Using space to talk and gesture about numbers: Evidence from the TV News Archive

Bodo Winter, Marcus Perlman, Teenie Matlock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
341 Downloads (Pure)


This paper examines naturally occurring gestures produced in descriptions of numbers and quantities in television newscasts. The results of our analysis show that gestures reveal the metaphorical and spatial nature of numerical thinking. That is, speakers’ hands mimic known spatial mappings between space and quantity, including horizontal mappings (smaller quantities left, larger quantities right), vertical mappings (smaller quantities down, larger quantities up) and sizebased mappings (smaller quantities “small”, larger quantities “large”). Speakers frequently switch between these different spatial mappings, and they sometimes combine them within the same gesture. This points to the flexibility of how metaphors can become expressed in gesture, and how domains such as number and quantity can be conceptualized through multiple compatible source domains.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-408
Number of pages32
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • gesture
  • math
  • numerical cognition
  • metaphor
  • mathematics
  • number
  • quantity
  • TV news


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