Preschool children's production of directive forms

Louise C Wilkinson, Barbara Read

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43 Scopus citations


This study examined the extent of preschoolers’ production of requests for action or directives. A standardized situation was used to elicit directives from 15 white, upper middle class females, aged 2½>, 3½>, and 4½> years. Directive forms were categorized as: gestures, declaratives, expression of want/need, imperatives, embedded imperatives. “please.” The results showed that there were no age‐related differences in the quantity of directives produced, while there were age‐related differences in the quality of directives produced. Specifically, older chlidren produced fewer gestures, but more verbal directives (including imperatives and embedded imperatives) than younger children. Children at the three ages did not differ in their production of declaratives with directive intention, expressions of want/need, and “please.” These results support the position that language develops as an interaction between physical gestural and verbal expressive means with increasing social and linguistic knowledge underlying the developmental process.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233
Number of pages245
JournalDiscourse Processes
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1978


  • gestural directives
  • primary school
  • learning


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