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Objects in a Storied World: Materiality, Normativity, Narrativity

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There exists broad agreement that participatory, intersubjective engagements in infancy and early childhood, particularly triadic engagements, pave the way for the folk psychological capacities that emerge in middle childhood. There is little agreement, however, about the extent to which early participatory engagements are cognitively prerequisite to the later capacities; and there remain serious questions about exactly how narrative and other language practices can be shown to bridge the gap between early engagements and later abilities, without presupposing the very abilities that they are supposed to account for. A key issue here is the normativity inherent in requesting, proferring and inferring reasons. I point out that normativity is not a property only of linguistic interactions. Normativity and conventionality are also materially instantiated in the artefactual objects that are most frequently implicated in early triadic engagements. The conventional, canonical functions of artefacts may, however, be overlaid in symbolic play by significations rooted in children's experience of blended actual and virtual worlds. Artefactual objects are amplifiers, as well as objects of consciousness. Interwoven with the symbolic forms of language, they co-constitute a specifically human biocultural niche, within and in virtue of which developing human beings become competent folk psychologists.
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Document Type: Research Article

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Publication date: 2009-01-01

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