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Open Access Publications from the University of California

How Do Children Combine Pointing and Language in the Earliest Stages of Development? A Case Study of Russian and Chintang


Learning to establish joint reference is an important milestone of communicative and linguistic development. Pointing is one of the first entry points into this process, since gestures often precede verbal communication. During early development, as well as later language use, pointing and linguistic utterances interact in many ways, complementing each other. However, little is known about the development of this relationship during development. In this paper, we focus on the development of the co-occurrence of finger pointing and accompanying utterances in two different cultures: Russia and Chintang (Sino-Tibetan, Eastern Nepal). We show that despite the differences in environment, the development of finger pointing and accompanying language use show substantial similarities. Early on, a larger proportion of points is not accompanied by language. As the children's linguistic abilities develop, children first use language to specify what is being pointed at, and later elaborate on some aspect of the referent.

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