Distributed communication: Implications of cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) for communication disorders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article proposes distributed communication as a promising theoretical framework for building supportive environments for child language development. Distributed communication is grounded in an emerging intersection of cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) and theories of communicative practices that argue for integrating accounts of language, cognition and culture. The article first defines and illustrates through selected research articles, three key principles of distributed communication: (a) language and all communicative resources are inextricably embedded in activity; (b) successful communication depends on common ground built up through short- and long-term histories of participation in activities; and (c) language cannot act alone, but is always orchestrated with other communicative resources. It then illustrates how these principles are fully integrated in everyday interactions by drawing from my research on Cindy Magic, a verbal make-believe game played by a father and his two daughters. Overall, the research presented here points to the remarkably complex communicative environments and sophisticated forms of distributed communication children routinely engage in as they interact with peer and adult communication partners in everyday settings. The article concludes by considering implications of these theories for, and examples of, distributed communication relevant to clinical intervention. Learning outcomes: Readers will learn about (1) distributed communication as a conceptual tool grounded in an emerging intersection of cultural-historical activity theory and theories of communicative practices and (2) how to apply distributed communication to the study of child language development and to interventions for children with communication disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-28
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Communication Disorders
Volume57
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2015

Keywords

  • Communicative development
  • Context
  • Cultural-historical activity theory
  • Distributed communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing
  • LPN and LVN

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