I know that different cultures may use different (hand or other body part) gestures to convey the same meaning. But is the amount of gestures similar in number among cultures?

Some recent research, in


goes in the direction of claiming that Italian children develop a higher richness in gestures than, in this case, American children.

Being Italian, I know I have learned a lot of gestures, especially hand gestures. What about other cultures/countries?

Note that I'm talking about gestures that emphasize the message conveyed through the speech, but do not substitute it entirely (it's not like the sign language, where you use language without voice production).

  • I have a favourite anecdote on this topic. Several years ago I ventured into my first Slavic speaking country, Slovenia, and looked for used book shops. I found a small eccentric one down some steps almost under a major road in Ljubljana. The owner spoke several language but none of the languages I spoke. Between my bad German and better Spanish and his excellent German and Italian we managed to communicate. But whenever he switched to Italian out came a menagerie of gestures that he did not use for any other language! I found this delightful (-: Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 14:23
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    Was he Slovenian? In this case, this is surprising! It would mean that he learned a foreign language with all of its linguistic baggage. Maybe he had some origins in Italy and learned gestures in his family (so, as a first language) instead? Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 14:33
  • Yes he was Slovenian. He also spoke Slovenian and Russian. Perhaps also French. He was perhaps in his sixties and this was maybe five or six years ago. If I asked him about his history I no longer remember his replies. Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 14:36
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    At the risk of flooding this comments section with anecdotes: I'm American with a Japanese father and a Caucasian mother, and when I was an exchange student in Japan I often passed for a native at the school. Partway through the year an American teacher visited to teach English, and upon seeing me interact with her the Japanese teachers were shocked--afterwards one of them said, "You look so American when you talk to her!" Commented Jul 2, 2013 at 15:03


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