Many clinicians agree that using gesture can be a helpful compensatory strategy in aphasia. More contentious is whether or not gestures can cue speech. Some studies suggest that they might. However, it is often difficult to isolate the effect of gesture from other components of therapy. A further question is why gestures might have a cueing effect. This question arises because of the known processing differences between gesture and language, differences that are strikingly illustrated by examples from sign language acquisition and impairment. This paper discusses some possible explanations for the cueing effect. It is argued that in order for gestures to cue words, they need to have “language like” properties. They need to express constrained, selective meanings and map consistently onto single words. This makes them different from the natural gestures that accompany speech and from the pantomimic gestures that we may also want to encourage in therapy.
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