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Why iconic gestures aren’t very iconic Elena Nicoladis.

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Presentation on theme: "Why iconic gestures aren’t very iconic Elena Nicoladis."— Presentation transcript:

1 Why iconic gestures aren’t very iconic Elena Nicoladis

2 Gestures and thought Gestures are often used in conjunction with speech –Have complementary meaning –Timed with speech Thoughts are conveyed by gesture + speech (McNeill, 1996)

3 Why do people gesture? To help lexical retrieval –Evidence: Tip-of-the-Tongue experiment with hands free or not free To help listeners understand –Evidence: Gestures are produced at low frequency word combinations Note that in conversations, both could be true

4 This talk How do different kinds of gestures relate to speech? –Gesture development –Do gestures compensate for missing or weak speech? Study of French-English bilingual children

5 Gesture development: prelinguistic gestures Conventional gestures –Appear around 9 mos. Symbolic gestures –Appear before words; disappear when words acquired Deictic or pointing gestures –Appear around 9-12 mos. –Usually with vocalizations

6 Prelinguistic gestures may all be conventional Symbolic gestures probably are learned from adults Deictic gestures vary from culture to culture –Ghanian mouth point

7 Gesture development: with-language gestures Iconic gestures: resemble referent –Emerge around age of 2 years –Correlated with proficiency in French-English bilingual preschoolers between 2;0 and 3;6 Beat gestures: keep time –Rarely seen in the preschool years

8 Do gestures compensate for weak or absent speech? Deaf people (home signs) Bilinguals (one language usually weaker) Elderly Aphasics

9 Iconic gestures rarely compensate Deaf children with oral training use words rather than gestures Elderly people use fewer iconic gestures than younger people Intermediate bilinguals use fewer iconic gestures in their L2 than their L1 Advanced bilinguals use equal rates of iconic gestures in their L1 and L2

10 Other gestures can compensate First home signs are mostly conventional gestures and deictic gestures Broca’s aphasics can still use conventional and deictic gestures Both intermediate and advanced bilinguals use more deictics in their L2 than their L1

11 Different gestures, different relationship to speech Prelinguistic gestures can compensate for weak or absent speech “With-language” gestures do not compensate for weak or absent speech –Home signs can be iconic but only after a communicative system has been established

12 This study How are different kinds of gestures related to speech? Are iconic gestures more closely linked to speech than other kinds of gestures?

13 This study: Research Questions Does the rate of gestures relate to proficiency? Do children create longer utterances with iconic gestures Do children use “speechless” gestures to compensate for weak proficiency? Are iconic gestures used in cases of word- finding difficulty?

14 This study: Participants Eight French-English bilingual children –Between 3;6 and 4;11 –Average age: 4;3 –4 French-dominant children and 4 English- dominant children Videotaped in two free-play sessions: –French session –English session

15 Results: Gesture by dominance Conventional gestures

16 Results: Gesture by dominance Deictics

17 Results: Gesture by dominance Iconics

18 Summary: Gesture by dominance These children used more iconic gestures in their dominant language They did not use more conventional and deictic gestures in their dominant language

19 Results: Longer utterances?

20 Results: “speechless” gestures

21 Results: Word finding difficulties Jason (3;7) “It goes like this.” –Gesture meaning: path of movement from a vehicle pictured in a book –1/22 iconic gestures Aidan (4;11): “So it can go like this and like this.” –Gesture meaning: looping paths that the train tracks they are building should do –6/9 iconic gestures

22 Summary of results #1 Conventional and deictic gestures –Are not used more often with dominant language –Do not lead to longer sentences –Are used more often without speech when trying to communicate in weaker language

23 Summary of results #2 Iconic gestures –Are used more often with dominant language –Produced with longer sentences –Are not used more often without speech when trying to communicate in weaker language –Are occasionally used in cases of word-finding difficulty, possibly increasing with age

24 Iconic gestures aren’t very iconic They can only be produced when someone knows a language well This holds true even for bilinguals who CAN produce iconics in their other language At least one function of iconics may be to “hold down” some concepts while thinking of others (hence, longer utterances possible)

25 Iconic gestures aren’t very iconic We also have some evidence that the interpretation of iconic gestures is highly dependent on what someone says

26 A troubling question… Why is the rate of iconic production different by language? –Italians vs. English speakers –Spanish vs. English speakers –Chinese speakers

27 Some possible answers English speakers think less complex thoughts than Italian and Spanish speakers The fact that iconic gestures are produced is due to cognitive development. The rate of cognitive gestures is due to cultural variables. Other ideas??


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