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samplepaper - Running head: SYMBOLIC GESTURING AND LANGUAGE...

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Running head: SYMBOLIC GESTURING AND LANGUAGE DEVELPOMENT Symbolic Gesturing and Language Development Juliet Gordon May 21, 2010 Dr. Victoria Cross Cognitive Development
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SYMBOLIC GESTURING AND LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT Abstract Language is a fundamental part of being human. Communication is incredibly important to us as social beings, and thus it is no wonder that the development of language is anxiously anticipated. The use of symbolic gesturing has repeatedly been found to facilitate many different aspects of language development. Infants, eager to communicate regardless of the modality, often pick up gestures spontaneously and tend to acquire even more with specific training. Both receptive vocabulary (understanding words) and expressive vocabulary (producing words) increase with the use of symbolic gestures. Even syntactical development, the structuring of sentences and use of grammar, is supported through gesturing. 2
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SYMBOLIC GESTURING AND LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT Symbolic Gesturing and Language Development The development of language is a crucial element of the human experience. Language, as we define it, is unique to humans, and is universal across all human cultures, in some form or another. Despite the differences between individual languages, the underlying structure remains the same. As human beings we are born biologically predisposed to learn those basic principles that enable us to communicate. It has been argued that a big part of what has made our species so successful is our social nature that allows us to work together to survive. The cooperation that has led to our success as a species has been greatly facilitated by the development of language. Language enables us to communicate about things outside of our immediate environment, including thoughts, feelings, and ideas. We have a natural desire to communicate, even beyond what is necessary to survive. Since this skill is so inherent to our survival, it makes sense that it would be evident across the entire species. It has also been found that language development progresses very similarly across all cultures, with parallel timelines and a generally invariable order of events (Cross, 2009). There is, however, a wide array of individual differences within the normal range of development. Parents usually eagerly await their baby’s first words, and egos tend to be boosted when their child is the first on the block to speak, just as concern often surrounds the late talker in the group. It seems parents are always looking for anything they can do to bolster development and to give their child any possible advantage. One relatively new example of this behavior is the use of symbolic gestures, often in the form of “baby sign language” training programs, to support language development. Although 3
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SYMBOLIC GESTURING AND LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT language is usually thought of in terms of verbalization, lately more and more attention has been paid to preverbal language development. The use of gesture in communication
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samplepaper - Running head: SYMBOLIC GESTURING AND LANGUAGE...

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