Before L1: A differentiated perspective on infant gestures
This paper investigates the social-cognitive and motivational complexities underlying prelinguistic infants' gestural communication. With regard to deictic referential gestures, new and recent experimental evidence shows that infant pointing is a complex communicative act based on social-cognitive skills and cooperative motives. With regard to infant representational gestures, findings suggest the need to re-interpret these gestures as initially non-symbolic gestural social acts. Based on the available empirical evidence, the paper argues that deictic referential communication emerges as a foundation of human communication first in gestures, already before language. Representational symbolic communication, instead, emerges as a transformation of deictic communication first in the vocal modality and, perhaps, in gestures through non-symbolic, socially situated routines.
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