The Interplay between Joint Attention, Physical Proximity, and Pointing Gesture in Demonstrative Choice

David PeetersMax Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Zeynep AzarRadboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Asli OzyurekRadboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Abstract

A fundamental property of language is that it allows us to establish joint attention to a referent, for instance by the use of spatial demonstratives. Traditional accounts of demonstrative choice focused on the physical proximity of the referent to the interlocutors. However, recent work taking into account the multimodal context in which spatial demonstrative use is generally embedded shows that such accounts are too simplistic. Using a controlled elicitation task, we tested the differential roles of visual joint attention, proximity of a referent, and use of a pointing gesture in demonstrative choice in Dutch. It was found that ‘proximal’ demonstratives were used to refer to objects nearby the speaker. ‘Distal’ demonstratives were used for referents not nearby the speaker, but also in an addressee-anchored way, i.e. when the referent was in the addressee’s visual attentional focus. Findings are discussed in terms of demonstrative systems and multimodal reference production in general.

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The Interplay between Joint Attention, Physical Proximity, and Pointing Gesture in Demonstrative Choice (429 KB)



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