Obituary for Clare Tarplee 1962-1999

written by Bill Wells

Dr Clare Tarplee, lecturer in the Department of Human Communication Science at University College London, died on 16 November 1999 as the result of a cerebral haemorrhage. She was 36.

Clare gained a first class B.A. degree in English Language at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In 1986 she moved to the University of York and undertook graduate study with John Local, Paul Drew and Tony Wootton. She soon identified the line of research that she was to pursue through her all too brief academic career: using conversation analysis to investigate how young children can make sense of what adults say to them, and use this as a basis for developing their own linguistic skills. Latterly, often in collaboration with postgraduate students whose projects she supervised, she elucidated complex interactions involving children with various types of communication difficulty, as well as young normally developing children.

In 1992 she moved to the National Hospital's College of Speech Sciences (now the Department of Human Communication Science, University College London). Here she lectured mainly in the areas of children's language development, phonetics and conversation analysis. Together with Ray Wilkinson she organised the first, very successful, international conference on Conversation Analysis and Communication Disorders, held at UCL in 1997. For several years she chaired the department's research group in conversation analysis, and from 1998 until her death coordinated an ESRC-funded seminar programme on the same topic.

Through her research Clare made an important contribution to developmental and clinical linguistics, and through her inspiring teaching she fostered its application in speech and language therapy practice. Clare was much loved and respected as a lecturer, researcher, colleague and friend, and will be greatly missed.

Selected bibliography:

Corrin, J., Tarplee, C. & Wells, B. (forthcoming) Interactional linguistics and language development: a conversation analytic perspective on emergent syntax. To appear in Couper-Kuhlen, E. & Selting, M. Studies in Interactional Linguistics (Benjamins)

Radford, J & Tarplee, C. (in press) The management of conversational topic by a 10-year old child with pragmatic difficulties. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics

Tarplee, C. (1993) Working on talk: the collaborative shaping of linguistic skills within child-adult interaction. Unpublished DPhil thesis, University of York.

Tarplee, C. (1996) Working on young children's utterances: prosodic aspects of repetition during picture labelling. In Couper-Kuhlen, E. & Selting, M. (eds) Prosody in Conversation: Interactional studies. Cambridge University Press: 406-35

Tarplee, C. & Barrow, E. (1999) Delayed echoing as an interactional resource: a case study of a 3-year-old child on the autistic spectrum. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics 13, 6. 449-82