Referential Communication

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  • One of the main functions of language is reference: the process whereby one person directs another's attention to some object or event (known as the referent). Infants typically start engaging in referential communication just before their first birthday, when they begin to point at objects and use vocalizations in order to direct their caregiver's attention. However, although the basics are in place in infancy, it takes many years to learn how to use conventional language to refer to things efficiently (and to understand others when they are attempting to do so). The problem is that languages provide all sorts of ways of referring to things, and so each act of reference involves choosing the best way given the current context (e.g., choosing whether to say: ...

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