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By Elizabeth Bates

Explores the character and foundation of symbols, the interdependence of language and idea, and the parallels among improvement of somebody (ontogeny) and improvement of a gaggle (phylogeny)

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Additional resources for The Emergence of Symbols. Cognition and Communication in Infancy

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But we have reason to believe that in the first 9 months of life this behavior is, from the infant's point of view, merely a built-in reaction to a particular internal state. In other words, prior to 9 months we suggest that communication is efficiently caused, but not finally caused in the Aristotelian sense outlined earlier. Consider the following simple experiment. The infant is placed at Point A, facing the goal out of his reach at Point B. The human being who will eventually obtain the goal for this child is placed at right angles at Point C, out of the child's line of visual regard from A to B.

F does nothing, so M puts the purse in his hand and utters a series of small sounds, looking at F. F still does not react, and M insists, pointing to the purse and whining. " M again points to the purse, looks at F, and makes a series of small sounds. " Marta nods sharply [p. 219], A third change involves the form of the individual signals. For example. a reach-and-grasp motion may become abbreviated into a short openshut intention movement that is apparently aimed at the adult listener rather than the goal.

And yet—all qualifications aside—as we continue to stare we still believe that this brief period in human ontogeny reflects not one but two critical moments in the dawning of human communication through symbols: (a) the onset of communicative intentions and conventional signals and (b) the emergence of symbols and the discovery that things have names. In the next few pages, I will describe in fairly general terms the behaviors that comprise these two developmental moments, based on findings from our first longitudinal study with three infants (Bates, Camaioni, and Volterra, 1975), as well as research by several other investigators (Bruner, 1975a; Carter, 1974; Dore, 1975; Lock, 1976; Sugarman, 1977).

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