Pointing gestures, vocalizations and gaze: two case studies

Abstract : Conventional symbolic gestures like pointing appear at the end of children's first year. Gesture-word combinations can be observed in their second year as the transition towards two-word speech. But before gestures are combined with words, gaze and vocalizations complement them. These combinations might already carry pragmatic, social and semantic functions. We explore the issue of pointing/vocalization/gaze combinations with data taken from two longitudinal follow-ups of French-speaking children aged 8 to 23 months. Our analyses show that gaze alone, or prosody alone, do not seem to have a discriminating role in differentiating the traditional functions of pointing (proto-imperative versus proto-declarative). Prosody in gesture/vocal combinations seemed to be an earlier, more discriminating feature than gaze in indicating children's positioning to their interlocutor and their use of differentiated social-pragmatic functions. Our results show that no feature alone can help interpret "pointing events" but that fine-grained correlations between pointing gestures, prosody, gaze, nature and position of the target, position of the participants, interpretation of the adult could help distinguish between the different functions of "pointing events".
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Jordan Zlatev, Marlene Johansson Falck, Carita Lundmark and Mats Andrén. Studies in Language and Cognition, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp.261-275, 2009
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Marie Leroy, Emmanuelle Mathiot, Aliyah Morgenstern. Pointing gestures, vocalizations and gaze: two case studies. Jordan Zlatev, Marlene Johansson Falck, Carita Lundmark and Mats Andrén. Studies in Language and Cognition, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp.261-275, 2009. 〈halshs-00376184〉

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