This study presents an analysis of children's spontaneous production of words and gestures during an experimental symbol learning task. Namy & Waxman (1998) previously reported that children aged 1;6 interpreted novel arbitrary words (e.g. blicket) and manual gestures (e.g. a dropping motion) as names for object categories (e.g. fruit) but that at 2;2, children interpreted words as names more readily than gestures. Based on this finding and other observational evidence of gesture use, it has been suggested that the younger infants have an initial general symbolic capacity that encompasses both words and gestures. Over time, as infants acquire greater experience with language, words begin to take on a greater priority in the infant's communicative repertoire. The current study examines this hypothesis by analyzing children's spontaneous production of the novel symbols in Namy & Waxman's original task. At 1;6, children rarely produced either the novel words or gestures. At 2;2, children frequently produced both symbolic forms; however, words were produced in a referential manner while gestures were produced in a non-referential manner. These findings are consistent with the argument that over time, words supplant gestures as a symbolic medium.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Language and Linguistics
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Linguistics and Language