Gesture influences the processing of figurative language in non-native speakers: ERP evidence

Agustín Ibáñez, Facundo Manes, Josefina Escobar, Natalia Trujillo, Paola Andreucci, Esteban Hurtado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Gestures should play a role in second language comprehension, given their importance in conveying contextual information. In this study, the N400 and the LPC were evaluated in a task involving the observation of videos showing utterances accompanied by gestures. Students studying advanced (G-High participants) and basic German (G-Low participants) as a second language were investigated. The utterance-gesture congruence and metaphoric meaning of content were manipulated during the task. As in previous ERP reports with native speakers, metaphorical expressions were sensitive to gestures. In G-Low participants, no modulation in the 300-500 ms window was observed, and only a modest effect was observed for the 500-700 ms window. More subtle differences of verbal expression were not processed in this group. Consistent with previous reports of the same paradigm with native speakers, the N400 from G-High group discriminated both congruent and incongruent gestures as well as literal and metaphorical sentences. Our results suggest that semantic processing is robust in the learning of a second language, although the amplitude modulation and latency of ERPs might depend on the speaker's proficiency level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-52
Number of pages5
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 26 Feb 2010


  • Contextual modulation
  • ERP
  • Gesture
  • LPC
  • Metaphor
  • N400
  • Second language


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