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Caregiver's interpret infants' early gestures based on shared knowledge about referents
Infant Behavior and Development
Gestures are the first forms of conventional communication that young children develop in order to intentionally convey a specific message. However, at first, infants rarely communicate successfully with their gestures, prompting caregivers to interpret them. Although the role of caregivers in early communication development has been examined, little is known about how caregivers attribute a specific communicative function to infants' gestures. In this study, we argue that caregivers rely on the knowledge about the referent that is shared with infants in order to interpret what communicative function infants wish to convey with their gestures. We videotaped interactions from six caregiver-infant dyads playing with toys when infants were 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16 months old. We coded infants' gesture production and we determined whether caregivers interpreted those gestures as conveying a clear communicative function or not; we also coded whether infants used objects according to their conventions of use as a measure of shared knowledge about the referent. Results revealed an association between infants' increasing knowledge of object use and maternal interpretations of infants' gestures as conveying a clear communicative function. Our findings emphasize the importance of shared knowledge in shaping infants' emergent communicative skills.
Gesture, Shared knowledge, Communicative function, Object use, Parent-child interaction, Developmental pragmatics
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