Does Language Shape the Production and Perception of Gestures?

Y. Gu, L. Mol, M.W. Hoetjes, M.G.J. Swerts

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Does language influence the production and perception of gestures? The metaphorical use of language in representing time is deeply interlinked with actions in space, such as gestures. In Chinese, speakers can talk and gesture about time as if it were horizontal, sagittal, or vertical. In English, speakers rarely employ the vertical plane. Two experiments showed that the verbal use of vertical spatial metaphors had an online influence on the production and perception of gestures by late Chinese-English bilinguals. Participants produced more vertical gestures when talking about time references by use of vertical spatial metaphors, e.g. ‘shàng-zhōu’ (literally: ‘above week’, meaning ‘last week’), and they preferred vertical gestures to horizontal gestures when perceiving time references with vertical spatial metaphors. Gestures are not only shaped by the language specific conceptualisation, but are also sensitive to the changes in linguistic choices, both in production and perception.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsP. Bello, M. Guarini, M. McShane, B. Scassellati
PublisherAustin, TX: Cognitive Science Society
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventCogSci 2014 - Québec City, Canada
Duration: 23 Jul 201426 Jul 2014


ConferenceCogSci 2014
CityQuébec City


  • Gesture
  • Space
  • Time
  • Metaphor
  • Chinese


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