Hand gestures facilitate learning in signers, speakers

Wednesday, 20 August 2014 - 12:55pm IST | Place: Washington | Agency: ANI

A new study has shown that spontaneous gesture can help children learn, whether they use a spoken language or sign language.

According to the study, which examines how gesturing contributes to language learning in hearing and in deaf children, gesture is a flexible way of communicating, one that can work with language to communicate or, if necessary, can itself become language.

Susan Goldin-Meadow, the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Psychology, said that the gesture-plus-word combinations precede and predict the acquisition of word combinations that convey the same notions and the research makes it clear that children have an understanding of these notions before they are able to express them in speech.

Goldin-Meadow concludes that gesture can be the basis for a self-made language, assuming linguistic forms and functions when other vehicles are not available, however, when a conventional spoken or sign language is present, gesture works along with language, helping to promote learning.

The study was published online by Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

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