Greener Journal of Educational Research Vol. 4(2), pp. 041-051, April 2014
Manuscript Number: 111813974
The Pattern and Function of Vocalization and Gesture in Nigerian Mother-Infant Interaction
Esther N. Oluikpe
Senior Lecturer, Department of Arts Education, Faculty of Education, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Email: esther.oluikpe @ unn. edu. ng, ezoluikpe @ yahoo. com
The purpose of the study was to theorize on the ability of
illiterate but experienced Igbo mothers to detect with
accuracy infants’ social bids for appropriate care-giving.
The study involved a participatory observation of two
normal, full term infants, aged 0-3 months at different
periods of their birth, by their mother-researcher. The
social bids were food, sleep, comfort, and relief from pain.
The period of observation for each infant was two months.
The focus of observation was vocalization (distress and
non-distress cry) and gestures (body movements and
mouthing). The observations were recorded on daily basis in
a journal for each period of observation. They were analyzed
and compared to determine common features in the
vocalizations, formal parameters of gestures, meaning of
gestures, maternal response, and infants’ feedback. The
findings revealed that vocalization served as automatic
social arouser while the gestures encoded the social bids
which the mother interpreted to provide appropriate
care-giving. The study concluded that experienced but
illiterate Igbo mothers relied on their interpretation of
the formal parameters of the infants’ gestures to provide
appropriate care-giving during the prelinguistic stage of
the infant. Vocalization served as social arouser.
Keywords: Vocalization, gesture, infants, mothers, interaction.
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