We propose a new theory of infant pointing involving multiple layers of intentionality and shared intentionality. In the context of this theory, we argue and present evidence for a rich interpretation of prelinguistic communication, that is, one which posits that when 12-month-old infants point for an adult they are in some sense trying to influence her intentional/mental states. Moreover, we also argue and present evidence for a deeply social view in which infant pointing is best understood - on many levels and in many ways - as depending on uniquely human skills and motivations for co-operation and shared intentionality (e.g., joint intentions and attention with others). We conclude with a defense of the claim that children's initial skills of linguistic communication emerge on the heels of their initial pointing gestures because these two forms of interpersonal communication share a common social-cognitive, social-motivational infrastructure.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Human infant pointing, precursor to language?
From Tomasello's group, work with Malinda Carpenter and Ulf Liszkowski on "A New Look at Infant Pointing" (PDF here).