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Vocal interactions at the dawn of communication: the emergence of mutuality and complementarity in mother-infant interaction

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

  • Giuseppe Leonardi
  • Dr Iris Nomikou
  • Katharina Rohlfing
  • Joanna Rączaszek-Leonardi
Continuous interaction of mother and infant in the first weeks and months of an infant’s life entrains the infant on many crucial aspects of how to do things together. Contingencies of gaze, vocalizations, and other movements are slowly routinized; this scaffolds directing of attention to each other and the world and gives to such multimodal interactions meaning. It is within these continuous interactions with caregivers that language emerges, starting from the first non- reflexive vocalizations that infants produce. The response that caregivers promptly give to these vocalizations informs infants of their relevance and helps shape them. We explored this systematicity by observing the coupling of infants’ and mothers’ vocalizations in unconstrained interactions longitudinally. While at three months, mothers seem to answer consistently to any speech related vocalization within the first two seconds, this pattern fades away at six and eight months. What remains stable across age is a structure in which overlapping vocalizations are rare and give way to a sequential pattern of vocal reciprocity — an embryonic turn-taking behavior. Discussion relates this finding to early coordination in other modalities in an attempt to sketch a more holistic account of emerging co-action.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2016 Joint IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning and Epigenetic Robotics (ICDL-EpiRob)
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-5090-5069-7
ISBN (Print)978-1-5090-5070-3
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2017
EventJoint IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning and Epigenetic Robotics - Paris, France
Duration: 19 Sep 201622 Sep 2016

Publication series

ISSN (Electronic)2161-9484


ConferenceJoint IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning and Epigenetic Robotics
Abbreviated titleICDL-EpiRob


  • Leonardi_et_al_Vocal_Interactions_at_the_Dawn_of_Communication_FINAL

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    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 596 KB, PDF document

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