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The role of gesture in the language production of preschool children

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The present study investigates the functions of gestures in preschoolers’ descriptions of activities. Specifically, utilizing McNeill’s growth point theory (1992), I examine how gestures contribute to the creation of contrast from the immediate context in the spoken discourse of children. When preschool children describe an activity consisting of multiple actions, like playing on a slide, they often begin with the central action (e.g., sliding-down) instead of with the beginning of the activity sequence (e.g., climbing-up). This study indicates that, in descriptions of activities, gestures may be among the cues the speaker uses for forming a next idea or for repairing the temporal order of the activities described. Gestures may function for the speaker as visual feedback and contribute to the process of utterance formation and provide an index for assessing language development.

Keywords: context; growth point theory; preschool children; spontaneous gesture

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011


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