Watch: Why We Use Hand Gestures When Speaking

A recent episode on Tom Scott’s YouTube channel (previously The Language Files) explains why we use hand gestures while speaking. Linguists have studied this phenomenon for a long time and found that there are five different categories in which they can categorize these so-called paralinguistic movements:

  • iconic, those that represent literal objects like a flat surface
  • metaphoric, that symbolize concepts like “before” and “after”
  • deictic, when you point to yourself or someone
  • pragmatic, like offering a seat
  • beat, which follows the rhythm of speech

Watch the video below to learn more about the hand gestures we make and some symbols that we commonly use without knowing they can have another meaning in other cultures. Scott will walk you through everything you need to know on this topic.