The Development of Gesture in
Hearing and Deaf Children
Virginia Volterra, Jana M. Iverson, & Marianna Castrataro
In this chapter, we present a survey of the current body of knowledge on the role of gesture in the development of language by hearing and deaf children. Our goal is to demonstrate how variation in the type of linguistic input to which children are exposed influences the extent to which the manual modality is employed for communicative purposes and assumes linguistic properties. To this end, we present evidence from research on children who vary widely in the nature and organization of the input to which they are exposed.
The chapter is organized into five sections. The first three focus on hearing children exposed to gestural input of varying degrees of complexity. Thus, we begin by describing the development of gesture in children exposed only to speech and follow this with a discussion of gesture in children exposed to speech with enhanced gestural input. We then consider instances in which children are simultaneously exposed to spoken and signed linguistic input. In the final two sections, we focus on deaf children who vary in terms of their access to sign language input. We first discuss research regarding the use of gesture by deaf children with no sign language input, and we then review what is
1 Although the term "homesign" is usually adopted to refer to the gestural commu-
nication of deaf individuals who are not exposed to spoken or sign language (see Schick,
chap. 5, this volume), we avoid this term here because our focus is on the early stages of
communicative and linguistic development and similarities and differences with respect
to children (hearing and deaf) discussed in the other sections.