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Maternal label and gesture use affects acquisition of specific object names*


Ten mothers were observed prospectively, interacting with their infants aged 0 ; 10 in two contexts (picture description and noun description). Maternal communicative behaviours were coded for volubility, gestural production and labelling style. Verbal labelling events were categorized into three exclusive categories: label only; label plus deictic gesture; label plus iconic gesture. We evaluated the predictive relations between maternal communicative style and children's subsequent acquisition of ten target nouns. Strong relations were observed between maternal communicative style and children's acquisition of the target nouns. Further, even controlling for maternal volubility and maternal labelling, maternal use of iconic gestures predicted the timing of acquisition of nouns in comprehension. These results support the proposition that maternal gestural input facilitates linguistic development, and suggest that such facilitation may be a function of gesture type.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Maria Zammit, Faculty of Health, Leeds Metropolitan University, Civic Quarter, Calverley Street, Leeds, LS1 3HE. email:
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The research described in this paper was supported by an ESRC doctoral studentship grant (No R42200134423) to the first author.

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Journal of Child Language
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