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Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association

Editor-in-Chief: Stefanowitsch, Anatol / Schoenefeld, Doris

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The role of scaffolding in children’s questions: Implications for (preschool) language assessment from a usage-based perspective

Heike Behrens / Karin Madlener / Katrin Skoruppa
Published Online: 2016-12-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/gcla-2016-0015


This article outlines a range of theoretical, empirical, and practical desiderata for the design of (preschool) language assessments that follow from recent insights into language development from a cognitive-linguistic and usage-based perspective. To assess children’s productive communicative abilities rather than their ability to judge the acceptability of complex sentences in isolation is a new perspective in language testing that requires theoretical motivation as well as operationalizable criteria for judging the appropriateness of children’s language productions, and for characterizing the properties of their language command. After a brief review of the basic rationale of current strands of preschool assessment in Germany (Section 2), the fundamental usage-based assumptions regarding children’s developing linguistic competence and their implications for the design of preschool language diagnostics are characterized (Section 3). In order to assess children’s language production, in particular its flexibility and productivity in context, a test environment needs to be created in which children are allowed to use a certain range of language in meaningful contexts. Section 4 thus zooms in on the central question of scaffolding. Section 5 presents corresponding corpus evidence for adult strategies of prompting children to elaborate their answers and for typical child responses. Sections 6 and 7 discuss the corpus-based findings with respect to their implications for the design of ( preschool) language assessment and point to further challenges.

Keywords : usage-based approach; language assessment; scaffolding; prompting; productivity; pragmatic adequacy

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Published Online: 2016-12-06

Published in Print: 2016-11-01

Citation Information: Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 237–260, ISSN (Online) 2197-2796, ISSN (Print) 2197-2788, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/gcla-2016-0015.

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© 2016 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston. Copyright Clearance Center

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