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Conference Papers Year : 2012

Multimodal negation in speaking children


As discussed by Spitz (1957), first negative constructions seem to take over from early gestures of rejection and avoidance (Clark 1978). For Kendon (2002), in many cultures, gestures of negation are the ritualization of spontaneous actions. Guidetti (2005) argues that gestures of agreement and refusal are the first symbolic gestures (aside from pointing) used by children. In order to trace the transitions between actions and gestures and between gestures and verbal productions in children's data, we analyzed all the actions, gestures, vocal and verbal productions of five speaking monolingual and bilingual children from the ages of 0;10 to 4;0. We were particularly interested in a) trying to distinguish actions (pushing an object away, avoiding a spoonful of broccoli), and conventional gestures with headshakes or the index; b) the combined use of gestures and words; c) the use of each modality on its own; d) the introduction of co-verbal gestures at the end of the data. We also analyzed what the first functions of negation were (rejection/refusal, absence, epistemic negation, negative assertion) their order of emergence and their forms in different modalities from the very beginning of our data. Our study shows that the five children use the two modalities throughout the data for all functions of negation, but with very great individual differences. Some children seem to follow a path that leads them from actions to symbolic gestures in isolation and then combine them with words before they make verbal productions alone. Other children are very quick at entering the verbal modality and do not rely on symbolic gestures. But the visual-gestural modality makes a spectacular comeback in all five children's data with the use of co-verbal gestures of negation when speech seems to be already quite elaborate. References Clark, E.V. (1978). From gesture to word, on the natural history of deixis in language acquisition. In J.S. Bruner & A. Garton (Eds.), Human growth and development: Wolfson College lectures 1976, (pp.85-120). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Guidetti, M. (2005). Yes or no ? How do young children combine gestures and words to agree and refuse. Journal of Child Language, 32, 911-924. Kendon, A., (2002). Some uses of the headshake, in Gesture, 2,2,147-182. Spitz, R.A. (1957). No and Yes : On the Genesis of Human Communication, New York : Inter-national Universities Press, Inc. New York.
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hal-00724189 , version 1 (19-08-2012)


  • HAL Id : hal-00724189 , version 1


Pauline Beaupoil-Hourdel, Stéphanie Caët, Sandra Benazzo, Aliyah Morgenstern. Multimodal negation in speaking children. ISGS 5 The International Society for Gesture Studies, The Communicative Body in Development., Jul 2012, Lund, Sweden. ⟨hal-00724189⟩
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