Why gestures are relevant to the bilingual mental lexicon

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Gestures, the symbolic movements speakers perform while they speak, are systematically related to speech and language in non-trivial ways. This chapter presents an overview of what gestures can and cannot tell us about the monolingual and the bilingual mental lexicon. Gesture analysis opens for a broader view of the mental lexicon, targeting the interface between conceptual, semantic and syntactic aspects of event construal, and offers new possibilities for examining how languages co-exist and interact in bilinguals beyond the level of surface forms. The first section of this chapter gives a brief introduction to gesture studies and outlines the current views on the relationship between gesture, speech, and language. The second section targets the key questions for the study of the monolingual and bilingual lexicon, and illustrates the methods employed for addressing these questions. It further exemplifies systematic cross-linguistic patterns in gestural behaviour in monolingual and bilingual contexts. The final section discusses some implications of an expanded view of the multilingual lexicon that includes gesture, and outlines directions for future inquiry.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe bilingual mental lexicon: Interdisciplinary approaches
EditorsAneta Pavlenko
PublisherMultilingual Matters
ISBN (Print)9781847691255
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Linguistics and Phonetics (015010003)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • lexicon
  • gesture
  • second language acquisition
  • bilingualism


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