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Gesture Production and Lexical Abilities in SLI (Lavelli & Majorano, 2016)

journal contribution
posted on 2022-02-05, 00:51 authored by Manuela Lavelli, Marinella Majorano
Purpose: The purpose of the study was to investigate the role that cospeech gestures play in lexical production in preschool-age children with expressive specific language impairment (E-SLI).
Method: Fifteen preschoolers with E-SLI and 2 groups of typically developing (TD) children matched for chronological age (n = 15, CATD group) and for language abilities (n = 15, LATD group) completed a picture-naming task. The accuracy of the spoken answers (coded for types of correct and incorrect answers), the modality of expression (spoken and/or gestural), types of gestures, and semantic relationship between gestures and speech produced by children in the different groups were compared.
Results: Children with SLI produced higher rates of phonological simplifications and unintelligible answers than CATD children, but lower rates of semantic errors than LATD children. They did not show a significant preference for spoken answers, as TD children did. Similarly to LATD children, they used gestures at higher rates than CATD, both deictic and representational, and both reinforcing the information conveyed in speech and adding correct information to co-occurring speech.
Conclusions: These findings support the hypotheses that children with SLI rely on gestures for scaffolding their speech and do not have a clear preference for the spoken modality, as TD children do, and have implications for educational and clinical practice.


This work is part of a National Research Project Prin-2008, cofunded for 2 years (2010–2012) by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, and the University of Verona to Manuela Lavelli.