Motor Simulation and Ostensive-Inferential Communication

Avant, Vol. XIII, No. 1,
published under license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Angelo D. Delliponti
Academia Copernicana,
Nicolaus Copernicus University

Received 9 September 2021; accepted 19 April 2022; published 17 June 2022.
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Abstract: The ostensive-inferential model is a model of communication, an alternative to the code model of communication, based on pragmatic competence: it explains human communication in terms of expression and recognition of informative and communicative intentions, founding comprehension on the distinction between literal meaning and the speaker’s meaning. Through informative intentions we try to make evident the content of a message to a receiver, or to make evident what we want to communicate to him/her: communicative intentions are used to make evident the very fact that we intend to communicate. One hypothesis is that ostensive-inferential communication is what makes human language possible. Since an extensive literature has highlighted the role of the Theory of Mind in ostensive-inferential communication, this hypothesis fits with the idea that a mechanism for mentalizing underlies human communication. The aim of the present paper is to stress the role of lower-level mechanisms, specifically of motor simulation, in the recognition of informative and communicative intentions, in order to outline an embodied account of ostensive communication. Specifically, the hypothesis is that this process is involved in language acquisition during development, and that it plays a role in the associative learning process involved in language acquisition during childhood. To this aim, in future research it may be useful to test the involvement of motor simulation (specifically, phono-articulatory and semantic) in the recognition of informative and communicative intentions in toddlers. Since some models of language evolution focus on the role of motor simulation, a supplementary goal is to deepen its role in the biological evolution of language, focusing on the specific link between motor simulation and intentions in the framework of ostensive-inferential model.

Keywords: ostensive communication; motor simulation; communicative intention; informative intention; embodiment; language acquisition


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