ERIC Number: EJ777203
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Aug
Reference Count: 0
Discussing Those Not Present: Comprehension of References to Absent Caregivers
Saylor, Megan M.; Baldwin, Dare A.
Journal of Child Language, v31 n3 p537-560 Aug 2004
The ability to understand references to the absent enables conversation to move beyond the here-and-now to matters distant in both space and time. Such understanding requires appreciating the relation between language and communicative intent: one must recognize speakers' intentions to use language to converge on a shared conversational focus that is at least somewhat independent of the current context. Despite its centrality to language development, the emergence of absent reference understanding has received little systematic attention. The present research investigated the responses of 60 infants aged 1;0 to 2;6 to a researcher talking about both present and absent caregivers. When infants aged 1;3 and older heard talk about absent caregivers they displayed a complex of nonverbal communicative responses that were divergent from their responses to talk about a present person. Infants aged 2;0 and older provided responses indicating understanding of absent reference. The findings suggest that by 1;3 infants may have at least a tacit appreciation of language as a device for coordinating conversational focus, and hint at increased sophistication in infants' absent reference comprehension skills at 2;0. (Contains 1 footnote.)[This research was also supported by a dissertation research award from the University of Oregon, and grants from the John Merck Scholars Fund.]
Descriptors: Comprehension, Caregivers, Infants, Language Acquisition, Age Differences, Developmental Stages, Cognitive Processes, Object Permanence, Nonverbal Communication
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Early Childhood Education
Sponsor: National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA.
Authoring Institution: N/A