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Gabriela Tucan, Conceptual Blending in Children’s Games as a Model for Double-Scope Creativity and New Learning Opportunities, în Dana Percec (editor), A Serious Genre: The Apology of Children’s Literature. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridg

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Fauconnier and Turner (2002, pp. 389-396) provide an overview of how blending affects the course of a human life, and more specifically, how young children are engaged in building complex blends in very early stages of their lives. Their detailed
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    C HAPTER  N INE  C ONCEPTUAL B LENDING IN C HILDREN ’ S G AMES AS A M ODEL FOR D OUBLE -S COPE C REATIVITY AND  N EW L EARNING O PPORTUNITIES  G ABRIELA T UCAN   Introduction In the exceptional and emotionally charged story of his autobiographical memoir,  Joseph Anton , Salman Rushdie (2012) fights the crucial battle for the writer’s freedom and–at all costs–for the freedom of speech. He instructs us that in an era when we are being pushed toward “ever-narrower definitions of ourselves” (p. 576), and hence toward narrower identities, literature ought to encourage the multiplicity of identities. The human self is heterogeneous rather than homogenous: “not one thing but many, multiple, fractured and contradictory.” (p. 576) Writers and readers with broad identities will always find common ground with fictional characters and, most importantly, using that knowledge, they find points of identification with their fellow beings. Rushdie’s distinction between “narrow” and “broad” identities shows one of the most fundamental features of our inner lives: the distinction  between the human Subject and our multiple selves. If the Subject makes us what we uniquely are, the self is the sum total of our thoughts, experiences, and actions. In order to construct the sense of self, the human  being changes social roles and becomes acquainted with multiple personal histories. The Subject or “our essence” as the locus of human consciousness differs from the self in many different aspects. Admittedly, as Rushdie explains in his memoir, “the person you were for your parents was not the person you were with your children, your working self was other than your self as a lover, and depending on the time of day and your  Conceptual Blending in Children’s Games as a Model 141 mood you might think of yourself as tall or skinny or unwell or a sports fan or conservative or fearful or hot.” (p. 575-576) It is as if the “home self,” the “lover self,” the “work self,” or the “moody self” were various facets of different individuals, but still they all define one unique body. The split self It seems that our multiple fractured selves are under the direct control of others and our constructed identity is the reflection of external realities. If this is true, we grow up learning to constantly adapt to stories created outside our self. More specifically, this is how we actually learn how to  behave and act like others; this means that from the very beginning we start to experience ourselves as split identities. This is not to say, however, that infants are blank slates written on by others, since they are all born with a set of representational and perceptual capacities. While we are generally perfectly willing to admit that parents or adults are the prime source for imitation, we are yet to address the question of imitation more pointedly in order to show that learning by imitation largely defines our understanding of the split self. With this goal in focus, my thesis is that early imitation is a foundation for the emergence of more  selves  in the subject. I claim that it is precisely in early childhood forms of entertainment, as expressed in a host of imitation games (pretend play, make-believe, fantasy or imaginative play, etc.), that our sense of self  begins to take a bifurcating shape. But the analysis will also go one step further in arguing that an examination of children’s fantasies provides insight into the imitative mind. Early imitation–a way to learning and communication The recent interest of theorists in the theme of imitation from across disciplines has given rise to diverse lines of inquiry (see the edited collections by Nehaniv and Dautenhahn, 2007; Meltzoff and Prinz, 2002). In this study, the term “imitation” is broadly used to refer to types of imitation used in pretend games in which young children reproduce  behaviours that they have witnessed prior to the instance of reproduction. Very early evidence of imitation can be found in infants. In a series of studies, Meltzoff and Moore (1994, 1998) demonstrate that imitation allows infants to determine the identity of others by replaying an imitative game they had played before with the same person. In time, this  predominantly nonverbal communication realized in infant imitation develops into more mature and more abstract manifestations that will  Chapter Nine 142 retain a sense of others. By imitating adults, infants of different ages may start to recognize what they share with other people and later this realization can open the door into the social world. The interpersonal or social relationships with parents and household members from birth force us to continually assess our actions in the light of how others evaluate what we do and how others choose to perform the same actions. It is this interplay between personal experience and external influence that will shape our self as adults. As the human brain develops, so does the mind but this can only happen in the presence of others. Young children depend on others to such a great extent that their early experience of self mirrors a cluster of influences that have touched their life until that moment. Therefore,  juveniles are able to evolve through different social interactions and only through continually receiving socially relevant information. By imitating the social models around us, young children continually shape and reshape their selves in order to adjust to new changing contexts and novel roles. However, compelling scientific evidence proves that the brain is  primarily responsible for who we are. Any dysfunctions of the brain caused by accidents, drugs, or aging processes may temporarily or definitely alter our perceptions of the self. The individual radically becomes a different person. But yet brains do not live in isolation–rather “each brain exists in an ocean of other brains that affect how it works.” (Hood 2012, 17) This ultimately indicates that the self is not only modelled by our  brains but is equally influenced by the external world that assaults us at all times and sends signals that are to be interpreted and internalized by our  brains. Most importantly, the development of our socially created self is a long modelling process taking place throughout our life and occupying the largest part of early childhood. These last points highlight imitation as a social tool serving multiple  purposes. At various levels, imitation can be used to initiate and maintain social interaction; it can be a mode of inter-personal communication. My  paper also works on the same assumption that early imitation has a significant social function. The split self engages in pretend play In this section I propose that young children not only imitate to engage socially with others and to create their social self, but imitation is seen as a cognitive ability to project oneself onto another or other entity in a hypothetical situation. Being able to simultaneously hold more than one identity in different mental spaces develops the concept of separate  Conceptual Blending in Children’s Games as a Model 143 conceptual selves. I argue that pretend play or fantasy games are the refined results of the cognitive function of imitation. Why do children construct online fictions? How do minds build and share such imaginative mental constructs? In addressing these questions, I will rely on Gilles Fauconnier’s mental space theory (1994, 1997) that convincingly advances the view that humans are able to integrate two or more mental spaces as they speak, listen to a string of speech, or read texts. Mental spaces are partial mental constructs set up as the conceptualizer perceives, understands, remembers, or imagines a particular scenario. In short, mental space theory is a useful tool for analyzing how individuals interpret sequences of spoken and written language. In this light, the paper examines instances of mental space mapping in children’s fantasy plays. In most pretend games, children share a communicative situation as the starting point and then they project themselves onto another imaginary entity trying to imitate its behaviour and actions. As such, play companions inhabit the body of fictive  participants in an imaginary scenario that may not correspond to the one in the real situation of communication. Importantly, the playfellows are  physically present but the verbal interaction takes place strictly in the fantasy world. It is interesting to examine how such imaginary verbal interaction is represented in the minds of the participants. More specifically, how they can make mental contact with potential realities that would otherwise have a non-interactional relationship. The type of face-to-face communication carried out during a fantasy play bears resemblance with what Pascual (2002, 2008) and Brandt (2008) call “fictive interaction.” Such interactional structure does not mirror the observable communicative situation and “constitutes an invisible–although equally  present and critical–channel of communication between fictive participants, who may or may not correspond to those in the actual situation of communication.” (Pascual 2008, 81) The examples selected for detailed analysis come from V. Gussin Paley’s  A Child’s Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play . While playing,  pre-school children are able to create with spontaneity highly imaginative stories and carry the plot and characters to places they have never visited. Let us look at the case of a child who engages in a fantasy play: Pretend I’m your baby dinosaur and I’m lost, and then you call me but I don’t come because I have a different name now and then you hear a noise and you think it’s a wolf but you can’t call me because you don’t know my name now. (Gussin Paley 2004, 16)  Chapter Nine 144 As revealed in the example above, in this fascinating pretend game, the child is split into two individuals in the GAME space and the FANTASY mental space. It involves simultaneously the split of the self into two parts. The same individual in actuality is referred to both as a playmate in reality and as “a baby dinosaur” in the fictional scenario. The child in the REALITY space is safe from any worries and dangers and begins to stage an exciting story with a real play companion. They seem to know each other well and both enjoy the suspense of the pretend play. On the other hand, his counterpart in fiction takes a new identity (“the baby dinosaur”) and a new name, gets lost and is unable to help his friend. He speaks as if he were the metamorphosed baby dinosaur. In the scenario of the pretend game, there is no direct reference to the other playfellow, but one may assume he is also in an altered condition. In their fictitious setting, the wolf impersonating the danger cannot be stopped because the fictional counterparts, bearing small resemblance to the playfellows in reality, do not know each other by name. All these fictional elements in the pretend  play do not directly mirror the world. The wolf and the increasing tension are only present in the game and the two playmates with their counterparts in fiction contradict what they experience in actuality. In brief, the world defined by the children’s fantasy game not only splits the referents into two dissimilar parts but it also provides insight into the playmates’ cognitive capacities for representing such imaginary worlds. It seems, then, that fantasy plays entail imagining a fictive identity and engaging in fictive interaction. In their imagined interaction, there are two metamorphosed interactants (the baby dinosaur and perhaps another animal) who engage in imaginary topics of conversation, but the speech and the bodies correspond to the actual playmates. True, the fictive communication of the represented entities does not necessarily relate to the experiential domain but undeniably it has a physical grounding (the  playing ground, the playmates, etc.) The child departs from the REALITY space or the BASE space to construct a potential or a hypothetical space, set up by the space builder  pretend  . The playfellows no longer talk about what they do in their actual world but what they  pretend   they share in their imaginary world. With respect to the previous factual space, the second mental space sets up a counterfactual scenario in an alternative situation, with characters behaving  as if they were something else. In this hypothetical space, the fictional counterpart of the second companion hears a noise and interprets it as danger. He thinks  it is a wolf, which  partitions the discourse into a further BELIEVE space, but   he can’t call his fictional companion because he doesn’t know his name. The conjunction
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