By this, I mean do a person's body language and hand gestures as they speak manifest in a consistent and observable way? I'm a person who speaks with my hands very much; if I'm not moving my hands while I talk, I feel as if I'm not explaining things all the way. Are the hand gestures that I'm using as I speak as uniform as the words I would use to describe something?

  • 'Idiolect' is usually used to refer to an individual's variety of their language. As such it doesn't normally include non-linguistic aspects such as body language and hand gestures (unless you're talking about sign languages). I think you're asking if body language and hand gestures typically form a coherent, consistent, stable system, which is a good question. Aug 8, 2012 at 5:35
  • This paper suggests that "in general kinesic features are language and/or culture specific." I don't know about the 'idiokinesic' level though!
    – legatrix
    Aug 8, 2012 at 12:15
  • I'll have to check out this paper! Gaston, yes, I'm asking if they for, a stable, language-like system. Like if you analyzed videos of someone talking with their hands and corresponded the body language to words, you could then look at body language without words and get a gist of what they're saying. If kinesic features are language and culture specific, I could see them being idiosyncratic. Aug 9, 2012 at 12:07
  • I also noticed that the dominant/non-dominant hand played an important role in the underlying meaning. I would be interested to know if this applies outside of English speaking people.!Hand Diagram Dec 11, 2014 at 2:24

3 Answers 3


There's a lot of research on this---co-speech gestures convey part of the message, but convey different information than the speech they accompany. They are definitely language and culture specific, so for example a person's gestures change when they learn an L2. Google “co-speech gesture” especially as related to second language learning, or work by David McNeil, Adam Kendon, or Susan Goldin-Meadow, eg Hearing Gesture; how our hands help us think. Harvard. 2003.

At university I did a research project using Labov's methodology to test if Cospeech Gestures would qualify as sociolinguistic variables. You would have to concede that spoken language has a visual component, but given that they proved to be a perfect textbook example. Still have that paper, on a floppy disk.


This speaks more about your MBTI-personality and psychological modalities than on your idiolect. However, in some (sub)cultures gestures do convey a specific extra meaning, so there is also a sociolinguistical dimension to it.


I asked myself the same question in 2011 and simply began to observe. Extending this idea to account for internal thought as well, I noticed some patterns. I am currently presenting my idea in a college mathematical modeling course. Here is a diagram I designed (I have most of the body filled out as well)Body Diagram

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