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Gesture restriction affects French–English bilinguals’ speech only in French*



Some studies have shown that bilinguals gesture more than monolinguals. One possible reason for the high gesture frequency is that bilinguals rely on gestures even more than monolinguals in constructing their message. To test this, we asked French–English bilingual adults and English monolingual adults to tell a story twice; on one occasion they could move their hands and on the other they could not. If gestures aid bilinguals in information packaging and/or lexical access, bilinguals should tell shorter stories with fewer word types than monolinguals when their gestures are restricted. In fact, we found that gesture restriction affected bilinguals’ stories only in French, the language in which they used more gestures. These findings challenge the interpretation that bilinguals gesture frequently as an aid in constructing their message. We argue that cultural norms in gesture frequency interact with gesture use in message construction.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Angélique Laurent, Département de psychoéducation, Faculté d’éducation, Université de Sherbrooke, 2500, boul. de l’Université, Sherbrooke (Québec) J1K 2R1, Canada


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We would like to thank all the participants, the research assistants, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on an earlier version of the paper. This study received funding from a grant to the second author from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.



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