Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Michael Pratt

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Vygotsky’s theory of the development of children’s private (or egocentric) speech is discussed, and related empirical research is reviewed. A pilot study demonstrates the visibility of a microgenetic experimental approach to the problem of private speech. The research detailed herein consists of a three-session repeated-measures microgenetic experiment involving 40 five-year-old children, investigating questions which arise both from Vygotsky’s original work on private speech and from contemporary research. Participants in this study were videotaped while working on both paper-folding and story-sequencing tasks. Results showed greater quantities of private speech while participants worked on paper-folding tasks compared with story-sequencing tasks, on difficult task items compared with easy items, and on novel items compared with familiar items. A decline across sessions in private speech production was observed when participants worked repeatedly on the same items, but not on novel items during the second and third sessions. Three systems for classification of private utterances according to various characteristics were applied. Private speech preceding action (planning speech) increased across sessions. Descriptive speech (which usually accompanies or follows action) declined from the second to the third session. An attempt to track microgenetic changes in the degree psychological predication evident in participants’ private speech was hindered by the high percentage of private utterances considered unclassifiable with regard to this characteristic. Correlational analyses, including examination of between-session as well as within-session associations between private speech and task performance, detected little evidence of predicted relationships. The advantages of a microgenetic experimental approach to the study of preschoolers’ private speech are discussed.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season