'You sometimes get more than you ask for': responses in referential communication between children and adolescents with cochlear implant and hearing peers.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: This study investigates responses to requests for clarification in conversations between children/adolescents with cochlear implant (CI) and normally hearing peers. Earlier studies have interpreted a more frequent use of requests of confirmation (yes/no interrogatives) in the CI group as a conversational strategy used to prevent communication breakdowns and control the development of the conversation. This study provides a continuation of this line of research, now focusing on responses to requests for clarification. Aims: The aim was to examine the type and distribution of responses to requests for clarification in a referential communication task. In addition, we analysed the compliance between the type of response and the type of request as a measure of mutual adaptation. Methods & Procedures: Twenty-six conversational pairs aged 10-19 years participated: 13 pairs consisting of a child/adolescent with CI (CI) and a conversational partner (CIP); and 13 pairs consisting of a normally hearing control (NH) and a conversational partner (NHP). The pairs performed a referential communication task requiring the description of faces. All occurrences of requests for clarification and their responses in the dialogues were identified and categorized. We also analysed how the different types of requests and responses were combined and the type-conformity of the responses to requests for confirmation. Outcomes & Results: The results showed no significant group differences regarding type, distribution or type-conformity of responses. In all four groups (CI, CIP, NH and NHP), a discrepancy between the request and the response was found, indicating that the response provided information that was not explicitly requested. Requests for confirmation constituted 78-90% of the requests, whereas only 54-61% of responses were confirmations. Conversely, the proportion of requests for elaboration was 6-15%, whereas the proportion of elaborated responses was 34-40%. Conclusions & Implications: The children/adolescents with CI contribute equally to the conversation regarding type and distribution of responses to requests for clarification. The frequent use of elaborated responses indicates common ground for the conversational partners and a shared understanding of the objective of the task. The context creates facilitative conditions, with positive interactional consequences. The results have implications for the design of intervention, where tasks such as this can be used to make children with CI more aware of the role of questioning strategies in interaction.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Medical Sciences not elsewhere specified


  • * referential communication * conversation * request for clarification * response * paediatric cochlear implant
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-385
JournalInternational Journal of Language & Communication Disorders
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Publication categoryResearch

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