, Discourse Studies, December 2013, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/1461445613490013.
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