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Gesture Reflects Language Development: Evidence from Bilingual Children

Rachel I. Mayberry and Elena Nicoladis
Current Directions in Psychological Science
Vol. 9, No. 6 (Dec., 2000), pp. 192-196
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20182668
Page Count: 5
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Gesture Reflects Language Development: Evidence from Bilingual Children
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Abstract

There is a growing awareness that language and gesture are deeply intertwined in the spontaneous expression of adults. Although some research suggests that children use gesture independently of speech, there is scant research on how language and gesture develop in children older than 2 years. We report here on a longitudinal investigation of the relation between gesture and language development in French-English bilingual children from 2 to 3 1/2 years old. The specific gesture types of iconics and beats correlated with the development of the children's two languages, whereas pointing types of gestures generally did not. The onset of iconic and beat gestures coincided with the onset of sentencelike utterances separately in each of the children's two languages. The findings show that gesture is related to language development rather than being independent from it. Contrasting theories about how gesture is related to language development are discussed.

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