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The aim of the MODAL project is to advance scientific knowledge about the origins and acquisition of the multimodal facets of language. I test predictions about the comparative use of sensory modalities by communication learners observed in situations of attentional or communicative breakdowns. Notably, I study the sensory modalities used to restore communication and attention. I combine cross-species and cross-cultural comparisons of ‘attention-getters’ used in mother-infant communication with a formal linguistic approach applied to monkey communication and artificial languages to elucidate the factors that shape the use of vocal and gestural modalities in the emergence of language. This project will answer key questions like: (i) how do human infants go from intentional pointing gestures to first spoken words? (ii) does visual inattention trigger the use of multimodal attention-getters across species and cultures? (iii) are linguistic rules implemented differentially in visual and acoustic signals?
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