A tale of two hands: children's early gesture use in narrative production predicts later narrative structure in speech*
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 August 2014
Speakers of all ages spontaneously gesture as they talk. These gestures predict children's milestones in vocabulary and sentence structure. We ask whether gesture serves a similar role in the development of narrative skill. Children were asked to retell a story conveyed in a wordless cartoon at age five and then again at six, seven, and eight. Children's narrative structure in speech improved across these ages. At age five, many of the children expressed a character's viewpoint in gesture, and these children were more likely to tell better-structured stories at the later ages than children who did not produce character-viewpoint gestures at age five. In contrast, framing narratives from a character's perspective in speech at age five did not predict later narrative structure in speech. Gesture thus continues to act as a harbinger of change even as it assumes new roles in relation to discourse.
- Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014
This research was supported by P01HD40605 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (PI: Goldin-Meadow). This paper is adapted from a doctoral dissertation by Özlem Ece Demir submitted to the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. We thank the participating families for sharing their child's language development with us; Karyn Brasky, Megan Broughan, Laura Chang, Elaine Croft, Kristin Duboc, Sam Engel, Lauren Graham, Jennifer Griffin, Sarah Gripshover, Kelsey Harden, Whitney Hansen, Lauren King, Alice Lee, Max Masich, Carrie Meanwell, Erica Mellum, Molly Nikolas, Jana Oberholtzer, Lilia Rissman, Becky Seibel, Meredith Simone, Calla Trofatter, Kevin Uttich, Julie Wallman, and Kristin Walters, Alyssa Welding, Annie Yaniga for help in collecting and transcribing the data; Kristi Schonwald, Jodi Khan, and Jason Voigt for administrative and technical assistance; and Fey Parrill for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.