The intersubjective roots of pretend play

Valentina Fantasia*, Iris Nomikou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Pretend play has been studied in great depth in the past four decades, yielding an increasingly rich body of evidence and conjectures about the evolutionary, cognitive, social and linguistic competence acquired by young children through make-believe activities. In the current work, we drew connections between symbolic play and early forms of infants’ humorous initiatives, such as clowning and teasing, shedding light on the similarities between some of their constitutive aspects. To do so, we endorsed an intersubjective and socio-cultural stance which allowed expanding our current understanding of, and reflections on the roots of pretend play and its development, from something happening inside individuals to the relation it contributes to create between individuals and their social and cultural environments. Above all, we suggest that what these earlier and later forms of symbolic actions have in common is mostly their interpretative dimension: they are spaces in which infants and children can construct and explore different kinds of realities with meaningful others. We then consider the implications for theories of symbol formation and language development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-60
Number of pages16
JournalRivista di Psicolinguistica Applicata Journal of Applied Psycholinguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2022


  • pretend play
  • clowning
  • teasing
  • infancy
  • language development
  • meaning-making


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