Deaf and hearing children’s picture naming: impact of age of acquisition and language modality on representational gesture

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Rachel England
  • Woll Bencie
  • Jenny Lu
  • Mumford Kat
  • Morgan Gary

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University College London
  • City University London
  • University of Chicago


Stefanini, Bello, Caselli, Iverson & Volterra (2009) reported that Italian 24-36 month old children use a high proportion of representational gestures to accompany their spoken responses when labelling pictures. The two studies reported here used the same naming task with (1) typically developing 24-46 month old hearing children acquiring English and (2) deaf children of deaf and hearing parents aged 24-63 months acquiring British Sign Language (BSL) and spoken English. In Study 1 children scored within the range of correct spoken responses previously reported, but produced very few representational gestures. However, when they did gesture they expressed the same action meanings as reported in previous research. The action bias was also observed in deaf children of hearing parents in Study 2, who labelled pictures with signs, spoken words and gestures. The deaf group with deaf parents used BSL almost exclusively with few additional gestures. The function of representational gestures in spoken and signed vocabulary development is considered in relation to differences between native and non-native sign language acquisition.


Original languageEnglish
JournalLIA Language, Interaction and Acquisition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • gesture, language development , sign language, deaf