Hand shape, function and hand preference of communicative gestures in young children: Insights into the origins of human communicatio

Abstract : Even though children’s early use of communicative gestures is recognized as being closely related to language development (e.g., Colonnesi et al., 2010), the nature of speech–gestures links still needs to be clarified. This dissertation aims to investigate the production of pointing gestures during development to determine whether the predictive and facilitative relationship between gestures and language acquisition involves specific functions of pointing, in association with specific features in terms of hand shape, gaze and accompanying vocalizations. Moreover, special attention was paid to the study of hand preferences in order to better understand the development of left hemisphere specialization for communicative behaviors. Our results revealed complex relationships between language, communicative gestures and manipulative activities depending on the function of gestures (i.e., imperative versus declarative pointing) as well as on specific stages of language acquisition. Declarative gestures were found to be more closely associated with speech development than imperative gestures, at least before the lexical spurt period. In addition, the comparison of hand-preference patterns in adults and infants showed stronger similarity for gestures than for object manipulation. The right-sided asymmetry for communicative gestures is thus established in early stages, which suggests a primary role of gestures in hemispheric specialization. Finally, our findings have highlighted the existence of a left-lateralized communication system controlling both gestural and vocal communication, which has been suggested to have a deep phylogenetic origin (e.g., Corballis, 2010). Therefore, the present work may improve current understanding of the evolutionary roots of language, including the mechanisms of cerebral specialization for communicative behaviors.
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Hélène Cochet. Hand shape, function and hand preference of communicative gestures in young children: Insights into the origins of human communicatio . Psychology. Université Aix Marseille, 2011. English. ⟨tel-01560411⟩

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