Zulu oral narrative development from a speech and gesture perspective

Ramona Kunene-Nicolas


Literature on child language development usually focuses mainly on early language acquisition (0 - 4 years) and on non-Bantu languages. This article focuses on 1) late language development and 2) the complete language communicative process, which includes non-verbal clues in first language Zulu oral narratives. This study brings evidence that shows pragmatic discursive ability develops with age and that spontaneous co-speech gesture develops in parallel. In a controlled language production task, oral narratives were elicited from three child cohorts (6 years, 9 years and 12 years) and one adult group. Results show a gradual increase of discursive ability in both speech and co-speech gesture. We also present quantifiable evidence that 12-year-old Zulu children are not yet as competent in complex discourse as adults, in line with current literature on late language development of other Asian and European languages. These findings are relevant for understanding how oral and writing skills develop in informal and formal learning environments.


Oral narratives; Co-speech gesture; Bantu language; Zulu; Discourse; Late language development;

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5785/31-3-560


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ISSN 2224-0012 (online); ISSN 0259-2312 (print)

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