Language provides rich social information about its speakers. For instance, adults and children make inferences about a speaker's social identity, geographic origins, and group membership based on her language and accent. Although infants prefer speakers of familiar languages, little is known about the developmental origins of humans’ sensitivity to language as marker of social identity. We investigated whether 9-month-olds use the language a person speaks as an indicator of that person's likely social relationships. Infants were familiarized with videos of two (...) people who spoke the same or different languages, and then viewed test videos of those two individuals affiliating or disengaging. Results suggest that infants expected two people who spoke the same language to be more likely to affiliate than two people who spoke different languages. Thus, infants view language as a meaningful social marker and use language to make inferences about third-party social relationships. (shrink)
Tomasello et al. lay out a three-step ontogenetic pathway for infants' understanding of intentional action. By this account, before 9 months, infants do not understand actions as being goal directed. However, we caution against drawing strong conclusions from negative findings, and, based on recent findings, propose that a key aspect of goal knowledge is present well before 9 months.
Carpendale & Lewis (C&L) propose that social knowledge is constructed from triadic interactions. This account generates testable predictions concerning social knowledge in infancy. Current evidence is not entirely consistent with these predictions. Infants possess action knowledge before they engage in triadic interactions, and triadic use of an action does not always precede knowledge about the action.