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Child directed demonstration across cultures (DEMONSTRATION DESIGN)
Start date: Sep 1, 2012, End date: Aug 31, 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"Since the seminal work of Grice (1957), speaking is considered an intentional activity in the sense that it serves achieving goals: one of them, specific of humans, is to teach other humans to use new tools and knowledge (Tomasello 1999; Csibra & Gergely 2009). This context of interaction involves often children and this requires a specific type of recipient design mostly studied under the rubric of Child Directed Speech or Motherese. Even so in order for the message being effective, the adult has to employ a combination of strategies involving not only speech but also bodily movements with or without the objects involved (i.e., gesticulation, Kendon 1982). This project aims to conduct a fine-grained analysis of such communicative actions, namely demonstrations (Clark 1996), directed to children. In detail it proposes to investigate how demonstrations (with and without objects), with the speech they accompany, are sensitive to 1) the age of the addressee 2) the presence of the object 3) the culture of the speaker. The aim is to set up a study in which Italian and Dutch adults in their respective countries demonstrate the properties of a new object to a school age child and to another adult in two conditions: with and without the object. We predict significant differences between the child and the adult conditions as previous studies on ‘Motionese’ and ‘Gesturese’ shows. However despite the fact that Child-directed speech seems to have some universal features, we predict significant differences in terms of demonstrative acts between the two cultures, due to different gestural repertoires (i.e. Italy being a gesture rich culture). In general we will gain as the first time novel insights about culture specific demonstrative acts with and without objects-which are essential in developing new teaching tools in educational contexts. As such the study will offer to bring together areas of child development, teaching, gesture, grounded cognition and cross cultural studies."

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