Primary Discourse and Expressive Oral Language in a Kindergarten Student

Date of Completion

January 2011


This research was a 7-month ethnographic case study of a Kindergarten student navigating her first formal schooling experience with relation to expressive oral language. Gee's theory of Discourses (1989, 2008) and methodology of discourse analysis (2008, 2011a) was used to examine the participant's expressive oral language-in-use. Two discursive contexts germane to expressive oral language were observed over the course of the study: the Discourse of the Home and the Discourse of School. The study demonstrated the complexity of expressive oral language when the participant's primary Discourse converged with the secondary Discourse (Gee, 1989) of school. ^ Data were collected during participant observations in both the home and school settings. Primary data sources included participant observation, audio taped observations, and fieldnotes. These sources resulted in transcripts and an individual participant dictionary. Secondary sources of information for this study included interviews, document/artifact collection, and a researcher journal which provided detail for the rich descriptive narratives. The data sources were analyzed in two varying ways. Secondary sources were analyzed to descriptively represent the contexts of the participant's language-in-use and provide rich, detailed descriptions of the contexts of home and school and the participant in the two settings. Critical incidents of oral language samples from primary data sources were analyzed through Gee's method of language-in-use discourse analysis with coding focused on the seven building tasks, significance, practices (activities), identities, relationships, politics, connections, and sign systems and knowledge, and six tools of inquiry, social languages, Discourses, Conversations, intertextuality, situated meanings, and figured worlds (2005, 2011a, 2011b) to further describe language-in-use within and between the two contexts of the home and the school. ^ Data from this study suggest that a Kindergarten student's primary Discourse as it pertains to expressive oral language manifests itself in a variety of ways at the point of juncture with the secondary Discourse of school. Alignment, dominance, discord, and hybridity existed as the participant's primary Discourse of home and secondary Discourse of school converged through expressive oral language. The point of juncture for expressive oral language served to both expand and limit the participant's discursive abilities in both her home and school Discourses. ^