Comparative Gestural Signalling

Former Humboldt Research Group

Prof. Dr. Simone Pika moved to the Institute of Cognitive Science at the Universität of Osnabrück. Please follow this link for her contact.

This independent research group was funded by a Sofja-Kovalevskaja Price of the Humboldt Foundation, which had been awarded to Simone Pika in November 2010.

Humboldt Research Group „Evolution of communication“

Children undergo a gestural phase before they use their first spoken words and use gestural pointing, giving and showing to engage in communicative interactions, to acquire objects and to manipulate the behavior and mental states of others.

This time window has been identified as an important milestone of human communicative development, representing the first step into the collective enterprise of human cognition. A profound understanding of this developmental stage thus provides a crucial window into the meanings and concepts that children at the earliest stages of language learning are not yet able to convey in speech.

Furthermore, children eventually grow into adult speakers AND into adult gesturers, thereby providing a rich and changing landscape between first gesture use and acquisition of a fully fluent language to get detailed insight in human communicative development.

  • But how do pre-linguistic signals develop?
  • Which learning mechanisms form the basis of gesture acquisition?
  • What is the influence of bonding partners on language acquisition and performance?
  • How did gestural communication develop phylogenetically?

To answer these questions, the Humboldt Research Group investigated the development of communication and the underlying cognitive mechanisms in three model groups:

(1) children living in different cultures;

(2) closely related species (humans, great apes);

(3) species, which live in comparable complex social settings (humans, great apes, corvids).

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