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Gestural-vocal deixis and representational skills in early language development

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This study explores the use of deictic gestures, vocalizations and words compared to content-loaded, or representational gestures and words in children’s early one- and two-element utterances. We analyze the spontaneous production of four children, observed longitudinally from 10–12 to 24–25 months of age, focusing on the components of children’s utterances (deictic vs. representational), the information encoded, and the temporal relationship between gestures and vocalizations or words that were produced in combination. Results indicate that while the gestural and vocal modalities are meaningfully and temporally integrated form the earliest stages, deictic and representational elements are unevenly distributed in the gestural vs. the vocal modality, and in one vs. two-element utterances. The findings suggest that while gestural deixis plays a primary role in allowing children to define and articulate their vocal productions, representational skills appear to be markedly more constrained in the gestural as compared to the vocal modality.

Keywords: deictic; early language; gestures; representational; vocalizations; words

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, National Research Council, Rome 2: University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Department of Psychology of Developmental Processes and Socialization

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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