Special Issue "Language Development in Children: Description to Detect and Prevent Language Difficulties"

A special issue of Children (ISSN 2227-9067). This special issue belongs to the section "Child Neurology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 June 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Eva Aguilar Mediavilla
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Applied Pedagogy and Educational Psychology, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Illes Balears, 07122 Palma, Spain
Interests: language development; bilingual acquisition; phonological acquisition; developmental language disorder; language assessment; bullying
Prof. Dr. Miguel Pérez Pereira
E-Mail Website
Co-Guest Editor
Departamento de Psicología Evolutiva y de la Educación, University of Santiago de Compostela, 15782 Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Interests: language development; preterm children; blind children
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Elisabet Serrat-Sellabona
E-Mail Website
Co-Guest Editor
Department of Psychology, Universitat de Girona, 17004 Girona, Catalunya, Spain
Interests: language acquisition; theory of mind; morpho-syntax acquisition; language assessment
Dr. Daniel Adrover-Roig
E-Mail Website
Co-Guest Editor
Universitat de les Illes Balears, 07122 Palma, Illes Balears, Spain
Interests: cognitive development; bilingualism; executive control; bullying and victimization.
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are organizing a Special Issue entitled: “Language Development In Children: Description To Detect And Prevent Language Difficulties” for publication in the journal Children (ISSN 2227-9067; IF: 2.078). Children is an international peer-reviewed open-access journal of pediatrics published monthly online by MDPI. The publication focuses on sharing clinical, epidemiological, and translational science relevant to children’s health. For detailed information on the journal, we refer you to https://www.mdpi.com/journal/children.

The present Special Issue aims to publish studies on language acquisition in children. We are especially focused on the description of language development and the variables affecting the early detection and prevention of language difficulties. Although language difficulties are very common (14% of children present a primary or secondary language difficulty), these difficulties are misdiagnosed due to the lack of visibility and updated knowledge from professionals of their long-term consequences in education and mental health. To prevent the misdiagnosed identification and assessment of language difficulties, more typical and atypical language studies are needed. In this sense, a good description of language acquisition could help to detect and prevent language difficulties. Nevertheless, most of the research on child language development has been conducted in English. However, studies in other languages and cross-linguistic studies have shown that some results about language development in English may not be transferred into other languages. Despite the increase in the number of studies, there is still little research about typical and atypical language acquisition in other languages and in bilingual populations. Therefore, this Special Issue aims to fill the current void in these studies, give them visibility, and show the latest research about language acquisition in children.This Special Issue is open to any research addressing a perspective of child language from a psycholinguistic, psychological, linguistic and/or educational point of view, including theoretical and empirical studies on typical and atypical child language acquisition and their association with other variables (either social or genetic) that could affect them.

Dr. Eva Aguilar-Mediavilla
Dr. Miguel Pérez-Pereira
Dr. Elisabet Serrat-Sellabona
Dr. Daniel Adrover-Roig
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Children is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • language acquisition
  • atypical language acquisition
  • detection
  • assessment
  • language difficulties
  • primary prevention

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Prevalence of Language Delay among Healthy Preterm Children, Language Outcomes and Predictive Factors
Children 2021, 8(4), 282; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8040282 - 06 Apr 2021
Viewed by 203
Abstract
Language delay (LD) and its relationship with later language impairment in preterm children is a topic of major concern. Previous studies comparing LD in preterm (PT) and full-term (FT) children were mainly carried out with samples of extremely preterm and very preterm children [...] Read more.
Language delay (LD) and its relationship with later language impairment in preterm children is a topic of major concern. Previous studies comparing LD in preterm (PT) and full-term (FT) children were mainly carried out with samples of extremely preterm and very preterm children (sometimes with additional medical problems). Very few of them were longitudinal studies, which is essential to understand developmental relationships between LD and later language impairment. In this study, we compare the prevalence of LD in low-risk preterm children to that of FT children in a longitudinal design ranging from 10 to 60 months of age. We also analyze which variables are related to a higher risk of LD at 22, 30 and 60 months of age. Different language tests were administered to three groups of preterm children of different gestational ages and to one group of full-term children from the ages of 10 to 60 months. ANOVA comparisons between groups and logistic regression analyses to identify possible predictors of language delay at 22, 30 and 60 months of age were performed. The results found indicate that there were practically no differences between gestational age groups. Healthy PT children, therefore, do not have, in general terms, a higher risk of language delay than FT children. Previous language delay and cognitive delay are the strongest and longest-lasting predictors of later language impairment. Other factors, such as a scarce use of gestures at 10 months or male gender, affect early LD at 22 months of age, although their effect disappears as children grow older. Low maternal education appears to have a late effect. Gestational age does not have any significant effect on the appearance of LD. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Sociodemographic and Pre-Linguistic Factors in Early Vocabulary Acquisition
Children 2021, 8(3), 206; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8030206 - 09 Mar 2021
Viewed by 399
Abstract
Here, we studied the beginnings of language development, jointly assessing two groups of precursors, sociodemographic and pre-linguistic, that have previously been studied separately. Thus, the general objective of this study was to explore which factors best explained the acquisition of initial expressive vocabulary. [...] Read more.
Here, we studied the beginnings of language development, jointly assessing two groups of precursors, sociodemographic and pre-linguistic, that have previously been studied separately. Thus, the general objective of this study was to explore which factors best explained the acquisition of initial expressive vocabulary. The sample consisted of 504 participants from Catalan-speaking homes with ages ranging between 10 and 18 months. The data were obtained through the MacArthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventories (MCB-CDIs). Vocabulary development shows a lexical spurt at 17 months. Regression analyses show that pre-linguistic factors have more explanatory power of than sociodemographic ones. Within the sociodemographic variables, age, birth order and birth weight explain part of the vocabulary variance. With respect to pre-linguistic variables, imitation, late gestures and phrase comprehension are predictors of the initial vocabulary acquisition. Specifically, imitation and late gestures were the pre-linguistic behaviours that made it possible to distinguish between children with higher and lower levels of vocabulary. We discussed these findings in relation to their relevance for language acquisition and for the early assessment of linguistic competence. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Language and Communication in Preschool Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disorders
Children 2021, 8(3), 192; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8030192 - 04 Mar 2021
Viewed by 291
Abstract
In this research, we studied the language and communication skills of preschool children with a diagnosis of autistic syndrome disorder (ASD) (n = 51) compared to children with other developmental disorders (DD) (n = 42), using direct measures and parental reports [...] Read more.
In this research, we studied the language and communication skills of preschool children with a diagnosis of autistic syndrome disorder (ASD) (n = 51) compared to children with other developmental disorders (DD) (n = 42), using direct measures and parental reports when assessing the development of language and communication. As a novelty, this research studied a sample of children with low language and communication skills. We found a high correlation between direct measures and parental reports for both populations. Therefore, we propose that combining the information supplied by direct measures together with that supplied by parental reports would be a suitable strategy for language assessment in these populations. In addition, the results show a delay in language comprehension with respect to language production in children with ASD, along with many difficulties with non-verbal communication, compared to children with other developmental disorders (DD). We also found significant differences between both groups with respect to lexical categories. The differences in language and communication profiles of children with ASD compared to children with other DD might have some implications for diagnoses and language intervention in these populations. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Syntactic Gender Agreement Processing on Direct-Object Clitics by Spanish-Speaking Children with Developmental Language Disorder: Evidence from ERP
Children 2021, 8(3), 175; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8030175 - 25 Feb 2021
Viewed by 306
Abstract
Children with developmental language disorder (DLD) have a psycholinguistic profile evincing multiple syntactic processing impairments. Spanish-speaking children with DLD struggle with gender agreement on clitics; however, the existing evidence comes from offline, elicitation tasks. In the current study, we sought to determine whether [...] Read more.
Children with developmental language disorder (DLD) have a psycholinguistic profile evincing multiple syntactic processing impairments. Spanish-speaking children with DLD struggle with gender agreement on clitics; however, the existing evidence comes from offline, elicitation tasks. In the current study, we sought to determine whether converging evidence of this deficit can be found. In particular, we use the real-time processing technique of event-related brain potentials (ERP) with direct-object clitic pronouns in Spanish-speaking children with DLD. Our participants include 15 six-year-old Mexican Spanish-speaking children with DLD and 19 typically developing, age-matched (TD) children. Auditory sentences that matched or did not match the gender features of antecedents represented in pictures were employed as stimuli in a visual–auditory gender agreement task. Gender-agreement violations were associated with an enhanced anterior negativity between 250 and 500 ms post-target onset in the TD children group. In contrast, children with DLD showed no such effect. This absence of the left anterior negativity (LAN) effect suggests weaker lexical representation of morphosyntactic gender features and/or non-adult-like morphosyntactic gender feature checking for the DLD children. We discuss the relevance of these findings for theoretical accounts of DLD. Our findings may contribute to a better understanding of syntactic agreement processing and language disorders. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
A First Step toward the Clinical Application of Landmark-Based Acoustic Analysis in Child Mandarin
Children 2021, 8(2), 159; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8020159 - 20 Feb 2021
Viewed by 289
Abstract
As an initial step for the clinical application of landmark-based acoustic analysis in child Mandarin, the study quantified the developmental trajectories of consonants produced by four-to-seven-year-old children who acquired Taiwanese Mandarin as their first language. The results from a total of 80 children [...] Read more.
As an initial step for the clinical application of landmark-based acoustic analysis in child Mandarin, the study quantified the developmental trajectories of consonants produced by four-to-seven-year-old children who acquired Taiwanese Mandarin as their first language. The results from a total of 80 children (20 in each age group, with gender balanced) indicated that younger age groups produced more +b landmark features than seven-year-olds did, showing that the development of obstruents was not completed by the age of six. A multiple regression showed that the participants’ speech intelligibility scores could be predicted by landmark features. Additionally, the +b landmark feature demonstrated the strongest net effect on speech intelligibility scores. The findings indicated that: (a) the landmark feature +b was an essential indicator of speech development in child Mandarin and; (b) the consonantal development in child Mandarin could be predicted by the physiological complexity of the articulatory gestures. Future studies focusing on a wider range of population (e.g., typically developing adults, aging and other clinical groups) with different language backgrounds are encouraged to apply landmark-based acoustic analysis to trace the linguistic development of a particular group. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Association between CCC-2 and Structural Language, Pragmatics, Social Cognition, and Executive Functions in Children with Developmental Language Disorder
Children 2021, 8(2), 123; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8020123 - 09 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 406
Abstract
(1) Background: Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is diagnosed when the child experiences problems in language with no known underlying biomedical condition and the information required for its correct evaluation must be obtained from different contexts. The Children’s Communication Checklist (CCC-2) covers aspects of [...] Read more.
(1) Background: Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) is diagnosed when the child experiences problems in language with no known underlying biomedical condition and the information required for its correct evaluation must be obtained from different contexts. The Children’s Communication Checklist (CCC-2) covers aspects of a child’s communication related to structural language and pragmatic skills, which are linked to social cognition or executive functions. The aim of this article is to examine parents’ reports using the Spanish version of the CCC-2 questionnaire and its association with different formal assessments related to communication. (2) Methods: 30 children with DLD (3; 10–9 years old) and 39 age-matched (AM) children with typical development were assessed using formal measures of structural language, pragmatics, social cognition, and executive functions. Parents of children with DLD answered the Spanish version of the CCC-2. (3) Results: The performance of children with DLD was lower in all the formal assessments in comparison to AM children. The CCC-2 was significantly correlated with all the direct child assessments, although only formal measures of structural language predicted both the structural language and pragmatics scales of the CCC-2. (4) Conclusions: The CCC-2 answered by parents was consistent with formal assessments in children with DLD, and structural language seemed to be the best predictor of all the subscales. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Gaze Following and Pupil Dilation as Early Diagnostic Markers of Autism in Toddlers
Children 2021, 8(2), 113; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8020113 - 05 Feb 2021
Viewed by 470
Abstract
Background: Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show certain characteristics in visual attention. These may generate differences with non-autistic children in the integration of relevant social information to set the basis of communication. Reliable and objective measurement of these characteristics in a [...] Read more.
Background: Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show certain characteristics in visual attention. These may generate differences with non-autistic children in the integration of relevant social information to set the basis of communication. Reliable and objective measurement of these characteristics in a language learning context could contribute to a more accurate early diagnosis of ASD. Gaze following and pupil dilation are being studied as possible reliable measures of visual attention for the early detection of ASD. The eye-tracking methodology allows objective measurement of these biomarkers. The aim of this study is to determine whether measurements of gaze following and pupillary dilation in a linguistic interaction task are potential objective biomarkers for the early diagnosis of ASD. Method: A group of 20 children between 17 and 24 months of age, made up of 10 neurotypical children (NT) and 10 children with an increased likelihood of developing ASD were paired together according to chronological age. A human face on a monitor pronounced pseudowords associated with pseudo-objects. Gaze following and pupil dilation were registered during the task These measurements were captured using eye-tracking methodology. Results: Significant statistical differences were found in the time of gaze fixation on the human face and on the object, as well as in the number of gazes. Children with an increased possibility of developing ASD showed a slightly higher pupil dilation than NT children. However, this difference was not statistically significant. Nevertheless, their pupil dilation was uniform throughout the different periods of the task while NT participants showed greater dilation on hearing the pseudoword. Conclusions: The fixing and the duration of gaze, objectively measured by a Tobii eye-tracking system, could be considered as potential biomarkers for early detection of ASD. Additionally, pupil dilation measurement could reflect differential activation patterns during word processing in possible ASD toddlers and NT toddlers. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Consistency of a Nonword Repetition Task to Discriminate Children with and without Developmental Language Disorder in Catalan–Spanish and European Portuguese Speaking Children
Children 2021, 8(2), 85; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8020085 - 26 Jan 2021
Viewed by 475
Abstract
Nonword repetition has been proposed as a diagnostic marker of developmental language disorder (DLD); however, the inconsistency in the ability of nonword repetition tasks (NRT) to identify children with DLD raises significant questions regarding its feasibility as a clinical tool. Research suggests that [...] Read more.
Nonword repetition has been proposed as a diagnostic marker of developmental language disorder (DLD); however, the inconsistency in the ability of nonword repetition tasks (NRT) to identify children with DLD raises significant questions regarding its feasibility as a clinical tool. Research suggests that some of the inconsistency across NRT may be due to differences in the nature of the nonword stimuli. In this study, we compared children’s performance on NRT between two cohorts: the children in the Catalan–Spanish cohort (CS) were bilingual, and the children in the European Portuguese cohort (EP) were monolingual. NRT performance was assessed in both Spanish and Catalan for the bilingual children from Catalonia-Spain and in Portuguese for the monolingual children from Portugal. Results show that although the absolute performance differed across the two cohorts, with NRT performance being lower for the CS, in both Catalan and Spanish, as compared to the EP cohort in both, the cut-points for the likelihood ratios (LH) were similar across the three languages and mirror those previously reported in previous studies. However, the absolute LH ratio values for this study were higher than those reported in prior research due in part to differences in wordlikeness and frequency of the stimuli in the current study. Taken together, the findings from this study show that an NRT consisting of 3-, 4-, and 5-syllable nonwords, which varies in wordlikeness ratings, when presented in a random order accurately identifies and correctly differentiates children with DLD from TD controls the child is bilingual or monolingual. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Identifying Bilingual Children at Risk for Language Impairment: The Implication of Children’s Response Speed in Narrative Contexts
Children 2021, 8(2), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8020062 - 20 Jan 2021
Viewed by 670
Abstract
The purpose of the study was to examine whether monolingual adults can identify the bilingual children with LI on the basis of children’s response speed to the examiner. Participants were 37 monolingual English-speaking young adults. Stimuli were 48 audio clips from six sequential [...] Read more.
The purpose of the study was to examine whether monolingual adults can identify the bilingual children with LI on the basis of children’s response speed to the examiner. Participants were 37 monolingual English-speaking young adults. Stimuli were 48 audio clips from six sequential bilingual children (48 months) who were predominately exposed to Cantonese (L1) at home from birth and started to learn English (L2) in preschool settings. The audio clips for each child were selected from an interactive story-retell task in both Cantonese and English. Three of the children were typically developing, and three were identified as having a language impairment. The monolingual adult participants were asked to judge children’s response times for each clip. Interrater reliability was high (Kalpha = 0.82 for L1; Kalpha = 0.75 for L2). Logistic regression and receiver operating characteristic curves were used to examine the diagnostic accuracy of the task. Results showed that monolingual participants were able to identify bilingual children with LI based on children’s response speed. Sensitivity and specificity were higher in Cantonese conditions compared to English conditions. The results added to the literature that children’s response speed can potentially be used, along with other measures, to identify bilingual children who are at risk for language impairment. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Is There an Association between Executive Function and Receptive Vocabulary in Bilingual Children? A Longitudinal Examination
Children 2021, 8(1), 44; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8010044 - 13 Jan 2021
Viewed by 393
Abstract
Dual language management has been proposed as the reason for bilingual children’s sometimes enhanced executive functioning (EF). We sought to identify the directionality of the relation between language proficiency and EF, using measures of receptive vocabulary, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. Data were [...] Read more.
Dual language management has been proposed as the reason for bilingual children’s sometimes enhanced executive functioning (EF). We sought to identify the directionality of the relation between language proficiency and EF, using measures of receptive vocabulary, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. Data were collected twice, a year apart, on 35- to 66.8-month-old bilingual (n = 41, M = 49.19 months) and monolingual preschool children (n = 37, M = 47.82 months). The longitudinal results revealed that while the monolingual children’s vocabulary at Time 1 predicted EF at Time 2, EF at Time 1 did not predict vocabulary at Time 2. In contrast, for bilingual children the relation was not present at all. The results were similar after the one-time analyses. The absence of relations between EF and language in bilinguals, while present in monolinguals, challenges the current conceptualization of the EF advantage in bilinguals, and emphasizes the need for more research on the development of bilingual children. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Impact of the Use of Media Devices within the Family Context on the Language of Preteens
Children 2020, 7(12), 281; https://doi.org/10.3390/children7120281 - 09 Dec 2020
Viewed by 840
Abstract
Several studies have found a negative impact of media use on the language of children under 5 years. This impact seems to be related to the linguistic input of their parents. However, less is known about the influence of media on language in [...] Read more.
Several studies have found a negative impact of media use on the language of children under 5 years. This impact seems to be related to the linguistic input of their parents. However, less is known about the influence of media on language in preteens. This study aims to analyze the relationship between the use of media, the quantity of parental language input, and the linguistic level of preteens. We assessed the language level of 60 bilingual Spanish–Catalan preteens aged 11–12 years with four subtests of the Spanish version of the standardized clinical evaluation of language fundaments (CELF-5-Spanish) as well as media use at home through a multiple-choice questionnaire. Results showed lower language scores in preteens who had access to more media devices, who used them more frequently, and who talked less with their parents. Language scores were also significantly lower in preteens who used media devices to communicate compared to those who used it as a school aid or to learn new things. These results are not influenced by socioeconomic level, sex, chronological age, or family language. The present results highlight the negative impact of media use on the language level of older children, which is also related to the amount of linguistic input received from their parents. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Effects of ASL Rhyme and Rhythm on Deaf Children’s Engagement Behavior and Accuracy in Recitation: Evidence from a Single Case Design
Children 2020, 7(12), 256; https://doi.org/10.3390/children7120256 - 26 Nov 2020
Viewed by 2258
Abstract
Early language acquisition is critical for lifelong success in language, literacy, and academic studies. There is much to explore about the specific techniques used to foster deaf children’s language development. The use of rhyme and rhythm in American Sign Language (ASL) remains understudied. [...] Read more.
Early language acquisition is critical for lifelong success in language, literacy, and academic studies. There is much to explore about the specific techniques used to foster deaf children’s language development. The use of rhyme and rhythm in American Sign Language (ASL) remains understudied. This single-subject study compared the effects of rhyming and non-rhyming ASL stories on the engagement behavior and accuracy in recitation of five deaf children between three and six years old in an ASL/English bilingual early childhood classroom. With the application of alternating treatment design with initial baseline, it is the first experimental research of its kind on ASL rhyme and rhythm. Baseline data revealed the lack of rhyme awareness in children and informed the decision to provide intervention as a condition to examine the effects of explicit handshape rhyme awareness instruction on increasing engagement behavior and accuracy in recitation. There were four phases in this study: baseline, handshape rhyme awareness intervention, alternating treatments, and preference. Visual analysis and total mean and mean difference procedures were employed to analyze results. The findings indicate that recitation skills in young deaf children can be supported through interventions utilizing ASL rhyme and rhythm supplemented with ASL phonological awareness activities. A potential case of sign language impairment was identified in a native signer, creating a new line of inquiry in using ASL rhyme, rhythm, and phonological awareness to detect atypical language patterns. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
The Value of Non-Referential Gestures: A Systematic Review of Their Cognitive and Linguistic Effects in Children’s Language Development
Children 2021, 8(2), 148; https://doi.org/10.3390/children8020148 - 17 Feb 2021
Viewed by 426
Abstract
Speakers produce both referential gestures, which depict properties of a referent, and non-referential gestures, which lack semantic content. While a large number of studies have demonstrated the cognitive and linguistic benefits of referential gestures as well as their precursor and predictive role in [...] Read more.
Speakers produce both referential gestures, which depict properties of a referent, and non-referential gestures, which lack semantic content. While a large number of studies have demonstrated the cognitive and linguistic benefits of referential gestures as well as their precursor and predictive role in both typically developing (TD) and non-TD children, less is known about non-referential gestures in cognitive and complex linguistic domains, such as narrative development. This paper is a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the research concerned with assessing the effects of non-referential gestures in such domains. A search of the literature turned up 11 studies, collectively involving 898 2- to 8-year-old TD children. Although they yielded contradictory evidence, pointing to the need for further investigations, the results of the six studies–in which experimental tasks and materials were pragmatically based–revealed that non-referential gestures not only enhance information recall and narrative comprehension but also act as predictors and causal mechanisms for narrative performance. This suggests that their bootstrapping role in language development is due to the fact that they have important discourse–pragmatic functions that help frame discourse. These findings should be of particular interest to teachers and future studies could extend their impact to non-TD children. Full article
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