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Academic Paper


Title: Point to a referent, and say, “what is this?” Gesture as a potential cue to identify referents in a discourse
Author: Wing Chee So
Institution: National University of Singapore
Author: Jia Yi Lim
Institution: National University of Singapore
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition; Pragmatics
Subject Language: Chinese, Mandarin
English
Abstract: This study explored whether caregivers' gestures followed the discourse-pragmatic principle of information status of referents (given vs. new) and how their children responded to those gestures when identifying referents. Ten Chinese-speaking and eight English-speaking caregivers were videotaped while interacting spontaneously with their children. Their speech and gestures were coded for referential expressions. Our findings showed that the Chinese-speaking caregivers gestured more often than the English-speaking caregivers but both of the groups gestured more often when asking their children to identify the new referents than the given referents (e.g., pointed to a puzzle while asking “What is this”?). The children were also sensitive to the information status of referents and they relied on the gestures to identify the new referents (but not the given referents). Overall, gesture serves as a potential cue for referential identification in both the caregivers and their children.

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This article appears IN Applied Psycholinguistics Vol. 33, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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