Länge mal Breite oder was ist ein Quadratmeter? Elemente kindlicher Erklärungsdidaktik!


  • Renate Rathmayr Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, Österreich




explanatory talk, pragmalinguistic analysis, self- and other-positioning, lay didactics


The article presents the pragmalinguistic analysis of an explanatory talk between two didactically untrained speakers, triggered by the question: Why does length multiplied by width represent area? The speakers are Philipp and Michael (two brothers, 12 and 10 years old respectively at the time of recording in February 1989) and — marginally — their parents. The conversation comprises 97 replies, and lasted approximately 12 minutes.

After a brief overview of explaining as a speech act, there follows the pragmalinguistic and didactic interpretation of the conversation. This is continued by its interactive features, in particular the self- and other-positionings and thus the roles that the speakers assign to each other or assume themselves.

In many respects, the conversation reflects the manners of the social roles of teachers and pupils. Remarkable here are the numerous strategies of politeness as well as formulae organising talk. The younger brother’s process of understanding proceeds in several phases, whereby in particular the abstraction of the size of the area causes problems, reflected e.g. in the comment on the drawing accompanying the talk: but a square is not 1 meter (R 49). On the other hand, we see an unexpected degree of reflection on the process of understanding. The older brother's patient use of different creative explanatory strategies reveals a high degree of didactic competence.