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Previous work indicates that 1) adults with native sign language experience produce more manual co-speech gestures than monolingual non-signers, and 2) one year of ASL instruction increases gesture production in adults, but not enough to differentiate them from non-signers. To elucidate these effects, we asked early ASL–English bilinguals, fluent late second language (L2) signers (≥ 10 years of experience signing), and monolingual non-signers to retell a story depicted in cartoon clips to a monolingual partner. Early and L2 signers produced manual gestures at higher rates compared to non-signers, particularly iconic gestures, and used a greater variety of handshapes. These results indicate susceptibility of the co-speech gesture system to modification by extensive sign language experience, regardless of the age of acquisition. L2 signers produced more ASL signs and more handshape varieties than early signers, suggesting less separation between the ASL lexicon and the co-speech gesture system for L2 signers.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, volume 23, issue 3, in 2019 following peer review. This article may not exactly replicate the final published version. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at

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UK Cognitive Linguistics Association

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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