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Effects of age and language on co-speech gesture production: an investigation of French, American, and Italian children's narratives*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2014

Université de Grenoble, LIDILEM, St Martin d'Hères, France
Université Toulouse 2, Octogone ECCD, Toulouse, France
CNR, GLADD, Rome, Italy
University of Naples L'Orientale, Naples, Italy
Northwestern University, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, Evanston, ILL, USA
University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, RSA
University of Chicago, Department of Psychology, Chicago, ILL, USA


The aim of this paper is to compare speech and co-speech gestures observed during a narrative retelling task in five- and ten-year-old children from three different linguistic groups, French, American, and Italian, in order to better understand the role of age and language in the development of multimodal monologue discourse abilities. We asked 98 five- and ten-year-old children to narrate a short, wordless cartoon. Results showed a common developmental trend as well as linguistic and gesture differences between the three language groups. In all three languages, older children were found to give more detailed narratives, to insert more comments, and to gesture more and use different gestures – specifically gestures that contribute to the narrative structure – than their younger counterparts. Taken together, these findings allow a tentative model of multimodal narrative development in which major changes in later language acquisition occur despite language and culture differences.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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Data collection and analysis for this study was financed by the French National Research Agency (projet ANR-05-BLANC-0178-01 et -02). We thank Asela Reig Alamillo and Valerio De Angelis for helping us with data coding and analysis, and we thank children from Grenoble, Toulouse, Chicago, Rome, and Naples who took part in this study.



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