Advanced Search
Current and Breaking News for Professionals, Consumers and Media

Click here to learn how to advertise on this site and for ad rates.

Children's Health Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Jul 7, 2016 - 5:36:25 PM

Use of Gestures Reflects Language Instinct in Young Children

By Staff Editor
Jun 5, 2014 - 11:37:37 AM

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Ezine
For Email Marketing you can trust

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

( - Young children instinctively use a "language-like" structure to communicate through gestures, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The research, led by the University of Warwick, shows that when young children are asked to use gestures to communicate, their gestures segment information and reorganize it into language-like sequences.

This finding suggests that children are not just learning language from older generations - their own preferences in communication may have shaped how languages look today.

Sotaro Kita from Warwick's Department of Psychology led the study with Zanna Clay at the University of Neuchatel, Sally Pople at the Royal Hampshire Hospital, and Bruce Hood at the  University of Bristol.

The research team examined how 4-year-olds, 12-year-olds, and adults used gestures to communicate in the absence of speech.

The aim of the study was to investigate whether, when gesturing, the participants chose to break down complex information into simpler concepts. Doing so would be similar to the way we typically express complex information using language, breaking it down into units (such as words) to express simpler concepts and then stringing those units together into a phrase or sentence.

The researchers showed the participants animations of events involving motion, depicting either a smiling square or circle that moved up or down a slope in a particular manner (e.g., jumping or rolling).

The participants were asked to use their hands to mime the action they saw on the screen without speaking. The researchers examined whether the upward or downward path and the manner of motion were expressed simultaneously in a single gesture or expressed in two separated gestures depicting its manner or path.

"Compared to the 12-year-olds and the adults, the 4-year-olds showed the strongest tendencies to break down the manner of motion and the path of motion into two separate gestures, even though the manner and path were simultaneous in the original event," said study author Sotaro Kita.

"This means the 4-year-olds' miming was more language-like, breaking down complex information into simpler units and expressing one piece of information at a time," Kita explained. "Just as young children are good at learning languages, they also tend to make their communication look more like a language."

"Previous studies of sign languages created by deaf children have shown that young children use gestures to segment information and to re-organize it into language-like sequences," said study co-author Zanna Clay. "We wanted to examine whether hearing children are also more likely to use gesture to communicate the features of an event in segmented ways when compared to adolescents and adults."

The researchers suggest the study provides insight into why languages of the world have universal properties.

"All languages of the world break down complex information into simpler units, like words, and express them one by one. This may be because all languages have been learned by, therefore shaped by, young children. In other words, generations of young children's preference for communication may have shaped how languages look today," Kita added.


For advertising/promotional opportunities on call Mike McCurdy at: 877-634-9180. Email at: [email protected] We have 7,000 journalists as subscribers.

Top of Page

Children's Health
Latest Headlines

+ Mom of Child with Special Needs: 'My Greatest Fear is a Cut to Medicaid'
+ Can Parents’ Tech Obsessions Contribute to A Child’s Bad Behavior?
+ Minority Children Prescribed ADHD Medication More Likely Than White to Discontinue Treatment
+ South Highest, Northeast Lowest for Child Auto Fatalities
+ New CPSC Report: Fatal Drownings in Pools Involving Young Children Decreases By 17 Percent Nationwide Since 2010
+ National Rally FOR Children's Health
+ Fun in the Sun: Helping Children Stay Active Over the Summer
+ CDC and March of Dimes Partner on New Initiative for Babies Exposed to Drugs During Pregnancy
+ Harmful If Swallowed
+ More Than 200,000 Kids Treated in ERs Each Year for Playground-Related Injuries

Contact Us | Job Listings | Help | Site Map | About Us
Advertising Information | HND Press Release | Submit Information | Disclaimer

Site hosted by Sanchez Productions