Vocalize to Localize

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Vocalize-to-Localize? Meerkats do it for specific predators… And babies point with their index finger toward targets of interest at about nine months, well before using language-specific that-demonstratives. With what-interrogatives they are universal and, as relativizers and complementizers, play an important role in grammar construction. Some alarm calls in nonhumans display more than mere localization: semantics and even syntax. Instead of telling another monomodal story about language origin, in this volume advocates of representational gestures, semantically transparent, but with a problematic route toward speech, meet advocates of speech, with a problematic route toward the lexicon. The present meeting resulted in contributions by 23 specialists in the behaviour and brain of humans, including comparative studies in child development and nonhuman primates, aphasiology and robotics. The near future will tell us if the present crosstalk — between researchers in auditory and in visual communication systems — will lead to a more integrative framework for understanding the emergence of babbling and pointing, two types of neural control whose coordination could pave the way toward the word and syntax.

The contributions to this volume were previously published as Interaction Studies 5:3 (2004) and 6:2 (2005).

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