eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society cover
The Yearbook of the Estonian Mother Tongue Society
Impact Factor (2022): 0.3
Direktiivsed kõneaktid eelkooliealistele lastele suunatud kõnes, nende seotus lapsevanema haridustasemega ja mõju lapse sõnavarale; pp. 37–64

Andra Kütt

Directive speech acts in child directed speech, the connection between the education level of the parent and the child’s vocabulary

Directive speech acts are a natural part of speech which help parents to direct or guide the child’s activities as well as to teach them. The aim of this article is to describe 1) the level of directness-indirectness used in spontaneous child-directed speech, 2) whether and how the frequency and type (i.e. the cognitive complexity) of directive speech acts are related to the parent’s education level and 3) whether directness is a hindering factor for the child’s vocabulary. The data used in the research includes 9 hours of spontaneous speech recordings. The speech of a total of six families have been analysed: three families where the mother has higher education and three with mothers who have secondary education.
The number of child-directed directive speech acts varied: in 1.5 hours of dialogue, from 46 to 130 speech acts were found. Mothers with higher education produced, on average, half as many directive utterances as mothers with secondary education. It was characteristic for parents with higher education to use indirect commands in their speech. However, the portion of indirect commands that mothers with higher education used varied greatly, from 22 to 72 per cent. The distribution of direct and indirect commands was more equal among families with secondary education (the portion of indirect commands ranged from 30.8 to 43.5 per cent). Parents with higher education also showed a greater variety in the types of directive speech acts. Thus, the occurrence of speech acts such as encouragements, proposals and questions, as well as recommendations could be noted.
It is characteristic for mothers with secondary education to frequently use commands and prohibitions: children whose parents only have secondary education will always hear more child-directed prohibitions (Don’t do it!) than the children whose parents also have a higher education. It is also characteristic for mothers with secondary education to use more directive speech acts referring to cultural norms (e.g. The judge was supposed to be quiet).
The results of the study indicate that directness is connected on an individual level with children’s vocabulary – the more directive speech acts the parent produced, the smaller the child’s vocabulary was. There was, however, no direct connection between the frequency and variance in the type of directive speech acts and the variety of the child’s vocabulary.



Aikhenvald, Alexandra 2010. Imperatives and Commands. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Akhtar jt 1991 = Nameera Akhtar, Frances Dunham, Philip J. Dunham. Directive interactions and early vocabulary development: the role of joint attentional focus. – Journal of Child Language 18 (1), 41–49.

Andersen, Elaine S. 1990. Speaking with style: the sociolinguistic skills of children. London: Routledge.

Argus, Reili 2008. Eesti keele muutemorfoloogia omandamine. Analüütiline ülevaade. (= Tallinna Ülikooli humanitaarteaduste dissertatsioonid 19.) Tallinn: Tallinna Ülikooli Kirjastus.

Argus, Reili, ilmumas. Acquisition of directives in Estonian. – Acquisition of requests. Eds. Maria Voeikova, Ursula Stephany, Ayhan Aksu-Koç. Mouton de Gruyter.

Barnes jt 1983 = Sally Barnes, Mary Gutfreund, David Satterly, Gordon Wells. Characteristics of adult speech which predict children’s language development. – Journal of Child Language 10 (1), 65–84.

Bates, Elizabeth 1976. Language and Context – the Acquisition of Pragmatics. New York: Academic Press.

Bornstein jt 1999 = Marc H. Bornstein, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, O. Maurice Haynes. First words in the second year: Continuity, stability, and models of concurrent and predictive correspondence in vocabulary and verbal responsiveness across age and context. – Infant Behavior & Development 22 (1), 65–85.

Bornstein jt 2003 = Marc H. Bornstein, Chun-Shin Hahn, Joan T. D. Suwalsky, O. Maurice Haynes. Socioeconomic status, parenting, and child development: the Hollingshead four-factor index of social status and the socioeconomic index of occupations. – Socioeconomic Status, Parenting, and Child Development. Monographs in Parenting Series. Eds. Marc H. Bornstein, Robert H. Bradley. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, 29–82.

Chejnová, Pavla 2015. Development of directives in child language: a case study of Czech. – Topics in Linguistics 15 (1).

Clark, Eve Vivienne 2003. First Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Craven, Alexandra, Jonathan Potter 2010. Directives: entitlement and contingency in action. – Discourse Studies 12 (4), 419–442.

Curl, Traci S., Paul Drew 2008. Contingency and action: a comparison of two forms of requesting. – Research on Language and Social Interaction 41 (2), 129–53.

EKG II = Mati Erelt, Reet Kasik, Helle Metslang, Henno Rajandi, Kristiina Ross, Henn Saari, Kaja Tael, Silvi Vare 1993. Eesti keele grammatika II. Süntaks. Lisa: Kiri. Peatoim. Mati Erelt, toim. Tiiu Erelt, Henn Saari, Ülle Viks. Tallinn: Eesti Teaduste Akadeemia Keele ja Kirjanduse

Ellis, Rod, Gordon Wells 1980. Enabling factors in adult-child discourse. – First Language 1 (1), 46–62.

Erelt, Mati, Helle Metslang (toim.) 2017 = Eesti keele süntaks. (Eesti keele varamu III.) Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus.

Ervin-Tripp, Susan 1976. “Is Sybil There?” The structure of some American English directives. – Language in Society 5 (1), 25–66.

Frank Masur, Elise, Margaret Turner 2001. Stability and consistency in mothers’ and infants’ interactive styles. – Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 47 (1), 100–120.

Goldfield, Beverly A., J. Steven Reznick 1990. Early lexical acquisition: rate, content, and the vocabulary spurt. – Journal of Child Language 17 (1), 171–183.

Grosse jt 2010 = Gerlind Grosse, Henrike Moll, Michael Tomasello. 21-Month-olds understand the cooperative logic of requests. – Journal of Pragmatics 42 (12), 3377–3383.

Harris jt 1986 = Margaret Harris, David Jones, Susan Brooks, Julia Grant. Relations between the non-verbal context of maternal speech and rate of language development. – British Journal of Developmental Psychology 4 (3), 261–269.

Hart, Betty, Todd R. Risley 2003. The early catastrophe: the 30 million word gap by age 3. – American Educator, Spring, 4–9. (08.05.2019).

Hill, Elizabeth 2009. Do mothers and fathers differ in their speech styles when speaking to their children? Are there speaker gender effects on parents’ language behaviour? – Innervate: Leading Undergraduate Work in English Studies 2, 163–182.

Hoff, Erika 2003. The specificity of environmental influence: socioeconomic status affects early vocabulary development via maternal speech. – Child Development 74 (5),1368–1378.

Hoff, Erika 2006. How social contexts support and shape language development. – Developmental Review 26 (1), 55–88.

Hoff-Ginsberg, Erika 1998. The relation of birth order and socioeconomic status to children’s language experience and language development. – Applied Psycholinguistics 19 (4), 603–629.

Huls, Erica, Carel van Wijk 2012. The development of a directive repertoire in context: A case study of a Dutch speaking young child. – Journal of Pragmatics 44 (1), 83–103.

Huttenloher jt 2010 = Janellen Huttenlocher, Heidi Waterfall, Marina Vasilyeva, Jack Vevea, Larry V. Hedges. Sources of variability in children’s language growth. – Cognitive Psychology 61 (4), 343–365. doi: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2010.08.002.

Im-Bolter jt 2013 = Nancie Im-Bolter, Zohreh Yaghoub Zadeh, Daphne Ling. Early parenting beliefs and academic achievement: the mediating role of language. – Early Child Development and Care 183 (12), 1811–1826.

Kaljumäe, Kai 2010. Eesti laste kõne arengust 16–30 kuu vanuste laste näitel. Magistritöö. Tartu: Tartu Ülikool.

Kõrgesaar, Helen 2014. Eesti isade-emade hoidjakeel: kes küsib, kes käsutab, kes räägib rohkem? – Uurimusi keele omandamisest, õppimisest ja korpustest. Toim. Krista Kerge. (= Tallinna Ülikooli eesti keele ja kultuuri instituudi toimetised 16.) Tallinn: Tallinna Ülikool, 59–82.

Kõrgesaar, Helen 2015. Direktiivsed kõneaktid ning nende kasutamise dünaamika isa ja ema kõnes: juhtumiuuring. − Eesti Rakenduslingvistika Ühingu aastaraamat 11 (2015). Toim. Helle Metslang, Margit Langemets, Maria-Maren Sepper. Tallinn: Eesti Rakenduslingvistika Ühing, 159−175.

Kõrgesaar, Helen 2016. Eesti hoidjakeele pragmaatilised erijooned ja dünaamika ning mõju lapse keele arengule. (= Tallinna Ülikooli humanitaarteaduste dissertatsioonid 27.) Tallinn: Tallinna Ülikool.

Kütt, Andra 2015. Eesti keelt emakeelena omandavate laste (vanuses 6–7 eluaastat) sõnavara sotsiolingvistiline uurimus. Magistritöö. Tallinn: Tallinna Ülikool.

Kütt, Andra, Argus, Reili 2017. Eesti keelt emakeelena omandavate kuueaastaste laste sõnavara seosed emade sõnavaraga. – Emakeele Seltsi aastaraamat 63 (2017). Peatoim. Mati Erelt. Tallinn: Teaduste Akadeemia Kirjastus, 77–102.

Laan, Heli 2006. Lapse sõnavara suurus ja seda mõjutavad tegurid. Tartu: Tartu Ülikool.

Laanesoo, Kirsi 2018. Polüfunktsionaalsed küsilaused eesti argivestluses. (= Dissertationes linguisticae Universitatis Tartuensis 33.) Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus.

Leech jt 2013 = Kathryn A. Leech, Virginia S. Salo, Meredith L. Rowe, Natasha J. Cabrera. Father input and child vocabulary development: The importance of wh-questions and clarification requests. – Seminars in Speech and Language 34 (4), 249–259. doi: 10.1055/s-0033-1353445.

Leping, Kristjan-Olari 2005. Inimkapitali ja palga seosed Eestis ning nende dünaamika. – Majandusteadus ja haridus Eestis. Toim. Diana Eerma. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus, 15–43.

MacWhinney, Brian 1991. The CHILDES project: Tools for Analyzing Talk. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

MacWhinney, Brian 2000. The CHILDES project. Tools for analyzing talk. 3rd ed. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Metslang, Helle 2004. Imperative and related matters in everyday Estonian. – Linguistica Uralica 4, 243–256.

Nelson, Katherine 1973. Structure and strategy in learning to talk. – Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 38 (1-2), 1–135.

Okugo, Chierika 2015. Caregiver speech to infants in Senegal: a descriptive study. – Stanford: Journal of Public Health 20. (09.05.2019).

Paavola-Ruotsalainen jt 2017 = Leila Paavola-Ruotsalainen, Jaana Lehtosaari, Josefina Palomäki, Immi Tervo. Maternal verbal responsiveness and directiveness: consistency, stability, and relations to child early linguistic development. – Journal of Child Language 45 (2), 319–339.

Pajusalu, Karl, Renate Pajusalu 2004. The conditional in everyday Estonian: It’s form and functions. – Linguistica Uralica 40 (4), 257–269.

Pine, Juliane Mark 1992. How referential are ’referential’ children? Relationships between maternal-report and observational measures of vocabulary composition and usage. – Journal of Child Language 19 (1), 75–86.

Prizant, Barry, Elaine C. Meyer 1993. Socioemotional aspects of language and social-communication disorders in young children and their families. – American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 2 (3), 56–71.

Rääbis, Andriela 2012. Direktiivisekventsid isa ja tütre suhtluses: juhtumianalüüs. – Eesti Rakenduslingvistika Ühingu aastaraamat 8 (2012). Toim. Helle Metslang, Margit Langemets, Maria-Maren Sepper. Tallinn: Eesti Rakenduslingvistika Ühing, 213–230.

Rowe, Meredith L. 2008. Child-directed speech: relation to socioeconomic status, knowledge of child development and child vocabulary skill. – Journal of Child Language 35 (1), 185–205.

Rowe, Meredith L. 2012. A longitudinal investigation of the role of quantity and quality of child-directed speech in vocabulary development. – Child Development 83 (5), 1762–1774.

Searle, John 1979. Expression and Meaning: Studies in the Theory of Speech Acts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Siska, Teele 2013. Imperatiivi kasutusest ühe lapse kõnearengu varasel perioodil. Bakaleureusetöö. Tartu: Tartu Ülikool.

Slančová, Daniela 2008. Štúdie o dětskej reči. Prešov: Filozofickáfakulta Prešovskej univerzity v Prešove.

Stephany jt 2013 = Ursula Stephany, Ayhan Aksu-Koç, Maria D. Voeikova. The category of modality: A crosslinguistic study of its development. – Ettekanne rahvusvahelisel pre- ja protomorfoloogia projekti aastakonverentsil Viinis (21.–23.02.2013).

Stephany, Ursula, Maria D. Voeikova 2015. Requests, their meanings and aspectual forms in early Greek and Russian child language. – Journal of Greek Linguistics 15 (1), 66–90.

Tammemäe, Tiiu 2008. Kahe- ja kolmeaastaste eesti laste kõne arengu tase Reynelli ja HYKS testi põhjal ning selle seosed koduse kasvukeskkonna teguritega. (= Tallinna Ülikooli sotsiaalteaduste dissertatsioonid.) Tallinn: Tallinna Ülikooli Kirjastus.

Teemets, Helena 2012. Direktiivid eesti keele argivestlustes. Magistritöö. Tartu: Tartu Ülikool.

Tomasello, Michael 2003. Constructing a Language. A Usage-based Theory of Language Acquisition. Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press.

Tomasello, Michael 2005. Constructing a Language: A Usage-based Theory of Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Tomasello, Michael 2010. Origins of Human Communication. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Tomasello Michael, Michael Jeffrey Farrar 1986. Joint attention and early language. – Child Development 57 (6), 1454–1463.

Tomasello, Michael, Jody Todd 1983. Joint attention and lexical acquisition style. – First Language 4 (12), 197–212.

Tulviste, Tiia 2001. Can variation in mother-child interaction be explained by context and collectivistic attitudes? – Applied Psycholinguistics 22 (4), 541–553.

Tulviste, Tiia 2003. Mothers’conversational styles across cultures. The case of Estonia, Finland, Sweden and the U.S. – Proceedings of the IACCP XVIth Congress, Yogyakarta, Indoneesia, 15.–19. juuli 2002.

Tulviste, Tiia 2007. Variation in vocabulary development among Estonian children as a function of child’s gender, birth order, child-care, and parental education. – Proceedings from the First European Network Meeting on the Communicative Development Inventories. Ed. M. Eriksson. Gävle: University of Gävle, 16–21.

Tulviste jt 2003 = Tiia Tulviste, Luule Mizera, Boel De Geer, Marja-Terttu Tryggvason. A comparison of Estonian, Swedish, and Finnish mothers’ controlling attitudes and behaviour. – International Journal of Psychology 38 (1), 46–53.

Tulviste jt 2004 = Tiia Tulviste, Luule Mizera, Boel De Geer. Expressing communicative intents in Estonian, Finnish, and Swedish mother-adolescent interactions. – Journal of Child Language 31 (4), 801–819.

Urm, Ada 2012. Individuaalsete erinevuste stabiilsus eesti laste sõnavara arengus. Magistritöö. Tartu: Tartu Ülikool.

Urm, Ada, Tiia Tulviste 2016. Sources of individual variation in Estonian toddlers’ expressive vocabulary. – First Language 36 (6), 580–600.

Vihman, Virve-Anneli 2018. Pilk laste keeleomandamisele: teoreetilistest alustest ja kvantitatiivsetest lähenemistest. – Keel ja Kirjandus 8/9, 622–642.

Willms, Douglas J. 2003. Ten Hypotheses about Socioeconomic Gradients and Community Differences in Children’s Developmental Outcomes. Applied Research Branch, Strategic Policy, Human Resources Development Canada, Final Report.


Back to Issue