Gesture and language in aphasia

On August 12, 2017 by Wolfram Hinzen

The relation between language and gesture has for quite some time been investigated in aphasia. Here a picture seems to be emerging: in aphasia, use of iconic gestures can increase as a compensatory mechanism for impaired language. However, there seems to be evidence that differences in this regard between aphasics and non-brain damaged people emerge particularly with word finding difficulties, not during normal speech. In this sense, iconic gesture and lexical concepts are linked. As aphasia gets more severe, the informative/conceptual content of the compensatory gestures gets less. Amazingly, moreover, healthy people seem to use different iconic/descriptive gestures depending on which words exist in their languages. All of this raises the question whether, if there is no lexicon, there are no (descriptive) gestures either – obviously relevant for the nonverbal autism case!

See for example: Dipper et al., The language–gesture connection: Evidence from aphasia. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, August 2015; 29(8–10): 748–763.

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Cocks et al. The impact of impaired semantic knowledge on spontaneous iconic gesture production. Aphasiology, 2013 Vol. 27, No. 9, 1050–1069

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