Development of Cross-Linguistic Variation in Speech and Gesture: Motion Events in English and Turkish

Asli Özyürek, Sotaro Kita, Shanley Allen, Amanda Brown, Reyhan Furman, Tomoko Ishizuka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


The way adults express manner and path components of a motion event varies across typologically different languages both in speech and cospeech gestures, showing that language specificity in event encoding influences gesture. The authors tracked when and how this multimodal cross-linguistic variation develops in children learning Turkish and English, 2 typologically distinct languages. They found that children learn to speak in language-specific ways from age 3 onward (i.e., English speakers used 1 clause and Turkish speakers used 2 clauses to express manner and path). In contrast, English- and Turkish-speaking children's gestures looked similar at ages 3 and 5 (i.e., separate gestures for manner and path), differing from each other only at age 9 and in adulthood (i.e., English speakers used 1 gesture, but Turkish speakers used separate gestures for manner and path). The authors argue that this pattern of the development of cospeech gestures reflects a gradual shift to language-specific representations during speaking and shows that looking at speech alone may not be sufficient to understand the full process of language acquisition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1040-1054
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • English
  • Turkish
  • cospeech gestures
  • cross-linguistic
  • motion events

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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