Pointing is a quintessentially communicative gesture in humans. However, in this chapter we claim that pointing, like the most quintessential of human communicative tools, speech, also has private cognitive functions from its beginnings in infancy and childhood. We explore the parallelisms between private pointing and private speech from a neo-Vygotskian perspective reviewing a series of studies that empirically support this notion.
SPEECH AND GESTURES
In the past 2 decades it has been claimed that speech and gestures form a single and unified communicative system (Kendon, 2004; McNeill, 1985, 1992, 1998, 1999). According to McNeill (1999), this communicative system is formed by gestures and speech because the thought that the speaker wants to transmit originally includes categorical and imaginary aspects. According to him, “rather than adjuncts to language, gestures that integrate with speech are part of language. Such gestures show that language is more than its obvious linguistic content; it also has visuo-spatial content” (McNeill, 1985, pp. 16–17).
In support of this view, some relevant findings have been obtained by studying people with verbal or visual disabilities. For instance, deaf people can spontaneously assume the proper syntactic and segmented structure of language in their gestures. Therefore, when they are called to carry the full burden of communication, gestures can assume a languagelike form (Goldin-Meadow, 1982, 2002, 2005; Goldin-Meadow, McNeill, & Singleton, 1996).