Voicing Infant Talk: Infant’s Agency in Spanish Family Interactions (Pre-Print)

Galera, N. and Poveda, D. (2023, pre-print). Voicing infant talk: Infant’s agency in Spanish family interactions. Available at SSRN: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4531016

In a moment in which society frequently legitimizes the narrative that young children are “goal-oriented”, “competent” and “agents”, this paper denaturalizes this core value through empirical examples of how agency unfolds in moment-by-moment family practices in which parents and siblings animate infant “speech” (voicing). The paper draws from a multimodal, longitudinal, ethnographic study examining the language socialization of infants in Spanish middle-class families from Madrid. In dialogue with a relational approach to agency, voicing is analyzed to showcase how the social construction of babies’ agency dynamically changes in different positions (e. g. between competence and vulnerability) and in different verbal and no-verbal attunements between babies and family members. As we consider the interactional and verbal practice of voicing, we also move to a more vaguely defined terrain of undervalued dimensions, such as infant vocalizations and other forms of multimodal and embodied practices, as they unfold in socio-material ensembles. Through the analysis of episodes of interactions between children, siblings and caregivers, we reinterpret infant agency as being present in family routines and agency not as an inherent capacity but as a constant and unpredictable coming to be.

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