Stages and transitions in children’s semiotic development

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


Stage models were prevalent in developmental psychology in
the past, but have recently been subjected to much criticism. We propose
“rehabilitation”, defining semiotic stage as a (not necessarily stable) period
characterized by the clear establishment of a novel semiotic capacity,
which may “dominate” the communication of the child at this stage, but
does not replace capacities from previous stages. This is spelled out by
adopting one particular model of semiotic development – the Mimesis
Hierarchy (Zlatev 2008a, 2008b) – and presenting comparative and
developmental data from 6 children in Sweden and Thailand, between 18
and 27 months of age, analyzing their acts of bodily communication
(ABCs) in relation to their emerging linguistic capacities. The results show
evidence for a transition around 20 months, when children display the use
of (stable) signs, shared with their community, in both the linguistic and
gestural modalities, but do not yet systematically combine them. Only
towards the end of the period under study does this begin to occur on a
more routine basis. Implications are drawn for the continuous debate “insight” vs. gradual development in ontogeny, suggesting a compromise.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • gesture, children, development, cognition, semiotics
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies in Language and Cognition
EditorsJordan Zlatev, Mats Andrén, Carita Lundmark, Marlene Johansson
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Publication categoryResearch