Chapter 16. A cross-linguistic study of verbal and gestural descriptions in French and Japanese monolingual and bilingual children

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This study investigated whether the presence of mimetics (sound-symbolic words) in language influences children’s verbal and gestural descriptions by comparing monolingual and bilingual speakers of Japanese and French. Mimetics are present in Japanese, but not French (Kita, 2008). 4 to 6-year-old children described motion and object characteristics to an experimenter during a referential communication task. Verbal descriptions were coded as precise or imprecise and produced with or without mimetics and/or iconic gestures. Mimetics and gestures were used frequently in Japanese, particularly for motion descriptions. Bilinguals patterned like monolinguals, except when speaking Japanese they used more imprecise descriptions and fewer mimetics. This shows that presence of mimetics in language and frequent exposure to them promotes their use in conjunction with gestures.


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