Language-Specific Gesture Patterns in Bilinguals: Differences Between L1 and L2


Bilingualism involves mastery of both speech and gesture patterns in a second language (L2). Previous studies on first language (L1) production have shown that speech and co-speech gesture form a tightly integrated system, with co-speech gesture mirroring the patterns observed in speech. However, less is known about the online effect of language on gesture in bilinguals speaking structurally different languages.
This study aimed to investigate whether advanced bilinguals follow target L2 patterns not only in speech but also in gesture, or whether they resort to L1 patterns in gesture. The study examined 23 advanced adult Spanish-English bilinguals and 23 monolingual English speakers, using 16 animated motion event scenes that included distinct manner and path components. The results showed that bilinguals’ production in L2 English followed the patterns of the target language in speech, with a greater preference for conflated packaging. However, in gesture, bilinguals used separated and conflated strategies at roughly similar rates, showing an effect of both L1 and L2 on co-speech gesture.
These findings have implications for language teaching and learning, suggesting that a focus on speech alone may not be sufficient for achieving native-like proficiency in L2. Gestures may also play a crucial role in the development of bilingualism and should be considered in language instruction. Moreover, the study highlights the complexity of bilingualism and the need for further research on the online effect of language on gestures in bilinguals.

Author Information
Armita Ghobadi, Georgia State University, United States
Samantha Emerson, Aptima, United States
Seyda Ozcaliskan, Georgia State University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: ECLL2023
Stream: Plurilingualism - Bilingualism

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon