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Gestural-vocal coordination: Longitudinal changes and predictive value on early lexical development

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The aim of this study was to examine longitudinally gestural and vocal coordination in multimodal communicative patterns during the period of transition to first words, and its role in early lexical development. Eleven monolingual Spanish children were observed from 9 to 12 and 15 months of age in a semi-structured play situation. We obtained three main findings: (1) the use of multimodal patterns of communication increases significantly with age during the period studied; (2) the rate of use of those multimodal patterns at 12 months predicts lexical development at 15 months; and (3) the use of the pointing gesture at 12 months, especially when it is accompanied with vocalization and social use of gaze, is the best predictor of lexical outcome at 15 months. Our findings support the idea that gestures, gazes and vocalizations are part of an integrated and developing system that children use flexibly to communicate from early on. The coordination of these three types of elements, especially when a pointing gesture is involved, has a predictive value on early lexical development and appears as a key for progress in language development.

Keywords: communicative development; first words; gestures; multimodal communication; vocalizations

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2012


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