Symbol Grounding
  • ISSN 1572-0373
  • E-ISSN: 1572-0381
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Taking a distributed view of language, this paper naturalizes symbol grounding. Learning to talk is traced to — not categorizing speech sounds — but events that shape the rise of human-style autonomy. On the extended symbol hypothesis, this happens as babies integrate micro-activity with slow and deliberate adult action. As they discover social norms, intrinsic motive formation enables them to reshape co-action. Because infants link affect to contingencies, dyads develop norm-referenced routines. Over time, infant doings become analysis amenable. The caregiver of a nine-month-old may, for example, prompt the baby to fetch objects. Once she concludes that the baby uses ‘words’ to understand what she says, the infant can use this belief in orienting to more abstract contingencies. New cognitive powers will develop as the baby learns to act in ways that are consistent with a caregiver’s false belief that her baby uses ‘words.’


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