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Gesture and prosody act as precursors to children’s sociopragmatic development

Gesture and prosody act as precursors to children’s sociopragmatic development

So concludes the review by Pilar Prieto, ICREA research professor at the Department of Translation and Language Sciences, and Iris Hübscher, from the URPP Language and Space at the University of Zurich, which they have published in Frontiers in Psychology. The results are interesting regarding language learning, developmental psychology and language intervention.

11.10.2019

Imatge inicial

Although the importance of gesture and prosody (stress, rhythm and intonation) in the development of children’s communication skills are well known, studies have traditionally focused on their role in the early acquisition of lexical and morphosyntactic elements and have concentrated less on older ages, when children use prosody and gesture to express pragmatic meanings such as courtesy or to express uncertainty.

A paper published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology by Pilar Prieto, director of the Prosodic Studies Group (GrEP) and ICREA research professor at the Department of Translation and Language Sciences (DTCL) at UPF, together with Iris Hübscher, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the URPP Language and Space (University of Zurich), reviews the role of gesture and prosody in child communication. The main goal of their work was to concentrate on the relevance of prosody and gesture and the links between them in the context of children’s sociopragmatic development.

Focusing on the communicative conduct of children between 1 and 5 years of age, the review shows converging evidence of recent research on the fundamental role played by prosodic and gestural patterns in sociopragmatic development  

The authors show how children combine gesture and prosody (stress,  rhythm and intonation) to express pragmatic meanings such asking for something or for information, expressing uncertainty or gratitude, etc., before conveying it through speech. Such questions arise as: do children acquire these language components before they are able to express themselves through spoken language?

This review assesses the empirical evidence that demonstrates that gesture and prosody act as intimately related systems and, importantly, pave the way for children’s pragmatic acquisition. The review explores how the integration of gesture and prosody with semantics and syntax can help language acquisition on pragmatic aspects and how multimodal interventions can be used effectively in educational and clinical settings.

Gesture and prosody act as intimately related systems and, importantly, pave the way for children’s pragmatic development

In short, this work, focusing on the communicative conduct of children between 1 and 5 years of age, shows converging evidence of recent research on the fundamental role played by prosodic and gestural patterns in children’s sociopragmatic development.   

The authors of the review state that “the results of our observations support the importance of simultaneously assessing the prosodic and gestural components of language in the fields of language development and in applied fields such as education and language intervention”.

Reference work:

Iris Hübscher, Pilar Prieto (2019), "Gestural and prosodic development act as sister systems and jointly pave the way for children’s sociopragmatic development", Frontiers in Psychology, 10. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01259

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