Young children instinctively use a ‘language-like’ structure to communicate through gestures, a result which suggests that children are not just learning language from older generations, but instead their preference for communication has shaped how languages look today.
In the paper, the research team examined how four-year-olds, 12-year-olds and adults used gestures to communicate in the absence of speech. The study investigated whether their gesturing breaks down complex information into simpler concepts. This is similar to the way that language expresses complex information by breaking it down into units (such as words) to express a simpler concept, which are then strung together into a phrase or sentence.
The researchers showed the participants animations of motion events, depicting either a smiling square or circle that moved up or down a slope in a particular manner (eg jump or rolling). Each participant was asked to use their hands to mime the action they saw on the screen without speaking. The researchers examined whether the upward or downward path and the manner of motion were expressed simultaneously in a single gesture or expressed in two separated gestures depicting its manner or path.
Study co-leader Dr. Sotaro Kita from the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology said, “Compared to the 12-year-olds and the adults, the four-year-olds showed the strongest tendencies to break down the manner of motion and the path of motion into two separate gestures, even though the manner and path were simultaneous in the original event.
“This means the four-year-olds miming was more language-like, breaking down complex information into simpler units and expressing one piece of information at a time. Just as young children are good at learning languages, they also tend to make their communication look more like a language.”
Study co-leader Dr. Zanna Clay from the University of Neuchatel said, “Previous studies of sign languages created by deaf children have shown that young children use gestures to segment information and to re-organise it into language-like sequences. We wanted to examine whether hearing children are also more likely to use gesture to communicate the features of an event in segmented ways when compared to adolescents and adults.”
The researchers suggest the study provides insight into why languages of the world have universal properties.
Kita added, “All languages of the world break down complex information into simpler units, like words, and express them one by one. This may be because all languages have been learned by, therefore shaped by, young children. In other words, generations of young children’s preference for communication may have shaped how languages look today.”
Citation: Young Children Make Their Gestural Communication Systems More Language-Like, Segmentation and Linearization of Semantic Elements in Motion Events, Zanna Clay, Sally Pople, Bruce Hood, Sotaro Kita, Psychological Science June 4, 2014
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- New Tractor Beam Can Repel And Attract
- Amenhotep III: Ancient Egyptian Mummies Didn't Have Spinal Arthritis
- #GAMERGATE Style Harassment Does Not Happen in the Male Dominated Sciences
- Get A Heart On: Viagra Is Good Outside The Bedroom Too
- How Mitochondria Began - Parasitic Coevolution Gets A New Wrinkle
- Psychiatry Should Switch From Symptom-based Prescriptions To Target-based
- From Mindless Physics To Physics Of Mind
- "I stopped reading at the assertion that we are born believers...."
- "Whereas the main theme of this article (something to do with online gaming, I guess) is completely..."
- "Fair enough then :) Thanks for the chat. Cheers...."
- "Hank, I can appreciate the idea that most people suffering in an emergency will prefer morphine..."
- "Thank you for these gems, Robert. At Hafez' tomb, I teased my 25-year-old guide, Here we are at..."
- Mutagenesis: One way Europeans wish it was 1936 again
- Closer examination of risk factors for Latinos underscores cultural diversity
- Saving bees requires less pesticides, changing farming
- Could GM plants replace airport security scanners?
- In a battle of brains, chimpanzees match human toddlers
- ‘Urban farmers’ behind GMO labeling initiatives
- For inmates, pricey hepatitis C drug could make financial sense
- Annals of Internal Medicine tip sheet for Oct. 21, 2014
- Scientists unravel the mystery of a rare sweating disorder
- Three-minute assessment successfully identifies delirium in hospitalized elders
- One in 5 physicians unaware their patients have central venous catheters
Books By Writers Here