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Indexing in fairy tales: Evidence for the role fairy tales play in children's concept formation

Kantara, Argyro 2013. Indexing in fairy tales: Evidence for the role fairy tales play in children's concept formation. Lodz Papers in Pragmatics 9 (1) , pp. 123-149. 10.1515/lpp-2013-0007
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Starting from the basic premises of Schank's (1998) notion of indexing in story telling and the representational approach of language (Saeed 1996, 2003), this paper investigates whether fairy tales create initial indexes for children, that may (not) be re-indexed later in adult life, by reshaping their pre-existing experiences. More specifically, it focuses on the way fairy tales present several concepts already familiar to children, and whether this representation matches children’s pre-existing experiences. The data collected comes from several of Grimm Brothers' fairy tales and consists of a corpus of 62839 word tokens. The fairy tales included were thematically related to general areas of everyday experience: femininity, blackness, whiteness, day, night, being young, ageing. The following semantically contradictory lexical pairs (listed with their text frequency) were examined in the expanded concordance, in relation to their collocations and semantic associations: ( 143) old - (58) young, (134) woman - (71) maiden, (116) day - (40) night, (63) white - (83) black. These were then compared with an adults’ and a children’s dictionary to check whether the collocations, semantic associations of the selected words as portrayed in the data, matched the societally accepted meanings found in dictionaries. The comparison indicated that, although the connotative meanings were included in the majority of denotative meanings that make up words' definitions in the adult dictionary examined, only five of them matched the connotative meanings of the words examined in the data. On the other hand, the way the above concepts/words were presented in the children’s dictionary, was very simple, probably reflecting children’s experiences. It seems, thus, that the concepts - at least some of them - presented in the fairy tales examined, do not “officially” relate to children's but to adults' experiences, functioning as an index that re-shapes children’s pre-existing concepts.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Publisher: De Gruyter
ISSN: 1895-6106
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 9 October 2016
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 12:35

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