The function and evolution of child-directed communication

Johanna Schick, Caroline Fryns, Franziska Wegdell, Marion Laporte, Klaus Zuberbühler, Carel P. van Schaik*, Simon W. Townsend, Sabine Stoll*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Humans communicate with small children in unusual and highly conspicuous ways (child- directed communication (CDC)), which enhance social bonding and facilitate language acquisition. CDC-like inputs are also reported for some vocally learning animals, suggesting similar functions in facilitating communicative competence. However, adult great apes, our closest living relatives, rarely signal to their infants, implicating communication surrounding the infant as the main input for infant great apes and early humans. Given cross-cultural variation in the amount and structure of CDC, we suggest that child-surrounding communication (CSC) provides essential compensatory input when CDC is less prevalent—a paramount topic for future studies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2022


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