Edited by Aliyah Morgenstern and Michèle Guidetti
[Language, Interaction and Acquisition 8:1] 2017
► pp. 89–116
Developing communicative postures
The emergence of shrugging in child communication
This article analyses the development of a composite communicative posture, the shrug (which can combine palm-up flips, lifted shoulders and a head tilt), in a video corpus of spontaneous interactions between a typically developing British girl, Ellie, and her mother, filmed at home one hour each month from Ellie’s tenth month to her fourth birthday. The systematic coding of every shrug yields a total of 124 tokens (Ellie: 98; her mother: 26), providing results in terms of forms, functions and input. Ellie’s first shrug components emerge from non-linguistic actions and she acquires them one at a time starting with the hands: these features recall the development of complex signs among deaf children of the same age (Reilly & Anderson, 2002 for ASL). The functions of Ellie’s shrugs gradually diversify from the expression of absence at 1;04 to other epistemic and non-epistemic meanings (affective and dynamic). Adult intervention plays a crucial role as adults recurrently equate Ellie’s physical movements with speech, thereby contributing to the emergence of their communicative functions as gestural emblems (Ekman & Friesen, 1969).
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