A Prelinguistic Gestural Universal of Human Communication
Article first published online: 3 FEB 2012
Copyright © 2012 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
Volume 36, Issue 4, pages 698–713, May/June 2012
How to Cite
Liszkowski, U., Brown, P., Callaghan, T., Takada, A. and de Vos, C. (2012), A Prelinguistic Gestural Universal of Human Communication. Cognitive Science, 36: 698–713. doi: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01228.x
- Issue published online: 4 MAY 2012
- Article first published online: 3 FEB 2012
- Received 6 December 2010; received in revised form 6 July 2011; accepted 25 July 2011
- Caregiver–infant interaction;
- Social development;
- Infant communication;
Several cognitive accounts of human communication argue for a language-independent, prelinguistic basis of human communication and language. The current study provides evidence for the universality of a prelinguistic gestural basis for human communication. We used a standardized, semi-natural elicitation procedure in seven very different cultures around the world to test for the existence of preverbal pointing in infants and their caregivers. Results were that by 10–14 months of age, infants and their caregivers pointed in all cultures in the same basic situation with similar frequencies and the same proto-typical morphology of the extended index finger. Infants’ pointing was best predicted by age and caregiver pointing, but not by cultural group. Further analyses revealed a strong relation between the temporal unfolding of caregivers’ and infants’ pointing events, uncovering a structure of early prelinguistic gestural conversation. Findings support the existence of a gestural, language-independent universal of human communication that forms a culturally shared, prelinguistic basis for diversified linguistic communication.