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Prelinguistic vocalizations distinguish pointing acts

Grünloh, T., & Liszkowski, U. (2015). Prelinguistic vocalizations distinguish pointing acts. Journal of Child Language, 42(6), 1312-1336. doi:10.1017/S0305000914000816.
The current study investigated whether point-accompanying characteristics, like vocalizations and hand shape, differentiate infants' underlying motives of prelinguistic pointing. We elicited imperative (requestive) and declarative (expressive and informative) pointing acts in experimentally controlled situations, and analyzed accompanying characteristics. Experiment 1 revealed that prosodic characteristics of point-accompanying vocalizations distinguished requestive from both expressive and informative pointing acts, with little differences between the latter two. In addition, requestive points were more often realized with the whole hand than the index finger, while this was the opposite for expressive and informative acts. Experiment 2 replicated Experiment 1, revealing distinct prosodic characteristics for requestive pointing also when the referent was distal and when it had an index-finger shape. Findings reveal that beyond the social context, point-accompanying vocalizations give clues to infants' underlying intentions when pointing.
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