English/Italian Bilinguals Switch Gesture Parameters when they Switch Languages


We investigated gestural communication in early bilinguals. In particular, we tested which aspects of gestures were “transferred” from a language to another. Though transfer in spoken languages has been studied extensively, transfer in gesture is understudied. Gesture transfer can provide useful information on the cognitive architecture in bilingualism. In this study our focus is on gesture rate and gesture space in Italian/English bilinguals. Contrary to previous findings, we have no evidence of transfer. When bilinguals switch language, their gesture parameters switch accordingly. The switch of gesture (cultural) parameters such as rate and salience show that language and gesture are tightly linked. This suggests that a language and the corresponding gesture parameters might be selected in a high level processing stage at which verbal and nonverbal aspects of communication are planned together.

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