Routes to reference

Pragmatics and Cognition 6 (1):209-227 (1998)
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However one conceives of the relation between a sign and its significate, referring is a communicative act in which a speaker must intentionally direct the attention of an interlocutor to some object, event, or state of affairs that the speaker has in mind. This article examines the ontogenesis and phylogenesis of acts of referring, with special concern for the possible nature of sign-significate relationships. Findings from developments psychology indicate that a group of abilities and skills underlie the ability to refer. Infants follow the gaze of others to objects of attention, and enjoy joint attention with others. Interactions with caregivers in routines well known to the child enable her to achieve joint attention with the adult on a particular ingredient in the routine. In this way, the ability to refer develops from certain "language games ", interactions that combine goal-seeking and joint attention.



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