The Ontogenesis of Agent Cognitive Notion Research Article
Research Article  |   June 01, 1982
The Ontogenesis of Agent
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Lesley Barrett Olswang
    University of Washington, Seattle
  • Robert L. Carpenter
    University of Washington, Seattle
Article Information
Research Articles
Research Article   |   June 01, 1982
The Ontogenesis of Agent
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 1982, Vol. 25, 297-306. doi:10.1044/jshr.2502.297
History: Received October 25, 1979 , Accepted May 13, 1981
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 1982, Vol. 25, 297-306. doi:10.1044/jshr.2502.297
History: Received October 25, 1979; Accepted May 13, 1981

Children's early l- and 2-word utterances appear to encode the concept of agent, thus suggesting that this semantic notion has its origin in prior sensorimotor development. Specifically, the nonverbal concept of agent has been alluded to in research regarding young children's development ofthe cognitive notion of causality and the pragmatic category of requests for action. In this study children's awareness of the nonverbal agent concept was defined by gestural behaviors—that is, actions on objects and other people—occurring during request interactions with their mothers and the investigator. Three children were observed in their homes approximately once a month for 1 year, from their 11th through 22nd months of life. During each hour-long visit, the children were engaged in free play and in tasks designed to result in the children's requesting help from an adult. Based on the observation of the children's changing nonverbal behaviors over the 12 months, a 5-level developmental sequence documenting the evolution of the cognitive notion of agent is presented.

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