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A gestural repertoire of 1-2year old human children: in search of the ape gestures

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Abstract

When we compare human gestures to those of other apes, it looks at first like there is nothing much to compare at all. In adult humans, gestures are thought to be a window into the thought processes accompanying language, and sign languages are equal to spoken language with all of its features. While some research firmly emphasises the difference between human gestures and those of other apes, the question about whether there are any commonalities has rarely been investigated, and is mostly confined to pointing gestures. The gestural repertoires of nonhuman ape species have been carefully studied and described with regard to their form and function – but similar approaches are much rarer in the study of human gestures. This paper applies the methodology commonly used in the study of nonhuman ape gestures to the gestural communication of human children in their second year of life. We recorded (n=13) children’s gestures in a natural setting with peers and caregivers in Germany and Uganda. Children employed 52 distinct gestures, 46 (89%) of which are present in the chimpanzee repertoire. Like chimpanzees, they used them both singly, and in sequences; and employed individual gestures flexibly towards different goals.
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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalAnimal Cognition
VolumeIn press
Early online date8 Sep 2018
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Sep 2018

    Research areas

  • Children, Gesture, Chimpanzee, Language, Reference

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