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Evénement No. 1844

Prosody and gestures in language learning

Type :

séminaire LPL

Auteur :

Pilar Prieto*, Marion Tellier**, Núria Esteve-Gibert***, Mariapaola D'Imperio**

Affiliation :

*ICREA - Universitat Pompeu Fabra, **LPL, Aix-Marseille Université, ***LPL, BLRI

Lieu ou publication :

Laboratoire Parole et Langage, salle des conférences B011, 5 avenue Pasteur, 13100 Aix-en-Provence

Pays :


Date (de début) :


Date de fin :

Heure :



Conditions d'accès :

entrée libre

 Organisateur(s) :

Núria Esteve-Gibert & Mariapaola D'Imperio

 Partenaires :

 Email pour contact :


Présentation :

LPL, Aix-en-Provence
19/05/2017 (11h-15h30)

In human communication, speakers and listeners use speech and gesture strategies to express and understand linguistic messages. One aspect of speech that is found to be particularly linked to gestures is prosody. This seminar will focus on the interaction between gesture and prosody in the context of language learning. Three talks will provide evidence of how prosody and gestures interact with each other to scaffold the process of first- and second-language acquisition. First, Pilar Prieto will show that gestures that produced rhythmically with speech (the so-called beat gestures) are used by children and second-language learners to recall information, to boost discourse narrative skills, and to learn new words and how to pronounce them. Second, Marion Tellier will focus on the gestures produced by teachers in a foreign language classroom, and will show that teaching gestures interact with speech and with speech pauses to help learners acquire the semantic information in a second language. Third, Núria Esteve-Gibert and Mariapaola D'Imperio will provide experimental evidence that French pre-school aged children use prosody and gesture strategies in a complementary way to highlight important information in the discourse.

Programme :

Detailed schedule and abstracts:

11h-12h: "How the prosody in our hands helps us learn a first and a second language" (by Pilar Prieto, ICREA - Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

Over the past decades research has shown how co-speech gestures are tightly interconnected with speech in time and in semantic function (e.g., McNeill 1992, among many others). While a bulk of research has explored gesture-speech interactions at the semantic level, little work has addressed the relationship between prosodic and gestural features of language, and how they are integrated from a temporal and from a semantic point of view (e..g. Esteve-Gibert & Prieto 2013; Hübscher et al. 2017, among others). Functionally, both the gestural and the prosodic components of language constitute powerful cues for parsing speech, marking of information status and pragmatic information. In this talk, I will claim that synchronized gestural and prosodic prominences of language act as scaffolding mechanisms in language development. Even though recent research presents contradictory evidence on the role of beat gestures on children's recall of information (e.g., So et al 2012, Igualada et al. 2015, among others), I will discuss evidence that we have on the several experiments carried out in our research group with a Catalan population which show how synchronized prosodic and gestural prominences act as scaffolding mechanisms of L1 language learning, e.g., they facilitate the recall of focused information (Experiment 1), help boost narrative abilities (Experiment 2), and act as precursors for later language development (Experiment 3). The second part of the talk will present the results of two experiments (Experiments 4 and 5) related to how our coordinated gestural and prosodic prominences help us learn words and pronunciation in a second language. I will conclude that a multimodal/embodied approach is essential to understanding language learning, and that it can be successfully applied to language teaching and language treatment contexts.

Esteve-Gibert, N., & Prieto, P. (2013). "Prosodic structure shapes the temporal realization of intonation and manual gesture movements". Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 56(3), pp. 850-864.
Hübscher, I., Esteve-Gibert, N., Igualada, A., & Prieto, P. (2017). "Prosody and gesture as bootstrapping devices to pragmatic meaning: How children learn to understand uncertainty". First Language 37(1): 24-41.
Igualada, A., Esteve-Gibert, N., & Prieto, P. (2017). "Beat gestures improve word recall in 3- to 5- year- old children", Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 156: 99-112.
McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and Mind: What Gestures Reveal About Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
So, W. C., Chen-Hui, C. S., & Wei-Shan, J. L. (2012). Mnemonic effect of iconic gesture and beat gesture in adults and children: Is meaning in gesture important for memory recall? Language and Cognitive Processes, 27, 665-681.

12h-14h: Pause déjeuner

14h-14h45: "How teachers use their hands to enhance foreign language learning" (by Marion Tellier, LPL, Aix-Marseille Université)

Over the past few years, the use of gestures in second language acquisition has been explored by a growing body of research (for reviews, see Gullberg, 2010; McCafferty & Stam, 2008). Most of these studies have focused on learners' gestures and only a few have examined gestures produced by a native speaker when engaged in foreigner talk (Adams, 1998; Tellier & Stam, 2012) or by foreign language teachers in the classroom (Tellier, 2008a and b). Teaching gestures appear to be somewhat different from regular co-speech gestures. They are used by a teacher as a scaffolding strategy (Bruner, 1983) to help the learner (whose proficiency in the target language is weaker) to understand what is being said. Thus, they are often iconic and can sometimes be compared to mimes. Teaching gestures also seem to be produced more consciously than usual co-speech gestures. Most language teachers are able to describe their teaching gestures, and some even have a complete gestural code that they share with their students. Teaching gestures are thus a real professional technique that can be improved with experience and worked on in teacher training (Cadet & Tellier, 2007 and Tellier & Cadet (eds) 2014). This talk will deal mostly with the study of gesture production by teachers and teachers in training by presenting both experimental studies and naturalistic data (classroom recordings). I will focus on the semantic link between gesture and speech, their synchrony and the use of gestures in speech pauses in teacher talk.

Adams, T. W. (1998). Gesture in Foreigner Talk. Thèse de doctorat non publiée. University of Pennsylvania.
Bruner, J. (1983). Child's talk, learning to use language.
Cadet, L. & Tellier, M. (2007). Le geste pédagogique dans la formation des enseignants de LE : Réflexions à partir d'un corpus de journaux d'apprentissage. Les cahiers de Théodile, 7, 67-80.
Gullberg, M. (2010). Methodological reflections on gesture analysis in second language acquisition and bilingualism research. Second Language Research, 25(4), 1-28.
McCafferty, S.G. & Stam, G. (Eds.). (2008). Gesture: Second language acquisition and classroom research. New York: Routledge.
Tellier, M. & Cadet, L. (2014). (Eds.) Le corps et la voix de l'enseignant: théorie et pratique. Paris: Éditions Maison des Langues.
Tellier, M. & Stam, G. (2012). Stratégies verbales et gestuelles dans l'explication lexicale d'un verbe d'action. In Rivière, V. (2012). Spécificités et diversité des interactions didactiques (pp. 357-374). Paris : Riveneuve éditions.
Tellier, M. (2008a). Dire avec des gestes. In Chnane-Davin, F. & Cuq, J.P. (Eds) Du discours de l'enseignant aux pratiques de l'apprenant en classe de français langue étrangère, seconde et maternelle. Le Français dans le monde, recherche et application, 44, 40-50.
Tellier, M. (2008b). The effect of gestures on second language memorisation by young children. In Gullberg, M., & de Bot, K. (Eds.) Special issue Gestures in language development. Gesture, 8(2), 219-235.

14h45-15h30: "How French children mark focus through prosody and gesture" (by Núria Esteve-Gibert & Mariapaola D'Imperio in collaboration with H. Lœvenbruck, M. Dohen, T. Legou, LPL, Aix-Marseille Université)

In this talk we will present evidence of the French-speaking children's use of prosody and gestures to emphasize elements in the discourse (i.e. focus). Previous work on the development of focus production has shown that children do not use adult-like prosodic cues to focus before the age of 8-10 years (e.g. Chen, 2011). Yet, it has been recently suggested that at younger ages children can use strategies like phrasing (pauses) and body gestures to structure information in the discourse narratives (e.g. Romoren & Chen, 2005; Mathew et al., 2014). A group of 40 preschool-aged children (20 4-year-olds and 20 5-year-olds) and a control group of 18 adults have participated in a production task in which sentences like Prends le bonnet violet 'Take the purple hat' were spontaneous elicited in different conditions (broad-focus, contrastive narrow-focus, and corrective narrow-focus). Results seem to suggest that adults use multi-modal cues in a coordinated way to signal focus, that 5-year-olds do so too, although non-adult prosodic cues are used, and that 4-year-olds are better at using gesture than prosody to signal focus.

Chen, A. (2011). Tuning information packaging: intonational realization of topic and focus in child Dutch. Journal of Child Language 38, pp. 1055-1083.
De Ruiter, L. (2009). The prosodic marking of topical referents in the German 'vorfeld' by children and adults. The Linguistic Review 26, pp. 329-354.
Mathew, M., Yuen, I., Shattuck-Hufnagel, S., Ren, A., & Demuth, K. (2014). The development of prosodic gestures during parent-child discourse interactions. Laboratory Phonology Conference (LabPhon), Tokyo, Japan.
Romoren, A. S. H. & Chen, A. (2015). Quiet is the New Loud: Pausing and Focus in Child and Adult Dutch. Language and Speech 58, pp. 8-23.

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