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Words are not enough: how preschoolers’ integration of perspective and emotion informs their referential understanding

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Graham, S.A., San Juan, V., & Khu, M. (2017). Words are not enough: How preschoolers’ integration of perspective and emotion informs their referential understanding. Journal of Child Language, 44, 500-526.

Abstract

When linguistic information alone does not clarify a speaker's intended meaning, skilled communicators can draw on a variety of cues to infer communicative intent. In this paper, we review research examining the developmental emergence of preschoolers’ sensitivity to a communicative partner's perspective. We focus particularly on preschoolers’ tendency to use cues both within the communicative context (i.e. a speaker's visual access to information) and within the speech signal itself (i.e. emotional prosody) to make on-line inferences about communicative intent. Our review demonstrates that preschoolers’ ability to use visual and emotional cues of perspective to guide language interpretation is not uniform across tasks, is sometimes related to theory of mind and executive function skills, and, at certain points of development, is only revealed by implicit measures of language processing.