Speaking but not gesturing predicts motion event memory within and across languages

In everyday life, people see, describe and remember motion events. We tested whether the type of motion event information (path or manner) encoded in speech and gesture predicts which information is remembered and if this varies across speakers of typologically different languages. We focus on intransitive motion events (e.g., a woman running to a tree) that are described differently in speech and co-speech gesture across languages, based on how these languages typologically encode manner and path information (Kita & Özyürek, 2003; Talmy, 1985). Speakers of Dutch (n = 19) and Turkish (n = 22) watched and described motion events. With a surprise (i.e. unexpected) recognition memory task, memory for manner and path components of these events was measured. Neither Dutch nor Turkish speakers’ memory for manner went above chance levels. However, we found a positive relation between path speech and path change detection: participants who described the path during encoding were more accurate at detecting changes to the path of an event during the memory task. In addition, the relation between path speech and path memory changed with native language: for Dutch speakers encoding path in speech was related to improved path memory, but for Turkish speakers no such relation existed. For both languages, co-speech gesture did not predict memory speakers. We discuss the implications of these findings for our understanding of the relations between speech, gesture, type of encoding in language and memory.
Publication type
Proceedings paper
Publication date

Share this page