Chapter 7. ‘Parallel gesturing’ in adult-child conversations

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Sometimes a speaker repeats an interlocutor’s gesture, at least partially. Such ‘parallel gesturing’ illustrates how gestures can enter into the conversational exchange along with speech. Here we describe examples observed in adult-child conversations (children between 3 and 9 years). Four contexts are noted: (1) adult or child repeats speech and gesture of the other’s utterance in displaying understanding; (2) the adult repeats the child’s gesture, often with modification, when offering the child a more complete or correct expression of what it just said; (3) the adult repeats the child’s gesture when matching the child’s expressive style; (4) either adult or child parallels the other’s gesture when expressions of similar discourse type are reciprocated. Children, like adults, can pay attention to each other’s gestures, as well as to words. Differences between adult and child in how a ‘paralleled’ gesture is performed shows that gestural performance, like speech, involves maturation.


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