The temporal dynamics of deictic communication

Emanuela Todisco, Pedro Guijarro-Fuentes, Jacqueline Collier, Kenny Coventry

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10 Citations (Scopus)
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Deixis – a fundamental part of communication – involves combinations of speech, gesture and eye-gaze, yet little is known about the temporal dynamics of this coordination. The authors analysed eye-gaze, pointing gestures and verbal productions in 514 deictic episodes during triadic, semi-naturalistic, book-reading sessions performed by Italian children (1;08–2;07) and their caregivers. Results show three new findings. First, deictic communication is overwhelmingly preceded and accompanied by shared attention (of consistent duration) on an object, and only sometimes by disjoint attention. Second, children are synchronously multimodal (conveying information via speech, pointing gesture and eye-gaze) in their deictic communications. Third, the form of deictic communication used is not related to the complexity of the linguistic structures of the sample. Deictic communication is remarkably consistent in children ranging from approximately 1;08 to 2;07 years of age.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-178
Number of pages25
JournalFirst Language
Issue number2
Early online date8 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Child/caregiver book-reading
  • deixis
  • multimodality
  • spatial language acquisition
  • speech/gesture/eyegaze interaction

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