Talk as Social Organization among Black Children
Marjorie Harness Goodwin
Distribution: World
Publication date: 3/1/1991
Format: paper 384 pages, 12 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-20618-3
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“ . . . carefully researched and clearly written . . . Goodwin makes a major step in redefining the enterprise of studying language use in context and across contexts.” —American Ethnologist

“I recommend the book highly.” —John Haviland, American Anthropologist

“Goodwin’s thoughtful interpretation of these examples [of children’s conversation] is replete with wise insights, challenging critical darts, and well-referenced links to a wide literature.” —Child Development Abstracts & Bibliography

"Intellectual breadth shines through this book." —Barrie Thorne
"By combining Goffman's approach to ethnography with in-depth conversational analysis, Goodwin provides important and novel insights into the interactive processes through which culture is created and maintained. The results should be of interest to any social scientist." —John J. Gumperz

“ . . . required reading for linguists, anthropologists, sociologists, and educators.” —Language and Acquisition

“This book is clearly a significant addition to the study of the range and power of children's voices at play . . . ” —Harvard Educational Review

“He-Said-She-Said provides fascinating insight into the importance of social context in the organization of gender.” —Signs

"A rare and wonderful combination of ethnography and conversational analysis. Goodwin gives both a sensitive account of African American adolescent street talk and a careful approach to the study of language in use." —Ray McDermott

"Marjorie Harness Goodwin’s study of children’s talk provides the best and most comprehensive analysis of gender differences in interaction, situated in the broader context of children’s social organization. She didn’t set up experiments; she didn’t just take field notes. She hung around with the children in her neighborhood until they trusted her, then tape-recorded their natural conversations as they played together. This is Goodwin’s long-awaited compilation of years of painstaking analysis of the transcripts of those tapes. It is not only one of the best sources, if not the best source, for anyone interested in how boys and girls use language in their daily lives—indeed, to constitute their daily lives; it is also a model ethnographic study of language in its natural setting.” —Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation

This groundbreaking study describes in detail the complexities of children's communication. By integrating the analysis of conversation with ethnography, Marjorie Harness Goodwin systematically and empirically reveals how a group of urban black children constitute their social world through talk.

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Table of Contents


1 Talk as Social Action
2 Fieldwork

Section 1 The Neighborhood and Children’s Groups

3 The Maple Street Children’s Group and Their Neighborhood

Section 2 Directive/Response Sequences and Social Organization

4 Research on Directives
5 “Man, don’t come down in here where I am”

Directive Use in a Boy’s Task Activity
6 Task Activity and Pretend Play amoung Girls

Section 3 Disputes and Gossip

7 Building Opposition in Children’s Argument
8 He-Said-She-Said

Section 4 Stories within Dispute Processess

9 Perspectives on Stories
10 Stories as Participation Structures
11 Instigating

Section 5 Conclusion

12 Conclusion

Appendix A The Children
Appendix B Ritual Insult Sequence
Appendix C Boys’ Dispute Stories
Appendix D Girls’ Instigating Stories

References Cited
Name Index
Subject Index

Photographs follow page 54