European Journal of Psychology of Education

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 311–319 | Cite as

Speech acts in young children: Vygotsky’s contribution

  • Josie Bernicot


What influence has Vygotsky’s work had on recent research in language acquisition? Vygotsky’s influence first emerged in the United States, and more specificaly in J. S. Bruner’s work. It is often implicit, and now essentially concerns one domain of language acquisition, the development of speech acts in children. Vygotsky’s approach has a certain number of points in common with the so-called “pragmatic” theories derived from the philosophy of language: the nature of signs, utility in the study of conscience and utility in phylogency The main point of divergence between the Vygotsky perspective and the one proposed in pragmatic theory concerns ontogency: ontogency was one of the focal points of Vygotsky’s work, and pragmatists are not interested in the question of ontogeny as such.

From the proximal zone of development, and from the transition from an inter-psychological phase to an intra-psychological phase, Bruner developed the notions of tutoring, scaffolding and interaction format. Applying the notion of format to interactions involving children older than 2 allows to account for the early production of certain utterances.

Some very recent studies have shown that Vygotsky’s approach can be discussed from two angles: the link between the adult’s assistance and the child’s language learning, and the role of asymmetry in the adult/child relationship during language acquisition.

Key words

Communication Development Language Acquisition Learning Speech acts 


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Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisbon, Portugal/ Springer Netherlands 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josie Bernicot
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Paris 5France

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