Symposium: Acquisition, Multilingualism and Gesture in Typical and Atypical Populations

~ Symposium ~
Acquisition, Multilingualism and Gesture in Typical and Atypical Populations

Hosted by
Department of Linguistics, Wits University, Johannesburg

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg gesture Symposium: Acquisition, Multilingualism and Gesture in Typical and Atypical Populations wits logo

17 – 18 November 2015
Postgraduate Seminar Room South West Engineering Building, Braamfontein Campus

This symposium aims to share local and international research on the multilingualism, development of language and gesture in typical and atypical populations. This symposium is part of a cross-disciplinary initiative disseminate and share information on language. This meeting is an outreach output of a 4 year research project Gesture and Language development across Romance and Bantu languages (Gestland) funded by the Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES).

The Gestland project brings into collaborative work of four research teams; for Bantu languages Dr Ramona Kunene Nicolas (Wits, SA) and Prof Heather Brookes, UCT (SA); and for Romance languages Prof Jean-Marc Colletta (University of Stendhal, France) and Prof Olga Capirci (National Research Council, Italy) whose expertise is on multimodality in human interaction, language acquisition, gesture and cognition.

From a scientific level, the programme tests the validity of a gesture task to assess early lexical abilities in children of different countries, explores the cognitive aspect of representational gesture in early and late childhood and investigates the effect of linguistic and cultural constraints on multimodal language production in comparing two Romance and two Bantu languages. The exchange programme will extend the expertise of each one of the four research units involved.

The outcome of the exchange is the introduction of a new language assessment tool for young children in South Africa and Framce and the training of young researchers to do psycholinguistics and research on gesture and multimodality in human interaction in South Africa as well as in Europe. The exchange also aims at establishing a sustained collaboration with partners from the Global South in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and at reinforcing the cooperation between the two European partners in Rome and Grenoble.


9.00 - 9.05


Ramona Kunene Nicolas, Head of Department of Linguistics

9.05 - 09.10


Prof Libby Meintjes, Head of School, Literature, Language and


Multilingualism and Language Impairment

Prof. Heila Jordaan

Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Wits University

09.40 - 10.10

Effects of bilingualism on language and cognitive processes

Prof. Kate Cockcroft

Department of Psychology, Wits University



10.25 - 10.55

From actions to language: an embodied approach to communication in

Dr Laura Sparaci

CNR, Roma, Italy

10.55 - 11.25

Gesture and language development in the light of the Joussian “mimism”

Prof. Jean-Marc Colletta

Stendhal University, Grenoble

11.25 - 12.00

General Discussion

12.00 - 1.30


1.30 – 2.10

Preliminary results for the PiNG task for assessing lexical development in Bantu languages (isiZulu & SeSotho) and Romance languages (Italian & French)

Ramona Kunene Nicolas (Wits University),

Heather Brookes (University of Cape Town),

Olga Capirci (Gladd Lab, CNR, Rome) and

Jean-Marc Colletta (Stendhal University)

2.10 – 2.30

Questions and Discussion

9.15 - 9.35

A Language beyond words : the acquisition of LIS lexicon in a group of deaf children

Morgana Prioietti (CNR, Rome)

9.40 - 10.00

Discourse development of typical and atypical populations of L1 South African Speakers

Natasha Coertze (Wits, Johannesburg)




Age-related variability in the processing of gestural information

Ali Hadian Cefidekhanie (Stendhal, Grenoble)

10.45 - 11.05

Representational gestures of Zulu speakers in L1 Zulu and L2 English

Saaliha Ahmed (Wits, Johannesburg)

11.10 - 11.30

Developing and testing the Picture Naming Game (PiNG), a lexical assessment tool, with South Sotho speakers: Challenges and initial findings

Thato Nteso (UCT, Cape Town)

11.30 - 12.40


12.45 - 13.05

When gesture compensates: Error analysis of L2 English oral narratives

Theresa Bhowen (Wits, Johannesburg)

13.10 – 13.30

Spatial references in multimodal communication, evidence from Persian and Azeri languages

Elnaz Jalilian (Stendhal, Grenoble)

13.35 – 13.55

Gesture in a standard and a non-standard language variety; Mamelodi Lingo and Sesotho

Nonhlanhla Ntuli (Wits, Johannesburg)



14.20 – 14.40

Efron revisited, a case of 3rd Generation Italian and Jewish South Africans

Simone Judine (Wits, Johannesburg)


General Discussion Ramona Kunene Nicolas, Jean-Marc Colletta, Heather Brooks, Laura Sparaci

POSTGRADUATE SEMINAR ROOM, South West Engineering Building, Braamfontein Campus East