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Language Development in Infancy

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Language Development in Infancy Gestural Signing in Language Development The term 'language development' as applied to hearing children typically refers to communication in the verbal modality. However, focusing only on verbal communication ignores another avenue available to hearing infants, the use of simple gestures to represent objects (e.g., sniffing for 'flower'), conditions (e.g., blowing for 'hot'), and desires (e.g., finger tips tapping for 'more'). The goal in this study was to document spontaneous development of symbolic gestures by infants. The researchers show that most babies create at least one or two such symbolic gestures and that some children create many. ...read more.


In this study, infants appear to extract gestures from familiar motor routines or action sequences (e.g. flapping hands for a bird or pointing to an open hand to request more). Up to 87% of infants employ these symbolic gestures, using them in much the same way that they use words. These findings suggest that infants who are learning a spoken language initially accept both words and non-verbal symbols such as gestures. These data also reveal a developmental trend in which younger infants are actually more flexible than older infants at learning symbols other than words. ...read more.


This production of words and gestures in infants' early development may be related to the input they receive. This is because parents frequently produce both verbal and gestural `labels' for objects during the same joint-attention episode. Thus, it seems that infants would have no reason, to discriminate between an adult's intentions when they produce words and their intentions when they produce gestures. This seems a plausible explanation because the gestural symbols produced by infants tend to be acquired naturalistically over long periods of time during which primary caregivers and their infants employed the gestures as part of their daily established routines. ...read more.

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