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Research interests

  • Language acquisition/development and learning

  • Communication, language and education

  • The multimodal integration of gesture and speech prosody

  • Gesture-speech development

  • Multimodal learning/communication and embodied cognition

  • The development of children’s oral narrative and other linguistic/cognitive abilities

  • Teacher training

My PhD dissertation, directed by Dr. Pilar Prieto (ICREA-UPF), examined several issues related to the bootstrapping role of non-referential beat gestures —and their concomitant prosodic prominence— in 5- to 6-year-old children’s narrative abilities, focusing on the multimodal integration of gesture, speech and prosody in language development.

PhD thesis committee: Prof. Dr. Katharina Rohlfing (Paderborn University), Dr. Maria Graziano (Lund University) and Dr. Şeyda Özçalişkan (Georgia State University)  

Extraordinary Doctorate Award, 2021

The bootstrapping (causal) role of non-referential gestures
children's cognitive and complex linguistic skills

While research in gesture studies and language development has predominantly focused on the role of referential gestures––those that visually represent the properties of a referent and closely relate to the semantic content of speech––the value of non-referential gestures has received less attention. My research aims to provide insights into how such non-referential gestures might bootstrap children's cognitive and more sophisticated linguistic abilities, such as oral narrative skills. Through experimental studies with children, my research seeks to investigate the mechanisms underlying the learning effects of these gestures on children's oral communication across various learning contexts and discourse types. Understanding the relative significance of different co-speech gestures is crucial to unraveling how gestures impact language development and learning, especially in the context of oral linguistic abilities. For instance, to address this question, I conduct gesture-based training studies.

Relevant publications:

Llanes-Coromina, J., Vilà-Giménez, I., Kushch, O., Borràs-Comes, J., & Prieto, P. (2018). Beat gestures help preschoolers recall and comprehend discourse information. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 172(8), 168–188. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2018.02.004

Vilà-Giménez, I., Igualada, A., & Prieto, P. (2019). Observing storytellers who use rhythmic beat gestures improves children’s narrative discourse performance. Developmental Psychology, 55(2), 250–262. doi: 10.1037/dev0000604

Vilà-Giménez, I., & Prieto, P. (2018). Encouraging children to produce rhythmic beat gestures leads to better narrative discourse performances. In K. Klessa, J. Bachan, A. Wagner, M. Karpiński, & D. Śledziński (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody (pp. 704–708). Poznań, Poland. doi: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-143

Vilà-Giménez, I., & Prieto, P. (2020). Encouraging kids to beat: Children's beat gesture production boosts their narrative performance. Developmental Science, 23(6), 1–14. doi: 10.1111/desc.12967

Research projects

The predictive value of referential and non-referential gestures
children's oral narrative abilities

Research concerning the multimodal communicative repertoire in infancy has indicated that referential gestures serve as both precursors and predictors of children’s onset of linguistic milestones. My research seeks to broaden the scope of investigation to further understand the mechanisms through which gestures––particularly non-referential ones––contribute to developmental trajectories. Using longitudinal data, I investigate how gestures, produced at various developmental stages and within diverse discourse genres, can predict oncoming changes in oral narrative proficiency.

Relevant publications:

Vilà-Giménez, I., Dowling, N., Demir-Lira, Ö. E., Prieto, P., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2021). The predictive value of non-referential beat gestures: Early use in parent-child interactions predicts narrative abilities at 5 years of age. Child Development, 92(6), 2335–2355. doi: 10.1111/cdev.13583

Vilà-Giménez, I., Demir-Lira, Ö. E., & Prieto, P.  (2020). The role of referential iconic and non-referential gestures in children's narrative production: Iconics signal oncoming changes in speech. Proceedings of the 7th Gesture and Speech in Interaction (GESPIN). KTH Speech, Music & Hearing and Språkbanken Tal. Stockholm, Sweden.

Gesture-speech development & Multimodal corpus analysis 

(1) Gesture-speech multimodal development in children's narrative discourse


How do children develop their multimodal linguistic strategies? This research explores the gesture–speech temporal alignment patterns in children’s narrative speech and examines the relationship between information structure (IS) and gesture referentiality in children’s narrative speech from a longitudinal perspective and by assessing the potential differences between different gestures. Part of this research has been conducted using the "Audiovisual corpus of Catalan children's narrative discourse development" (CatND)​, which consists of narrative productions carried out by 83 children at two time points in development (when children were 5-6 years old, and then two years later).



Accessible at OSF.


Relevant publications: 

Florit-Pons, J., Vilà-Giménez, I., Rohrer, P. L., & Prieto, P. (2023). Multimodal development in children's narrative speech: Evidence for tight gesture-speech temporal alignment patterns as early as 5 years old. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 66(3), 888–900doi: 10.1044/2022_JSLHR-22-00451

Florit-Pons, J., Vilà-Giménez, I., Rohrer, P. L., & Prieto, P.  (2020). The development and temporal integration of co-speech gesture in narrative speech: A longitudinal study. Proceedings of the 7th Gesture and Speech in Interaction (GESPIN). KTH Speech, Music & Hearing and Språkbanken Tal. Stockholm, Sweden.

Rohrer, P. L., Florit-Pons, J., Vilà-Giménez, I. & Prieto, P. (2022). Children use non-referential gestures in narrative speech to mark discourse elements which update common ground. Frontiers in Psychology, 12:661339. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.661339

(2) Annotation of audiovisual corpora: MultiModal MultiDimensional (M3D) labeling scheme

We have developed the MultiModal MultiDimensional (M3D) labeling system that proposes a multidimensional approach to gesture analysis, in that researchers may code for dimensions of the form of the gesture, independent of its relationship with speech prosody, or of its various pragmatic meanings. At the same time, this labeling scheme challenges a simplistic definition of non-referential (beat) gestures as biphasic rhythmic non-meaningful gestures.

Accessible at OSF.

Check the M3D training materials here!

Relevant publications: 

Prieto, P., Cravotta, A., Kushch, O., Rohrer, P., L., & Vilà-Giménez, I. (2018). Deconstructing beat gestures: a labelling proposal. In K. Klessa, J. Bachan, A. Wagner, M. Karpiński, & D. Śledziński (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody (pp. 201–205). Poznań, Poland. doi: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-41

Rohrer, P. L., Vilà-Giménez, I., Florit-Pons, J., Esteve-Gibert, N., Ren, A., Shattuck-Hufnagel, S., & Prieto, P.  (2020). The MultiModal MultiDimensional (M3D) labelling scheme for the annotation of audiovisual corpora. Proceedings of the 7th Gesture and Speech in Interaction (GESPIN). KTH Speech, Music & Hearing and Språkbanken Tal. Stockholm, Sweden.

Screenshot 2023-10-20 at

The development of children's pragmatic and prosodic abilities

We created a test that aims to assess pragmatic abilities from a multimodal perspective (e.g., by taking into account prosodic and gestural patterns). The test assessment thus focuses not only on the verbal cues (speech, prosody) but importantly, it also considers multimodal aspects of communication (facial expression, gestures, posture). 

Relevant publications:


Pronina, M., Hübscher, I., Vilà-Giménez, I., & Prieto, P. (2021). Bridging the Gap Between Prosody and Pragmatics: The Acquisition of Pragmatic Prosody in the Preschool Years and Its Relation With Theory of Mind. Frontiers in Psychology, 12:662124. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.662124

Pronina, M., Hübscher, I., Vilà-Giménez, I., & Prieto, P. (2019). A new tool to assess pragmatic prosody in children: evidence from 3- to 4-year-olds. In S. Calhoun, P. Escudero, M. Tabain, & P. Warren (Eds.), Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Melbourne, Australia 2019. Canberra, Australia: Australasian Speech Science and Technology Association Inc. 


Pronina, M., Hübscher, I., Vilà-Giménez, I., & Prieto, P. (2021, June 30). Retrieved from

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