Gestural depiction of motion events in narrative increases symbolic distance with age

Kazuki Sekine, Catharine Wood, Sotaro Kita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


We examined gesture representation of motion events in narratives produced by three- and nine-year-olds, and adults. Two aspects of gestural depiction were analysed: how protagonists were depicted, and how gesture space was used. We found that older groups were more likely to express protagonists as an object that a gesturing hand held and manipulated, and less likely to express protagonists with whole-body enactment gestures. Furthermore, for older groups, gesture space increasingly became less similar to narrated space. The older groups were less likely to use large gestures or gestures in the periphery of the gesture space to represent movements that were large relative to a protagonist’s body or that took place next to a protagonist. They were also less likely to produce gestures on a physical surface (e.g. table) to represent movement on a surface in narrated events. The development of gestural depiction indicates that older speakers become less immersed in the story world and start to control and manipulate story representation from an outside perspective in a bounded and stage-like gesture space. We discuss this developmental shift in terms of increasing symbolic distancing (Werner & Kaplan, 1963).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-21
Number of pages11
JournalLIA Language, Interaction and Acquisition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Distancing
  • Gesture
  • Motion events
  • Preschool children
  • Speech

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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