The influence of iconic and arbitrary gestures on novel word learning in children with and without SLI

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DOI: 10.1075/gest.14.2.04luk
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Abstract
Two experiments were conducted to investigate the role of gestures on novel word learning in preschoolers. In Study 1, 20 children at the average age of 4;9 years were given novel words under 3 conditions: with support of iconic gestures; arbitrary gestures; no gestures, exemplifying a within-subject design. Results indicate scaffolding effects of both types of gestures in comparison to the control condition. No indication of gesture type effects could be observed even in children who were old enough to understand the iconicity of iconic gestures. Study 2 was implemented to further test the scaffolding effect of gestures vs. no gestures in children with SLI ( n = 20) — but this time only iconic gestures were used. A between-subjects design was followed, using matched groups. Slow mapping was observed in addition to fast mapping within a 5-week-intervention period. Results confirm the scaffolding effect of iconic gestures on slow mapping in the clinical sample.
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DOI: 10.1075/gest.14.2.04luk
___________________________________________________________________________
The influence of iconic and arbitrary gestures on novel word learning in
children with and without SLI
Carina Lüke and Ute Ritterfeld
TU University Dortmund, Germany
Author Note
Carina Lüke, Department of Language and Communication, School of Rehabilitation
Sciences, TU Dortmund University, Germany; Ute Ritterfeld, Department of Language and
Communication, School of Rehabilitation Sciences, TU Dortmund University, Germany.
We thank Katharina J. Rohlfing and Prisca Stenneken for their support in the
development of this project and Polly Schmid, Anna Breil and Mira Hildebrandt for their
assistance with data collection.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Carina Lüke,
Department of Language and Communication, School of Rehabilitation Sciences, TU
Dortmund University, Emil-Figge-Str. 50, 44227 Dortmund, Germany.
Email: carina.lueke@tu-dortmund.de
2
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
Abstract
Two experiments were conducted to investigate the role of iconic resp. arbitrary
gestures on novel word learning in preschoolers. In Study 1 20 children at the average age of
4;9 years were given novel words under 3 conditions: with support of iconic gestures;
arbitrary gestures; no gestures exemplifying a within-subject-design. Results indicate
scaffolding effects of both types of gestures in comparison to the control condition. No
indication of gesture type effects could be observed even in children who were old enough to
understand the iconicity of iconic gestures.
Study 2 was implemented to further test the scaffolding effect of iconic vs. no
gestures in children with SLI (n=20) within a between-subject-design utilizing matched
groups. Slow mapping was observed in addition to fast mapping within a 5-week-intervention
period. Results confirm the scaffolding effect of iconic gestures on slow mapping in the
clinical sample.
Key words: gestures, slow mapping, fast mapping, SLI, novel word learning
Biographical note
Since 2010 Carina Lüke has been Research Associate and Doctoral Student at the
Department of Language and Communication in the School of Rehabilitation Sciences at the
TU Dortmund University. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Rehabilitation Sciences
from TU Dortmund University and a Master of Science degree in Clinical Linguistics from
the Bielefeld University, Germany. Her research and teaching interests include the
connection between gesture and language development in young children, language
assessment and speech therapy in mono- and bilingual children with specific language
impairment and the therapeutic use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication.
Ute Ritterfeld is heading the department of Language and Communication at
Technical University Dortmund. Ritterfeld received her education in Speech and Language
Pathology (Academy of Rehabilitation in Heidelberg 1983) and in Psychology (University of
Heidelberg 1986), completed her Ph.D. in Psychology (Technical University of Berlin 1995),
and habilitated at the University of Magdeburg, Germany (Dr. phil. habil. 2004) within the
disciplines of psychology, communication and health sciences. She was Assistant Professor
at the University of Magdeburg/Germany, Associate Professor at the University of Southern
California in Los Angeles, and full professor at the VU University Amsterdam before joining
the Dortmund faculty.
3
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
Word learning processes
Word learning represents one of the most important benchmarks in children’s early
language acquisition. Within the first three years of life a child learns hundreds of words and
makes the step into verbal communication. Around the first birthday the first words are
produced by most of the children (Bates, Thal, Finlay, & Clancy, 2003). After a period of
slow word increasing between 12 and approximately 18 months in most of the children a
rapid vocabulary growth can be observed. This rapid increasing is called vocabulary spurt,
which indicates the availability of an important acquisition process, the so called fast
mapping (Bates et al., 2003). Fast mapping represents the initial process of word learning in
which a first connection of a word and a referent is retained (Carey, 2010; Carey & Bartlett,
1978). A typically developed child is hereby enabled to establish a fragile lexical
representation and a limited semantic knowledge of a novel word after just mere exposure to
it. Afterwards, several experiences with the fast mapped word are necessary to incorporate
more information and hereby enhance the sematic, phonological and grammatical knowledge
about the word. Within this subsequent extended or slow mapping the child forms a robust
and more sophisticated lexical representation of the word (Carey, 2010; Horst, Parsons, &
Bryan, 2011). Only if a child is able to fast and slow map a novel word the learning process
can be concluded so that the child can make use of the new word intentionally and
appropriately. The frequency of naming the novel words by caregiver is an important factor
in this learning process (Horohov & Oetting, 2004; Rice, Oetting, Marquis, Bode, & Pae,
1994).
Gestures scaffold word learning
Gestures as one of the first intentional means in young children's communication are
closely related to language acquisition (Crais, Watson, & Baranek, 2009). Especially iconic
gestures are shown to play an important role in scaffolding early word learning (e.g., Capone
Singleton, 2012; Capone & McGregor, 2005; Ellis Weismer & Hesketh, 1993; Goodrich &
Hudson Kam, 2009; Goodwyn, Acredolo, & Brown, 2000; McGregor, Rohlfing, Bean, &
Marschner, 2009; Tellier, 2008). Iconic gestures serve as illustrators for particular elements
of the speech-act performed. Their form and/or embodiment is closely related to the meaning
of the verbalization (McNeill, 1985).
Because of this close form-meaning relation the influence of iconic gestures on word
learning has been increasingly investigated (e.g., Capone Singleton, 2012; Capone &
McGregor, 2005; Ellis Weismer & Hesketh, 1993; Goodrich & Hudson Kam, 2009;
Goodwyn, Acredolo, & Brown, 2000; McGregor, Rohlfing, Bean, & Marschner, 2009;
Tellier, 2008). Goodwyn, Acredolo, and Brown (2000) analyzed the effect of multimodal
word-learning and instructed a group of parents of 11-month-old infants to include iconic
gestures in the interaction with their children. The authors measured lexical skills of the
children until they turned 3 years and compared them to children of a non-intervention
control group. Children of the sign-training group compared to the control children scored
significantly higher in the receptive lexical measures by the age of 19 and 24 months and in
the expressive measures by the age of 15 and 24 months. By the age of 30 and 36 months the
4
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
children of both groups did not differ from each other anymore in their linguistic skills. The
authors conclude that iconic gestures support word learning.
Subsequent studies of other research teams confirmed the hypothesis of iconic
gestures scaffolding lexical development for typically developed children (e.g., Capone
Singleton, 2012; Capone & McGregor, 2005; McGregor et al., 2009; Tellier, 2008; for
review, see McGregor, 2008). For example, McGregor et al. (2009) demonstrated the
beneficial effect of iconic gestures on the understanding of the preposition ‘under’ in 20- and
24-month-old infants. Tellier (2008) investigated the impact of iconic gestures on word
learning in a second language. Five-year-old monolingual French children were more often
able to correctly recognize and produce English words if they had been exposed to additional
gestures instead of a picture representing the object meant. In situations of novel verb
learning where no other hints are available toddlers use iconic gestures to disambiguate the
meaning of novel verbs (Goodrich & Hudson Kam, 2009). Capone Singleton (2012) and
Capone and McGregor (2005) showed that especially iconic gestures which cued attention
rather to the shape of an object than the function of it were an effective support for fast
mapping. Also, iconic gestures referring to object shape lead compared to pointing gestures
to better learning outcomes (Capone Singleton, 2012).
Interestingly, children develop the ability to understand the meaning of iconic
gestures rather late, during their preschool years: While by the age of 2;5 years this ability is
slightly established, by 3;5 to 4;0 years it is usually firmly rooted within the child´s
comprehension skills and attains almost adult-like expression at 4;5 to 5;0 years (Tolar,
Lederberg, Gokhale, & Tomasello, 2008). Thus, if iconic gestures even support word
learning processes in young children who do not yet understand the iconicity of the gestures,
non-iconic gestures may promote word learning in young children as well. In comparison to
iconic gestures arbitrary gestures show no relation between the form or embodiment of the
gesture and the meaning of the verbalization.
Consequently, the effect of arbitrary gestures on word learning needs to be examined,
too. However, no studies have been published that specifically target the influence of
arbitrary gestures on novel word learning. Marentette and Nicoladis (2011) as well as Namy
and Waxman (1998) analyzed if children fast map iconic or arbitrary gestures as labels for
objects. Marentette and Nicoladis (2011) showed that 2-, 3-, and 4-year-old children fast
mapped both, iconic and arbitrary gestures as labels for objects with increasing performances
of iconic gestures by age. Older children at the age of 3 to 5 years, for whom the iconicity of
iconic gestures should be obvious, fast mapped iconic but not arbitrary gestures as labels for
objects. In an earlier study, Namy and Waxman (1998) analyzed the interpretation of
arbitrary gestures in 18- and 26- resp. 27-month-old infants. The 18-month-old infants treated
arbitrary gestures just like words for object labels, but the 26- resp. 27-month-olds used such
gesture labels only if they had the opportunity to practice using the gestures by themselves.
Why are gestures scaffolding word learning?
Taken together, iconic and probably also arbitrary gestures have the potential to foster
word learning. This observation is consistent with the results of recent neuroimaging studies
indicating that the control system of both modalities, speech and meaningful gestures, are
5
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
located within the same neurological structure, namely within the Broca’s area (Gentilucci &
Dalla Volta, 2008). Furthermore, Capone Singleton (2012) argues that iconic gestures serve
as semantic enrichment cues which contribute to a richer semantic representation of novel
words. The depth of semantic representation influences the word retrieval in both, typically
speaking children (McGregor, Friedman, Reilly, & Newman, 2002) and in children with
specific language impairment (SLI) (McGregor, Newman, Reilly, & Capone, 2002). In
addition, learning novel words in children with word retrieval difficulties and children with a
vocabulary size below average is strongly associated with the enrichment of semantic
information (e.g., Easton, C., Sheach, & Easton, S., 1997; Motsch & Ulrich, 2012). Children
with SLI might in particular profit from gestures because they are processed in a different
format as speech. It may be assumed that at a certain point of development it might be easier
to incorporate new information about semantics through the visuospatial modality compared
to the verbal modality (Goldin-Meadow & Wagner, 2005). Confirmation of this hypothesis
would be of importance for designing effective intervention strategies.
Word learning in children with SLI
SLI is a developmental disorder characterized by difficulties with language
comprehension and/or language production in the absence of neurological, emotional,
sensory or cognitive impairments (Schwartz, 2009). SLI affects 7% of the kindergarten
children (Tomblin et al., 1997) and leads to an increase in the risk of further disorders, e.g.
dyslexia (Schwartz, 2009). As a meta-analysis by Kan and Windsor (2010) shows,
vocabulary acquisition is more difficult for children with SLI compared to their age-matched
peers. Children with SLI seem to have difficulties with both, phonological and semantic
aspects of word learning (Nash & Donaldson, 2005). Consequently, evidence for the
scaffolding impact of gestures on lexical acquisition in children with SLI would be most
valuable in order to develop innovative pathways for treatment.
Already two decades ago, Ellis Weismer and Hesketh (1993) had conducted a study
utilizing a clinical sample. The authors investigated the influence of iconic gestures on the
fast mapping competences of 16 kindergarten childreneight with SLI and eight typically
developed childrenin novel word learning. They found that the children with as well as
without SLI scored higher in receptive fast mapping tasks of the three novel words when they
had seen iconic gestures during the word presentation compared to word presentations
without exposure to gestures. The conclusions drawn from these findings are however limited
since only three novel words were presented. In addition, stimulus material consisted of
prepositions whose meaning has already been familiar to the children. Finally, exclusive
focus on the fast mapping process neglects any potential relevance for sustained impact.
Research goals
Two studies were designed in order to further examine the impact of iconic and
arbitrary gestures on children's word learning. With study 1 we addressed the question
whether typically developed preschoolers could fast map novel words as labels for visually
presented objects in a most naturalistic situation and if they benefit from both, iconic and
6
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
arbitrary gestures alike. In addition, we wanted to explore the usability of a highly naturalistic
experimental setting as considered typical for clinical procedures. With that aim we
addressed the applicability of the method to be used in a clinical population. Consequently,
study 2 addresses the question whether children with SLI make use of iconic gestures in
novel word learning, too, and on this occasion not only within the fast but also within the
slow mapping processes.
Study 1
Study 1 was designed to compare the benefit of iconic and arbitrary gestures within
the fast mapping acquisition process in typically developed children exemplifying a
naturalistic experimental setting. Specifically, we asked two questions:
1) Can preschoolers benefit in a naturalistic interaction with an adult from iconic
gestures in the fast mapping process of novel word learning?
2) Can preschoolers benefit in a naturalistic interaction with an adult from arbitrary
gestures in the fast mapping process of novel word learning?
Method
Participants. Twenty preschool children with a mean age of 4;9 years (range = 3;4 to
5;11) participated in this study. Fifteen of the children were male and five were female.
Eleven of them were growing up only with German and nine of them were acquiring two
languages. They all showed a typical language development and no history of speech or
language difficulties as test results from a German standard language measure
“Sprachentwicklungstest für drei- bis fünfjährige Kinder (SETK 3-5)” [test of language
acquisition for 3- to 5-year-old children] (Grimm, 2001) indicate. According to the parents
none of the children was diagnosed with a cognitive, motor, or emotional disorder or had any
experience with sign language.
Material. Nine novel words with equal shares of one, two, and three syllables were
constructed following German phonotactic rules. One of three words with the same length
contained single consonants only, one included a consonant cluster at the first onset and one
included a consonant cluster at the last offset of the word, as shown in Table 1.
7
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
Table 1
Novel words and their linguistic properties
Novel word
(orthographically)
Novel word
(IPA)
Silibles
Structure
Mook
[mo:k]
1
C-V-C
Plimm
[plim]
1
C-C-V-C
Wulp
[vulp]
1
C-V-C-C
Desu
[de:zu:]
2
C-V-C-V
Treifa
[tʁaifa:]
2
C-C-V-C-V
Hugest
[hu:gɛst]
2
C-V-C-V-C-C
Beschone
[bə∫o:nə]
3
C-V-C-V-C-V
Zwaulito
[tsvaulito:]
3
C-C-V-C-V-C-V
Jebalumpf
[je:balumpf]
3
C-V-C-V-C-V-C-C
Note. C = consonant; V = vowel.
These novel words were introduced as names of corresponding cartoon characters
printed on cardboard shapes of ca. 20 cm height called “the nine friends”. To exclude the
possibility that a novel word is particularly suited to a certain cartoon character 12 students
were ask to assign the words to the characters. The mappings of the students did not confirm
this assumption. As seen in appendix A, the characters were based on the same graphic
representation except color and one visible feature (e.g., oversized red ears). These features
were attached to the head or neck of the characters and associated with specific attributes
(e.g., intensive hearing).
Iconic gestures. Iconic gestures were constructed or adopted from the German Sign
Language that were corresponding with the characters' visible features (e.g. putting both
hands over the ears to symbolize the oversized ears of the character), as can bee seen in
appendix . All gestures were produced in the realm of head and neck.
Arbitrary gestures. Three additional gestures were constructed that had no
corresponding meaning with the characters (e.g., holding the opened hand with the palm of
the hand in front of the face and making an imaginary circle) and are presented in appendix
C. These arbitrary gestures were also produced at the head or neck area. Twelve students
were asked to assign the iconic and arbitrary gestures to the cartoon characters. The
assignments for the iconic gestures were hundred percent correct. The assignments of the
students for the arbitrary gestures were by pure chance, which validate the iconic versus
arbitrary nature of the gestures.
Design and procedure. The children were contacted individually in their preschool
and investigated for two 45-minute sessions. During the first session, standard language
measures were taken with the abovementioned SETK 3-5 (Grimm, 2001) for exclusion of
8
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
language learning difficulties. The second session was devoted to the experimental tasks. All
children participated in each of three randomly assigned experimental conditions, i.e., (a)
iconic gesture (ico_G), (b) arbitrary gesture (arb_G), and (c) no gesture (0_G). The three
conditions were identical with regard to procedures, tasks, and frequency of naming the novel
words to control for other influences on the word learning processes (Horohov & Oetting,
2004; Rice, Oetting, Marquis, Bode, & Pae, 1994).
Children were shown nine cartoon characters representing novel words each in three
semi-standardized tasks which were introduced as games. In the first game (discovery game)
the children had to discover the cardboard charactersone after the otherfrom hidden
underneath a cloth. The experimenter (E) named each character twice and described their
visual features and specific attributes. Within the second game (identification) E removed a
card from a stack of 18 little pictures displaying the characters and described one after the
other to the child. The child pointed to the cardboards representing the same characters,
prompted to identify the one E had described. In this game each character was labeled four
times by E. With the last game (leaping frogs) 27 cards of letter size were presented. On nine
of these cards one character was displayed, the other 18 cards showed two of them side by
side. Back sides of the cards were used as goals for leaping toy frogs. If a frog hit a card, the
player was given the card and E labeled the character(s). During that game each character
was named six times.
Each child was exposed to all nine characters, of which three were called by their
names and the appropriate iconic gesture (ico_G), three were called by their names and one
of the three arbitrary gestures (arb_G) and three characters were called only by their names
(0_G). The experimental conditions were counterbalanced across the children and the
characters. In none of the conditions the children were asked to imitate any of the gestures.
After this playing phase a testing phase followed. First, expressive fast mapping
results were measured with a picture naming task, where every single character was presented
on a separate page. Subsequently, receptive fast mapping results were measured with a
picture selection task. On each of nine pages were three of the characters presented. In both
tests a hand puppet, which was uninvolved so far, asked the child in German, “What is the
name?” and accordingly, “Who is [character]?”.
For the expressive testing all speech acts and all gestures performed by the child were
collected through protocols. But only correct productions of the words were counted as an
expressive response. During the receptive test character selections were operationalized by
pointing to a character.
Results
Following our research question we compared the effects of conditioniconic,
arbitrary, no-gestures on the fast mapping of the presented novel words. Due to heterogeneity
of variances we applied the non-parametric Friedman-test for comparison of the three
experimental conditions. First, data on receptive fast mapping were analyzed, followed by
data on expressive fast mapping.
Median values of correct receptive fast mapping were 3.0 characters in condition
ico_G (IQR = 1.0) and 2.0 characters in arb_G (IQR = 1.75), whereas in 0_G 1.0 character
9
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
was identified correctly (IQR = 1.75). Receptive fast mapping results differed significantly
between the three experimental conditions, χ(2)2 = 13.937, p = .001. Wilcoxon-test revealed
for post-hoc comparisons significantly higher correct identifications in both, ico_G and
arb_G compared to the control condition 0_G (ico_G vs. 0_G: Z = 3.183, p = .001; arb_G vs.
0_G: Z = 2.994, p = .003). There was no significant difference in performance between ico_G
and arb_G (Z = 1.617, p = .106).
Expressive test values did not differ between the three experimental conditions, χ(2)2
= 3.588, p = 1.66, as the median in all three conditions equaled 0 (IQRico_G = 1.0, IQRarb_G =
1.0, IQR0_G = 0).
Further analysis indicate that no difference between fast mapping resultsneither
receptive nor expressivecould be find between mono- and bilingual children.
Discussion
In our first study we first asked if iconic and second, if arbitrary gestures scaffold the
initial process of word learning in preschool children. In fact, children reached higher
receptive performances in novel word learning when presented with iconic or arbitrary
gestures compared to a setting without gesture presentation. Surprisingly, 3- to 5-year-old
typically developed children did not show any difference in benefitting from the type of
gesture. In line with an ample amount of other studies (e.g., Capone Singleton, 2012; Capone
& McGregor, 2005; Ellis Weismer & Hesketh, 1993; Goodrich & Hudson Kam, 2009;
Goodwyn, Acredolo, & Brown, 2000; McGregor, Rohlfing, Bean, & Marschner, 2009;
Tellier, 2008) the supporting effect of iconic gestures in the fast mapping process was
confirmed in our study, too. But discovery of a comparable effect of arbitrary gestures to
scaffold initial word learning was unexpected. This is the more surprising as the ability to
understand the meaning of iconic gestures is already well established at the age of most
subjects involved (Tolar, Lederberg, Gokhale, & Tomasello, 2008). According to Marentette
and Nicoladis (2011) as well as Namy and Waxman (1998) who observed a dependency of
the usage of the two different types of gestures on age could have been expected, too. They
found that the preschoolers did only accept iconic but not arbitrary gestures as object labels.
Our data indicate that word learning can profit as much from arbitrary as iconic gestures.
In the following study we intended to further investigate whether preschoolers with
SLI can benefit from gestures in word learning. Encouraging experiences from study 1 with
the applicability of a naturalistic setting we assumed that the experiments could be applied to
clinical sample as well as children would perceive them as rather familiar. As type of gestures
did not yield differences in study 1 we decided to include only iconic gestures in the
subsequent clinical study. With that decision we also adapt a comparable approach to Ellis
Weismer and Hesketh (1993) whose focus was on iconic gestures exclusively.
In addition, we emphasize evidence testing for gestures not only on fast mapping but
also on slow mapping since both processes are constitutive parts of the word learning process
and both are particularly vulnerable in children with SLI.
10
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
Study 2
Based on the results of study 1 we were specifically interested to know whether iconic
gestures support the fast and the slow mapping in children with SLI. We intended to examine
the following questions:
3) Can preschoolers with SLI benefit from iconic gestures in the fast mapping process
in novel word learning?
4) Can preschoolers with SLI benefit from iconic gestures in the slow mapping
process in novel word learning?
Method
Participants. Participants were 20 preschoolers
1
aged 3;1 to 5;7 years with a mean
age of 4;7. Thirteen of the children were boys and seven girls. All 20 children were diagnosed
with SLI, which was defined as a score below the 25th percentile on at least two subtests of
four standard language measures (subtests of Sprachentwicklungstest für drei- bis fünfjährige
Kinder [SETK 3-5] [test of language acquisition for 3- to 5-year-old children], [Grimm,
2001]: Verstehen von Sätzen [VS] [comprehension of syntax]; morphologische Regelbildung
[MR] [morphological rule formation]; phonologisches Arbeitsgedächtnis für Nichtwörter
[PGN] [nonword repetition]; Enkodieren semantischer Relationen [ESR] [encoding semantic
relations] [3;0 - 3;11]; Satzgedächtnis [SG] [sentence repetition] [4;0 - 5;11]). In addition, a
standard picture vocabulary test (“Aktiver Wortschatztest für 3- bis 5-jährige Kinder -
Revision [AWST-R] [active vocabulary test for 3- to 5-year-old children-revised], [Kiese-
Himmel, 2005]) was applied for measuring vocabulary size in German. The children had
previously been diagnosed by a speech-language pathologist and classified as language
impaired. They had been receiving treatment for an average of nine months (SD = 7 months).
According to parent and speech-language pathologist reports, none of the children had a
cognitive, motor, or emotional handicap or previous experience with sign language. Eleven
children were German monolinguals and nine were bilinguals. For these nine children the
parents and speech-language pathologists reported a language deficit in both languages which
is typical in SLI (Håkansson, Salameh, & Nettelbladt, 2003). The children were assigned to
two experimental groups with the intent to match age, sex, and bilingualism: iconic gesture
(ico_G) (5 male and 5 female, 4 bilinguals and 6 monolinguals) and no gesture/control group
(0_G) (8 male and 3 female, 5 bilinguals and 5 monolinguals). The two groups did not differ
in terms of mean age, language abilities, and duration of speech therapy as indicated in Table
2.
1
Data of 12 of these 20 children were already published in Lüke, Rohlfing, and Stenneken (2011)
addressing a different research question.
11
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
Table 2
Comparison of the two experimental groups
ico_G
0_G
n
Mdn (IQR)
n
Mdn (IQR)
U
p (2-
tailed)
10
4;9
(1;8)
10
5;0
(1;8)
45.5
.739
10
24.2
(44.23)
10
4.97
(28.58)
37.5
.353
10
4.97
(21.68)
10
7.58
(61.35)
40.5
.481
10
8.88
(18.94)
10
14.72
(26.75)
40.0
.481
3
18.41
-
3
11.51
-
2.0
.400
7
15.87
(27.98)
7
4.46
(10.7)
18.5
.456
10
1.5
(10.75)
10
3.0
(14.5)
45.0
.739
10
8.5
(15.5)
10
7.0
(11.0)
45.0
.739
Note. ico_G = Group with iconic gesture support; 0_G = Group without gesture support; Mdn = Median values;
IQR = interquartile range; VS = Verstehen von Sätzen [comprehension of syntax]; MR = morphologische
Regelbildung [morphological rule formation]; PGN = phonologisches Arbeitsgedächtnis für Nichtwörter
[nonword repetition]; ESR = Enkodieren semantischer Relationen [encoding semantic relations] (only by 3;0 -
3;11); SG = Satzgedächtnis [sentence repetition] (only by 4;0 - 5;11); AWST-R = Aktiver Wortschatztest für 3-
bis 5-jährige Kinder - Revision [active vocabulary test for 3- to 5-year-old children-revised].
Material. Materials including nine novel words, corresponding cartoon characters and
iconic gestures were identical to study 1.
Design and procedure. Each of the children was welcomed individually in a quiet
room either belonging to the speech-language clinic or in the family home for five sessions of
45-minutes each. In the first session children of both groups were tested with the
abovementioned standard language measures SETK 3-5 (Grimm, 2001) and AWST-R
(Kiese-Himmel, 2005).
Following the testing three weekly intervention sessions and an additional follow-up
testing a week later were applied. The first intervention given was identical to the one used in
the pilot study in which the children were made familiar with the nine novel words and their
reference to the nine cartoon characters. Also, the second and the third intervention consisted
of three semi-standardized games.
The first game of the second and third intervention session presented a repetition of
the character names through which the features and attributes were described by the child and
12
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
E. In this game, E named each character twice. The second and third games were different in
the second compared to the third intervention. In the second game situated within the second
intervention the characters had to be fed and the third game was presented as a lotto game.
Hereby, the characters were named six times in the second game and four times in the third
game by E.
Within the third intervention, a hide-and-seek game with the characters was
introduced, followed by a “character-mix-game”. The latter used four puzzle pieces each of
the cardboard representations made of the cartoon characters that had to be assembled.
During both games, characters were labeled eight times by E. Over all three intervention
sessions, each characters´ name was mentioned 46 times.
E called the characters by their names and demonstrated the according iconic gesture
in the condition of ico_G. In 0_G characters were only called by their names without using
gestures.
For both groups, at the end of all three intervention sessions a testing of the receptive
and expressive learning process as described for the study 1 was realized. The follow-up
applied the same measures again.
Results
Effects of iconic gestures on word learning were compared to no gestural support in a
clinical sample of children with SLI. Since homogeneity of variances was not given, non-
parametric Mann-Whitney-U test was used for analyses.
Fast mapping. Comparisons of the two groups, ico_G and 0_G, revealed no
differences in fast mapping: After the first intervention, median values for correct
identifications within ico_G were 2.5 characters (IQR = 3.75) and for 0_G 2.0 characters
(IQR = 3.25, U = 40.5, Ucrit = 27, n.s., one-tailed). In the median, neither group could name a
character correctly after the first intervention (see Figure 1).
Slow mapping. As shown in Figure 1, the receptive and expressive performance for
novel word learning increased with the intervention sessions. After the third intervention the
children of ico_G labeled significantly more characters correctly (Mdn = 3.5, IQR = 3.25)
than the children of 0_G (Mdn = 1.0, IQR = 2.5; U = 26.0, Ucrit = 27, p < .05, one-tailed).
Also in the follow-up, one week after the last intervention, the children within ico_G named
significantly more characters correctly (Mdn = 3.0, IQR = 3.0) compared to the control
children (Mdn = 1.0, IQR = 4.25; U = 24.5, Ucrit = 27, p < .05, one-tailed). The groups did not
differ at any time in their receptive learning outcomes and the bilingual children did not differ
from the monolingual ones in their results at any measurement time.
13
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
Figure 1. Receptiv and productiv results of novel word learning at times of measurement t1-
t3 and follow-up. ico_G = experimental group iconic gesture; 0_G = no gesture/controll
group; * = p < .05, one-tailed.
Discussion
In our second study we asked if iconic gestures scaffold the fast and the slow mapping
process in novel word learning in preschool children with SLI. In line with the findings of
Ellis Weismer and Hesketh (1993) we found that even children with SLI benefit from iconic
gestures. However, in contrast to their findings children in our study did not use iconic
gestures to support their fast mapping. They did not differ in their initial word learning from
the control group. This surprising result can be explained with the larger number of novel
words used in our study (nine) in comparison to the procedure of Ellis Weismer and Hesketh
(1993) using only three items. Learning nine instead of three novel words in a short session
poses a much bigger challenge which affects children with SLI more severely than typically
developed children. We assume that the task was too difficult for the children in our study.
Consequently, data displayed a ground effect for the expressive task and a mean value of only
2.6 words in the receptive task after the first intervention session. Nevertheless, we did find
that in the extended word learning process, the slow mapping, children with SLI benefit from
gestures in their expressive word learning. We conclude that iconic gestures can be an
effective method to support children with SLI in word learning process, possibly especially
for slow mapping processes.
2,5
6
7 7,5
2
3,5 4
5
0
1
3,5 3
0 0
1 1
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
t1 t2 t3 follow-up
Median of learned novel words
Time
ico_G, receptive 0_G, receptive
ico_G, productive 0_G, productive
*
*
14
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
General Discussion
We presented two studies to promote our understanding of the connection between
gestures and word learning. In the first study we asked not only whether iconic gestures but
also arbitrary gestures unfold a beneficial effect on the fast mapping process in novel word
learning of preschoolers. According to findings of several other studies (e.g., Ellis Weismer
& Hesketh, 1993; Goodrich & Hudson Kam, 2009; Goodwyn et al., 2000; McGregor et al.,
2009; Tellier, 2008) we demonstrated that iconic gestures scaffold the receptive fast mapping
process in typically developed children. Also, arbitrary gestures may lead to a comparable
positive effect as iconic gestures. In contrast to the findings of Marentette and Nicoladis
(2011), where children that age accepted iconic gestures as labels for objects but not arbitrary
gestures, we observed no difference between the two gesture types in their impact on novel
word learning. Since the data in our first study display a ceiling effect reaching maximum
median value in the receptive test (3 of 3) only with support of iconic but not of arbitrary
gestures and sample size is rather small we cannot conclude absence of differences in gesture
type. Possibly, differences just did not show in our study.
With regard to a clinical sample (children with SLI) we decided to focus on mapping
processes instead of gesture type. First, accessibility to children with SLI is highly limited
and second, gesture type is of less clinical relevance than the word learning processes. With
respect to language learning children with SLI experience greater difficulties in vocabulary
acquisition compared to their peers (Kan & Windsor, 2010). These difficulties may affect
both processes, fast and slow mapping.
Regarding the type of gesture utilization of arbitrary gestures does not provide extra
value compared to usage of iconic gestures. In fact, if intervention studies on the scaffolding
impact of gestures are conducted to promote innovative pathways for treatment a method
with the potential to be integrated in intervention programs is required. Due to the close
relationship of form and/or embodiment in iconic gestures and words (McNeill, 1985) they
can easily be learned, remembered and taught by caregivers and therapists. These would be
much more difficult with arbitrary gestures, which have no natural relation between their
form and/or embodiment and the labeled object. Fortunately, children with language
disorders did benefit from iconic gestures for novel word learning. They reached noticeably
higher expressive learning outcomes after the third intervention session as well as in the
follow-up compared to the children of the group learning words without gesture
presentations.
Taken the findings of both studies together we confirmed that (1) iconic gestures
support fast mapping processes in typically developed preschoolers, (2) arbitrary gestures
could have this beneficial effect as well and (3) even children with SLI benefit from iconic
gesture presentations in slow mapping processes of novel word learning. Hereby, the
argument of Capone Singleton (2012) proposing that iconic gestures serve as semantic
enrichment cues which contribute to a richer semantic representation of novel words is
supported by our findings. Beyond that, it seems plausible that even arbitrary gestures lead to
a richer semantic representation of novel words if they are consequently connected to the
lexeme during the learning process. Unlike Marentette and Nicoladis (2011) as well as Namy
and Waxman (1998) we applied a methodology in which we combined the arbitrary gesture
15
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
to the word production instead of presenting either the gesture or the word as labels for
objects. Hence, the child is able to use the visuospatial information of the arbitrary gesture as
a semantic cue in order to facilitate its word learning.
The results of these two studies are of relevance for speech and language therapy.
Based upon the findings we are encouraged to recommend the semantic enrichment effect of
gestures and the thereby caused impact on word retrieval in children with barriers in language
acquisition. Since the usage of gestures could easily be integrated in speech therapy or second
language training programs in preschools and kindergartens we envision further evidence to
support this claim.
16
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
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19
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
Appendix A. The nine cartoon characters.
Mook
Plimm
Wulp
Desu
Treifa
Hugest
Beschone
Zwaulito
Jebalumpf
20
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
Appendix B. The nine iconic gestures (ico_G).
MOOK
PLIMM
WULP
DESU
TREIFA
HUGEST
BESCHONE
ZWAULITO
JEBALUMPF
21
Iconic and arbitrary gestures and novel word learning
Appendix C. The three arbitrary gestures (arb_G).
Arbitrary gesture 1
Arbitrary gesture 2
Arbitrary gesture 3
  • ... Iconic gestures represent semantic information in their form or movement (e.g., opening and closing the extended index and middle finger to represent scissors). This research focuses on four different aspects of iconic gestures: (1) Comprehension of the iconicity of iconic gestures (Botting et al., 2010;Wray et al., 2016;Perrault et al., 2019); (2) Production of iconic gestures during specific tasks such as narrative tasks, picture description, or in shared book-reading situations ( Iverson and Braddock, 2011;Mainela-Arnold et al., 2014;Lavelli et al., 2015;Lavelli and Majorano, 2016;Wray et al., 2016Wray et al., , 2017; (3) The beneficial effect of iconic gestures for word learning (Ellis Weismer and Hesketh, 1993;Lüke and Ritterfeld, 2014;Vogt and Kauschke, 2017); (4) Adaptation in parental input ( Grimminger et al., 2010;Wray and Norbury, 2018). Tolar et al. (2008) showed in their cross-sectional study with TD children that the ability to understand the meaning of iconic gestures even in this group is only slightly developed, with just 14% of the 2;6-year-old children performing above chance. ...
    ... In another line of studies, the beneficial effect on word learning of iconic gestures in the input is documented in young TD children (e.g., Capone and McGregor, 2005;McGregor et al., 2009) and in children with DLD (Ellis Weismer and Hesketh, 1993;Lüke and Ritterfeld, 2014;Vogt and Kauschke, 2017). These findings are in line with the observation that mothers of children with LD or DLD intuitively adapt their input to their children by providing more pointing and iconic gestures in interactions than mothers of the same-aged TD children ( Grimminger et al., 2010;Lavelli et al., 2015;Wray and Norbury, 2018). ...
    ... In the study by Botting et al. (2010), children with DLD performed less well in comparison to their TD peers in a speech-gesture integration task but focused more on the information that was expressed by gesture than by speech. This means that although children with LD or DLD score more poorly in a gesture comprehension task-as it was found by Botting et al. (2010) as well as in our own study-they can benefit from the presentation of iconic gestures during word learning (Ellis Weismer and Hesketh, 1993;Lüke and Ritterfeld, 2014;Vogt and Kauschke, 2017). ...
    Article
    Full-text available
    Gesture and language development are strongly connected to each other. Two types of gestures in particular are analyzed regarding their role for language acquisition: pointing and iconic gestures. With the present longitudinal study, the predictive values of index-finger pointing at 12 months and the comprehension of iconic gestures at 3;0 years for later language skills in typically developing (TD) children and in children with a language delay (LD) or developmental language disorder (DLD) are examined. Forty-two monolingual German children and their primary caregivers participated in the study and were followed longitudinally from 1;0 to 6;0 years. Within a total of 14 observation sessions, the gestural and language abilities of the children were measured using standardized as well as ad hoc tests, parent questionnaires and semi-natural interactions between the child and their caregivers. At the age of 2;0 years, 10 of the 42 children were identified as having a LD. The ability to point with the extended index finger at 1;0 year is predictive for language skills at 5;0 and 6;0 years. This predictive effect is mediated by the language skills of the children at 3;0 years. The comprehension of iconic gestures at 3;0 years correlates with index-finger pointing at 1;0 year and also with earlier and later language skills. It mediates the predictive value of index-finger pointing at 1;0 year for grammar skills at 5;0 and 6;0 years. Children with LD develop the ability to understand the iconicity in gestures later than TD children and score lower in language tests until the age of 6;0 years. The language differences between these two groups of children persist partially until the age of 5;0 years even when the two children with manifested DLD within the group of children with LD are excluded from analyses. Beyond that age, no differences in the language skills between children with and without a history of LD are found when children with a manifest DLD are excluded. The findings support the assumption of an integrated speech–gesture communication system, which functions similarly in TD children and children with LD or DLD, but with a time delay.
  • ... As a whole, they tested 261 participants. Five studies (Capone & McGregor, 2005;Booth, McGregor, & Rohlfing, 2008;McGregor et al., 2009;de Nooijer et al., 2014;Lüke & Ritterfeld, 2014) involving a total of 212 children put forward a significant positive advantage of adding manual gestures during training to learn new words either expressively, receptively or both. Two studies (Bird et al., 2000;van Berkel-van Hoof et al., 2016) involving a total of 29 children found no difference between conditions: new words were learned equally well expressively and/or receptively whether they were trained alone or alongside a manual gesture. ...
    ... Out of the seven studies cited to address the question in section 3.2. and directly comparing the use of gesture vs. none for word learning in TD children, four tested receptive learning only (McGregor et al., 2009;Ting, Bergeson, & Miyamoto, 2012;de Nooijer et al., 2014;van Berkel-van Hoof et al., 2016) and four evaluated receptive and expressive learning (Bird et al., 2000;Capone & McGregor, 2005;Booth, McGregor, & Rohlfing, 2008;Lüke & Ritterfeld, 2014). ...
    ... Only one study (Bird et al., 2000) found no effect of gestures on both expressive and receptive learning. Booth, McGregor and Rohlfing (2008) as well as Lüke and Ritterfeld (2014) found that whichever condition (gesture or none), the participants did not manage to learn the new words expressively, even though they did receptively with an advantage for the gesture condition. As stated by Booth, McGregor and Rohlfing (2008), this may be due to insufficient training (only one session in both studies). ...
    Book
    Full-text available
    Please check, the book is open access and you can download all papers. https://www.peterlang.com/view/title/64900
  • ... So far, it is unclear whether and to what extent a multimodal approach to word learning can also aid children with developmental language disorder (DLD). Manual gestures and augmentative signs may be beneficial for word learning by preschoolers with DLD (Lüke & Ritterfeld, 2014) and young school-age children (Bode & Knoors, 2003;Vogt & Kauschke, 2017;Weismer & Hesketh, 1993), but not for older primary school children (Van Berkel-van Hoof, Hermans, Knoors, & Verhoeven, 2016). The children in two of these studies, however, were a select subgroup with difficulties specifically in expressive vocabulary, and the samples in all studies were small (eight to 20 children). ...
    ... For example, when learning existing words, 4-year-old children with DLD (n = 20) and age-and language-matched peers recognized more words they had been taught with an iconic gesture than with an attention-getting one (i.e., a raised index finger) in an immediate posttest and a delayed (2-3 days after training) posttest (Vogt & Kauschke, 2017). Similarly, Lüke and Ritterfeld (2014) found a positive effect of manual gestures on spoken pseudoword learning by preschoolers with DLD (aged 3;1-5;7; n = 20). Children who had been presented with pseudowords combined with a gesture correctly recognized more words than the children in the no-gesture condition. ...
    ... Furthermore, the results from different studies on multimodal word learning are inconclusive. Some studies demonstrated a positive effect of gestures or augmentative signs on word learning by children with DLD (e.g., Lüke & Ritterfeld, 2014;Vogt & Kauschke, 2017), but others did not (e.g., Van Berkel-van Hoof et al., 2016). Previous studies, however, did not include response time (RT) and had a relatively small sample, and some studies investigated a select group of participants (i.e., only children with impaired expressive vocabulary but within average range of receptive skills). ...
    Article
    Purpose: The present study investigated the effects of signs on word learning by children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), in comparison with typically developing children (TD), and the relation between a possible sign effect and children’s linguistic and cognitive abilities. Method: Nine- to eleven-year-old children with DLD (N=40) and TD children (N=2659) participated in a word learning experiment. Half of the spoken pseudo words were taught with a pseudo sign with learning outcomes being assessed in accuracy and speed. To investigate whether sign effects would hold for children with varying linguistic and cognitive abilities, we measured children’s linguistic (vocabulary, syntax) and cognitive skills (divided attention, working memory (WM), lexical access). Results: The children with DLD showed a positive sign effect in both accuracy and speed. For the TD children, there was no effect of signs on word learning. Principle component analyses of the linguistic and cognitive measures evidenced a four-component solution (Language Skills, Visual WM, Verbal WM, Executive Attention). A rRepeated measures ANCOVAs with the component scores as covariates yielded no significant interactions with the linguistic and cognitive components. Conclusions: Our results suggest that children with DLD benefit from signs for word learning, regardless of their linguistic and cognitive abilities. This implies that using sign-supported speech as a means to improve vocabulary skills of children with DLD is effective, even still at the age of nine to eleven years.
  • ... Thus, in this case, the gestures did not help the children to remember the words, but making a whole-body movement that was related to the word did. Also, Krönke, Mueller, Friederici, and Obrig (2013) found no difference between the number of words adults learned in a condition with an iconic, meaningless, or no gesture in a free recall task, and Lüke and Ritterfeld (2014) found a positive effect of iconic gestures on children's word learning in a receptive task but not in an expressive task (see below for more details of these studies). ...
    ... For example, when speaking of a ball, the speaker may form an orb shape with the hands to represent the ball. Iconicity of gestures has been found to increase the impact of gestures on word learning as compared to meaningless gestures (e.g., Lüke & Ritterfeld, 2014;Macedonia, Müller, & Friederici, 2011). found that adults remembered more words they had been taught with an iconic gesture compared to words accompanied by a meaningless gesture. ...
    ... found that adults remembered more words they had been taught with an iconic gesture compared to words accompanied by a meaningless gesture. Lüke and Ritterfeld (2014) conducted a similar study with children, but they also included a condition without a gesture in their study. Their four-year-old participants were tested for their word knowledge in a receptive task (choosing the correct picture of a word produced by the experimenter) and a production task (naming the item in the picture without a further prompt). ...
    Chapter
    This chapter focuses on factors that support word learning for both hearing and hard-of-hearing (DHH) children. Vocabulary development is first discussed in hearing children and then DHH children. The chapter suggests several interventions for improving DHH children’s language skills and reviews studies on the efficacy of sign-supported speech for word learning. Sign-supported speech is frequently used in schools for the deaf in the Netherlands. Professionals working with DHH children indicate that this helps the children to better understand the spoken message; however, it is unclear whether this mode of communication aids spoken word learning. Implications for educational practice and future directions are discussed.
  • ... They found that 5 weeks after training the words learned with a strongly iconic sign were better retained than those learned with a weakly iconic sign. Similarly, studies have shown that iconic gestures are also more effective for spoken word learning than arbitrary ones for both hearing adults (Kelly et al., 2009;Macedonia et al., 2011) and hearing children (Lüke & Ritterfeld, 2014). These combined results suggest that iconic manual stimuli have a higher, positive, impact on spoken word learning, which is why we included them in our study. ...
    Article
    Previous research found a beneficial effect of augmentative signs (signs from a sign language used alongside speech) on spoken word learning by signing deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) children. The present study compared oral DHH children, and hearing children in a condition with babble noise in order to investigate whether prolonged experience with limited auditory access is required for a sign effect to occur. Nine- to 11-year-old children participated in a word learning task in which half of the words were presented with an augmentative sign. Non-signing DHH children ( N = 19) were trained in normal sound, whereas a control group of hearing peers ( N = 38) were trained in multi-speaker babble noise. The researchers also measured verbal short-term memory (STM). For the DHH children, there was a sign effect on speed of spoken word recognition, but not accuracy, and no interaction between the sign effect in reaction times and verbal STM. The hearing children showed no sign effect for either speed or accuracy. These results suggest that not necessarily sign language knowledge, but rather prolonged experience with limited auditory access is required for children to benefit from signs for spoken word learning regardless of children’s verbal STM.
  • ... Lüke et. al. 2011, 156;Lüke/Ritterfeld 2014). ...
    Chapter
    Lautsprachunterstützende Gebärden (LUG), also die Ergänzung einer lautsprachlichen Äußerung durch ein gebärdetes Schlüsselwort, haben sich in der Unterstützten Kommunikation weitgehend etabliert, da sie für Menschen verschiedener Altersgruppen mit unterschiedlichen Beeinträchtigungen und Bedarfen gleichermaßen gut geeignet sind und den Vorteil haben, als körpereigene Kommunikationsform immer zur Verfügung zu stehen (Braun 2000, 7). So wird zusätzlich zum auditiven auch zunehmend der visuell gestische Kanal als möglicher Zugangsweg zur Kommunikation eingesetzt. Hinzu kommt, dass der Einsatz von LUG niedrigschwellig ist und vergleichsweise einfach erscheint. Die Erfolge, die in den letzten dreißig Jahren durch lautsprachunterstützende Gebärden in der UK erreicht werden konnten, sprechen für sich – und dennoch ist es nicht so einfach, wie es auf den ersten Blick erscheint. Die praktische Umsetzung von Gebärden wird in Deutschland bis heute durch verschiedene, u.a. historische Faktoren beeinflusst, die auch Auswirkungen auf die Forschung in diesem Bereich haben. Der Artikel bietet einen Überblick über Forschungsergebnisse im Bereich von UK, Begriffsklärungen im Kontext von Gebärden und Empfehlungen für zukünftige Forschungsfragen und Bedarfe.
  • ... Five studies explored the impact of gestural cues on oral learning in children with and without DLD. Comparisons included: auditory-only input versus auditory plus accompanying gestures (Ellis Weismer and Hesketh 1993); iconic versus attention-directing gestures (Luke and Ritterfeld 2014, Vogt and Kauschke 2017a; and augmentative pseudo-signs versus no gesture (van Berkel-van Hoof et al. 2016). These studies aimed to determine how children with DLD may exploit nonverbal gestural information to strengthen the encoding of, and relationship between, phonological and semantic representations (Vogt and Kauschke 2017a). ...
    Article
    Background: The ability to learn new words is critical in the development of oral and written language, and significantly impacts engagement in social, academic and vocational situations. Many studies have evaluated the word-learning process in people with developmental language disorder (DLD). However, methodologies for assessment are heterogeneous, creating difficulties in synthesizing findings and identifying gaps in the knowledge base. Aims: To scope systematically the literature and identify key methodological parameters considered in evaluations of word learning in people with DLD; and to identify gaps in the literature to guide further research in this area. Methods & procedures: Twelve databases were searched and a total of 70 studies that met eligibility criteria were identified. The studies were evaluated according to key parameters that researchers varied in their word-learning methodologies. Main contribution: Most research has focused on word learning in the oral modality, and specifically in children with DLD. Fewer studies have explored word learning in adults and adolescents with DLD, and in the written modality. Depending on the research question and theoretical perspective driving the investigation, methodologies for assessing word learning considered a range of parameters, including words being learned, learning context and cues to support learning in the tasks. Conclusions & implications: This review aggregates a variety of methods used previously to assess word learning. Findings highlight the need for further research to explore areas such as: the learning of varied word types (e.g., adjectives and adverbs); learning in the written modality; and word learning (both oral and written) in adolescents and adults with DLD.
  • Chapter
    The extensive research on the multimodality of communication in recent years has generated many reviews on how gestures support learning. The present review focuses on the learning of language. It addresses the question of how children can communicate via gestures from an early age and how gestures, being a part of a learning situation, can enhance memories about the learning content. In the first part of this review, a differentiation between gestural types is introduced. Subsequently, a key feature of gestures, namely, their coordination with other modalities and with the dialog partner is addressed. In the third part, the role of gestures as a precursor to language skills is set out followed by a section on the benefits of gestures for learning different language skills in younger and older children. Finally, explanations for why gestures support learning are reviewed.
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    This study explores whether children can learn a structural processing bias relevant to pronoun interpretation from brief training. Over three days, 42 five-year-olds were exposed to narratives exhibiting a first-mentioned tendency. Two characters were introduced, and the first-mentioned was later described engaging in a solo activity. In our primary condition of interest, the Gesture Training condition, the solo-activity sentence contained an ambiguous pronoun, but co-speech gesture clarified the referent. There were two comparison conditions. In the Gender Training condition the characters were different genders, thereby avoiding ambiguity. In the Name Training condition, the first-mentioned name was simply repeated. Ambiguous pronoun interpretation was tested pre- and post-training. Children in the Gesture condition were significantly more likely to interpret ambiguous pronouns as the first-mentioned character after training. Results from the comparison conditions were ambiguous: there was a small but non-significant effect of training, but also no significant differences between conditions.
  • Article
    Gina Conti-Ramsden is Professor of Child Language and Learning at the University of Manchester. She did her first degree, in psychology, at Kirkland College, Clinton, NY followed by a masters in linguistics from the University of Cambridge. She then focused on communication disorders, in particular child language development and impairments. She obtained her clinical qualification as a speech and language therapist and her Ph.D. in communication disorders from the University of Texas at Dallas. She was a practicing clinician for two years before she joined the University of Manchester in 1984 via the ESRC New Blood Scheme. Between 1987 and 1989 she was a visiting scholar at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is a fellow of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, a fellow of the British Psychological Society and an Academician of the Social Sciences. She was editor of the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders from 1998 to 2001. Prof. Conti-Ramsden is the author of 5 books and over 100 publications relating to child language disorders and development.
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    Data from ten Swedish-Arabic preschool children with language impairment and ten Swedish-Arabic children with normal language development matched for age and exposure to Swedish were analyzed. Specific tasks for both Swedish and Arabic were designed. By using the hierarchy predicted by processability theory as a yardstick, grammatical development was measured in the two languages of the children. The basic assumption is that there is a developmental sequence that all language learners follow on their way toward a target language. The results show that the bilingual children with language impairment tend to have a balanced low level of language development in both languages, whereas the bilingual children with normal language development show a higher level of language development in at least one language.
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    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that children younger than 24 months of age not be exposed to television. Nevertheless, television programs and home videos are increasingly produced for very young children. This article reviews the extant research concerning television and very young children with respect to the AAP recommendation. More very young children are currently watching television than in the recent past; they pay substantial attention to TV programs and videos made for them. When learning from videos is assessed in comparison to equivalent live presentations, there is usually substantially less learning from videos. Although one study finds positive associations of language learning with exposure to some children’s TV programs, other studies find negative associations of viewing with language, cognitive, and attentional development. Background TV is also a disruptive influence. Evidence thus far indicates that the AAP recommendation is well taken, although considerably more research is needed.
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    This study evaluates a combined semantic and phonological approach to teaching vocabulary to children with wordfinding difficulties. Four subjects were treated as single cases for the purpose of measuring their progress from pre-test to maintenance. Target words were chosen according to age of acquisi tion. Naming ability on 80 words was tested pre- and post-intervention and at follow-up. Forty of these words were presented over 10 group teaching sessions in a five-week period, and the remaining 40 served as a control measure. All subjects demonstrated improved naming ability on the 80-word test following the intervention and this was sustained at follow-up.
  • Article
    Three input variables were manipulated during a story-viewing task to examine the word learning abilities of children with and without specific language impairment (SLI). The variables were presentation rate, sentence complexity, and word type. Fifty-four children participated: 18 were identified as SLI and 36 served as normally developing age-matched or language-matched controls. The stimuli involved a videotaped reading of two stories that had novel words embedded in the narrative, and word learning was measured by examining the children's ability to infer the meanings of the novel words from the story viewing context. A picture pointing task and a real word synonym task served as comprehension probes. A nonword repetition task and a battery of language tests were also administered. Two of the three input manipulations affected the children's scores. Across both probes, word type resulted in a main effect, with children from all three groups earning higher scores for verbs than nouns. On the picture pointing probe, presentation rate interacted with group. The interaction reflected lower scores in the fast rate than the slow rate for the children with SLI but not for the controls. Children's nonword repetition scores and standardized tests of vocabulary and syntax were moderately correlated with each other, and together these variables accounted for significant variation in the children's story viewing scores even after age, IQ, and articulation ability were controlled. The vocabulary and syntax tests contributed unique variance whereas nonword repetition contributed shared variance.