Gesture during speech in first and second language: Implications for lexical retrieval

Uri Hadar, Rivka Dar, Amit Teitelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many of the hand-arm gestures that accompany speech–especially wide and complex (‘ideational’) gestures–seem to be associated with speech dysfluencies and, it has been suggested, may facilitate word retrieval. Such facilitation may originate in either semantic or phonological processes. The present study has investigated this issue by looking at ideational gestures in five subjects who had Hebrew as first (L1) and English as second (L2) language. Their performance was monitored during speech in L1 and L2, as well as during a-vista translation from L1 to L2 and vice versa. It has been assumed that speech in L2 involves more lexical search than speech in L1 on both semantic and phonological levels. By contrast, translation between languages probably puts a heavier load on phonological processes than on semantic processes. This implies that speech in L2 should generate the highest rates of ideational gestures; translation into L2 should show the lowest gesture rates, while speech in L1 should show intermediate rates. These predictions were borne out by our results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-165
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • A-vista translation
  • Conceptual processes
  • Iconic gesture
  • Picture description
  • Word retrieval


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