From gesture to sign and from gesture to word

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In this paper, we explore the issue of (dis)continuity between gestures and signs and gestures and words by comparing three longitudinal follow-ups of a hearing monolingual French speaking child, a deaf signing child (LSF), and a hearing bilingual (French-LSF) child. Our study indicates that the development of the same manual form (the index finger point) is influenced by the input children receive in the modalities they have at their disposal. Interestingly, the bilingual (French-LSF) child presents an intermediate profile as far as the number of points she uses is concerned. Our analyses do not enable us to differentiate pointing “gestures” from pointing used as a linguistic sign since we could observe no systematic formal distinction. But our study suggests that pointing facilitates the three children’s entry into syntax: pointing gestures or/and signs are more and more combined to words and/or signs, facial expressions, gaze, in complex linguistic productions and with more and more deictic and anaphoric values.


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