Synopses & Reviews
This edited collection aims to bring together recent research on the use of communicative gesturing in the first two years of life as an important step in the child's transition to a linguistic system. This topic has been approached from a variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives. Researchers studying hearing children have regarded some communicative gestures as precursors to the acquisiton of spoken language. They have also drawn attention to other gestures that show striking similarities in content and sequence of development to first words. Studies of deaf children exposed to sign language have seen early gestures as the first evidence of the child's acquisition of the linguistic system, while researchers who have studied deaf children without exposure to sign language have considered their gesturing as the creation of a linguistic system. This collection of readings provides an opportunity to compare research on children in the earliest stages of communicative development who not only have different primary modalities for language but who also are exposed to differing linguistic inputs. The volume aims to illustrate the contribution of a variety of research questions, strategies and results toward the development of a unifying theoretical model of the transition from gesture to language.
Virginia Volterra and Carol Erting have made an important contribu- tion to knowledge with this selection of studies on language acquisi- tion. Collections of studies clustered more or less closely around a topic are plentiful, but this one is 1 nique. Volterra and Erting had a clear plan in mind when making their selection. Taken together, the studies make the case that language is inseparable from human inter- action and communication and, especially in infancy, as much a matter of gestural as of vocal behavior. The editors have arranged the papers in five coherent sections and written an introduction to each section in addition to the expected general introduction and conclu- sion. No introductory course in child and language development will be complete without this book. Presenting successively studies of hearing children acquiring speech languages, of deaf children acquiring sign languages, of hear- ing children of deaf parents, of deaf children of hearing parents, and of hearing children compared with deaf children, Volterra and Erting give one a wider than usual view oflanguage acquisition. It is a view that would have been impossible not many years ago - when the primary languages of deaf adults had received neither recognition nor respect.