Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet


Development of Communicative Actions and Gestures Adult-Child About and Through Objects from 9 to 13 Months Old

Ana Moreno Núñez (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)


We adopt a pragmatic perspective to the objects in early development (Rodríguez & Moro, 1998; Rodríguez & Martí, 2012), and a microgenetic approach to development, which allow us to see the interaction child-object-adult, and the communicative niche in which gestures are grounded. Some studies have been developed within this paradigm  — from the second half of the first year of life to the second year — involving the children’s initiation into the different uses of objects. Rodríguez & Moro (1998) claim that signs have a leading role in adult-infant communication where objects are included. Ostensive gestures are essential in the establishment of the shared reference in the adult-infant interaction, even more so if they are accompanied by rhythmic components, which the adults use to help organize the interaction (Moreno, Rodríguez & Del Olmo, submitted). The adult gradually introduces the material world, which allows the child to appropriate the different communicative resources the other gives to him or her from the beginning. Communication adult-baby is facilitated by ostensive gestures (showing or giving), and by a series of exchanges of vocalizations, facial expressions and body movements, as well as by frequent eye contacts. This allows for the emergence of the first canonical uses of the objects. Adults gradually reduce their interventions, permitting the child to become more active. Triadic interactions are strongly supported by the ostensive and intentional actions of the adult. These interactions differ from the "classic” triadic interactions that occur at the end of the first year of life when the child initiates the communication (Liszkowski, 2006; Liszkowski & Tomasello, 2007; Tomasello, 2004, 2008).

Based on these previous works, a longitudinal and observational study was performed with six dyads of mother-infant — videotaped at 9, 11 and 13 months old —, in order to analyze the triadic interaction adult-baby-object, and focusing on children’s productions – gestures and uses of objects. The main objective was to observe which semiotic systems are occurring when subjects are communicating with each other amongst and with the objects, and how the first agreements between adult and child related to the uses of the objects take place. With this purpose, we performed a microgenetic analysis, distinguishing three different types of gestures in children productions ostensive gestures (e.g. showing or giving), indexical gestures (e.g. pointing and indicating in their different modalities) and symbolic gestures – as well as attending to whether these gestures are directed to the child her/himself with a self-regulatory function (Moro & Rodríguez, 2005; Rodríguez & Palacios, 2007) or to the adult. We also described the functions of these gestures that children produce, considering the objects involved in their interaction with the adult.