Neighboring Theories

Sign language

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A sign language (also signed language) is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns (manual communication, body language) to convey meaning—simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker's thoughts.

Wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages develop. Their complex spatial grammars are markedly different from the grammars of spoken languages.[1][2] Hundreds of sign languages are in use around the world and are at the cores of local deaf cultures. Some sign languages have obtained some form of legal recognition, while others have no status at all.


One of the earliest written records of a signed language occurred in the fifth century BC, in Plato's Cratylus, where Socrates says: "If we hadn't a voice or a tongue, and wanted to express things to one another, wouldn't we try to make signs by moving our hands, head, and the rest of our body, just as dumb people do at present?"[3] It seems that groups of deaf people have used signed languages throughout history.

In 2nd-century Judea, the recording in the Mishnah tractate Gittin[4] stipulated that for the purpose of commercial transactions "A deaf-mute can hold a conversation by means of gestures. Ben Bathyra says that he may also do so by means of lip-motions." This teaching was well known in Jewish society where study of Mishnah was compulsory from childhood.

In 1620, Juan Pablo Bonet published Reducción de las letras y arte para enseñar a hablar a los mudos (‘Reduction of letters and art for teaching mute people to speak’) in Madrid.[5] It is considered the first modern treatise of Phonetics and Logopedia, setting out a method of oral education for the deaf people by means of the use of manual signs, in form of a manual alphabet to improve the communication of the mute or deaf people.

From the language of signs of Bonet, Charles-Michel de l'Épée published his manual alphabet in the 18th century, which has survived basically unchanged in France and North America until the present time.

Sign languages have often evolved around schools for deaf students. In 1755, Abbé de l'Épée founded the first school for deaf children in Paris; Laurent Clerc was arguably its most famous graduate. Clerc went to the United States with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet to found the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1817.[6] Gallaudet's son, Edward Miner Gallaudet founded a school for the deaf in 1857 in Washington, D.C., which in 1864 became the National Deaf-Mute College. Now called Gallaudet University, it is still the only liberal arts university for deaf people in the world.

In popular thought, each spoken language has a sign language counterpart. There is a sense in which this is true, in as much as a linguistic population generally contains Deaf members who often generate a sign language. In much the same way that geographical or cultural forces isolate populations and lead to the generation of different and distinct spoken languages, the same forces operate on signed languages and so they tend to maintain their identities through time in roughly the same areas of influence as the local spoken languages. This occurs even though sign languages generally do not have any linguistic relation to the spoken languages of the lands in which they arise. In fact, the correlation between signed and spoken languages is much more complex than commonly thought, and due to the geographic influences just mentioned, varies depending on the country more than the spoken language. For example, the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand all have English as their dominant language, but American Sign Language (ASL), used in the US and most parts of Canada, is derived from French Sign Language whereas the other three countries sign dialects of British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Language.[7] Similarly, the sign languages of Spain and Mexico are very different, despite Spanish being the national language in each country,[8] and the sign language used in Bolivia is based on ASL rather than any sign language that is used in a Spanish-speaking country.[9] Variations also arise within a 'national' sign language which don't necessarily correspond to dialect differences in the national spoken language; rather, they can usually be correlated to the geographic location of residential schools for the deaf.[10][11]

International Sign, formerly known as Gestuno, is used mainly at international Deaf events such as the Deaflympics and meetings of the World Federation of the Deaf. Recent studies claim that while International Sign is a kind of a pidgin, they conclude that it is more complex than a typical pidgin and indeed is more like a full signed language.[12]

Linguistics of sign

In linguistic terms, sign languages are as rich and complex as any oral language, despite the common misconception that they are not "real languages". Professional linguists have studied many sign languages and found that they exhibit the fundamental properties that exist in all languages.[13][14]

Sign languages are not mime – in other words, signs are conventional, often arbitrary and do not necessarily have a visual relationship to their referent, much as most spoken language is not onomatopoeic. While iconicity is more systematic and widespread in sign languages than in spoken ones, the difference is not categorical.[15] The visual modality allows the human preference for close connections between form and meaning, present but suppressed in spoken languages, to be more fully expressed.[16] This does not mean that signed languages are a visual rendition of an oral language. They have complex grammars of their own, and can be used to discuss any topic, from the simple and concrete to the lofty and abstract.

Sign languages, like oral languages, organize elementary, meaningless units (phonemes; once called cheremes in the case of sign languages) into meaningful semantic units. Like in spoken languages, these meaningless units are represented as (combinations of) features, although often also crude distinctions are made in terms of Handshape (or Handform), Orientation, Location (or Place of Articulation), Movement, and Non-manual expression.

Common linguistic features of many sign languages are the occurrence of classifiers, a high degree of inflection, and a topic-comment syntax. More than spoken languages, sign languages can convey meaning by simultaneous means, e.g. by the use of space, two manual articulators, and the signer's face and body. Though there is still much discussion on the topic of iconicity in Signed Languages, classifiers are generally perceived to be highly iconic, as these complex constructions "function as predicates that may express any or all of the following: motion, position, stative-descriptive, or handling information" [17] It needs to be noted that the term classifier is not used by every one working on these constructions. Across the field of sign language linguistics the same constructions are also referred with other terms.

Sign languages' relationships with oral languages

A common misconception is that sign languages are somehow dependent on oral languages, that is, that they are oral language spelled out in gesture, or that they were invented by hearing people. Hearing teachers in deaf schools, such as Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, are often incorrectly referred to as “inventors” of sign language.

Although not part of sign languages, elements from the Manual alphabets (fingerspelling) may be used in signed communication, mostly for proper names and concepts for which no sign is available at that moment. Elements from the manual alphabet can sometimes be a source of new signs (e.g. initialized signs, in which the shape of the hand represents the first letter of the word for the sign).

On the whole, sign languages are independent of oral languages and follow their own paths of development. For example, British Sign Language and American Sign Language are quite different and mutually unintelligible, even though the hearing people of Britain and America share the same oral language. The grammars of sign languages do usually not resemble that of spoken languages used in the same geographical area; in fact, in terms of syntax, ASL shares more with spoken Japanese than it does with English.[18]

Similarly, countries which use a single oral language throughout may have two or more sign languages; whereas an area that contains more than one oral language might use only one sign language. South Africa, which has 11 official oral languages and a similar number of other widely used oral languages is a good example of this. It has only one sign language with two variants due to its history of having two major educational institutions for the deaf which have served different geographic areas of the country.

Spatial grammar and simultaneity

Sign languages exploit the unique features of the visual medium (sight), but may also exploit tactile features (tactile sign languages). Oral language is by and large linear; only one sound can be made or received at a time. Sign language, on the other hand, is visual and, hence, can use simultaneous expression, although this is limited articulatorily and linguistically. Visual perception allows processing of simultaneous information.

One way in which many signed languages take advantage of the spatial nature of the language is through the use of classifiers. Classifiers allow a signer to spatially show a referent's type, size, shape, movement, or extent.

The large focus on the possibility of simultaneity in signed languages in contrast to spoken languages is sometimes exaggerated, though. The use of two manual articulators is subject to motor constraints, resulting in a large extent of symmetry[19] or signing with one articulator only.

Non-manual signs

Signed languages convey much of their prosody through non-manual signs. Postures or movements of the body, head, eyebrows, eyes, cheeks, and mouth are used in various combinations to show several categories of information, including lexical distinction, grammatical structure, adjectival or adverbial content, and discourse functions.

In ASL, some signs have required facial components that distinguish them from other signs. An example of this sort of lexical distinction is the sign translated 'not yet', which requires that the tongue touch the lower lip and that the head rotate from side to side, in addition to the manual part of the sign. Without these features it would be interpreted as 'late'.[20]

Grammatical structure that is shown through non-manual signs includes questions, negation, relative clauses,[21] boundaries between sentences,[22] and the argument structure of some verbs.[23] ASL and BSL use similar non-manual marking for yes/no questions, for example. They are shown through raised eyebrows and a forward head tilt.[24][25]

Some adjectival and adverbial information is conveyed through non-manual signs, but what these signs are varies from language to language. For instance, in ASL a slightly open mouth with the tongue relaxed and visible in the corner of the mouth means 'carelessly,' but a similar sign in BSL means 'boring' or 'unpleasant.'[25]

Discourse functions such as turn taking are largely regulated through head movement and eye gaze. Since the addressee in a signed conversation must be watching the signer, a signer can avoid letting the other person have a turn by not looking at them, or can indicate that the other person may have a turn by making eye contact.[26]

Iconicity in signed languages

The first studies on iconicity in ASL were published in the late 1970s, and early 1980s. Many early signed language linguists rejected the notion that iconicity was an important aspect of the language.[27][28] Though they recognized that certain aspects of the language seemed iconic, they considered this to be merely extralinguistic, a property which did not influence the language. Frishberg (1975) wrote a very influential paper addressing the relationship between arbitrariness and iconicity in ASL. She concluded that though originally present in many signs, iconicity is degraded over time through the application of grammatical processes. In other words, over time, the natural processes of regularization in the language obscures any iconically motivated features of the sign.

Some researchers have suggested that the properties of ASL give it a clear advantage in terms of learning and memory.[29] Brown, a psychologist by trade, was one of the first to document this benefit. In his study, Brown found that when children were taught signs that had high levels of iconic mapping they were significantly more likely to recall the signs in a later memory task than when they were taught signs that had little or no iconic properties.

The pioneers of sign language linguistics were yoked with the task of trying to prove that ASL was a real language and not merely a collection of gestures or “English on the hands.” One of the prevailing beliefs at this time was that ‘real languages’ must consist of an arbitrary relationship between form and meaning. Thus, if ASL consisted of signs that had iconic form-meaning relationship, it could not be considered a real language. As a result, iconicity as a whole was largely neglected in research of signed languages.

The cognitive linguistics perspective rejects a more traditional definition of iconicity as a relationship between linguistic form and a concrete, real-world referent. Rather it is a set of selected correspondences between the form and meaning of a sign.[30] In this view, iconicity is grounded in a language user’s mental representation (“construal” in Cognitive Grammar). It is defined as a fully grammatical and central aspect of a signed language rather than periphery phenomena.[31]

The cognitive linguistics perspective allows for some signs to be fully iconic or partially iconic given the number of correspondences between the possible parameters of form and meaning.[32] In this way, the Israeli Sign Language (ISL) sign for ASK has parts of its form that are iconic (“movement away from the mouth” means “something coming from the mouth”), and parts that are arbitrary (the handshape, and the orientation).[33]

Many signs have metaphoric mappings as well as iconic or metonymic ones. For these signs there are three way correspondences between a form, a concrete source and an abstract target meaning. The ASL sign LEARN has this three way correspondence. The abstract target meaning is “learning.” The concrete source is putting objects into the head from books. The form is a grasping hand moving from an open palm to the forehead. The iconic correspondence is between form and concrete source. The metaphorical correspondence is between concrete source and abstract target meaning. Because the concrete source is connected to two correspondences linguistics refer to metaphorical signs as “double mapped.” [30][32][33]

Classification of sign languages

See also: List of sign languages

Although sign languages have emerged naturally in deaf communities alongside or among spoken languages, they are unrelated to spoken languages and have different grammatical structures at their core.

There has been very little historical linguistic research on sign languages, apart from a few comparisons of lexical data of related sign languages. Sign language typology is still in its infancy, since extensive knowledge about sign language grammars is still scarce. Although various cross-linguistic studies have been undertaken, it is difficult to use these for typological purposes. Sign languages may spread through migration, through the establishment of deaf schools (often by foreign-trained educators), or due to political domination.

Language contact and creolization is common, making clear family classifications difficult – it is often unclear whether lexical similarity is due to borrowing or a common parent language, or whether there was one or several parent languages. Contact occurs between sign languages, between signed and spoken languages (contact sign), and between sign languages and gestural systems used by the broader community. One author has speculated that Adamorobe Sign Language may be related to the "gestural trade jargon used in the markets throughout West Africa", in vocabulary and areal features including prosody and phonetics.[34]

The only comprehensive classification along these lines going beyond a simple listing of languages dates back to 1991.[37] The classification is based on the 69 sign languages from the 1988 edition of Ethnologue that were known at the time of the 1989 conference on sign languages in Montreal and 11 more languages the author added after the conference.[38]

Wittmann classification of sign languages






















1 or 2







In his classification, the author distinguishes between primary and auxiliary sign languages[41] as well as between single languages and names that are thought to refer to more than one language.[42] The prototype-A class of languages includes all those sign languages that seemingly cannot be derived from any other language.[39] Prototype-R languages are languages that are remotely modelled on a prototype-A language (in many cases thought to have been FSL) by a process Kroeber (1940) called "stimulus diffusion".[40] The families of BSL, DGS, JSL, LSF (and possibly LSG) were the products of creolization and relexification of prototype languages.[43] Creolization is seen as enriching overt morphology in sign languages, as compared to reducing overt morphology in vocal languages.[44]

Typology of sign languages

See also: Linguistic typology

Linguistic typology (going back on Edward Sapir) is based on word structure and distinguishes morphological classes such as agglutinating/concatenating, inflectional, polysynthetic, incorporating, and isolating ones.

Sign languages vary in syntactic typology as there are different word orders in different languages. For example, ÖGS is Subject-Object-Verb while ASL is Object-Subject-Verb. Correspondence to the surrounding spoken languages is not improbable.

Brentari[45][46] classifies sign languages as a whole group determined by the medium of communication (visual instead of auditive) as one group with the features monosyllabic and polymorphemic. That means, that via one syllable (i.e. one word, one sign) several morphemes can be expressed, like subject and object of a verb determine the direction of the verb's movement (inflection).

Acquisition of signed languages

See also: Language acquisition

Children who are exposed to a signed language from birth will acquire it, just as hearing children acquire their native spoken language.[47]

The acquisition of non-manual features follows an interesting pattern: When a word that always has a particular non-manual feature associated with it (such as a wh- question word) is learned, the non-manual aspects are attached to the word but don’t have the flexibility associated with adult use. At a certain point the non-manual features are dropped and the word is produced with no facial expression. After a few months the non-manuals reappear, this time being used the way adult signers would use them.[48]

Written forms of sign languages

Sign languages do not have a traditional or formal written form. Many Deaf people do not see a need to write their own language.[49]

Several ways to statively represent sign languages have been developed.

  • The Stokoe notation, devised by Dr. William Stokoe for his 1965 Dictionary of American Sign Language, is an abstract phonemic notation system. Designed specifically for manual expression, it has no way of expressing facial expression. However, his was designed for research, not general-use.
  • The Hamburg Notation System (HamNoSys), developed in the early 1990s, is a detailed phonetic system, not designed for any one sign language, and intended as a transcription system for researchers rather than as a practical script.
  • David J. Peterson has attempted to create a phonetic transcription system for signing that is ASCII-friendly known as the Sign Language International Phonetic Alphabet (SLIPA).
  • SignWriting, developed by Valerie Sutton in 1974, is a system for representing signed languages phonetically (including mouthing, facial expression and dynamics of movement). The script is sometimes used for detailed research, language documentation, as well as publishing texts and works in signed languages.
  • Si5s is another orthography which is largely phonemic. However, a few signs are logographs and/or ideographs due to regional variation in sign languages.
  • ASL-phabet is a system designed by Dr. Sam Supalla which uses a minimalist collection of symbols in the order of Handshape-Location-Movement. Many signs can be written the same way (homograph).

So far, there is no formal or consensus-wide acceptance of one or another of the aforementioned orthographies.

Sign perception

For a native signer, sign perception influences how the mind makes sense of their visual language experience. For example, a handshape may vary based on the other signs made before or after it, but these variations are arranged in perceptual categories during its development. The mind detects handshape contrasts but groups similar handshapes together in one category.[50][51][52] Different handshapes are stored in other categories. The mind ignores some of the similarities between different perceptual categories, at the same time preserving the visual information within each perceptual category of handshape variation.

Sign languages in society

Telecommunications facilitated signing

One of the first demonstrations of the ability for telecommunications to help sign language users communicate with each other occurred when AT&T's videophone (trademarked as the "Picturephone") was introduced to the public at the 1964 New York World's Fair – two deaf users were able to freely communicate with each other between the fair and another city.[53] Various organizations have also conducted research on signing via videotelephony.

Sign language interpretation services via Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) or a Video Relay Service (VRS) are useful in the present-day where one of the parties is deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech-impaired (mute) and the other is Hearing. In VRI, a sign-language user and a Hearing person are in one location, and the interpreter is in another (rather than being in the same room with the clients as would normally be the case). The interpreter communicates with the sign-language user via a video telecommunications link, and with the Hearing person by an audio link. In VRS, the sign-language user, the interpreter, and the Hearing person are in three separate locations, thus allowing the two clients to talk to each other on the phone through the interpreter.

In such cases the interpretation flow is normally between a signed language and an oral language that are customarily used in the same country, such as French Sign Language (FSL) to spoken French, Spanish Sign Language (SSL) to spoken Spanish, British Sign Language (BSL) to spoken English, and American Sign Language (ASL) also to spoken English (since BSL and ASL are completely distinct), etc. Multilingual sign language interpreters, who can also translate as well across principal languages (such as to and from SSL, to and from spoken English), are also available, albeit less frequently. Such activities involve considerable effort on the part of the interpreter, since sign languages are distinct natural languages with their own construction and syntax, different from the oral language used in the same country.

With video interpreting, sign language interpreters work remotely with live video and audio feeds, so that the interpreter can see the deaf party, and converse with the hearing party, and vice versa. Much like telephone interpreting, video interpreting can be used for situations in which no on-site interpreters are available. However, video interpreting cannot be used for situations in which all parties are speaking via telephone alone. VRI and VRS interpretation requires all parties to have the necessary equipment. Some advanced equipment enables interpreters to remotely control the video camera, in order to zoom in and out or to point the camera toward the party that is signing.

Home sign

Sign systems are sometimes developed within a single family. For instance, when hearing parents with no sign language skills have a deaf child, an informal system of signs will naturally develop, unless repressed by the parents. The term for these mini-languages is home sign (sometimes homesign or kitchen sign).[54]

Home sign arises due to the absence of any other way to communicate. Within the span of a single lifetime and without the support or feedback of a community, the child naturally invents signals to facilitate the meeting of his or her communication needs. Although this kind of system is grossly inadequate for the intellectual development of a child and it comes nowhere near meeting the standards linguists use to describe a complete language, it is a common occurrence. No type of Home Sign is recognized as an official language.

Use of signs in hearing communities

Gesture is a typical component of spoken languages. More elaborate systems of manual communication have developed in places or situations where speech is not practical or permitted, such as cloistered religious communities, scuba diving, television recording studios, loud workplaces, stock exchanges, baseball, hunting (by groups such as the Kalahari bushmen), or in the game Charades.

In Rugby Union the referee uses a limited but defined set of signs to communicate his/her decisions to the spectators.

Military and police forces also use silent hand and arm signals to signal instructions/observations in combat situations.[55]

Recently, there has been a movement to teach and encourage the use of sign language with toddlers before they learn to talk, because such young children can communicate effectively with signed languages well before they are physically capable of speech. This is typically referred to as Baby Sign. There is also movement to use signed languages more with non-deaf and non-hard-of-hearing children with other causes of speech impairment or delay, for the obvious benefit of effective communication without dependence on speech.

On occasion, where the prevalence of deaf people is high enough, a deaf sign language has been taken up by an entire local community. Famous examples of this include Martha's Vineyard Sign Language in the USA, Kata Kolok in a village in Bali, Adamorobe Sign Language in Ghana and Yucatec Maya sign language in Mexico. In such communities deaf people are not socially disadvantaged.

Many Australian Aboriginal sign languages arose in a context of extensive speech taboos, such as during mourning and initiation rites. They are or were especially highly developed among the Warlpiri, Warumungu, Dieri, Kaytetye, Arrernte, and Warlmanpa, and are based on their respective spoken languages.

A pidgin sign language arose among tribes of American Indians in the Great Plains region of North America (see Plains Indian Sign Language). It was used to communicate among tribes with different spoken languages. There are especially users today among the Crow, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. Unlike other sign languages developed by hearing people, it shares the spatial grammar of deaf sign languages.

Gestural theory of human language origins

The gestural theory states that vocal human language developed from a gestural sign language.[56] An important question for gestural theory is what caused the shift to vocalization.[57]

Primate use of sign language

There have been several notable examples of scientists teaching non-human primates basic signs in order to communicate with humans,[58] but the degree to which these basic signs relate to human sign language and the ability of the animals in question to actually communicate is a matter of substantial controversy and dispute.[59][60] Notable examples include:

Deaf communities and deaf culture

Deaf communities are very widespread in the world and the culture which comprises within them is very rich. Sometimes it even does not intersect with the culture of the hearing population because of different impediments for hard-of-hearing people to perceive aurally conveyed information.


  1. ^ Stokoe, William C. (1976). Dictionary of American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles. Linstok Press. ISBN 0-932130-01-1.
  2. ^ Stokoe, William C. (1960). Sign language structure: An outline of the visual communication systems of the American deaf. Studies in linguistics: Occasional papers (No. 8). Buffalo: Dept. of Anthropology and Linguistics, University at Buffalo.
  3. ^ Bauman, Dirksen (2008). Open your eyes: Deaf studies talking. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN0816646198.
  4. ^ Babylonian Talmud Gittin folio 59a
  5. ^ Pablo Bonet, J. de (1620) Reduction de las letras y Arte para enseñar á ablar los Mudos. Ed. Abarca de Angulo, Madrid, ejemplar facsímil accesible en la [1], online (spanish) scan of book, held at University of Sevilla, Spain
  6. ^ Canlas (2006).
  7. ^
  8. ^; Steve and Dianne Parkhurst, personal communication
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  10. ^ Lucas, Ceil, Robert Bayley and Clayton Valli. 2001. Sociolinguistic Variation in American Sign Language. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
  11. ^ Lucas, Ceil, Bayley, Robert, Clayton Valli. 2003. What's Your Sign for PIZZA? An Introduction to Variation in American Sign Language. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
  12. ^ Supalla, Ted & Rebecca Webb (1995). "The grammar of international sign: A new look at pidgin languages." In: Emmorey, Karen & Judy Reilly (eds). Language, gesture, and space. (International Conference on Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research) Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, pp. 333–352; McKee R. & J. Napier J. (2002). "Interpreting in International Sign Pidgin: an analysis." Journal of Sign Language Linguistics 5(1).
  13. ^ Klima, Edward S.; & Bellugi, Ursula. (1979). The signs of language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-80795-2.
  14. ^ Sandler, Wendy; & Lillo-Martin, Diane. (2006). Sign Language and Linguistic Universals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  15. ^ Johnston (1989).
  16. ^ Taub (2001).
  17. ^ Emmorey, K. (2002). Language, cognition and the brain: Insights from sign language research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  18. ^ Nakamura (1995).
  19. ^ Battison, Robbin (1978). Lexical Borrowing in American Sign Language. Silver Spring, MD: Linstok Press.
  20. ^ Liddell, Scott K. (2003). Grammar, Gesture, and Meaning in American Sign Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  21. ^ Boudreault, Patrick; Mayberry, Rachel I. (2006). "Grammatical processing in American Sign Language: Age of first-language acquisition effects in relation to syntactic structure". Language and Cognitive Processes 21: 608–635. doi:1080/01690960500139363.
  22. ^ Fenlon, Jordan; Denmark, Tanya; Campbell, Ruth, Woll, Bencie (2008). "Seeing sentence boundaries". Sign Language & Linguistics 10 (2): 177–200.
  23. ^ Thompson, Robin; Emmorey, Karen; Kluender, Robert (2006). "The Relationship between Eye Gaze and Verb Agreement in American Sign Language: An Eye-tracking Study". Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 24: 571–604. doi:1007/s11049-005-1829-y.
  24. ^ Baker, Charlotte, and Dennis Cokely (1980). American Sign Language: A teacher's resource text on grammar and culture. Silver Spring, MD: T.J. Publishers.
  25. ^ a b Sutton-Spence, Rachel, and Bencie Woll (1998). The linguistics of British Sign Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  26. ^ Baker, Charlotte (1977). Regulators and turn-taking in American Sign Language discourse, in Lynn Friedman, On the other hand: New perspectives on American Sign Language. New York: Academic Press
  27. ^ Frishberg (1975)
  28. ^ Klima & Bellugi (1979)
  29. ^ Brown 1980
  30. ^ a b Taub (2001)
  31. ^ Wilcox (2004)
  32. ^ a b Wilcox (2000)
  33. ^ a b Meir (2010)
  34. ^ Frishberg (1987). See also the classification of Wittmann (1991) for the general issue of jargons as prototypes in sign language genesis.
  35. ^ See Gordon (2008), under nsr [2] and sfs [3].
  36. ^ Fischer, Susan D. et al. (2010). "Variation in East Asian Sign Language Structures" in Sign Languages, p. 499. at Google Books
  37. ^ Henri Wittmann (1991). The classification is said to be typological satisfying Jakobson's condition of genetic interpretability.
  38. ^ Wittmann's classification went into Ethnologue's database where it is still cited.[4] The subsequent edition of Ethnologue in 1992 went up to 81 sign languages and ultimately adopting Wittmann's distinction between primary and alternates sign langues (going back ultimately to Stokoe 1974) and, more vaguely, some other of his traits. The 2008 version of the 15th edition of Ethnologue is now up to 124 sign languages.
  39. ^ a b These are Adamorobe Sign Language, Armenian Sign Language, Australian Aboriginal sign languages, Hindu mudra, the Monastic sign languages, Martha's Vineyard Sign Language, Plains Indian Sign Language, Urubú-Kaapor Sign Language, Chinese Sign Language, Indo-Pakistani Sign Language (Pakistani SL is said to be R, but Indian SL to be A, though they are the same language), Japanese Sign Language, and maybe the various Thai Hill-Country sign languages, French Sign Language, Lyons Sign Language, and Nohya Maya Sign Language. Wittmann also includes, bizarrely, Chinese characters and Egyptian hieroglyphs.
  40. ^ a b These are Providencia Island, Kod Tangan Bahasa Malaysia (manually signed Malay), German, Ecuadoran, Salvadoran, Gestuno, Indo-Pakistani (Pakistani SL is said to be R, but Indian SL to be A, though they are the same language), Kenyan, Brazilian, Spanish, Nepali (with possible admixture), Penang, Rennellese, Saudi, the various Sri Lankan sign languages, and perhaps BSL, Peruvian, Tijuana, Venezuelan, and Nicaraguan sign languages.
  41. ^ Wittmann adds that this taxonomic criterion is not really applicable with any scientific rigor: Auxiliary sign languages, to the extent that they are full-fledged natural languages (and therefore included in his survey) at all, are mostly used by the deaf as well, and some primary sign languages (such as ASL and Adamorobe Sign Language) have acquired auxiliary usages.
  42. ^ Wittmann includes in this class Australian Aboriginal sign languages (at least 14 different languages), Monastic sign language, Thai Hill-Country sign languages (possibly including languages in Vietnam and Laos), and Sri Lankan sign languages (14 deaf schools with different sign languages).
  43. ^ Wittmann's references on the subject, besides his own work on creolization and relexification in vocal languages, include papers such as Fischer (1974, 1978), Deuchar (1987) and Judy Kegl's pre-1991 work on creolization in sign languages.
  44. ^ Wittmann's explanation for this is that models of acquisition and transmission for sign languages are not based on any typical parent-child relation model of direct transmission which is inducive to variation and change to a greater extent. He notes that sign creoles are much more common than vocal creoles and that we can't know on how many successive creolizations prototype-A sign languages are based prior to their historicity.[clarification needed]
  45. ^ Brentari, Diane (1998): A prosodic model of sign language phonology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; cited in Hohenberger (2007) on p. 349
  46. ^ Brentari, Diane (2002): Modality differences in sign language phonology and morphophonemics. In: Richard P. Meier, Kearsy Cormier, and David Quinto-Pozos (eds.), 35-36; cited in Hohenberger (2007) on p. 349
  47. ^ Emmorey, Karen (2002). Language, Cognition, and the Brain. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  48. ^ Reilly, Judy (2005). "How Faces Come to Serve Grammar: The Development of Nonmanual Morphology in American Sign Language". In Brenda Schick, Marc Marschack, and Patricia Elizabeth Spencer. Advances in the Sign Language Development of Deaf Children. Cary, NC: Oxford University Press. pp. 262–290. ISBN9780198039969.
  49. ^ Hopkins, Jason. 2008. Choosing how to write sign language: a sociolinguistic perspective. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 192:75–90.
  50. ^
  51. ^ Kuhl, P. (1991). Human adults and human infants show a ‘perceptual magnet effect’ for the prototypes of speech categories, monkeys do not. Perception and Psychophysics, 50, 93-107.
  52. ^ Morford, J. P., Grieve-Smith, A. B., MacFarlane, J., Staley, J. & Waters, G. S. Effects of language experience on the perception of American Sign Language. Cognition, 109, 41-53, 2008.
  53. ^ Bell Laboratories RECORD (1969) A collection of several articles on the AT&T Picturephone (then about to be released) Bell Laboratories, Pg.134–153 & 160–187, Volume 47, No. 5, May/June 1969;
  54. ^ Susan Goldin-Meadow (Goldin-Meadow 2003, Van Deusen, Goldin-Meadow & Miller 2001) has done extensive work on home sign systems. Adam Kendon (1988) published a seminal study of the homesign system of a deaf Enga woman from the Papua New Guinea highlands, with special emphasis on iconicity.
  55. ^
  56. ^ Hewes (1973), Premack & Premack (1983), Kimura (1993), Newman (2002), Wittmann (1980, 1991)
  57. ^ Kolb & Whishaw (2003)
  58. ^ Premack & Pemack (1983), Premack (1985), Wittmann (1991).
  59. ^ "Animal Communication". Department of Linguistics, The Ohio State University. 1994. Retrieved 2008-02-21.
  60. ^ Wallman, Joel (1992). Aping Language. Cambridge University Press. ISBN0521406668.


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  • Frishburg, N. (1975). Arbitrariness and Iconicity: Historical Change in America. Language, 51(3), 696-719.
  • Frishberg, Nancy (1987). "Ghanaian Sign Language." In: Cleve, J. Van (ed.), Gallaudet encyclopaedia of deaf people and deafness. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
  • Goldin-Meadow, Susan, 2003, The Resilience of Language: What Gesture Creation in Deaf Children Can Tell Us About How All Children Learn Language, Psychology Press, a subsidiary of Taylor & Francis, New York, 2003
  • Gordon, Raymond, ed. (2008). Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 15th edition. SIL International, ISBN 978-1-55671-159-6, ISBN 1-55671-159-X. Web version.[6] Sections for primary sign languages [7] and alternative ones [8].
  • Groce, Nora E. (1988). Everyone here spoke sign language: Hereditary deafness on Martha's Vineyard. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-27041-X.
  • Healy, Alice F. (1980). Can Chimpanzees learn a phonemic language? In: Sebeok, Thomas A. & Jean Umiker-Sebeok, eds, Speaking of apes: a critical anthology of two-way communication with man. New York: Plenum, 141–143.
  • Hewes, Gordon W. (1973). "Primate communication and the gestural origin of language". Current Anthropology 14: 5–32. doi:1086/201401.
  • Johnston, Trevor A. (1989). Auslan: The Sign Language of the Australian Deaf community. The University of Sydney: unpublished Ph.D. dissertation.[9]
  • Kamei, Nobutaka (2004). The Sign Languages of Africa, "Journal of African Studies" (Japan Association for African Studies) Vol.64, March, 2004. [NOTE: Kamei lists 23 African sign languages in this article].
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  • Kegl, Judy, Senghas A., Coppola M (1999). "Creation through contact: Sign language emergence and sign language change in Nicaragua." In: M. DeGraff (ed), Comparative Grammatical Change: The Intersection of Language Acquisistion, Creole Genesis, and Diachronic Syntax, pp. 179–237. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Kegl, Judy (2004). "Language Emergence in a Language-Ready Brain: Acquisition Issues." In: Jenkins, Lyle, (ed), Biolinguistics and the Evolution of Language. John Benjamins.
  • Kendon, Adam. (1988). Sign Languages of Aboriginal Australia: Cultural, Semiotic and Communicative Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kimura, Doreen (1993). Neuromotor Mechanisms in Human Communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Klima, Edward S.; & Bellugi, Ursula. (1979). The signs of language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-80795-2.
  • Kolb, Bryan, and Ian Q. Whishaw (2003). Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology, 5th edition, Worth Publishers.
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. (1940). "Stimulus diffusion". American Anthropologist 42: 1–20. doi:1525/aa.1940.42.1.02a00020.
  • Krzywkowska, Grazyna (2006). "Przede wszystkim komunikacja", an article about a dictionary of Hungarian sign language on the internet (Polish).
  • Lane, Harlan L. (Ed.). (1984). The Deaf experience: Classics in language and education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-19460-8.
  • Lane, Harlan L. (1984). When the mind hears: A history of the deaf. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-394-50878-5.
  • Madell, Samantha (1998). Warlpiri Sign Language and Auslan – A Comparison. M.A. Thesis, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.[10]
  • Madsen, Willard J. (1982), Intermediate Conversational Sign Language. Gallaudet University Press. ISBN 978-0913580790.
  • Nakamura, Karen. (1995). "About American Sign Language." Deaf Resourec Library, Yale University.[11]
  • Meir, I. (2010). Iconicity and metaphor: Constraints on metaphorical extension of iconic forms. Language, 86(4), 865-896.
  • Newman, A. J. et al.; Bavelier, D; Corina, D; Jezzard, P; Neville, HJ (2002). "A Critical Period for Right Hemisphere Recruitment in American Sign Language Processing". Nature Neuroscience 5 (1): 76–80. doi:1038/nn775. PMID11753419.
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  • Premack, David, & Ann J. Premack (1983). The mind of an ape. New York: Norton.
  • Premack, David (1985). "'Gavagai!' or the future of the animal language controversy". Cognition 19 (3): 207–296. doi:1016/0010-0277(85)90036-8. PMID4017517.
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Further reading

External links

Original source:

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Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Proxemics is the study of measurable distances between people as they interact. The term was introduced by anthropologist Edward T. Hall in 1963.[1] The effects of proxemics, according to Hall, can be summarized by the following loose rule:

Like gravity, the influence of two bodies on each other is inversely proportional not only to the square of their distance but possibly even the cube of the distance between them.

In animals, Swiss zoologist Heini Hediger had distinguished between flight distance (run boundary), critical distance (attack boundary), personal distance (distance separating members of non-contact species, as a pair of swans), and social distance (intraspecies communication distance). Hall reasoned that, with very few exceptions, flight distance and critical distance have been eliminated in human reactions, and thus interviewed hundreds of people to determine modified criteria for human interactions.


Body spacing and posture, according to Hall, are unintentional reactions to sensory fluctuations or shifts, such as subtle changes in the sound and pitch of a person's voice. Social distance between people is reliably correlated with physical distance, as are intimate and personal distance, according to the following delineations:

  • Intimate distance for embracing, touching or whispering
    • Close phase – less than 6 inches (15 cm)
    • Far phase – 6 to 18 inches (15 to 46 cm)
  • Personal distance for interactions among good friends or family members
    • Close phase – 1.5 to 2.5 feet (46 to 76 cm)
    • Far phase – 2.5 to 4 feet (76 to 120 cm)
  • Social distance for interactions among acquaintances
    • Close phase – 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 m)
    • Far phase – 7 to 12 feet (2.1 to 3.7 m)
  • Public distance used for public speaking
    • Close phase – 12 to 25 feet (3.7 to 7.6 m)
    • Far phase – 25 feet (7.6 m) or more.

Hall notes that different cultures maintain different standards of personal space. In Latin cultures, for instance, those relative distances are smaller, and people tend to be more comfortable standing close to each other; in Nordic cultures the opposite is true. Realizing and recognizing these cultural differences improves cross-cultural understanding, and helps eliminate discomfort people may feel if the interpersonal distance is too large ("stand-offish") or too small (intrusive). Comfortable personal distances also depend on the culture, social situation, gender, and individual preference.

A related term is propinquity. Propinquity is one of the factors, set out by Jeremy Bentham, used to measure the amount of pleasure in a method known as felicific calculus.

Types of space

Proxemics defines three different types of space:[2][3]

Fixed-feature space

This comprises things that are immobile, such as walls and territorial boundaries. However, some territorial boundaries can vary (Low and Lawrence-Zúñiga point to the Bedouin of Syria as an example of this) and are thus classified as semifixed-features.

Semifixed-feature space

This comprises movable objects, like mobile furniture, while fixed-furniture is a fixed-feature.

Informal space

This comprises the individual space around the body, travels around with it, determining the personal distance among people.

The definitions of each can vary from culture to culture. In nonverbal communication, such cultural variations amongst what comprises semifixed-features and what comprises fixed-features can lead to confusion, discomfort, and misunderstanding. Low and Lawrence-Zúñiga give several anecdotal examples of differences, amongst people from different cultures, as to whether they regard furniture such as chairs for guests to sit in as being fixed or semifixed, and the effects that those differences have on people from other cultures.[3]

Proxemics also classifies spaces as either sociofugal or sociopetal (c.f. the sociofugal-sociopetal behaviour category). The terms are analogous to the words "centrifugal" and "centripetal". Sociopetal spaces are spaces that are conducive, by means of how they are organized, to interpersonal communcation, whereas sociofugal spaces encourage solidarity.[3]

Behavior categories

Proxemics also defines eight factors in nonverbal communication, or proxemic behaviour categories, that apply to people engaged in conversation:[2][4]

posture-gender identifiers

This category relates the postures of the participants and their gender. Six primary sub-categories are defined: man prone, man sitting or squatting, man standing, woman prone, woman sitting or squatting, and woman standing.

the sociopetal-sociofugal axis

This axis denotes the relationship between the positions of one person's shoulders and another's shoulders. Nine primary orientations are defined: face-to-face, 45°, 90°, 135°, and back-to-back. The effects of the several orientations are to either encourage or discourage communication.

kinesthetic factors

This category deals with how closely the participants are to touching, from being completely outside of body-contact distance to being in physical contact, which parts of the body are in contact, and body part positioning.

touching code

This behavioural category concerns how participants are touching one another, such as caressing, holding, feeling, prolonged holding, spot touching, pressing against, accidental brushing, or not touching at all.

visual code

This category denotes the amount of eye contact between participants. Four sub-categories are defined, ranging from eye-to-eye contact to no eye contact at all.

thermal code

This category denotes the amount of body heat that each participant perceives from another. Four sub-categories are defined: conducted heat detected, radiant heat detected, heat probably detected, and no detection of heat.

olfactory code

This category deals in the kind and degree of odour detected by each participant from the other.

voice loudness

This category deals in the vocal effort used in speech. Seven sub-categories are defined: silent, very soft, soft, normal, normal+, loud, and very loud.

See also

▪   Body language

▪   Environmental psychology

▪   Intercultural competence

▪   Kinesics

▪   Personal boundaries

▪   Maai

▪   Skinship

▪   Spatial empathy

▪   Territoriality

▪   T-V distinction

▪   Zoosemiotics


  1. ^ Hall, Edward T. (1966). The Hidden Dimension. Anchor Books. ISBN0-385-08476-5.
  2. ^ a b Stephen W. Littlejohn and Karen A. Foss (2005). Theories of Human Communication. Thomson Wadsworth Communication. pp. 107–108. ISBN0534638732.
  3. ^ a b c Setha M. Low and Denise Lawrence-Zúñiga (2003). The Anthropology of Space and Place: Locating Culture. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 61–62. ISBN0631228780.
  4. ^ Joseph A. DeVito (1986). The Communication Handbook: A Dictionary. Harper & Row. pp. 243,241,301,322,333,334. ISBN0060416386.

Further reading

External links

Original source:

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Posture (psychology)

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In humans, posture can provide important nonverbal communication. Posture deals with:

  • how the body is positioned in relation to another person or group of persons (e.g. leaning stance, posture, standing, sitting, etc.) and how they are positioned relative to each other various body parts (e.g. leg imposed on the leg, hand in pocket, etc.)
  • physique, that is how the body looks like (e.g. whether it is large, has a broad back, weak legs, large head, etc.)

Communication expressed posture

Non-verbal communication developed in humans earlier than verbal communication. In humans, one of the means of communication, such as its position in the hierarchy of the group or attitude toward others, is the appropriate attitude gain (in addition to facial expressions, personal distances, gestures and body movements). Posture conveys information about:

  • attitudes of interpersonal relations - for example I like - I do not like, want to avoid, etc.
  • personality traits - such as confidence, submissiveness, openness, the need
  • social standing - social origin, position in the social hierarchy (particularly if it is analyzed in the context of postures callers)
  • current emotional states - fear, sense of security, relaxation, tension
  • frustrations of developmental traits or character, mental injuries (traumas), etc.
  • characteristics of temperament - according to the theory of Hippocrates, Kretschmer, Sheldon.

Analysis of posture

Posture inform both the enduring characteristics of the person (character, temperament, etc.), and of its current internal states (emotions, attitudes that have been raised, etc.). Therefore, posture can be considered in the context of a given situation, and independently of it.

It should be noted, however, that people assume certain postures in a habitual manner. Although at the time of manufacture habit usually posture is a reflection of inner states, it is a habit may lose the function of inducing or suppressing relevant experience and experience.[1]

During the analysis of posture and other non-verbal communication, it is easy to commit a fundamental attribution error - that is subject to the illusion that informs the attitude of permanent human internal characteristics and not concerning the situation.

Changing states and habitual postures

Posture as information about the current state of the internal should be analyzed in the context of other messages, both verbal and nonverbal as well as cultural norms and social, that apply to your situation.

The same body position in different contexts may carry other information. It was found, for example, that the greater the enslavement of a social group, the stronger the tendency of its members to express courtesy.[2]

Open and closed body posture

The actors and researchers distinguish these two opposing attitudes. People with an open posture are perceived as friendly and positive attitude, creating a sense of security around him. People with a closed body posture gives the impression of detached, uninterested contact, hostile.

  • A Closed posture is one in which parts of the body most susceptible to trauma are obscured. These body parts are: throat, stomach and genitals. They are easily damaged and the damage could have fatal consequences. Damage to the genitals prevents the transfer of their genes to future generations and is synonymous with the death of the "point of view of the gene"[3] (see also: Theory of matching the total and William Donald Hamilton). Therefore, both humans and animals try to protect those vulnerable to injury part. In humans, have similar behavior: the enclosure of the neck by leaving or propping up the chin, tilting the head, arms weaving on the chest or abdomen, hands clasped obscure the genitals ("the attitude of the Soviet dignitary"), crossing the legs. Also, clothing may close stance: buttoned suit, golf, handbag or briefcase held in front of you, etc.
  • An open posture is one in which they are exposed: genitals, abdomen and neck (see photo below). The open character of the body raised the head, draped jacket, shirt undone at the neck, loosened his tie, bag on shoulder or in hand, slightly raised hips.

An important element of the closing or opening position of the body are the hands. Shown palms read as openness, friendliness, willingness to contact, especially if the hand is relaxed - that is, his fingers gently touch each other. Showing the back of your hand, gripping them, hiding the thumb is a signal closure (see also: the gestures and body movements).

Hands clasped behind his back after the close of the posture, even though its front is exposed. They call because the caller with the impression of hiding something. Hands are the most frequently touched the body zone, and their "hide" can be read as resistance to closer contact.

Closed and open posture also apply to the seat. Attaching feet, clinching the legs, arms crossing the closure body. Slightly bending forward, head hanging, showing the palms open position.

Interpersonal attitudes

Interpersonal attitudes (sympathy-disapproval, acceptance, trust, etc.) are communicated through:

  • the inclination of the body. During the conversation lean slightly toward the caller's trunk or tilted slightly away from him. It is usually unconscious The inclination "towards" is an expression of sympathy and acceptance. Reverse Buckling occurs along with the survival of dislike and disapproval or desire to break the relationship. Similar importance is slight, or postponing the ejection head.
  • During the conversation, people have an unconscious tendency to imitate their behavior. This happens when the conversation runs seamlessly and is enjoyable for both parties. This approximation of the attitudes and gestures and body movements indicate the emergence of a bond and sympathy. Lack of synchronization behavior leads to a sense that this contact is artificial, forced and unpleasant.
  • orientation of the body. Usually, people talk directed toward each other, but not in the position of "face to face," a confrontational attitude (see also: territoriality ). Therefore, the body usually callers are turned toward each other, but are set at an angle. When you ignore someone, we tend to ignore or avoid contact - set the side (shoulder) - this happens for example in a crowded elevator (more on this see: the theory of intimacy).
  • closed or open body

The social

The posture is highly dependent on cultural patterns.

Expressing respect by bending the body in half and tilt their heads in the Japanese culture has a different meaning than in Western culture.

Also, in certain environments, apply the unwritten norms gain postures. The gang members, soldiers, supporters take other items. In this way, the attitude of the body discloses information about the social origin and nationality, and the environment in which the unit was raised.

Finally, the body can tell you about the position in the social hierarchy. Otherwise, move, stand and sit aristocrats, otherwise used. Characteristic is a step, which moves in the power, the ruler sits differently than a subordinate.

  • If two people of different social standings and talk to each other, it usually the person with a higher position takes a more relaxed attitude. Her body is arranged rather unbalanced and may appear nonchalant attitude, such as legs on a table, hand in your pocket or under his jacket, etc.
  • A person with a lower position becomes symmetrical position (e.g. both hands on your lap or desk, and if it is - hands at your sides, possibly founded on his stomach, held clasped in front of you).
  • Typically, a person with higher status first sits down and talks while sitting. A person of lower status is not sitting, or sit as a second, usually also ask (for example, sight) for permission.
  • A person of lower social position is trying to deal with their attitude less space, for example, in the right way involves crossed his legs, holding your elbows close to the body, etc.


Mood influences on muscle tone, energy level, sense of well-being internal. Thus, body posture (e.g. head raised or hunched shoulders) reveals the current state of mind.

  • Experiencing stress is manifested, among others: by a stooping back and shoulders leaning towards each other, the willingness to carry weight on your toes or (more rarely) on the heels, buttocks and anus tightening, tightening the jaw and mouth, clenching. Also raises the general tone of the muscles, decreasing the peripheral circulation of blood, resulting in quench the hands, feet, tip of nose, ears. Changing their way of breathing is blocked skirt and tight abdominal muscles, there is a tendency to shortness of breath, during which mainly move the ribs or collarbone.
  • Well-being: back straight, raise your head.
  • Malaise: Drooping shoulders, looking down, head bowed, also tilted at an angle to the left or right.

In the popular literature has come to interpret the postures according to the assumptions of psychoanalysis - such as protecting the breast and leg crossing would be a symptom of a sexual complex.[4] These beliefs, however, have very limited support in systematic research and experimentation. Thus, it is more likely that this type of behavior reflect a certain style of self-presentation,[5] for example, "the man of God", "seductress", "eccentric artist", rather than unconscious conflicts and complexes.

Example analysis of postures

The posture and stable personality traits

The term "posture" means sometimes the appearance of the body. In psychology , there are several concepts involving the appearance of the permanent characteristics of individuals. Some habitual position may also reflect stable characteristics of "the inner man". None of the concepts has any basis on the ground of modern science.


The self-confidence, openness, a sense of security is expressed through posture.

  • Confident person is habitually more relaxed, resulting in frequent gain both asymmetrical posture when sitting and standing. This happens primarily in situations that do not enforce and standardize the behavior (see also: conformity).
  • Sense of security affects the alignment of the body in a dream. Some French saying has it that: "The king is sleeping on his back, the wise man on the side, and a rich man on his stomach." "King's position" (upside-down position, arms at your sides your legs straight and slightly open) takes by people feeling safe. In this position, using about 12% of people. Parts of "soft" (neck, abdomen, genital area) are not enclosed.


Wilhelm Reich, a student of Freud, first drew attention to the relationship between a shallow breath and blocked traffic and the difficulty in experiencing sexual pleasure and emotional disorders, especially neuroses.

This concept was developed by Alexander Lowen, founder of bioenergetics. He is also author of the concept of block of muscle. Lowen noted that when people do not want to experience certain emotions, then tighten certain muscles.[6] For example, when the boy did not want to cry, it can tighten the jaws, which suppresses the tears. The stress and anger tightens the muscles along the spine and thigh muscles, which can manifest itself in pain in those body parts, if the stress was prolonged.

According to Lowen some tensions become chronic: in progress continuously, regardless of the circumstances. This is called chronic tension blocks of muscle. There was also a notion of "muscular armor" as a metaphor of armor, which is designed to protect against unwanted emotional experience.

Muscular block affects the posture and the way we move, and also reduces the experience of feelings and awareness, including awareness of one's body. (See also: denial). Certain experiences influence the formation of specific blocks of muscle, and thus its appearance, structure and attitude, so you can read some past experience of human imprinted in his body, "just as one can read or summer was warm by the observations of tree rings".[7]

This idea is reformulated by American psychotherapist Stephen M. Johnson in his theory of style, character. According to Johnson, muscle tension occur early in a child's life (see also: psycho-sexual development) and affect the specific appearance of the body. In these periods of life comes to the formation of certain psychological characteristics of human ways of thinking and experiencing the world, causing the appearance goes hand in hand with the specified character. Thus was born the concept of "style of character."

According to this theory, there is the following characteristic types of body building and associated psychological characteristics:[8]

  • Schizoid nature - in the first months after birth there are strong tensions in the vicinity of joints, resulting in very stiff and then limp joints. The body gives the impression of undernourished, frail, very thin, poorly developed, often small. Is noticeable shortness of breath, chest very slim and very moving diaphragm. Blocks are present in the neck muscles and tension around the eyes. These people often have problems with their eyesight and wear glasses.
    • A person with a schizoid feel insecure in social situations, has the feeling that it is unwanted by others. Avoids physical contact and does not like it, well my body feels weak and is often dissatisfied with it, bad it feels. It is "detached from the earth," which results in a specific way of walking - a light, as if on tiptoe. Often, such people are creative and have developed abstract thinking.
  • Oral nature - sunken chest, where the arms bend toward each other, very shallow breathing, sunken abdomen and stiff knees. Rzepka knees are raised up, which means that the legs are bent at the knees as if to back. Sometimes the knee converge toward each other ("x's feet"), head pushed forward. Often such persons are poorly developed lower jaw, poor teeth.
    • Oral types tend to relate the extreme dependency: make easily from humans, the substance of certain activities (e.g. computer games). They feel that alone will not give you advice and continuous desire to close others. They behave as if they needed continuous assistance, guidance and support of other people, even in small things. At the same time tend to have well-developed social skills. The nature of oral sex may result in the denial of dependency needs. Such a person feels confident that no one needs to be happy, yet afraid of the situation of dependence on others and have needs. An example might be a mountain climber, who spent two weeks going through the snow and not feel the need odezwania to someone.
  • narcissistic (psychopathic) nature - weak legs and feet, poor grounding (the term derived from bio-energy), pulled upwards stomach and inflated chest.
    • These persons are very afraid of humiliation and ridicule. They want to dominate and inspire fear in others (see also: ingracjacji techniques), they want to control other people. It is easy to cope with difficult situations, but they are not capable of a long commitment and effort. They are prone to exploitation and use of others.
  • Masochistic nature - very strong legs, thighs and overgrown muscle fat around the thighs, rounded, hunched backs, bent head, the folds of fat on the neck.
    • Masochists have problems with their free will, they feel deprived of spontaneity, and controlled by others. They have a large shipment of passive aggression and resistance. The apparent humility agree with adversity, while having in themselves a large portion of suppressed anger.
  • Rigid character - the body leaning slightly forward, shoulders pulled back, wypięta chest, buttocks wypięte. The body is rather smooth, but with very tight, "prepared to act" muscles. Sometimes it is said also of the hysterical variety of body type (see also: the nature of hysterical) with strong tensions in the muscles of the chest.
    • Such persons are in constant activity, without a break doing something "not forgiven myself," put on the achievements. They try to give my more and more, even though they are never satisfied with himself until the end.

Features of temperament

Constitutional theories in psychology (e.g., Sheldon, Kretschmer) emphasize the relationship between body structure and temperament. Ever since Hippocrates thought that the body structure goes hand in hand with the temperament and susceptibility to certain diseases. These beliefs have become common knowledge - for example, there is a conviction that "Chubs are benign and listless, while a person with an athletic body types are more aggressive and active".

Scientific research on relationship of body appearance and temperament traits began in the early twentieth century German psychiatrist Ernst Kretschmer. He studied the relationship between body structure and the onset of psychosis. These tests are now to the history of psychology. Broader their discussion - see The constitutional theory of Kretschmer.

Presented here in brief is the theory of William Sheldon, the best set of systematic research.[9] Sheldon distinguished three "dimensions" of body (he called them "types of somatic"), which in different people can come in different intensity:

  • Endomorphic - body, soft, rounded figure, poor development of bones and muscles, a low ratio of body surface area to its mass. Are well developed digestive organs that develop from the endoderm of the embryo - hence the name.
  • Endomorphic correlates positively with the characteristics of temperament, which Sheldon called wiscerotonią . This dimension of temperament manifested a tendency to comfort, sociability, desire, food, people and feelings. Such persons have a relaxed posture, slow reacting, they are balanced, very easy to live with and tolerant. In moments of stress and tension seek the company of other people.
  • Mesomorphic - body structure is solid and angular, is dominated by muscle and bone. The body is strong and hard, fault-tolerant and adapted to the physical effort. This type of body develops from the mesoderm.
  • Mesomorphic correlates of temperamental traits, which was named somatotonia. manifested a propensity for adventure and risk, a strong need for intense exercise and muscle exercise. Such persons are characterized by relatively strong aggression , insensitivity to the feelings of others, a tendency to dominance, power and action.
  • Ectomorphic - slim and frail body, flat chest, delicate. Typically, such people are thin and poorly muscled, unable to prolonged physical effort. The large area of the body in relation to its mass. The largest is the brain and central nervous system.
  • Ectomorphic goes with cerebrotonią as manifested by discomfort, shyness, inhibition, fear of people. The reactions of these people are too fast, bad dream. In moments of stress and tension they avoid humans.

Some researchers have argued that a strong relationship between body structure and the type of temperament are associated with methodological shortcomings, and this relationship is actually lower than shown by Sheldon[10]

The appearance of the body and the appeal of authority

The size of the body, especially the increase is an important factor influencing the perception of a person as an authority and a tendency to succumb to it (see: the impact of authority).

Men spend much more time on shaping the muscles of the chest and shoulders, while women in the exercise the muscles of the thighs and the lap belt. It is related to the effort of interpersonal attraction, one of whose major components is physical attractiveness.

An attractive male body is one in which the arms are wider than the hips, while female beauty formula contains the appropriate ratio of the circumference to hip circumference of the waist. Deck must be narrower, but not too narrow. Perceived attractiveness of such figures of the body is linked to evolutionary conditioning preferences in choosing a partner and the amount of sex hormones - testosterone and oestrogen.


Posture can easily be impacted by poor health and thus, using posture to assess personality, character, psychology, etc. must first rule out possible underlying medical conditions--known to the Patient or not--which may be causing a person's inability to comfortably resist the effects of gravity.


  1. ^ Haley J. (1995). Remarkable therapy. Gdańsk: Gdansk Psychology Publishing. ISBN 83-85416-24-2
  2. ^ Hall J.A. (1979). Nonverbal sex differences: Communication accuracy and expressive style. Balitmore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press
  3. ^ Buss DM (2001). Evolutionary psychology. Gdańsk: Gdansk Psychology Publishing.
  4. ^ Collins, A. (2003). Gestures, body language and behavior. New York: DKC. ISBN 83-89314-01-0
  5. ^ Szmajke A. (1999). Autopresentation. 83-910489-1-8 Masks, poses, expressions. Olsztyn: Ursa Consulting. ISBN 83-910489-1-8
  6. ^ Lowen A. (1991). Spiritual body. New York: Publishing Agency Jacek Santorski & CO.. ISBN 83-85386-00-9
  7. ^ Lowen A. (1992). Introduction to bioenergetics. Santorski & CO. Jacek Publishing Agency.
  8. ^ Siems (1992). The body knows the answer. Warszawa: Jacek Santorski & Co. Publishing Agency. ISBN 83-85386-15-7
  9. ^ Hall CS, Lindsey G. (1990). Theories of Personality. Warszawa: OWN. ISBN 83-01-09240-8
  10. ^ Humphreys LG Characteristics of type concepts with special reference to Sheldon's typology. "Psychology Bulletin" 1957, 54, 218-228


  • Argyle M. (1999). Psychology of interpersonal relations. Warszawa, OWN. ISBN 83-01-12809-7
  • Birkenbihl VF, (1997). Non-verbal communication. ISBN 83-87197-17-3 Psychology of the negotiations. New York: Publisher ASTRUM. ISBN 83-87197-17-3
  • Birkenbihl VF (1998). Non-verbal communication. The signals of the body. New York: Publisher ASTRUM. ISBN 83-87197-63-7
  • Domachowski W. (1998). Guide to Social Psychology. New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 83-01-12541-1
  • Johnson SM (1993). Humanized narcissistic style. Warszawa: Jacek Santorski & Co. Publishing Agency. ISBN 83-85386-28-9
  • Johnson SM (1993). The transformation of character. The miracle of hard work. Warszawa: Jacek Santorski & Co. ISBN 83-85386-24-6
  • Johnson SM (1994). Style character. Poznań: Wydawnictwo Zysk i S-ka. ISBN 83-7150-324-5
  • Kepner JI (1991). The body in the process of Gestalt psychotherapy. New York: Empty Cloud. ISBN 83-85041-24-9

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Nonverbal communication

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nonverbal communication is usually understood as the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless (mostly visual) messages between people. Messages can be communicated through gestures and touch, by body language or posture, by facial expression and eye contact. Nonverbal messages could also be communicated through material exponential; meaning, objects or artifacts(such as clothing, hairstyles or architecture). Speech contains nonverbal elements known as paralanguage, including voice quality, rate, pitch, volume, and speaking style, as well prosodic features such as rhythm, intonation, and stress. Likewise, written texts have nonverbal elements such as handwriting style, spatial arrangement of words, or the physical layout of a page. However, much of the study of nonverbal communication has focused on face-to-face interaction, where it can be classified into three principal areas: environmental conditions where communication takes place, physical characteristics of the communicators, and behaviors of communicators during interaction.


“Most social psychologists will tell you that nonverbal communication makes up about two-thirds of all communication between two people or between one speaker and a group of listeners.” [1] Nonverbal communication can portray a message both verbally and with the correct body signals. “There are numerous elements of what we call body language. They include physical features, both changeable and unchangeable, your gestures and signals you send to others at a conscience and unconscious level, and the space that you use when communicating with others.” [1] The wrong message can be established if the body language conveyed does not match a verbal message. Nonverbal communication strengthens a first impression in common situations like attracting a partner or in a business interview. “You have less than ten seconds and realistically close to four seconds to make a good impression on those with whom you come in contact.” [1] First encounters or interactions with another person strongly affect a person’s lifestyle. “People are more likely to believe that the first things they learn are the truth.” [2] When the other person or group is absorbing the message they are focused on the entire environment around them, meaning, the other person uses all five senses in the interaction. “Sight makes up 83% of the impact on the brain of information from the senses during a visual presentation. Taste makes up 1%, Hearing makes up 11%, smell 3% and touch 2%.”[3]


The first scientific study of nonverbal communication was Charles Darwin's book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.[3] He argued that all mammals reliably show emotion in their faces. Seventy years later Silvan Tomkins (1911–1991) began his classic studies on human emotions in Affects Imagery Consciousness volumes 1-4. Rudolf Laban (1879–1958) and Warren Lamb (1923-) raised body movement analysis in the world of dance to a high level. Studies now range across a number of fields, including, linguistics, semiotics and social psychology. Another large influence in nonverbal communication was Birdwhistell. “ Anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell pioneered the original study of nonverbal communication—what he called ‘kinesics.’ He estimated that the average person actually speaks words for a total of about ten or eleven minutes a day and that the average sentence takes only about 2.5 seconds. Birdwhistell also estimated we can make and recognize around 250,000 facial expressions.” [3]

Functions of nonverbal communication

Argyle (1970) [13] put forward the hypothesis that whereas spoken language is normally used for communicating information about events external to the speakers, non-verbal codes are used to establish and maintain interpersonal relationships. It is considered more polite or nicer to communicate attitudes towards others non-verbally rather than verbally, for instance in order to avoid embarrassing situations.[14]

Argyle (1988) concluded there are five primary functions of nonverbal bodily behavior in human communication:[15]

  • Express emotions
  • Express interpersonal attitudes
  • To accompany speech in managing the cues of interaction between speakers and listeners
  • Self-presentation of one’s personality
  • Rituals (greetings)

In regards to expressing interpersonal attitudes, humans communicate interpersonal closeness through a series of nonverbal actions known as immediacy behaviors. Examples of immediacy behaviors are smiling, touching, open body positions, and eye contact. Cultures that display these immediacy behaviors are considered high-contact cultures.


An interesting question is: When two people are communicating face-to-face, how much of the meaning is communicated verbally, and how much is communicated non-verbally? This was investigated by Albert Mehrabian and reported in two papers.[16][17] The latter paper concluded: "It is suggested that the combined effect of simultaneous verbal, vocal, and facial attitude communications is a weighted sum of their independent effects - with coefficients of .07, .38, and .55, respectively." This "rule" that clues from spoken words, from the voice tone, and from the facial expression, contribute 7 %, 38 %, and 55 % respectively to the total meaning, is widely cited. It is presented on all types of popular courses with statements like "scientists have found out that . . . ". In reality, however, it is extremely weakly founded. First, it is based on the judgment of the meaning of single tape-recorded words, i.e. a very artificial context. Second, the figures are obtained by combining results from two different studies which potentially cannot be combined. Third, it relates only to the communication of positive versus negative emotions. Fourth, it relates only to women, as men did not participate in the study.

Since then, other studies have analysed the relative contribution of verbal and nonverbal signals under more naturalistic situations. Argyle,[13] using video tapes shown to the subjects, analysed the communication of submissive/dominant attitude and found that non-verbal cues had 4.3 times the effect of verbal cues. The most important effect was that body posture communicated superior status in a very efficient way. On the other hand, a study by Hsee et al.[18] had subjects judge a person on the dimension happy/sad and found that words spoken with minimal variation in intonation had an impact about 4 times larger than face expressions seen in a film without sound. Thus, the relative importance of spoken words and facial expressions may be very different in studies using different set-ups.

Interaction of verbal and nonverbal communication

When communicating, nonverbal messages can interact with verbal messages in six ways: repeating, conflicting, complementing, substituting, regulating and accenting/moderating. Conflicting Verbal and nonverbal messages within the same interaction can sometimes send opposing or conflicting messages. A person verbally expressing a statement of truth while simultaneously fidgeting or avoiding eye contact may convey a mixed message to the receiver in the interaction. Conflicting messages may occur for a variety of reasons often stemming from feelings of uncertainty, ambivalence, or frustration.[23]When mixed messages occur, nonverbal communication becomes the primary tool people use to attain additional information to clarify the situation; great attention is placed on bodily movements and positioning when people perceive mixed messages during interactions


Accurate interpretation of messages is made easier when nonverbal and verbal communication complement each other. Nonverbal cues can be used to elaborate on verbal messages to reinforce the information sent when trying to achieve communicative goals; messages have been shown to be remembered better when nonverbal signals affirm the verbal exchange.[19]


Nonverbal behavior is sometimes used as the sole channel for communication of a message. People learn to identify facial expressions, body movements, and body positioning as corresponding with specific feelings and intentions. Nonverbal signals can be used without verbal communication to convey messages; when nonverbal behavior does not effectively communicate a message, verbal methods are used to enhance understanding.[20]


Posture or a person's bodily stance communicates a variety of messages. Posture can be used to determine a participant’s degree of attention or involvement, the difference in status between communicators, and the level of fondness a person has for the other communicator, depending on body “openness”.[5] Studies investigating the impact of posture on interpersonal relationships suggest that mirror-image congruent postures, where one person’s left side is parallel to the other person’s right side, leads to favorable perception of communicators and positive speech; a person who displays a forward lean or decreases a backward lean also signifies positive sentiment during communication.[6]

There are many different types of posture. Some of these postures include: slouching, towering, legs spread, jaw thrust, shoulders forward, and arm crossing. These nonverbal behaviors can indicate feelings and attitudes toward another person. An example of good posture includes standing erect, and leaning forward communicates to a person that you are approachable, receptive, and friendly. A person talking to someone that is constantly looking at the floor or ceiling makes it seem as though disinterest with the conversation. Always try to avoid negative posture. “Lean forward when listening, stand straight when speaking.” [3]

Posture can be situation-relative. “A nineteen-year-old college student from New York will use different postures than a Mid-western housewife, and a construction worker in the state of Washington will use different postures than a salesman in Chicago[4] Another example of posture being situational on more of a daily basis can be described in Driver’s book: “Four situational norms of posture would be, Flirting, where the norm is 60% eye contact, Job Interview with a relaxed and open body language, Business Negotiation where the norm is leaning back while steeping and Buying a Car where most have hands on hips with feet more than ten inches apart.” [5]


Gestures may be made with the hands, arms or body, and also include movements of the head, face and eyes, such as winking, nodding, or rolling one's eyes. Although the study of gesture is still in its infancy, some broad categories of gestures have been identified by researchers. The most familiar are the so-called emblems or quotable gestures. These are conventional, culture-specific gestures that can be used as replacement for words, such as the hand wave used in western cultures for "hello" and "goodbye." A single emblematic gesture can have a very different significance in different cultural contexts, ranging from complimentary to highly offensive.[9] For a list of emblematic gestures, see List of gestures. There are some universal gestures like the shoulder shrug. “The shoulder shrug is a good example of a universal gesture that is used to show that a person doesn’t know or doesn’t understand what you are saying. It’s a multiple gesture that has three main parts: exposed palms to show nothing is being concealed in the hands, hunched shoulders to protect the throat from attack, and raised brow, which is a universal, submissive greeting” [3]

Gestures can also be categorized as either speech independent or speech related. Speech-independent gestures are dependent upon culturally accepted interpretation and have a direct verbal translation.[7] A wave or a [V-sign| peace sign] are examples of speech-independent gestures. Speech-related gestures are used in parallel with verbal speech; this form of nonverbal communication is used to emphasize the message that is being communicated. Speech-related gestures are intended to provide supplemental information to a verbal message such as pointing to an object of discussion.


Eye-contact is the primary notion to where a message of attention is being conveyed in engagement with Nonverbal communication. Eye contact is when two people look at each other's eyes at the same time; it can indicate interest, attention, and involvement. Studies have found that people use their eyes to indicate their interest and not just with the frequently recognized actions of winking and movements of the eyebrows, but it can indicate social behavior. Men and women have different ways of eye contact. Men stare at the women they are interested in for at least a half an hour were as women tend to always keep their eyes roaming around the room to see who is there. Disinterest is highly noticeable when showing little eye-contact in a social setting. Pupils dilate when they are interested in the other person. People, sometimes, even, without consciously doing so, probe each other's eyes and faces for positive or negative mood signs. Generally speaking, the longer the eye contact between two people the greater the intimacy is felt inside [1] According to Eckman,“Eye contact (also called mutual gaze) is another major channel of nonverbal communication. The duration of eye contact is its most meaningful aspect.) [6] Gaze comprises the actions of looking while talking and listening. The length of a gaze, the frequency of glances, patterns of fixation, pupil dilation, and blink rate are all important cues in nonverbal communication.[10] “Liking generally increases as mutual gazing increases.” [8] [1] Along with the detection of disinterest, deceit can also be observed in a person. Hogan states “when someone is being deceptive their eyes tend to blink a lot more. Eyes act as leading indicator of truth or deception,” [1] Eye aversion is the avoidance of eye contact. Eye contact and facial expressions provide important social and emotional information. Overall, as Pease states, “Give the amount of eye contact that makes everyone feel comfortable. Unless looking at others is a cultural no-no, lookers gain more credibility than non-lookers” [3]

In concealing deception, nonverbal communication makes it easier to lie without being revealed. This is the conclusion of a study where people watched made-up interviews of persons accused of having stolen a wallet. The interviewees lied in about 50% of the cases. People had access to either written transcript of the interviews, or audio tape recordings, or video recordings. The more clues that were available to those watching, the larger was the trend that interviewees who actually lied were judged to be truthful. That is, people that are clever at lying can use voice tone and face expression to give the impression that they are truthful.[15] However, there are many cited examples of cues to deceit,[16]delivered via nonverbal (Para verbal and visual) communication channels, through which deceivers supposedly unwittingly provide clues to their concealed knowledge or actual opinions. Most studies examining the nonverbal cues to deceit rely upon human coding of video footage (c.f. Vrij, 2008[17]), although a recent study also demonstrated bodily movement differences between truth-tellers and liars using an automated body motion capture system[18]

Deceit also involves distress. One recent study set out to find how well people could communicate distress signals non-verbally. The research shows that you can identify certain social cues that can help you to predict that person's behavior. This is not always true though. The cues depend on the mindset of the person and cannot be predicted. The study was able to find 55 identifiable distress cues.[42]


“In the study of nonverbal communications, the limbic brain is where the action is…because it is the part of the brain that reacts to the world around us reflexively and instantaneously, in real time, and without thought.” [7] Genetics is a harder field to study in dealing with Nonverbal Communication, but there is evidence that the nonverbal cues made from person-to-person do not entirely have something to do with environment. “When you cross your arms on your chest, do you cross left over right or right over left? – Seven out of ten people cross their left arm over their right…Evidence suggests that this may well be a genetic gesture that cannot be changed.” [3] So how is it studied in an entirely environmentally free environment? “Evidence has been collected from observation of blind people (who could not have learned nonverbal signals through a visual channel).” [3]

Other than gestures, phenotypic traits can also convey certain messages in nonverbal communication, for instance, eye color, hair color and height. Research into height has generally found that taller people are perceived as being more impressive. Melamed and Bozionelos (1992) studied a sample of managers in the United Kingdom and found that height was a key factor in who was promoted. Height can have benefits and depressors too. “Being tall, however, is not always a bonus. While tall people often command more respect than short people, height can also be detrimental to some aspects of one-to-one communication, for instance, where you need to ‘talk on the same level’ or have an ‘eye-to-eye’ discussion with another person and do not want to be perceived as too big for your boots.” [3]


Clothing is the most common form of non-verbal communication. The types of clothing that an individual wears convey nonverbal clues about his or her personality, background and financial status, and how others will respond to them, for instance, “Miniskirts can give a woman the appearance that she is not approachable.” [3] This demonstrates a certain response, in this case, a negative and unapproachable response, simply via appearance. It is important to understand that their exterior and demeanor influence how others will react to them. An individual’s clothing style can demonstrate their culture, mood, level of confidence, interests, age, authority, value/beliefs, and their sexual identity. Some examples of a person’s clothing type in which a negative message is being conveyed could include the following: A person with a sloppy appearance, messy hair, and wrinkled clothes sends the message, "I don't care". Also, a woman who wears a tight dress with a low-cut neckline may convey the message "I'm attractive and sexy" or “Want to come back to my place tonight"? By showing the positive aspects of his or her self through dress attire and grooming, one can inspire confidence in his or her abilities.

Nonverbal elements such as physique, height, weight, hair, skin color, gender, odors, and clothing send nonverbal messages during interaction. For example, a study,[2] carried out in Vienna, Austria, of the clothing worn by women attending discotheques showed that in certain groups of women (especially women who were without their partners), motivation for sex and levels of sexual hormones were correlated with aspects of their clothing, especially the amount of skin displayed and the presence of sheer clothing. Thus, to some degree, clothing sends signals about interest in courtship.

Proxemics: physical space in communication

When you are talking to someone stay out of their “ intimate space” they want to talk to you but just do not want to have you all over them. “ Most animals have a certain air space around their bodies that they claim as their personal space…1-18 in being the intimate zone, 18-48 in being the personal zone, 4-12 ft. being the social zone and the public zone at over 12 ft.” [3]

Proxemics is the study of how people use and perceive the physical space around them. The space between the sender and the receiver of a message influences the way the message is interpreted. In addition, the perception and use of space varies significantly across cultures[8] and different settings within cultures. Space in nonverbal communication may be divided into four main categories: intimate, social, personal, and public space.

The term territoriality is used in the study of proxemics to explain human behavior regarding personal space.[9] Hargie & Dickson (2004, p. 69) identify 4 such territories:

  1. Primary territory: This refers to an area that is associated with someone who has exclusive use of it. An example is a house that others cannot enter without the owner’s permission.
  2. Secondary territory: Unlike primary territory, there is no “right” to occupancy of secondary territory, but people may still feel some degree of ownership of such space as they develop the custom of occupying it. For example, someone may sit in the same seat in church every week and feel irritated if someone else sits there.
  3. Public territory: this refers to an area that is available to all, but only for a set period, such as a parking space or a seat in a library. Although people have only a limited claim over that space, they often extend that claim. For example, it was found that people take longer to leave a parking space when someone is waiting to take that space.
  4. Interaction territory: this is space held by others when they are interacting. For example, when a group is talking to each other on a footpath, others will walk around the group rather than disturb their interaction territory.

Movement and body position


The term "kinesics" was first used (in 1952) by Ray Birdwhistell, an anthropologist who wished to study how people communicate through posture, gesture, stance, and movement. Part of Birdwhistell's work involved making films of people in social situations and analyzing them to show different levels of communication not clearly seen otherwise. Several other anthropologists, including Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, also studied kinesics.

Haptics: touching in communication

Haptics is the study of touching as nonverbal communication, and haptic communication refers to how people and other animals communicate via touching.

Touches among humans that can be defined as communication include handshakes, holding hands, kissing (cheek, lips, hand), back slapping, high fives, a pat on the shoulder, and brushing an arm. Touching of oneself may include licking, picking, holding, and scratching.[10] These behaviors are referred to as "adapters" or "tells" and may send messages that reveal the intentions or feelings of a communicator. The meaning conveyed from touch is highly dependent upon the culture, the context of the situation, the relationship between communicators, and the manner of touch.[11]

Touch is an extremely important sense for humans; as well as providing information about surfaces and textures it is a component of nonverbal communication in interpersonal relationships, and vital in conveying physical intimacy. It can be both sexual (such as kissing) and platonic (such as hugging or tickling).

Touch is the earliest sense to develop in the fetus. The development of an infant's haptic senses and how it relates to the development of the other senses such as vision have been the target of much research. Human babies have been observed to have enormous difficulty surviving if they do not possess a sense of touch, even if they retain sight and hearing. Babies who can perceive through touch, even without sight and hearing, tend to fare much better. Touch can be thought of as a basic sense in that most life forms have a response to being touched, while only a subset have sight and hearing.

In chimpanzees the sense of touch is highly developed. As newborns they see and hear poorly but cling strongly to their mothers. Harry Harlow conducted a controversial study involving rhesus monkeys and observed that monkeys reared with a "terry cloth mother," a wire feeding apparatus wrapped in soft terry cloth that provided a level of tactile stimulation and comfort, were considerably more emotionally stable as adults than those with a mere wire mother.(Harlow,1958)

Touching is treated differently from one country to another and socially acceptable levels of touching vary from one culture to another (Remland, 2009). In Thai culture, for example, touching someone's head may be thought rude. Remland and Jones (1995) studied groups of people communicating and found that touching was rare among the English (8%), the French (5%) and the Dutch (4%) compared to Italians (14%) and Greeks (12.5%).[12]

Striking, pushing, pulling, pinching, kicking, strangling and hand-to-hand fighting are forms of touch in the context of physical abuse. In a sentence like "I never touched him/her" or "Don't you dare touch him/her," the term touch may be meant as a euphemism for either physical abuse or sexual touching. To "touch oneself" is a euphemism for masturbation.

Stoeltje (2003) wrote about how Americans are "losing touch" with this important communication skill. During a study conducted by University of Miami School of Medicine, Touch Research Institutes, American children were said to be more aggressive than their French counterparts while playing at a playground. It was noted that French women touched their children more.

Chronemics: time in communication

Chronemics is the study of the use of time in nonverbal communication. The way we perceive time, structure our time and react to time is a powerful communication tool and helps set the stage for communication. Time perceptions include punctuality and the willingness to wait, plus the speed of speech and how long people are willing to listen. The timing and frequency of an action as well as the tempo and rhythm of communications within an interaction contributes to the interpretation of nonverbal messages. Gudykunst & Ting-Toomey (1988) identified two dominant time patterns: monochronic time and polychronic time.

Monochronic Time

A monochronic time system means that things are done one at a time and time is segmented into precise, small units. Under this system time is scheduled, arranged and managed.

The United States is considered a monochronic society. This perception of time is learned and rooted in the Industrial Revolution, where "factory life required the labor force to be on hand and in place at an appointed hour" (Guerrero, DeVito & Hecht, 1999, p. 238). For Americans, time is a precious resource not to be wasted or taken lightly. "We buy time, save time, spend time and make time. Our time can be broken down into years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds and even milliseconds. We use time to structure both our daily lives and events that we are planning for the future. We have schedules that we must follow: appointments that we must go to at a certain time, classes that start and end at certain times, work schedules that start and end at certain times, and even our favorite TV shows, that start and end at a certain time.”

As communication scholar Edward T. Hall wrote regarding the American viewpoint of time in the business world, “the schedule is sacred.” Hall says that for monochronic cultures, “time is tangible” and viewed as a commodity where “time is money” or “time is wasted.” The result of this perspective is that Americans and other monochronic cultures, such as the German and Swiss, place a paramount value on schedules, tasks and “getting the job done.” These cultures are committed to regimented schedules and may view those who do not subscribe to the same perception of time as disrespectful.

Monochronic cultures include Germany, Canada, Switzerland, the United States, and Scandinavia.

Polychronic Time

A polychronic time system is a system where several things can be done at once, and a more fluid approach is taken to scheduling time. Unlike Americans and most northern and western European cultures, Native American, Latin American, Arab and African cultures use the polychronic system of time.

These cultures are much less focused on the preciseness of accounting for each and every moment. As Raymond Cohen notes, polychronic cultures are deeply steeped in tradition rather than in tasks—a clear difference from their monochronic counterparts. Cohen notes that "Traditional societies have all the time in the world. The arbitrary divisions of the clock face have little saliency in cultures grounded in the cycle of the seasons, the invariant pattern of rural life, and the calendar of religious festivities" (Cohen, 1997, p. 34).

Instead, their culture is more focused on relationships, rather than watching the clock. They have no problem being “late” for an event if they are with family or friends, because the relationship is what really matters. As a result, polychronic cultures have a much less formal perception of time. They are not ruled by precise calendars and schedules. Rather, “cultures that use the polychronic time system often schedule multiple appointments simultaneously so keeping on schedule is an impossibility.” [2]

Polychronic cultures include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Mexico, the Philippines, India, and many in Africa.

Clinical studies of nonverbal communication

From 1977 to 2004, the influence of disease and drugs on receptivity of nonverbal communication was studied by teams at three separate medical schools using a similar paradigm.[21] Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, Yale University and Ohio State University had subjects observe gamblers at a slot machine awaiting payoffs. The amount of this payoff was read by nonverbal transmission prior to reinforcement. This technique was developed by and the studies directed by psychologist, Dr. Robert E. Miller and psychiatrist, Dr. A. James Giannini. These groups reported diminished receptive ability in heroin addicts [22] and phencyclidine abusers[23] was contrasted with increased receptivity in cocaine addicts. Men with major depression[24] manifested significantly decreased ability to read nonverbal cues when compared with euthymic men.

In some subjects tested for ability to read nonverbal cues, intuitive paradigms were apparently employed while in others a cause and effect approach was used.[25] Subjects in the former group answered quickly and before reinforcement occurred. They could not give a rationale for their particular responses. Subjects in the latter category delayed their response and could offer reasons for their choice.The level of accuracy between the two groups did not vary nor did handedness.[26]

Freitas-Magalhaes studied the effect of smile in the treatment of depression and concluded that depressive states decrease when you smile more often.[27]

Obese women[28] and women with premenstrual syndrome[29] were found to also possess diminished abilities to read these cues. In contradistinction, men with bipolar disorder possessed increased abilities.[30] A woman with total paralysis of the nerves of facial expression was found unable to transmit or receive any nonverbal facial cues whatsoever.[31] Because of the changes in levels of accuracy on the levels of nonverbal receptivity, the members of the research team hypothesized a biochemical site in the brain which was operative for reception of nonverbal cues. Because certain drugs enhanced ability while others diminished it, the neurotransmitters dopamine and endorphin were considered to be likely etiological candidate. Based on the available data, however, the primary cause and primary effect could not be sorted out on the basis of the paradigm employed.[32]

A byproduct of the work of the Pittsburgh/Yale/ Ohio State team was an investigation of the role of nonverbal facial cues in heterosexual nondate rape. Males who were serial rapists of adult women were studied for nonverbal receptive abilities. Their scores were the highest of any subgroup.[33] Rape victims were next tested. It was reported that women who had been raped on at least two occasions by different perpetrators had a highly significant impairment in their abilities to read these cues in either male or female senders.[34] These results were troubling, indicating a predator-prey model. The authors did note that whatever the nature of these preliminary findings the responsibility of the rapist was in no manner or level, diminished.

The final target of study for this group was the medical students they taught. Medical students at Ohio State University, Ohio University and Northest Ohio Medical College were invited to serve as subjects. Students indicating a preference for the specialties of family practice, psychiatry, pediatrics and obstetrics-gynecology achieved significantly higher levels of accuracy than those students who planned to train as surgeons, radiologists, or pathologists. Internal medicine and plastic surgery candidates scored at levels near the mean.[35]


Nonverbal communication is the process of sending and receiving messages from another person. These messages can be conveyed through gestures, engagement, posture, and even clothing and hygiene. Nonverbal communication can convey a very different message than a verbal conversation. This can tell someone whether they are likes, interesting or hated. Nonverbal communication and can have meanings in objects as well. Certain articles in a person’s life can say a lot about them and can sometimes even talk for them. A person’s handwriting can also tell a lot about the way they can communicate with others. Nonverbal communication can be easiest practiced when the two communicators are face to face. The nonverbal aspect of communication is easiest when the environment is right for all communicators involved, such as, when the environment is right or the moment is right. Nonverbal communication is an important aspect in any conversation skill people are practicing. Nonverbal communication will inhibit someone to be able to tell other person how hey are really feeling without having to voice any opinions. People can interpret body signals better than they can talk most of the time.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Hogan, K., Stubbs, R. (2003). Can’t get Through 8 Barriers to Communication. Grenta, LA: Pelican Publishing Company.
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  28. ^ AJ Giannini, L DiRusso, DJ Folts, G Cerimele. Nonverbal communication in moderately obese females. A pilot study. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry. 2:111-1115, 1990.
  29. ^ AJ Giannini, LM Sorger, DM Martin, L Bates. Journal of Psychology. 122:591-594, 1988.
  30. ^ AJ Giannini, DJ Folts, L Fiedler. Enhanced encoding of nonverval cues in male bipolars. Journal of Psychology. 124:557-561, 1990.
  31. ^ AJ Giannini,D Tamulonis,MC Giannini, RH Loiselle, G Spirtos,. Defective response to social cues in Mobius syndrome. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders. 172174-175, 1984.
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