A Comparison of the Gestural Communication of Apes and Human InfantsTomasello M.a · Camaioni L.b
aEmory University, Atlanta, Ga., USA, bUniversità di Roma ‘La Sapienza’, Roma. Italia
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The naturally occurring gestures of chimpanzees and prelinguistic human infants are compared. Considered as special cases are apes raised by humans as they gesture to humans, and children with autism. Overall, the most important differences between the gestures of typically developing children and the gestures of individuals from the other three groups concern: (1) their predominant use of triadic, distal gestures; (2) their extensive use of declarative gestures, and (3) their use of imitative learning in acquiring some gestures (symbolic or referential), which implies that the gestures are understood as bi-directional communicative conventions. These differences all derive from the uniquely human form of social cognition (i.e., knowledge of other minds) that first emerges during the 2nd year of life and that enables human infants to understand other persons as intentional agents with whom they may share experience. Implications for the origins and evolution of human culture and language are discussed.
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