Bilingualism and Gesture



Everybody gestures when they speak. And since everyone is bilingual (cf. Chapter 1), the gestures bilinguals produce and see are highly relevant to the study of bilingual practices. The bodily movements we perform when we express ourselves are part of our linguistic and communicative behavior, and therefore a number of theoretical issues that apply to the study of bilingualism in the spoken domain also apply to the multimodal behaviors of bilinguals: psy­cholinguistic and sociolinguistic aspects of language acquisition, use, and loss in production and comprehension, issues of cross-linguistic interaction, language-mixing and code-switching, etc. This chapter will outline some areas where the study of gesture and bilingualism meet.

To clarify the terminology and focus at the outset, this chapter discusses gesture use in child and adult speakers with knowledge of more than one language. In the study of adults in particular, a distinction is often made between second-language learners/users and (functional) bilinguals, resting on differences in acquisition history, proficiency or fluency in a foreign or second language (cf. Chapter 6). This distinction will not be maintained here. Although the majority of studies reviewed are of second- or foreign language speakers (Cook 2002), because their gesture practices have received most attention, the term bilingual is adopted throughout in order to include as much of the literature ...

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