Displaced Reference

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Signed and spoken human languages have the ability to refer to entities and events that are removed in space and/or time from the immediate communicative situation. (1)  Displaced reference has been documented in gesture used as a means of communication when the vocal channel is not available (cf. "Gesture"), particularly in the so-called "home sign" gestural systems that deaf children who are not exposed to sign language use to communicate with hearing family members. (2)  Co-speech gesture (cf. "Gesture"), a non-linguistic human communication system, can at times indirectly accommodate displaced reference. (3)  The only documented naturally occurring form of displaced reference in non-human species is the dance of forager honeybees, which is however limited to one type of referent only: distal food sources. (4)  Border collies have demonstrated the ability to comprehend reference to objects removed from the communicative situation under controlled conditions. (5, 6) Likewise, some language-trained apes have shown evidence of reference to displaced entities (objects, other familiar apes, people, locations) in either comprehension or production. (7)

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  1. Time-space–displaced responses in the orangutan vocal system, Lameira, Adriano R., and Call Josep , Science Advances, 2018/11/01, Volume 4, Issue 11, (2018)
  2. Border collie comprehends object names as verbal referents, Pilley, John W., and Reid Alliston K. , Behavioural Processes, Volume 86, Issue 2, p.184 - 195, (2011)
  3. Word learning in a domestic dog: evidence for "fast mapping"., Kaminski, Juliane, Call Josep, and Fischer Julia , Science, 2004 Jun 11, Volume 304, Issue 5677, p.1682-3, (2004)
  4. Language Comprehension in Ape and Child, Savage-Rumbaugh, E. S., Murphy J., Sevcik R. A., Brakke K. E., Williams S., Rumbaugh D. M., and Bates E. , Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, Volume 58, p.i-252, (1993)
  5. Gestural communication in deaf children: the effects and noneffects of parental input on early language development., Goldin-Meadow, S, and Mylander C , Monogr Soc Res Child Dev, 1984, Volume 49, Issue 3-4, p.1-151, (1984)
  6. The Origin of Speech, Hockett, C. , Scientific American, Volume 203, Issue 3, p.88-96, (1960)