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Sotaro Kita

Inconicity in developmentĀ of language and gesture


We examined the ontogenetic development of the use of iconic symbols in speech (sound symbolic words) and gesture (iconic gestures). More specifically, we examined sound symbolic words and iconic gestures, both of which have a motivated (as opposed arbitrary) relationship between form and meaning. We analyzed Japanese children and adults' narratives, containing references to manners of motion. Three-year olds used sound symbolic words more frequently compared to adults and sometimes even coined novel sound symbolic words. The meanings of these conventional and invented sound symbolic words were recognizable by people without knowledge of Japanese, suggesting that children have access to universal sound symbolism. We also found that the coupling of speech and iconic gesture was especially strong in sound symbolic words and present in early childhood, and then the coupling spread to non-sound symbolic words during development. These results suggest that iconicity, which grounds form-meaning relationships in situated bodily experiences, serves an important role in symbolic development.

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