Sociocultural Settings Influence the Emergence of Prelinguistic Deictic Gestures

Authors

  • Dorothe Salomo,

    Corresponding author
    1. Max-Planck-Research Group Communication before Language and Max-Planck-Institute for Psycholinguistics
    • Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Ulf Liszkowski, Max Planck Research Group Communication before Language, Max-Planck-Institute for Psycholinguistics, MPI for Psycholinguistics wundlaan 1, 6525 XD Nijmegen, Gelderland, The Netherlands. Electronic mail may be sent to ulf.liszkowski@mpi.nl.

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  • Ulf Liszkowski

    1. Max-Planck-Research Group Communication before Language, Max-Planck-Institute for Psycholinguistics, and University of Hamburg
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  • We thank Lin Dongxian, Yi Salomo, Laura Shneidman, and Margret van Beuningen for their help with recruiting families. Thanks to Mireille Hassemer, Marloes van der Goot, Cornelia Seitz, and Merel Fokkema for data coding. We owe special thanks to the families in Mexico, the Netherlands, and China who offered us insights into their daily lives and allowed us to observe them at home.

Abstract

Daily activities of forty-eight 8- to 15-month-olds and their interlocutors were observed to test for the presence and frequency of triadic joint actions and deictic gestures across three different cultures: Yucatec-Mayans (Mexico), Dutch (Netherlands), and Shanghai-Chinese (China). The amount of joint action and deictic gestures to which infants were exposed differed systematically across settings, allowing testing for the role of social–interactional input in the ontogeny of prelinguistic gestures. Infants gestured more and at an earlier age depending on the amount of joint action and gestures infants were exposed to, revealing early prelinguistic sociocultural differences. The study shows that the emergence of basic prelinguistic gestures is socially mediated, suggesting that others' actions structure the ontogeny of human communication from early on.

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