Nonpresent talk

Figure 10.2 Predicted fantasy narrative score as a function of amount of Nonpresent talk for boys and girls at high (75th percentile) and low (25th percentile) levels of pragmatic flexibility.

The analyses up to this point, then, have confirmed our hypothesis that degree of participation in discussions of the nonpresent around age 2 affects the performance of more autonomous narratives at age 5. In addition, pragmatic flexibility and gender have been identified as contributing additional predictive power for both personal and fantasy narrative. We were surprised, though, at the lack of relationship between fantasy talk and the fantasy narrative composite score. Therefore, we decided to look more closely at two components of the FAN score that are distinctly characteristic of fantasy narrative: genre specificity, a category that comprises the maintenance of a protagonist, character delineation, anchor tense and lack of reliance on deixis; and character voice, which includes direct and reported speech, strategies that can function both for advancing the plot or for coloring the events of the story (see Table 10.3 for examples of features of each of these and Table 10.1 for means, ranges, and standard deviations for these fantasy components).

Two sets of regression models, analogous to those previously built for the composite scores, were constructed for these components of fantasy narrative. As Table 10.7 indicates, the strongest predictors for genre specificity were early fantasy talk and gender. That is, the more fantasy talk children produced early in life, the better they tended to perform in this particular dimension of fantasy narrative at age 5; in addition, girls once again tended to outperform boys at age 5. For character voice (see Table 10.7), nonpresent talk and fantasy talk combined accounted for 18% of the variance. For this dimension of fantasy narrative, there were not significant differences between boys and girls.

Summarizing, these findings indicate that participation in early discussions about the nonpresent positively influence overall performance in both personal and fantasy narration at age 5. We can also conclude that early participation in fantasy talk interactions stimulates development in specific areas of fantasy narrative: the achievement of genre specificity and the representation of character voice.

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