[MaFLa] invitation to a lecture

Krisztina Biber Biberk at ceu.hu
Wed Feb 25 09:18:00 CET 2009

The CEU Philosophy Department cordially invites you to a talk 
(as part of its Departmental Colloquium series)
Gergely Csibra (Central European University)

Object-directed gaze as a communicative-referential signal

Tuesday, 3 March, 2009, 5.30 PM, Zrinyi 14, Room 412

Lexical acquisition in young children has been shown to be supported by their sensitivity to social signals that indicate the potential referents of novel words. This led to the proposal that understanding the referential relation between words and their referents is ontogenetically derived from children's comprehension of other types of intentional relations, like perception or attention. I challenge this view by showing that referential expectation in communicative contexts developmentally precedes the understanding of perception and attention. The paradigmatic case here is the phenomenon of gaze following. I provide empirical arguments for the proposal that this behaviour serves two distinct functions in humans: in addition to informing the perceiver about the potential content of the perceptual state of the observed individual, gaze can also act as a non-verbal deictic signal. I demonstrate that human infants' tendency to follow others' gaze reflects this second, communicative-referential interpretation of gaze. Thus, grasping the referential relation between the behaviour of a communicator and an external referent is not dependent on, and is not derived from, the understanding of other types of intentional relations, while it could support lexical acquisition in its own right.

Kriszta Biber
Department Coordinator
Philosophy Department
Tel: 36-1-327-3806
Fax: 36-1-327-3072
E-mail: biberk at ceu.hu

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