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September 2021

Verbal labels and gestural routines in parental communication with young children

Author(s): Acredolo, L., Goodwyn, S.

Journal/Book: J Nonverbal Behav. 2000; 24: 233 Spring St, New York, NY 10013-1578, USA. Kluwer Academic-Human Sciences Press. 63-79.

Abstract: Infants initially use words and symbolic gestures in markedly similar ways, to name and refer to objects. The goal of these studies is to examine how parental verbal and gestural input shapes infants' expectations about the communicative functions of words and gestures. The studies reported here suggest that infants may initially accept both words and gestures as symbols because parents often produce both verbal labels and gestural routines within the same joint-attention contexts. In two studies, we examined the production of verbal and gestural labels in parental input during joint-attention episodes. In Study 1, parent-infant dyads engaged in a picture-book reading task in which parents introduced their infants to drawings of unfamiliar objects (e.g., accordion). Parents' verbal labeling far outstripped their gestural communication, but the number of gestures produced was non-trivial and was highly predictive of infant gestural production. In Study 2, parent-infant dyads engaged in a free-play session with familiar objects. In this context, parents produced both verbal and gestural symbolic acts frequently with reference to objects. Overall, these studies support an input-driven explanation for why infants acquire both words and gestures as object names, early in development.

Note: Article Namy LL, Emory Univ, Dept Psychol, Atlanta,GA 30322 USA


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