Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Gesture: An Integral Component of Language Acquisition and Learning

Gesture: An Integral Component of Language Acquisition and Learning

Rachel Doyle

Children in their infancy may be incapable of speaking, but they are not incapable of communication. Gesture is a means with which children begin to interact and communicate with their world. It is also how adults can communicate and interact with pre-verbal children. These interactions, these gestures, are not only a tool with which adults and children facilitate communication, but it is also an integral part of language development and the learning process in children. A review of research in anthropology, linguistics, and cognitive studies reveals that gesture and language have a relationship that is not trivial, but in fact vitally intertwined. The development of gesture use for communication occurs before children develop the ability to communicate via speech, then these two aspects of communication continue to develop and work together as two parts of one process. Research with non-human primates further illustrates the development of gesture as a vital aspect of communication. Since non-human primates do not have verbal speech, it is possible to observe the development of gestural communication between primates without the element of speech development overpowering it. An overview of the studies done in relation to gesture, communication, and language development shows that the gestures that accompany speech are a critical component in communication and that as such, gesture plays a role in how developing children learn and interact with their world.

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April 16, 2011 - Posted by | abstract

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