Mealtime talk as a language learning context: Australian Chinese parents’ language use in interactions with their preschool-aged children at the dinner table

Jiangbo Hu*, Jane Torr, Yonggang Wei, Changhua Jiang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Families’ mealtime talk has significant implications for children’s language development. This study investigated five middle-class Australian Chinese families that differ in their lifestyles and meal routines. It aims to explore (1) the nature of the Chinese parents’ language use in interactions with children at mealtime and (2) the factors that may impact the quality of mealtime talk. Drawing on systemic functional linguistic theory, the parents’ language was analysed in terms of interpersonal functions and cohesive patterns. The findings show distinctive differences among the families. The parents sitting with children for meals generated a higher quality of language that contained informational functions, expanded in various cohesive patterns, than the families where parents were positioned separately from children or where fathers were absent from dinner. This study indicates the diversity of Chinese children’s language experiences at home. Lifestyles and meal routines could be a mediator affecting the nature of mealtime talk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-430
Number of pages16
JournalEarly Child Development and Care
Volume191
Issue number3
Early online date29 May 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2021

Keywords

  • mealtime talk
  • Chinese parents
  • preschool children
  • language learning
  • parent-child interaction

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