Erasmus University Rotterdam (2019)

This thesis proposes a perspective on language and its development by starting from two approaches. The first is the ecological-enactive approach to cognition. In opposition to the widespread idea that cognition is information-processing in the brain, the ecological-enactive approach explains human cognition in relational terms, as skilful interactions with a sociomaterial environment shaped by practices. The second is the metalinguistic approach to language, which holds that reflexive or metalinguistic language use – talking about talking – is crucial for understanding language and its development. In particular, I defend two theses: 1. A child’s initial communicative behaviour can be explained in terms of attentional actions: social actions that function by directing someone else’s attention. 2. In order for the child’s communicative behaviour to be sensitive to key properties of language, such as semantic content and normativity, she needs to learn metalinguistic skills. The development of this ecological-enactive perspective on language serves two functions. First, the ecological-enactive approach started by considering basic behaviour, su.
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