Hostname: page-component-f7d5f74f5-cz72t Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-10-03T14:14:08.542Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Gesture and language in narratives and explanations: the effects of age and communicative activity on late multimodal discourse development*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 May 2012

Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos
Université de Grenoble
Université de Toulouse
Address for Correspondence: Asela Reig Alamillo, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, Instituto de Ciencias de la Educación, Av. Universidad 1001, Col. Chamilpa, Cuernavaca, Morelos, C. P. 62209. Mexico. e-mail:


This article addresses the effect of communicative activity on the use of language and gesture by school-age children. The present study examined oral narratives and explanations produced by children aged six and ten years on the basis of several linguistic and gestural measures. Results showed that age affects both gestural and linguistic behaviour, supporting previous findings that multimodal discourse continues to develop during the school-age years. The task (narration vs. explanation) also had clear effects on the use of language and gesture: gestures and subordinate markers were more frequent in explanations than in narratives, whereas cohesion markers were more often used in narratives. Altogether, these results show partly distinctive developmental patterns between narrative monologic discourse behaviour and explanatory behaviour in the context of dialogue and question–answer exchanges.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



This research was supported by grant no. 0178-01 from the ANR (French National Research Agency) project entitled ‘L'acquisition et les troubles du langage au regard de la multimodalité de la communication parlée’. We are grateful to Isabelle Rousset from Lidilem, and to all the children and adult students who took part in this study.



Bamberg, M. (1987). The acquisition of narratives: Learning to use language. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bamberg, M. & Damrad-Frye, F. (1991). On the ability to provide evaluative comments: Further explanations of children's narrative competencies. Journal of Child Language 18, 689710.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barbieri, M. S., Colavita, F. & Scheuer, N. (1990). The beginning of the explaining capacity. In Conti-Ramsden, G. & Snow, C. E. (eds), Children's language, vol. 7, 245–71. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
Bavelas, J. B., Chovil, N., Lawrie, D. A. & Wade, A. (1992). Interactive gestures. Discourse Processes 15, 469–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berman, R. A. & Nir-Sagiv, B. (2004). Linguistic indicators of inter-genre differentiation in later language development. Journal of Child Language 31, 334–80.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Berman, R. A. & Slobin, D. I. (1994). Relating events in narrative: A crosslinguistic developmental study. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
Berman, R. A. & Verhoeven, L. (2002). Developing text-production abilities across languages, genre, and modality. Written Languages and Literacy 5, 144.Google Scholar
Bloom, L., Lahey, M., Hood, L., Lifter, K. & Fiess, K. (1980). Complex sentences: Acquisition of syntactic connectives and the semantic relations they encode. Journal of Child Language 7, 235–61.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Capirci, O., Caselli, M. C., Iverson, J. M., Pizzuto, E. & Volterra, V. (2002). Gesture and the nature of language in infancy: The role of gesture as a transitional device en route to two-word speech. In Armstrong, D. A., Karchmer, M. A. & Van Cleeve, J. (eds), The study of sign languages. Essays in honour of William C. Stokoe, 213–46. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.Google Scholar
Capirci, O. & Volterra, V. (2008). Gesture and speech. The emergence and development of a strong and changing partnership. Gesture 8, 2244.Google Scholar
Colletta, J. M. (2004). Le développement de la parole chez l'enfant âgé de 6 à 11 ans. Corps, langage et cognition. Hayen: Mardaga.Google Scholar
Colletta, J. M. (2009). Comparative analysis of children's narratives at different ages: A multimodal approach. Gesture 9, 6197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Colletta, J. M., Kunene, R., Venouil, A., Kaufmann, V. & Simon, J. P. (2009). Multitrack annotation of child language and gestures. In Kipp, M., Martin, J. C., Paggio, P. & Heylen, D. (eds), Multimodal corpora: From models of natural interaction to systems and applications, 5472. Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer, LNAI 5509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Colletta, J. M. & Pellenq, C. (2009). The development of multimodal explanations in French children. In Nippold, M. A. & Scott, C. M. (eds), Expository discourse in children, adolescents, and adults, 467–73. London: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
Colletta, J. M., Pellenq, C. & Guidetti, M. (2010). Age-related changes in co-speech gesture and narrative: Evidence from French children and adults. Speech Communication 52, 565–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cosnier, J. (1993). Étude de la mimogestualité. In Pléty, R. (ed.), Ethologie des communications humaines: aide-mémoire méthodologique, 103115. Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon.Google Scholar
Diessel, H. (2004). The acquisition of complex sentences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dorval, B. & Eckerman, C. O. (1984). Developmental trends in the quality of conversation achieved by small groups of acquainted peers. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 49, 172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ekman, P. & Friesen, W. V. (1969). The repertoire of nonverbal behavior: Categories, origins, usage and coding. Semiotica 1, 4997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Evans, M. A. & Rubin, K. H. (1983). Developmental differences in explanations of childhood games. Child Development 54, 1559–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fisher, K. (2006). Approaches to discourse particles. Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar
Garber, P., Alibali, M. W. & Goldin-Meadow, S. (1998). Knowledge conveyed in gesture is not tied to the hands. Child Development 69, 7584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goldin-Meadow, S. (1997). When gesture and words speak differently. Current Directions in Psychological Science 6, 138–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Graziano, M. (2009). Le développement de la relation entre les compétences verbale et gestuelle dans la construction d'un texte narratif chez l'enfant âgé de 4 à 10 ans. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Université Stendhal, Grenoble & Università degli Studî Suor Orsola Benincasa, Naples.Google Scholar
Guidetti, M. (2002). The emergence of pragmatics: Forms and functions of conventional gestures in young French children. First Language 22, 265–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gullberg, M., de Bot, K. & Volterra, V. (2008). Gestures and some key issues in the study of language development. Gesture 8, 149–79.Google Scholar
Gundel, J., Hedberg, N. & Zacharski, R. (1993). Cognitive status and the form of referring expressions in discourse. Language 69, 274307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Halliday, M. A. K. & Hasan, R. (1976). Cohesion in English. London: Longman.Google Scholar
Hickmann, M. (2003). Children's discourse: Person, space and time across languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Hickmann, M. & Hendricks, H. (1999). Cohesion and anaphora in children's narratives: A comparison of English, French, German, and Mandarin Chinese. Journal of Child Language 26, 419–52.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jancovic, M. A., Devoe, S. & Wiener, M. (1975). Age-related changes in hand and arm movements as nonverbal communication: Some conceptualizations and an empirical exploration. Child Development 46, 922–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jisa, H. (2004). Growing into academic French. In Berman, R. A. (ed.), Language development across childhood and adolescence, 135–62. Amsterdam: Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kendon, A. (1990). Conducting interaction. Patterns of behavior in focused encounters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Kendon, A. (2004). Gesture: Visible action as utterance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Liszkowski, U., Carpenter, M. & Tomasello, M. (2007). Reference and attitude in infant pointing. Journal of Child Language 34, 120.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and mind. What gestures reveal about thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Nippold, M. A. (2004). Research on later language development: International perspectives. In Berman, R. A. (ed.), Language development across childhood and adolescence, 18. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
Ravid, D. (2004). Derivational morphology revisited: Later lexical development in Hebrew. In Berman, R. A. (ed.), Language development across childhood and adolescence, 5382. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reig Alamillo, A., Colletta, J.-M. & Kunene, R. N. (2010). Reference tracking in gesture and speech. A developmental study on French narratives. Rivista di Psicholinguistica Applicata X, 7595.Google Scholar
Rowe, M. L. & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2009). Early gesture selectively predicts later language learning. Developmental Science 12, 182–87.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Scott, C. M. & Windsor, J. (2000). General language performance measures in spoken and written narrative and expository discourse of school-age children with language learning disabilities. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research 43, 324–39.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Sekine, K. & Furuyama, N. (2009). The development of gestural tracking reference in Japanese school-aged children. Paper presented at MULTIMOD 2009 International Conference, Toulouse, 9–11 July.Google Scholar
Simon, J.-P. (coord.) (2009). Apprendre à expliquer en maternelle. Grenoble: CRDP de l'Académie de Grenoble.Google Scholar
Tolchinsky, L. (2004). The nature and scope of later language development. In Berman, R. A. (ed.), Language development across childhood and adolescence, 233–48. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Veneziano, E. & Sinclair, H. (1995). Functional changes in early child language: The appearance of references to the past and of explanations. Journal of Child Language 22, 557–81.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Verhoeven, L.Aparici, M., Cahana-Amitay, D., van Hell, J. & Viguié-Simon, A. (2002). Clause packaging in writing and speech: A cross-linguistic developmental analysis. Written Language and Literacy 5, 135–62.Google Scholar