How gestures help children to track reference in narrative

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This chapter analyzes the ways in which gestures compensate for children’s difficulties to track reference by linguistic anaphors. The research, carried out on the narratives produced by two groups of Italian children (6 and 10 years old), analyzed both the incidence of representational vs. deictic anaphoric gestures and the functions they both fulfill in relation to linguistic anaphors. Results show that representational strategies play a dominant role in tracking reference in both groups of children; yet, in the far greater majority of cases those produced by younger children disambiguate linguistic anaphoric mistakes, whereas those produced by the older ones make the referents of correct linguistic anaphors more explicit. It is claimed that gesture can compensate for linguistic difficulties; yet, a definition of compensation is given, that is in line with Kendon’s interpretation of speech/gesture relationship.


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