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Review

The Value of Non-Referential Gestures: A Systematic Review of Their Cognitive and Linguistic Effects in Children’s Language Development

1
Department of Translation and Language Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, 08018 Barcelona, Spain
2
Department of Subject-Specific Education, Universitat de Girona, 17004 Girona, Spain
3
Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), 08010 Barcelona, Spain
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Eva Aguilar Mediavilla, Miguel Pérez Pereira, Elisabet Serrat-Sellabona and Daniel Adrover-Roig
Received: 31 December 2020 / Revised: 10 February 2021 / Accepted: 11 February 2021 / Published: 17 February 2021
Speakers produce both referential gestures, which depict properties of a referent, and non-referential gestures, which lack semantic content. While a large number of studies have demonstrated the cognitive and linguistic benefits of referential gestures as well as their precursor and predictive role in both typically developing (TD) and non-TD children, less is known about non-referential gestures in cognitive and complex linguistic domains, such as narrative development. This paper is a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the research concerned with assessing the effects of non-referential gestures in such domains. A search of the literature turned up 11 studies, collectively involving 898 2- to 8-year-old TD children. Although they yielded contradictory evidence, pointing to the need for further investigations, the results of the six studies–in which experimental tasks and materials were pragmatically based–revealed that non-referential gestures not only enhance information recall and narrative comprehension but also act as predictors and causal mechanisms for narrative performance. This suggests that their bootstrapping role in language development is due to the fact that they have important discourse–pragmatic functions that help frame discourse. These findings should be of particular interest to teachers and future studies could extend their impact to non-TD children. View Full-Text
Keywords: non-referential gestures; prosody; pragmatics; children; language development; cognitive development; narrative development; information recall; narrative discourse comprehension; oral narrative discourse performance non-referential gestures; prosody; pragmatics; children; language development; cognitive development; narrative development; information recall; narrative discourse comprehension; oral narrative discourse performance
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MDPI and ACS Style

Vilà-Giménez, I.; Prieto, P. The Value of Non-Referential Gestures: A Systematic Review of Their Cognitive and Linguistic Effects in Children’s Language Development. Children 2021, 8, 148. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/children8020148

AMA Style

Vilà-Giménez I, Prieto P. The Value of Non-Referential Gestures: A Systematic Review of Their Cognitive and Linguistic Effects in Children’s Language Development. Children. 2021; 8(2):148. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/children8020148

Chicago/Turabian Style

Vilà-Giménez, Ingrid, and Pilar Prieto. 2021. "The Value of Non-Referential Gestures: A Systematic Review of Their Cognitive and Linguistic Effects in Children’s Language Development" Children 8, no. 2: 148. https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/children8020148

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