Material Culture, Semiotics and Early Childhood Development

  • Christiane Moro
Part of the International perspectives on early childhood education and development book series (CHILD, volume 3)


In his latest works, Vygotsky argues for a cultural-historical conception of development where culture through semiotic systems plays a key role. Language is considered by Vygotsky as the semiotic system par excellence through which a cultural-historical development and consciousness emerge. If I agree with Vygotsky’s general theoretical assumption that development is the result of semiotic constructions, I nevertheless consider that it is necessary to investigate the variety and complexity of cultural semiotic systems susceptible to intervening in cultural-historical psychological development from the onset. In this chapter, I will focus on material culture and, more specifically, on material objects and their social (canonical and symbolic) uses which can be considered as one of the most important semiotic systems that children have to appropriate during the pre-verbal period. I shall thus emphasize the semiotic dimension of cognitive processes in early development through material objects. With the appropriation of object uses by the child in child–object–adult triadic interaction, I will attempt to show that material culture needs to be reconsidered as semiotic and engages before language the young child in a cultural-historical development which is based on a rather complex construction of meaning that is elaborated on a material basis through objects, and can thus be submitted to semiotic analysis.


Material Culture Material Object Semiotic System Triadic Interaction Psychological Tool 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am grateful to Michalis Kontopodis and Denise Shelley Newnham for their close reading of this text. I am indebted to Sarah Stauffer for her translation and Sophie Tapparel for her final reading and help in editing this paper.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université de LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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