Jean-Claude Risse

Children and Language Publication date : February 23, 2006

Do adults and children really speak the same language? What is the role of non-verbal communication? In this book, Jean-Claude Risse argues that language — defined as a privileged means of communication among humans — does not have the same sense for different age groups, and that meaning depends particularly on whether a child has fully, or only partially, acquired the notion of the passing of time and of a self that moves in time.

Based on his long experience as a paediatrician, Risse gives us a sort of “evolving dictionary”, a compilation of the various meanings that children give language, depending on their age and the stage they have reached in their development. He illustrates his arguments with numerous children’s drawings, and explains in detail why the age of six-seven years, commonly referred to as the Age of Reason, constitutes a decisive turning point in language acquisition.

By recognising children’s particular use of language, adults could help defuse some of the misunderstandings arising between parents and children that are caused by the simple reason that they don’t always speak a the same language. The tools provided here will help parents understand what their children are saying and so enable them to improve communication.

Jean-Claude Risse is a paediatrician with a background in psychoanalysis, working in Sens, France.