Edited By Jon F. Nussbaum
Chapter Three: Communication Development: Distributed Across People, Resources, and Time
Distributed Across People, Resources, and Time
CAROL A. MILLER AND LAURA S. DETHORNE
Note: The authors contributed equally to this chapter.
Communication, the cornerstone of human relationships, develops long before young children begin to master a linguistic code. Definitions of communication vary, ranging from all human behavior to specification of conventional forms. For the purposes of this chapter, we refer to communication as the intentional exchange of ideas across individuals, including both verbal and nonverbal behavior (cf. Ciccia, Step, & Turkstra, 2003; Haslett & Samter, 1997). As such, speech and language can serve as powerful resources for communicative purposes, but are not themselves synonymous with communication. Speech refers to the sensory-motor process of talking, whereas language encompasses the cognitive-linguistic conventions of vocabulary, grammar, and phonology. Neither is sufficient in understanding the rich landscape of social interaction. Take, for example, the 6-month-old infant who is repeating “dadada” while in his crib. Such babbling represents the early sensory-motor building blocks of speech, but is not communicating until someone receives the babble and attributes meaning to it. As such, communication is always dependent upon receipt and interpretation by others (i.e., distributed across people). Similarly, the interpretation of “dadada” is shaped by additional resources and aspects of the environment (i.e., distributed across resources). For example, whether the infant is looking up at his dad or down at the dog on the floor is likely to affect how the message is taken up. Nonverbal resources, such as gesture, eye...
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