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Elsen, Hilke (1996): Two routes to language: stylistic variation in one child. In: First Language, Vol. 16, No. 47: pp. 141-158




This paper reports the early language development of a Germanspeaking girl who produced referential as well as expressive utterances. Expressive speech style is illustrated by the use of babbling strings with target intonation, universal words, filler syllables, pivot constructions and a smooth transition to syntax. Referential style is characterized by the gradual development of phonology, the gradual elaboration of words, distinct articulation, telegraphic speech and a distinct increase of vocabulary at one point in time. The child produced expressive style, e.g., holistic utterances, in situations of communicative urgency and when dealing with complex linguistic material. It is assumed that the child tried to compensate for poorly developed production capacities when there was too much information to be processed at the same time. Expressive speech served as a conversationmaintenance strategy. It provided the girl with provisional substitutes to maintain conversation and thus had a distinct function for this child.