Bilingual mothers and children gesture differently across native and second languages

Sirada Rochanavibhata*, Jessica Yung Chieh Chuang, Viorica Marian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children from bilingual families are typically exposed to more diverse communication practices compared to those from monolingual households. Characterizing bilinguals’ gesture use can provide insight into children’s developmental trajectory in their two languages and the cross-linguistic effects of scaffolding from adults. Gestural patterns of Thai-English bilingual mothers and their preschool-age children were examined in three communicative tasks (prompted reminiscing, book sharing, and toy play) during two sessions (one in Thai and one in English). Gestures were categorized into representational, deictic, conventional, beat, and all. The results revealed that, as early as preschool, bilinguals gesticulate differently in their two languages. The findings highlight the importance of evaluating bilinguals’ nonverbal communication in both languages for a comprehensive picture of their linguistic profiles, especially among speakers of understudied languages. Our understanding of how gestures and speech function as an integrated communicative system would be incomplete without the inclusion of linguistic populations that are underrepresented in research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-230
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Monolingual and Bilingual Speech
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023



ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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