The present study aims to analyze the developmental patterns of Chinese children's apology strategies by investigating their percept ion of punishments and their production of apologies in terms of two contextual variables, viz. the degree of their own responsibility and the severity of their offence. A comprehension task and a production task were assigned to 120 Chinese children (aged 4-8) and a control group of 24 Chinese-speaking adults. The subjects were further divided into five age groups, each of which consisted of 24 subjects. The results showed that Chinese children as young as four or so were able to take into account both the degree of their own responsibility and the severity of their offence, when assigning punishment. Furthermore, the data yielded a trend in the children's use of apologies. The children under seven employed more direct apologies than indirect apologies, while the older children and the adults tended to respond in the opposite way. With regard to sub-strategies, all the children were found to use more Offering than Acknowledging, and more Acknowledging than Requesting strategies, and there was a three-stage development in the use of these sub-strategies. These findings can be accounted for by children's unsophisticated linguistic skills and adults' greater awareness of the need for politeness (Brown & Levinson 1987).
- L1 acquisition