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Gestures in Communicative Development (Overview)

This entry focuses on gesture use in relation to oral language development. Much of the research on gestures has been influenced by the early work of Elizabeth Bates and her colleagues, who classified infant gestures based on a number of features. Gestures are actions with the body, particularly the hands, used to communicate. Gestures are not only used to represent objects; they also represent events or components of events and properties of objects. Action, gesture, and the spoken word are linked from an evolutionary perspective, and motor functions and language share common brain mechanisms. Not all languages are expressed orally: Words are the conventional symbols used in spoken language, whereas manual symbols are used in sign languages. Unlike words and signs, gestures do not form ...

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