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Caregivers provide more labeling responses to infants' pointing than to infants' object-directed vocalizations*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2014

Department of Psychology, University of Iowa
Department of Psychology, University of Iowa
Address for correspondence: Julie Gros-Louis, Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, E11, Seashore Hall, Iowa City IA, 52242. e-mail:


Existing studies have observed a robust relationship between infants' pointing gestures and language outcomes. By contrast, infants' overall vocal production is not related to language outcomes. One possible explanation for the association between pointing and language is that pointing gestures, as compared to vocalizations, may elicit more verbal responses from social partners that are facilitative for language learning. To test this, we observed forty-seven infants aged 1;0 during free play with their mothers and fathers separately to compare parents' verbal responses to infants' pointing gestures and object-directed vocalizations. Results showed that, compared to object-directed vocalizations, infants' pointing elicited more verbal responses from parents, particularly object labels. Moreover, mothers were more likely than fathers to provide labels. These results may help explain why pointing is associated with indices of language acquisition, but the production of vocalizations is not.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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First, we would like to thank the infants and families who participated. Also, thanks to Elizabeth Alpert, Jenny Anderson, Sarah Bartlett, Emma Bulzoni, Johanna Burdinie, Ahhyun Cheong, Amber Dewey, Kiley Dewhurst, Kara Eberhardt, Alex Einfeldt, Jennifer Hand, Ayumi Irie, Ruri Kim, Kristin Langhammer, Katie McDonald, Jessica Mucha, Elena Newton, Heather Pollock, Fanya Sun, Kelsey Torgerson, Nicole Vorce, Elizabeth Watson, and Qiuting Zhou for help in participant recruitment, testing, coding, and/or data organization. Lastly, thanks to Larissa Samuelson for helpful suggestions on the manuscript.



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