Laurent A, Nicoladis E. (2015). Gesture restriction affects French–English bilinguals’ speech only in French. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. 18(2): 340-349.
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.