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Production of representational gestures in Italian and Japanese children

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Sekine, K., Congestrì, E., Pettenati, P., & Volterra, V. (2010). Production of representational gestures in Italian and Japanese children. Talk presented at the 4th Conference of the International Society for Gesture Studies. Frankfurt, Germany. 2010-07-25 - 2010-07-30.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002C-0BC6-B
Cross cultural studies so far suggest that all children, regardless of their primary linguistic input use gestures together with speech in early stages of linguistic development. But culture and adult input may influence the extent to which the manual modality is used for representational purposes. Many studies have reported more frequent production of representational gestures produced by Italian children include numerous object and action gestures (e.g. eating) and attributive gestures (e.g., big), wheareas Amarican children almost exclusively produce conventional gestures (e.g. hi, yes) (Iverson et. al., 2008). Previous studies have yet to examine representational gestures within a large population as well as to investigate cultural influences in gesture production. They did not compare gestures produced by children raised in different cultures and exposed to different languages to represent the same referents. The present study is designed to address this issue by investigating the spontaneous production of gestures in a highly constrained, simple picture naming task (Stefanini et al., 2008) performed by children from different countries and languages. Given that Japanese culture has been never described as gesture-rich like the Italian culture, it is quite possible that young Italian children use a repertoire of gestures larger than the repertoire developed by Japanese children. Method and Discussion: Two groups of 22 children, Italian and Japanese children (age range: 25 - 37 months) matched for age and gender performed the same picure naming task consisting of forty six coloured pictures divided into two sets: a set of 24 pictures representing objects/tools (e.g. comb), animals (e.g. lion), food (e.g. banana) and clothing (e.g. gloves), and a set of 22 pictures representing actions (e.g. eating) and characteristics (e.g., small). the data were collected in comparable settings for the two groups of children, and spoken and gestural productions were analyzed according to the same criteria. Results: Both groups of children produced representational gestures with and without spoken responses. With representational gestures, children performed of reproduced the action usually produced with the object depicted (e.g. the comb), the character depicted (e.g. the lion) or the actoin in the picture itself (e.g. to swim). In both groups the majority of differences between the two groups in naming the spoken accuracy as well as in the number of representational gestures. The results indicate that, contrary to our expectations, Japanese children produced less correct spoken responses but more representational gestures than Italian children. In young children motor representations appear to support linguistic representations in speech: performing a gestural motor representation may be necessary to create a more experimental dimension and a more precise and concrete image linked to the word. Representational gestures produced in a naming task appear, therefore, to be linked to motor experiences common to all children. Results were discussed in terms of the characteristics of interactoin between child and caregiver in both cultures.