How do babies coordinate gestures and vocalization?

April 27, 2017, University of the Basque Country
How do babies coordinate gestures and vocalization?
Babies start the more complex pre-language phase at 11 months. Credit: Laura López, UPV/EHU

Asier Romero-Andonegi, Aintzane Etxebarria-Lejarreta, Ainara Romero-Andonegi and Irati de Pablo-Delgado, lecturers and researchers at the UPV/EHU's University College of Teacher Training in Bilbao, have studied how nine to 13-month-old babies tackle the shift from early babbling to the use of combinations of gestures and speech. The work, titled "The interrelation of gestures and vocalization in early communication functions: Evidence from Basque language" has been published in the journal Signos.

Science shows that human and communication cannot be studied solely by analysing . Among the contributions made by this work, Asier Romero, researcher in the Department of Language and Literature Didactics of the University College of Teacher Training in Bilbao, highlights the fact that this is the first study conducted on children whose first language is Basque, and which shows how and when develop and use "a pattern to coordinate gestures with speech."

"We have discovered that when a baby abandons the characteristic babbling for vocalizations of repeated, long chains of syllables at 9 months and starts the more complex pre-language phase around 11 months, her gestures begin to be produced mainly in combination with vocal production rather than as an act of gestures alone. In other words, the gestural and speech systems are already closely related," explained Romero.

The researcher was also keen to stress that the typology of the gestures in these combinations are "mainly deictic"; in other words, they display "a declarative intention and involve implementation gestures, such as pointing, giving, showing, offering and making requests in order to direct the attention of an adult towards the object that the baby is interested in obtaining—in other words, to inform the adult about his/her interest in the object."

As far as Romero is concerned, this study shows that speech and gestures are two "essential elements" in human communication because there is increasing evidence that both are closely coordinated, and "it is perhaps a fundamental condition for the subsequent development of early vocabulary during the language phase."

Accumulating evidence shows that the combination of babbling and gestures of babies are related to the subsequent development of language, and therefore contribute to a predictive model. "Research of this type could help to predict language alterations in specific language disorders," said the researcher.

The aim of this pioneering work was to explore the process of language acquisition and development in relation to the time-related coordination of gestures and speech in children. To do this, the researchers recorded on video two babies born into Basque-speaking families from nine months to 13 months.

The recordings were made in their homes in the company of their parents. A total of over 1,260 examples of speech were obtained; they were produced by each baby across about 6 hours' worth of recordings that were later analysed by applying specific ELAN software. "This tool allows us to make and process annotations in digital lines of information in a joint way for a range of audio and video files," he explained.

Explore further: Pointing is infants' first communicative gesture (w/ Video)

More information: Asier Romero et al. Interrelación entre gestos y vocalizaciones en funciones comunicativas tempranas: Evidencias desde la lengua vasca, Revista signos (2017). DOI: 10.4067/S0718-09342017000100005

Related Stories

Pointing is infants' first communicative gesture (w/ Video)

February 24, 2014
Catalan researchers have studied the acquisition and development of language in babies on the basis of the temporary coordination of gestures and speech. The results are the first in showing how and when they acquire the ...

Sounds can help develop speech and gestures in children with autism

February 24, 2016
Children with autism and other similar conditions often have difficulties in several areas of communication. A new doctoral thesis in linguistics from the University of Gothenburg shows that these children can develop speech, ...

For kids with autism, imitation is key on road to speech

April 5, 2017
Nearly 30 percent of children with autism will not have learned to flexibly speak by the end of elementary school. For researchers looking for ways to help, learning when to intervene in the children's speech development ...

Babies' first gestures are a key sign of how they'll talk

November 1, 2016
Babies' first gestures are a reliable indicator of how their language will develop, according to new research to be highlighted at the ESRC Festival of Social Science. Understanding these early behaviours gives parents the ...

Why deaf people can have accents, too

March 22, 2017
Most people have probably encountered someone who appears to use lip-reading to overcome a hearing difficulty. But it is not as simple as that. Speech is "bimodal", in that we use both sounds and facial movements and gestures ...

Researchers link wild chimpanzee gestures to language evolution

July 15, 2012
(Phys.org) -- A Stirling researcher has identified between 20 and 30 manual gestures used by a community of wild chimpanzees, used to communicate with others in a range of activities including nursing, feeding, sex, aggression ...

Recommended for you

Color of judo uniform has no effect on winning

February 22, 2018
New research on competitive judo data finds a winning bias for the athlete who is first called, regardless of the colour of their uniform. This unique study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, puts to rest the debate on ...

Infants are able to learn abstract rules visually

February 22, 2018
Three-month-old babies cannot sit up or roll over, yet they are already capable of learning patterns from simply looking at the world around them, according to a recent Northwestern University study published in PLOS One.

Antidepressants are more effective than placebo at treating acute depression in adults, concludes study

February 22, 2018
Meta-analysis of 522 trials includes the largest amount of unpublished data to date, and finds that antidepressants are more effective than placebo for short-term treatment of acute depression in adults.

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Researchers uncover novel mechanism behind schizophrenia

February 21, 2018
An international team of researchers led by a Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine scientist has uncovered a novel mechanism in which a protein—neuregulin 3—controls how key neurotransmitters are released ...

Self-compassion may protect people from the harmful effects of perfectionism

February 21, 2018
Relating to oneself in a healthy way can help weaken the association between perfectionism and depression, according to a study published February 21, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Madeleine Ferrari from Australian ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.