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This study explores the form of representational gestures produced by forty-five hearing children (age range 2 ; 0–3 ; 1) asked to label pictures in words. Five pictures depicting objects and five pictures depicting actions which elicited more representational gestures were chosen for more detailed analysis. The range of gestures produced for each item varied from 3 to 27 for a total of 128 gestures. Gestures have been analyzed with the same parameters used to describe signs produced by deaf children: handshape, location and movement. Results show that gestures for a given picture exhibit similarities in many of the parameters across children. Some motor characteristics found in the production of hearing toddlers' gestures are similar to those described for early signs. Implications of this similarity between gestural and signed linguistic representations in young children are discussed.
The goal of this article is to investigate whether the acquisition of some morpho-syntactic aspects in Italian deaf adolescents is simply delayed with respect to hearing children, or whether it follows significantly different developmental patterns. Twenty-five deaf students (age range: 11–15 years) and a group of 125 hearing controls (age range: 6–16 years) performed four tests, administered in written form, relative to different grammatical aspects: plurals, articles, and clitic pronouns. Results showed three different patterns of development depending on the grammatical aspect considered. Deaf children compared to hearing controls showed normal development in the pluralization task, delayed development in the pronoun task, and a qualitatively different pattern in the article task.
The present study evaluates the contribution of visuo-gestural modality versus linguistic factors in determining the order of elements in sign language. The same picture description task was given to 12 hearing subjects using spoken Italian, 12 deaf subjects using Italian Sign Language, and 12 hearing subjects using pantomime. Nonreversible, reversible, and locative productions with two elements were elicited. The results showed that Italian Sign Language differs along significant lines from both spoken Italian and pantomime. The pattern of similarities and differences found among the three experimental conditions allows us to argue that the order of signs in the sentence is sensitive to modality as well as linguistic factors depending on the particular sentence structures considered.
The spontaneous speech of both English-speaking (E) and Italian-speaking (I) children with specific language impairment (SLI) was examined to determine (a) whether phonological factors influence the grammatical morpheme use of ISLI children, as has been found for ESLI children, and (b) whether ESLI and ISLI children show similar syntactic abilities at the same level of mean utterance length as measured in words. The results indicated that word-final consonants adversely influenced the ISLI children's tendency to use articles – the only Italian grammatical morphemes in which word-final consonants are required. There was no evidence of syntactic differences between the ESLI and ISLI children. However, both groups of children seemed to have a problem using morphemes that constituted unstressed elements in a sentence even though the grammatical and semantic function of these elements varied across the two languages. The findings suggest that a speech production or perception component may be playing a greater role than previously believed in contributing to SLI children's well-documented expressive grammatical difficulties, though the specific effects of this factor will vary as a function of the surface characteristics of the language being acquired.
Analysing the gradual learning process through which a child becomes bilingual from early infancy, three stages can be distinguished: (1) the child has one lexical system which includes words from both languages; (2) the child distinguishes two different lexicons but applies the same syntactic rules to both languages; (3) the child has two linguistic codes, differentiated both in lexicon and in syntax, but each language is exclusively associated with the person using that language. Only at the end of this stage, when the tendency to categorize people in terms of their language decreases, can one say that a child is truly bilingual.
The use of Italian morphology was examined in 34 children ranging in age from 2;6 to 5;0. By the age of 3;6–4;0, high percentages of use in obligatory contexts were seen for a number of grammatical morphemes. Children age 2;6–3;0 showed percentages of use that were somewhat lower than those seen for the older children. In this age range, singular forms were used with higher percentages in obligatory contexts than plural forms, for several different types of grammatical morphemes. Greater control over singular forms in these younger children was corroborated by data from a comprehension task. Even at the younger ages studied, use of grammatical morphemes did not seem influenced by whether phonological eues to agreement were present, or whether the grammatical morphemes were homonymous. Percentages for grammatical morphemes in the form of free-standing morphemes were somewhat lower than percentages for morphemes taking the form of inflections, suggesting that the obligatory nature of inflections in Italian may be a more influential factor than the amount of morphological information contained in a grammatical morpheme.
This study explores the communicative use of the gestural and vocal modalities by normally developing Italian children during the transition from one- to two-word speech. We analysed the spontaneous production of 12 children at 1;4 and at 1;8, focusing on the use of two-element combinations of words and/or gestures. Results indicated that use of gesture and gesture-word combinations during the transition to two-word speech is a robust feature of communicative development across a relatively large number of children in a rich gestural culture, and that the number of gesture-word and two-word combinations increased significantly from 1;4 to 1;8. Number of gestures and gesture-word combinations produced at 1;4 was also predictive of total vocal production at 1;8. Findings are discussed in terms of the role of gesture as a transitional device en route to two-word speech.
Important claims have been made regarding the contrasting profiles of
linguistic and cognitive performance observed in two genetically based
syndromes, Williams syndrome (WS) and Down syndrome (DS). Earlier
studies suggested a double dissociation, with language better preserved
than nonverbal cognition in children and adults with WS, and an
opposite profile in children and adults with DS. More recent studies
show that this initial characterization was too simple, and that
qualitatively different patterns of deficit observed within both
language and visual–spatial cognition, in both groups. In the
present study, large samples of children and adolescents with WS and
age-matched DS are compared with typically developing (TD) controls
matched to WS in mental age, on receptive and expressive lexical and
grammatical abilities, semantic and phonological fluency, digit span
and nonverbal visual–spatial span, and on 2 visual–spatial
construction tasks. Study 1 confirmed distinct profiles of sparing and
impairment for the 2 groups, within as well as between language and
nonlinguistic domains, even after IQ variations were controlled. In
Study 2 we compared performance of the children, adolescents and young
adults with DS and WS included in the first study, divided on the basis
of the chronological age of the participants (under 8 years; over 12
years). Although it is important to stress that these are
cross-sectional rather than longitudinal data, the results demonstrated
that the profile of younger children is different in respect to those
of the older children; initial states of the system cannot be inferred
by the final state. Possible neural substrates for these profiles and
trajectories are discussed. (JINS, 2004, 10,
The aim of the present study was to examine potential effects of early exposure to sign language on the use of communicative gestures by a bilingual hearing child of deaf parents. Data collected monthly during the first two years were analyzed in order to identify types and tokens of communicative gestures, words, and signs and the ways in which they were combined. These data are compared with those obtained from 12 monolingual hearing children observed at 16 and 20 months of age who were exposed only to spoken language. Findings suggest that while exposure to sign language does not seem to provide the bilingual child with an advantage in the rate of early linguistic development, it does appear to influence the extent to which he communicated in the manual modality and made use of its representational and combinatorial potential.
The neurotrophin nerve growth factor (NGF) is a major regulator of peripheral and central nervous system development. Serum NGF was measured in normally developing control children (n=26) and in individuals affected by congenital syndromes associated with learning disability: either Williams syndrome (WS; n=12) or Down syndrome (DS; n=21). Participants were assessed at three distinct developmental stages: early childhood (2 to 6 years), childhood (8 to 12 years), and adolescence (14 to 20 years). A sample was taken only once from each individual. Serum NGF levels were markedly higher in participants with WS, than DS and control participants. In addition, different developmental profiles emerged in the three groups: while in normally developing individuals NGF levels were higher in early childhood than later on, children with WS showed constantly elevated NGF levels. When compared to control participants, those with DS showed lower NGF levels only during early childhood. Neuropsychological assessment confirmed previously reported differences among the three groups in the development of linguistic/cognitive abilities. Some features of individuals with WS, such as hyperacusis and hypertension, could be related to high-circulating NGF levels.
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