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Explanations gestures in French children: a window into abstract thought ? Jean-Marc Colletta Catherine Pellenq Lidilem & L.S.E. IUFM de Grenoble (France)

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Presentation on theme: "Explanations gestures in French children: a window into abstract thought ? Jean-Marc Colletta Catherine Pellenq Lidilem & L.S.E. IUFM de Grenoble (France)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Explanations gestures in French children: a window into abstract thought ? Jean-Marc Colletta Catherine Pellenq Lidilem & L.S.E. IUFM de Grenoble (France) I.S.G.S. Third International Conference « Integrating Gestures » June, 18-21, 2007, Evanston, Illinois

2 Why study explanation behaviour in children ? The childs first explanations occur before the end of the second year of age in speech, as justifications for requests, refusals or behaviour, and they are closely related to their context (Veneziano et Sinclair, 1995; Dubost, 1998 ; Gauthier, 1998) By the end of primary school, children begin to master explanatory discourse in writing, e.g. give reasons or causes for physical or natural phenomenons, and motives for social events, decisions or behaviour (Golder, 1996) From the first embedded justifications to proper explanatory discourse, the child learns to use language as a decontextualisation device, and acquires linguistic (and prosodic and kinesic ?) means of coherence and cohesion Studying childrens explanations at various ages may prove to be a window into discourse development, related to gesture development

3 Studying childrens multimodal explanations Two empirical studies based on data collected in nursery and primary schools Out of a corpus from primary school, 268 monologal explanations were extracted. Results showed an age effect on length, linguistic information (syllables, connectives, clauses) and gestural information (coverbal gestures) Out of a corpus from nursery school, 232 monologal explanations were extracted. Results showed an age effect on length, number of connectives and number of clauses The contexts in which those explanations were verbalised are too different to allow comparison on the basis of content, yet they allow comparison on the basis of form We joined our two sets of data and completed the missing informations to allow comparison (Colletta & Pellenq, 2005)

4 Main results (children aged from 3 to 11 years) Ps 3-4 Ms 4-5 Gs 5-6 Cp 6-7 Ce 7-9 Cm 9-11 Time lengh (s) syllables (n) clauses (n) connectives (n) Coverbal gestures (n)

5 As explanation behaviour gains in linguistic complexity, it gains in kinesic markings… Direct pointings and gestures of the concrete Gestures of the abstract Expressive gesture Nursery school Primary school … but those markings differ considerably when considering age groups

6 Age and explanations gestures Our results show a tremendous difference in the use of gesture between younger and older children : - Direct pointing vs abstract pointing - Gestures to represent concrete objects and actions vs gestures to represent abstract concepts Our results bring some support to the thesis of a developmental evolution of coverbal gestures during childhood (McNeill, 1992 ; Capirci et al., 2005 ; Volterra et al., 2005) McNeill (1992) opposes « gestures of the concrete » to « gestures of the abstract » and claims that the latest appear lately in childrens gesture repertoire Is this broad distinction sufficent to account for the developmental evolution of the childs use of gestures ? We claim that the notion of abstraction needs clarification before being used to study childrens coverbal gesture from a developmental point of view

7 About abstraction and abstract thought Abstraction is linked with perception (Barsalou, 1999), memory (Mandler & Johnson, 1977), categorisation (Piaget, 1967), and language (Rosch, 1978 ; Karmiloff-Smith, 1979 ; Gentner, Holyoak & Kokinov, 2001) Abstraction is commonly defined as the cognitive operation of extracting an object, a property or a relationship from the physical world, or from its mental representations Abstraction also refers to language and « to the abstractedness of concepts, ranging from concrete (e.g. hat) to abstract (e.g. courage) » (Barsalou, 2003) Abstract concepts involve analogical reasoning and spatial cognition (Lakoff & Johnson, 1985 ; Johnson, 1987 ; Fauconnier, 1997 ; Gentner, Holyoak & Kokinov, 2001)

8 Abstraction in gestural expression Abstract concepts are expressed in gesture (and gestural languages) through visual metaphors and image schemata (Johnson, 1987 ; Kendon, 1992 ; McNeill, 1992 ; Calbris, 2003 ; Gatis, 2005) … but the first representational gestures (Piaget and the « mouth opening » gesture) already rely on the abstraction of the properties of objects and actions ! Abstract pointing relies on the use of space to locate abstract referents, and time (successive locations) for anaphoric pointing (McNeill, 1992 ; Bouvet, 2001) … … But direct pointing is indexation of an object or an event (Leslie et al., 1998 ; Tomasello, 2004 ; Nelson, 1986), therefore, direct pointing relies on the abstraction properties of perception ! >>> Where does « abstraction » begin in gestural signs ? >>> Just having in mind pointing gestures and the so called « abstract pointings » : do they all present the same degree of abstraction ? >>> And what about representational gestures ?

9 Degrees of abstraction in pointing gestures deictic pointing indexes and locates in situ the visible/perceptible physical referent (object, person, event, sound, space, …) directional pointing indexes and locates in situ the non visible/perceptible physical referent substitution pointing indexes and locates in situ a visible/perceptible referent which represents the absent physical referent, on the basis of perceptual analogy location pointing to physical referent locates in personal space the non visible/perceptible physical referent location pointing to abstract referent locates in personal space the abstract referent (non physical referent, category, relation) time pointing indexes time, on the basis of conceptual analogy relational pointing to physical or abstract referents relational pointing to physical abstract referents locates in 2 spots of personal space 2 non visible/perceptible physical referents or 2 abstract referents to contrast them anaphoric pointing to physical or abstract referent anaphoric pointing to physical abstract referent points back to the non visible/perceptible physical referent or to the abstract referent previously located in personal space to mark discourse cohesion

10 In situ mime of actions and processes abstraction of kinetic properties of visible/perceptible actions or processes (physical movements, practical actions, behaviour, mechanisms) In situ depiction of objects and persons abstraction of objectal properties of visible/perceptible objects or persons (shape, dimension, aspect…) representation of actions and processes reenactment of kinetic properties of non visible/perceptible actions or processes representation of objects reenactment of objectal properties of non visible/perceptible objects or persons representation of space abstraction of topologic properties of non visible/perceptible places and scenes (positions, paths), expressed in location and mime representation of abstract referents use of mime, depiction or location to expresse abstract referents (non physical referent, category, relation), on the basis of conceptual analogy (metonymy or metaphor) discourse cohesion marking use of location, depiction or mime to express discourse internal relations (connectives, anaphoras) Degrees of abstraction in repre- sentational gestures

11 Reference in preasentia / in abstentia Visibility / perceptibility of reference Physicality of reference Use of perceptual / conceptual analogy Respect for discourse constraints 5 criteria to assess abstraction in gestural expression

12 The multimodal study of the childs explanatory behaviour shows a fair evolutionary trend which affects the use of gesture as well as the linguistic form of explanations It also shows the abstractedness of gestures which accompany the childs explanations There may be a close relation between gesture development and the develomental evolution of abstract thought Yet, abstraction in gestural expressions needs to be defined more precisely Based on empirical data, our proposal will have to be tested and refined in future investigations Summary

13 Adam, J.-M. (1992). Les textes : types et prototypes. Récit, description, argumentation, explication, dialogue. Paris, Nathan. Bartlett, F. (1932). Remembering... Barsalou, L.W. (1999). Perceptual symbol systems. Behavioral and brain sciences, 22 : Barsalou, L.W. (2003). Abstraction in perceptual symbol systems. Phil. Trans. Royal Society of London, 358 : Bouvet, D. (2001). La dimension corporelle de la parole. Paris : Peeters. Calbris, G. (2003). Lexpression gestuelle de la pensée dun homme politique. Paris: CNRS Editions.Capirci,O., Contaldo, A., Caselli, M.C., Volterra, V. (2005). From Action to language through gesture: a longitudinal perspective. Gesture, 5, 1/2, Colletta, J.-M. (2000). A propos de la catégorisation fonctionnelle des kinèmes co-verbaux. Actes des XXIII èmes Journées d'Etude sur la Parole, Aussois-France, juin 2000, (p ). Colletta, J.-M., & Pellenq, C. (2005). Explanations performed by children aged from 3 to 11 years as a window into discourse and gesture development. Oral communication at the Xth International Congress for the Study of Child Language, Berlin, July 25-29, Colletta, J.-M., Simon, J.-P., & Lachnitt, C. (2005). Les conduites explicatives orales à lécole maternelle. In J-F. Halté & M. Rispail (Eds.), Loral dans la classe : compétences, enseignement, activités (p ). Paris, LHarmattan. Colletta, J-M. (2004). Le développement de la parole chez lenfant âgé de 6 à 11 ans. Corps, langage et cognition. Hayen, Mardaga. Dubost, M. (1998). Le développement des explications : émergence et signification de "parce que" dans l'interaction adulte-enfant. Psychologie de l'Interaction, 7-8, Fauconnier, G. (1997). Mappings in thought and language. New-York, Cambridge University Press. I. (1998). Etude pragmatique des justifications et des simulations expressives au sein de la requête. Psychologie de l'interaction, 7-8, Gatis, M. (2005). Spatial schema and abstract thought. Bradford Books. Gentner, D., Holyoak, K.J. et Kokinov, B.N., Eds. (2001). The analogical mind. Perspectives from cognitive science. Cambridge, MA, M.I.T. Press. Golder, C. (1996). Le développement des discours argumentatifs. Neuchâtel: Delachaux et Niestlé.Grize, J.-B. (1990). Logique et langage. Paris, Ophrys. Johnson, M. (1987). The body in the mind : The bodily basis of meaning, imagination and reason. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Karmiloff-Smith, A. (1979). A functional approach to child language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kendon, A. (1992). Abstraction in gesture. Semiotica, … Lakoff, G. et Johnson, M. (1985). Les métaphores dans la vie quotidienne. Paris, Minuit. Leslie, A.M., Xu, F., Tremoulet, P.D. & Scholl, B.J. (1998). Indexing and the object concept: developing « what » and « where » systems. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol.2, n°1. Mandler, J. M., & Johnson, N. S. (1977). Remembrance of things parsed: Story structure and recall. Cognitive psychology, 9, McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and mind. What gestur>>>>>>es reveal about thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Nelson, K. (1986). Event knowledge : structure and function in development. Hillsdale, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum. Piaget, J. (1967). Logique et connaissance scientifique. Paris, Gallimard. Rosch, E. (1978). Principles of categorisation. In E. Rosch & B.B. Lloyd (ed.), Cognition and categorization, Hillsdale, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum. Tomasello, M. (2004). Aux origines de la cognition humaine. Paris, Retz. 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, Volterra, V., Caselli, M.C., Capirci, O., Pirchio, S. (2005). Le rôle des gestes dans l'acquisition du langage chez les enfants entendants, les enfants non entendants et les enfants au développement atypique. In C. Transler, J. Leybaert & J.-É.Gombert (dir.), Lacquisition du langage par lenfant sourd : les signes, loral et lécrit. Marseille, Solal. References

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