1. What is Nonverbal Behaviour?
What is nonverbal behaviour and what does study of nonverbal behaviour
include? Nonverbal behaviour refers to communicative human acts distinct
from speech. Since nonverbal behaviour includes every communicative
human act other than speech (spoken or written), it naturally covers
a wide variety and range of phenomena such as facial and eye expressions,
hand and arm gestures, postures, positions, use of space between individuals
and objects, and various movements of the body, legs, and feet.
Since nonverbal behaviour is considered distinct from speech, it also
includes silence as well as dropping of elements from speech and/or
the missing elements in speech utterances. There is a general consensus
that, although nonverbal behaviour means acts other than speech, in
a broader sense nonverbal behaviour also includes a variety of subtle
aspects of speech variously called paralinguistic or vocal phenomena.
These phenomena include intensity range, speech errors, pauses, and
speech rate and speech duration. These features are of a nature that
somewhat eludes explicit description when used in communicative contexts.
In other words, these features are employed for implied meanings and
are not explicitly describable and/or stated through/as linguistic units.
Also included in discussions of nonverbal behaviour are other complex
communication phenomena, such as sarcasm.
Thus, even though as a working definition nonverbal behaviour is conceived
to be everything other than speech, the boundary between verbal and
nonverbal is always blurred and there are certain aspects of speech,
which fall within the domains of nonverbal behaviour. In view of this,
it is not surprising to find that the researchers have differed among
themselves as regards the definition and scope of the study of nonverbal
2. Relationship between Verbal and Nonverbal Communication
There are several ways in which the nonverbal behaviour is seen clearly
related to verbal behaviour. This relationship is one of dependence
and also of independence. There are nonverbal communicative acts that
are easily and accurately translated into words. Several gestures clearly
illustrate this relationship. For example, the gesture of folded hands
for namaste, the gesture of a handshake, a smile, a frown, etc., are
generally translatable into words.
There is also a class of nonverbal acts that are very much a part of
speech and serves the function of emphasis. Examples are head and hand
movements that occur more frequently with words, and phrases of emphasis.
Sometimes we draw the outline of objects or processes in the air to
make our point clear to the addressee. Feelings may be described through
nonverbal acts. There are acts which draw pictures of the referents
tracing the contour of an object or person referred to verbally. Yet
another class of acts is employed for displaying the affects (feelings).
Another class refers to acts that help to initiate and terminate the
speech of participants in a social situation. These regulators might
suggest to a speaker that he keep talking, that he clarify, or that
he hurry up and finish (Ekman and Friesen, 1969).
There are at least six ways in which the relationship between verbal
and nonverbal communication can be characterized. These are as follows:
- The relationship between verbal and nonverbal communication is one
of the latter, playing a supplementary role to the former. The nonverbal
acts that are supplementry to verbal acts may precede or follow or
be simultaneous with the verbal acts. For example, in many verbal
acts one notices an accompaniment of one or more nonverbal acts, such
as gestures, facial expressions, and movement towards or away from
the addressee, to illumine the meaning of the former. While for many
verbal acts such an accompaniment may only be considered redundant,
for several others, such an accompaniment does, indeed, illumine the
meaning of the former, adding explicitness, clarity, emphasis, discrimination
- The relationship between verbal and nonverbal communication is also
one of the former playing a supplementary role to the latter. In many
verbal acts, both in children and adults, in normals with all the
linguistic organs intact, and normals with some handicap to the linguistic
organs, as well as in abnormal individuals, nonverbal acts may take
precedence over the verbal acts in several ways. In the normals with
all the linguistic organs intact, occasions demand the use of nonverbal
acts such as pantomime and gestures for aesthetic purposes, and for
purposes of coded (secret) communication. Indulgence in nonverbal
acts as primary medium is also necessitated by the distance that separates
the parties which can, however, retain visual contact while engaging
themselves in communication.
- The relationship between verbal and nonverbal communication could
be one of correspondence as well. That is, there are several nonverbal
acts that can be accurately translated into words in the language
of a culture in which such nonverbal acts are performed. A handshake,
shaking a fist at someone, a smile, a frown, etc, are all nonverbal
acts translatable into verbal medium in a particular language. The
functions of these nonverbal acts, context to context, are also translatable.
Furthermore, such correspondences are also codified in aesthetic nonverbal
acts, such as dance, sculpture and other arts. The correspondence
is sometimes translatable into words, sometimes into phrases and sentences,
and several times translatable into compressed episodes involving
lengthy language discourses. But the correspondence is there all the
same and the import of this correspondence is shared between individuals
within a community. There is also yet another correspondence of nonverbal
acts in the sense that similar nonverbal acts could mean different
things in different cultures.
- Yet another relationship between a verbal act and a nonverbal act
is one of dependence. A verbal act may depend for its correct interpretation
entirely on a nonverbal act. Likewise a nonverbal act may depend for
its correct interpretation entirely on a verbal act. In extreme circumstances,
the former is caused because of deliberate distortion of the verbal
act, or because of the difficulty in listening clearly to the verbal
act, or because of the difficulty in reading with clarity what is
intended to be read in the written verbal message. Deliberate distortion
is not found only in contrived acts such as poetry or drama. It is
done in day to day language itself. Distortion and opacity of the
verbal message are also required in certain sociocultural contexts
wherein it is demanded that verbal acts be suppressed and made dependent
on nonverbal acts. The dominant nonverbal act also depends on verbal
acts for clarity. This dependence, like the former, could be contrived.
It also occurs in daily life.
- Verbal and nonverbal acts can be independent of one another. Something
is communicated through a verbal act. The continued manifestation
of this communicative act may be in the form of nonverbal acts. That
is, in a single communicative act, part of the message may be in verbal
form and the rest in nonverbal, in an alternating way. Each part is
independent of the other. This is contrived in poetry and drama. It
is also found in every day life. An extreme form of this independence
is the gulf that we notice between what one says and what one does.
Also, prevarication both in word and deed derives its strength, among
others, from this feature.
- Another relationship between verbal and nonverbal acts is one of
non-relevance. This is most commonly found in normal adult speech
and its accompanying gestures, which are produced simply without any
communicative intent. We move our hands, snap our fingers, and move
our bodies while speaking, with these gestures having no relevance
to the speech we make. When this non-relevance between verbal and
nonverbal acts found in normals is shifted to non-relevance or irrelevance
within the single domain, within speech itself or within nonverbal
act itself (during which coherence in speech or act is lost), we start
considering the individual abnormal in some way. That is, non-relevance
across the verbal and nonverbal media is normal, but non-relevance
within a single medium is abnormal. The non-relevance is idiosyncratic
and could be imitational as well. In the normals the excessive non-relevance
of nonverbal acts accompanying speech comes to hamper the understanding
of the verbal acts.
(1973) has suggested the following functions for nonverbal communication:
- Nonverbal signs define, condition, and constrain the system; for
example, time, place and arrangement may provide cues for the participants
as to who is in the system, what the pattern of interaction will be,
and what is appropriate and inappropriate communication content.
Nonverbal signs help regulate the system, cueing hierarchy and priority
among communicators, signalling the flow of interaction, providing meta-communication
- Nonverbal signs communicate content, sometimes more
efficiently than linguistic signs but usually in complementary redundancy
to the verbal flow.
Ekman and Friesen (1969) specify five general functions for nonverbal
behaviour, namely, repetition, contradiction, complementation, accent
and regulation. In repetition there is both verbal and nonverbal expression
made simultaneously, where one will do. In contradiction, the verbal
and nonverbal behaviours contradict one another as in the case of a
verbal praise in a sarcastic tone. In accent, spoken words are emphasized
through nonverbal acts. Through the use of eye contact, gestures and
others, nonverbal behaviour is employed to regulate human interaction
Based on the above brief discussion, we find that the relationship
between verbal and nonverbal behaviours can be considered as follows:
- The relationship between verbal and nonverbal communication is one
of the latter, playing a supplementary role to the former.
- The relationship between verbal and nonverbal communication could
be one of the former playing a supplementary role to the latter.
- The relationship between verbal and nonverbal communication could
be one of correspondence.
- The relationship between verbal and nonverbal communication could
be one of mutual dependence.
- The relationship between the two could also be one of independence
from one another.
- The relationship between the two could be one of non-relevance as
- The relationship between verbal and nonverbal communication could
be one of one repeating the message of the other.
- The relationship between verbal and nonverbal communication could
be one act contradicting the other.
- The relationship between verbal and nonverbal communication could
also be one of mutual emphasis.
- Finally, the relationship between the two could also be one of mutual
While the study of verbal behaviour and non-verbal behaviour
has been done independently in several disciplines, the relationship
between the two has not received the attention it deserves. Human communication
is a wholesome fusion of both verbal and nonverbal acts. This fusion
appears to have both physiological (genetic) as well as sociocultural
consequences. The fusion of verbal and nonverbal behaviours in a communicative
act marks the human species as distinct from other species.
the manner in which the fusion between verbal and nonverbal acts has
taken place in humans marks the humans distinct from other species.
Also, societies and cultures distinguished from one another by the style
are and exploitation of this fusion of verbal and non-verbal acts for
varying contexts, pursuits and purposes. Moreover, various cognitive
disorders, including language disorders found in humans can be seen
as those of differences in the degree and manner of fusing the verbal
and nonverbal behaviours.
That the verbal and nonverbal behaviours are
closely related is well recognized by all. Socialization processes in
every society insist upon mastery and exploitation of this relationship
in both children and adults in their communication modes. For example,
what postures, voice modulations, facial expressions, gestures, etc.,
that one should or should not employ in a particular context for a particular
pursuit and purpose are all predetermined in cultures.
the well-set norm are allowed for certain effects only. Deviations are
also classified into several abnormal varieties. In essence, what makes
communication essentially human is the intrinsic binding within all
such communication between verbal and non-verbal facets.
Nonverbal behaviours reflect very basic social orientations that are
correlates of major categories in the cognition of social environments
(Piaget, 1960). In other words, the nonverbal behaviours pursued in
a society reveal the orientations towards interactions between persons
that individual members of that society consider as basic. There are
also common cognitive and behavioural dimensions for both animal and
human social systems.
Hence, some have claimed that primates, in particular, can provide
complementary information about certain aspects of affect and attitude
communication in humans (Sommer, 1967). That is, the observation of
animal social interactions can complement the study of individuals of
a single culture and provide corroboration for identified dimensions
of social interaction. Furthermore, it has been suggested by many that
nonverbal behaviour is also produced by the same underlying processes
employed in the production of linguistic utterance and that it shares
some of the structural properties of the speech it accompanies.
3. Research Strategies
Research strategies employed in the study of nonverbal behaviour can
be grouped as those following or falling within linguistic methodologies,
methodologies of anthropological investigations and methodologies of
psychological investigations. Note, however, that within each of these
major pursuits there are several variations based on the approaches
and aims of schools within these disciplines. Also note that there are
mutual influences found among these strategies. Some of the strategies
are not followed widely and some have become strategies rather clearly
identified with individual scholars.
3. 1. Linguistically-oriented Studies of Nonverbal Behaviour
Modern linguistics, both Indian and Western, does not include study
of nonverbal behaviour as part of grammar. There are elements of nonverbal
behaviour; or rather elements shared both by verbal and nonverbal behaviour,
such as implied meanings (presupposition, illocutionary acts whose implications
could be brought out by paraphrase etc.) that are sought to be treated
within grammar in modern times. However, these attempts have become
characteristics of certain offbeat grammatical studies, rather than
the core or integral part of grammatical approaches and general practice.
In contrast, traditional Indian studies of language always included
study of nonverbal behaviour as an integral part of grammar (See below
3.5 for a brief descriptive statement and summary).
Bloomfield (1933) distinguished between the act of speech and other
occurrences, which he called practical events. Any incident consisted
of three parts, in order of time: practical events preceding the act
of speech, speech itself, and practical events following the act of
speech. While there is, thus, recognition of occurrence of both speech
and non-speech acts in a communicative act, linguists generally focus
upon speech rather than on the practical events preceding, accompanying
and following acts of speech. In general, linguists ignore the nonverbal
concomitants of verbal act.
Linguistically oriented studies of nonverbal behaviour are indeed very
few, and those few studies also generally aim at adequacy of language
description by way of describing such nonverbal behaviours that impinge
on verbal behaviour and/or exploit verbal-like elements in the nonverbal
act. Moreover, the linguistically oriented studies of nonverbal behaviour
extend the method of description and transcription of linguistic elements
to a description and transcription of nonverbal behaviour. A clear case
of linguistically oriented description of nonverbal behaviour is that
of Trager (1958). Another study is that of West (1963), who seeks to
identify sign language units corresponding to linguistic units, such
as words, clauses, phrases and sentences.
Trager recognizes that communication is more than language. Although
linguistics aims at the description of language as a system of communication,
linguists limit themselves to examination of such parts of linguistic
structures as they could define and examine objectively. In view of
this self-imposed restriction, communication systems other than language
remain outside their purview of research. Trager finds this an unsatisfactory
approach to the study of language and seeks to devise ways and means
to describe systems adjunct to language.
Trager calls the study of language and its attendant phenomena macro
linguistics, and divides it into prelinguistics, micro linguistics,
and metalinguistics. Prelinguistics is said to include physical and
biological events. The statement of the relationship between language
and any of the other cultural systems constitute metalinguistics while
micro linguistics is linguistics proper.
Communication, according to Trager (1958), is divided into language,
vocalizations and kinesics. Language employs certain noises made by
organs of speech. It combines these noises into recurrent sequences
and arranges these sequences in systematic distributions in relation
to each other and in reference to external world. Vocalizations do not
have the structure of language and consist of variegated noises. Vocalizations
also include modifications of language and other noises. In general,
vocalizations may be seen as consisting of paralanguage, voice set and
voice qualities. Variegated noises other than language ones, and modified
language and other noises together are called paralanguage. Voice set
involves the physiological and physical peculiarities of noises. With
the help of these peculiarities we identify individuals as members of
a societal group. We identify them as belonging to certain set, age,
state of health, body build, rhythm state, and position in a group,
mood, bodily condition and location.
Many other identifications are also made. Voice qualities consist of
matters such as intonation. These are recognizable as forming part of
actual speech events and are identified in what is said and heard. Trager
lists the following as voice qualities identified so far: pitch range,
vocal lip control, glottis control, pitch control, articulation control,
rhythm control, resonance and tempo.
The voice set and voice qualities are overall or background characteristics
of the voice, whereas the vocalizations are identifiable noises. All
these are different from language sounds proper. Trager identifies three
kinds of vocalizations constituting paralanguage. These are: vocal characterisers,
vocal qualifiers and vocal segregates. The vocal characterisers are:
laughing, crying, giggling, snickering, whimpering, sobbing, yelling
and whispering, moaning, groaning, whining, breaking, belching and yawning.
The vocal qualifiers are those of intensity, pitch height, and extent.
Vocal segregates are items, such as uh-uh, uh-huh and uh, sh! These
are sounds that do not fit into phonological and/or word frames in sequences
in a language.
Trager has viewed study of paralanguage as contributing directly to
an understanding of kinesics (study of movement, posture and position
individuals assume in their interaction). It may be that in their overall
structure these two fields of human behaviour may be largely analogous
to each other. For all the variables identified, Trager provides symbols
for transcription. The scope of description of the nonverbal behaviour
is limited to descriptions of sound features and their functions in
manifest behaviour. Thus, even in Trager's efforts, while the importance
of nonverbal behaviour for a total description of communication process
is recognized, its accommodation in the discipline of linguistics is
only towards an illumination and adequate coverage of linguistic behaviour.
Also, the method of description of nonverbal behaviour is always an
extension of the methods of study of linguistic behaviours. Attempts
are also made in this process of extension to posit corresponding levels
of linguistic and nonverbal behaviour.
3. 2. Anthropologically-oriented Studies of Nonverbal Behaviour
The anthropologically oriented studies of nonverbal behaviour have
a long history. The sign languages of the aboriginals, the communicative
processes carried on through (non-sign language) gestures, postures,
and exchange of goods and rituals, etc., have been discussed in anthropological
Nineteenth century American anthropologists showed a lot of interest
in the aboriginal sign languages of the Americas. They recognized that
the conventional gesture codes employed by Native Americans (Red Indians)
are independent communication systems, which have the range and flexibility
found in speech. This recognition is still continued, as we find in
the works of Kroeber, characterizing the sign language communication
as follows: 'What makes it an effective system of communication is that
it did not remain on a level of naturalness, spontaneity, and full transparency,
but made artificial commitments, arbitrary choices between potential
expressions and meanings'.
The early 19th century work by Colonel Garrick Mallery, who made a
collection and study of North American Plains sign language gestures
and made a comparison of the same with other codes such as gestures
and sign languages of the deaf, gave an impetus to modern interests
in nonverbal communication processes in the West. This interest and
study influenced anthropological studies in the beginning.
At one time nonverbal behaviour within anthropological studies focused
only on gestures. Later, other aspects of nonverbal behaviour were also
studied. And very soon, in modern anthropology, culture itself began
to be viewed as communication. Yet the study of nonverbal communication,
in the sense of communication as it is effected through behaviour whose
communicative significance cannot be achieved in any other way, is only
a recent introduction to anthropology and has yet to establish itself
fully in anthropology.
However, even today the communication processes in the sense of oral
and nonverbal interaction has not attracted much attention in anthropological
studies. To quote Codere (1966) 'the subjects of gestures, medicine,
or games are rarely considered in any single volume ethnography and
are even more rarely given any extended treatment ... Once the major
ethnographic topics of social organization, economic organization and
religion are dealt with, the task is not done if it is defined as giving
any sense or indication of the richness and complexity of the culture
concerned. Yet why do such topics as technology, the yearly round, and
the life cycle have a secure conventional place as secondary topics;
such topics as humour and the three mentioned here, no place at all;
and such topics as the arts only, an occasional one?'
In the evolution of studies on nonverbal behaviour as a comprehensive
and perhaps an independent discipline, anthropology has played a crucial
role. Hall's study of proxemics (Hall 1959, 1969 and 1977) has revolutionized ideas, assumptions
and identification of domains of nonverbal behaviour studies. And Hall's
contributions come from anthropological bases.
If the study of aboriginals' signs is considered the precursor of modern
anthropologically oriented studies of nonverbal behaviour, Hall's contributions
have led the anthropologically oriented nonverbal behaviour studies
to explore areas such as proxemics that have become since then bases
of ideas and assumptions as well as subject matter of experimental investigations
on nonverbal behaviour. Likewise, Birdwhistell's works present a formal
tool for a description and understanding of nonverbal communication.
Birdwhistell's research strategy (Birdwhistell, 1970) is a clear and
illustrious example of the influence of linguistics on the study of
nonverbal behaviour. Influenced by developments in American structural
linguistics, Birdwhistell makes a very significant contribution, adopting
and effectively modifying underlying concepts, methods, and tools of
transcription and description of units of language, as propounded and
practised in neo-Bloomfieldian structural linguistics. According to
Birdwhistell, our communication system is not something we invented
but rather something that we internalised in the process of becoming
man. Also, research on communication as a systematic and structured
organization could not be initiated until we have some idea about the
organization of society itself. Birdwhistell contends that communication
is multi-channel. It includes both language and paralanguage; it also
includes gesture and kinesics. There is the inter dependence of visible
and audible behaviour in the flow of conversation. Meaning includes
both the contents of words and other measures.
Also, not all shifts of the human body are of equal importance or significance
to the human communicational system. 'As the organs involved in breathing
and swallowing are also involved in vocalic communicative behaviour,
so also is the activity of the skin, musculature, and skeleton involved
in communicative behaviour.
Which particular behaviours are of patterned communicative value, and
thus abstractable without falsification, can be determined only by the
systematic investigation of the behaviour in the communicational context'
(Birdwhistell, 1970). So, what Birdwhistell seeks is not idiosyncratic
nonverbal behaviour, but patterned behaviour within individuals and
across individuals and a systematic study of the same.
Birdwhistell believes that the investigation of human communication
by means of linguistic and kinesic techniques is desirable and relevant.
Body motion is a learned form of communication, which is patterned within
a culture and which can be broken down into an ordered system of isolable
elements, just as language.
Hence, Birdwhistell pursues the research for communication units based
upon linguistic and kinesic analysis. The dependency of Birdwhistell's
analysis of body motion on structural linguistics is seen throughout
his work. He also finds that such a dependency is not without handicap:
Techniques and theories developed over the last 2000 years
of linguistic research are now and may in the future remain quite relevant
for kinesic research and are absolutely necessary to communicational
research. However, these techniques are not all immediately and without
adaptation transferable to kinesic research. For example, the informant
technique, so basic to research on spoken language, is difficult to
control in the investigation of kinesic material.
The influence of linguistics in Birdwhistell's study of kinesic behaviour
is clearly seen in his coinage of technical terms for the description
of kinesic behaviour, identification of units of kinesic behaviour,
correspondence of units between kinesic and linguistic behaviour, method
of identification of units, description of units, transcription of units
and building up of smaller units into components of larger units. In
all these, we find Birdwhistell adopting terms from linguistics. Parallel
between linguistic behaviour and kinesic behaviour is rather too manifestly
This does not mean, however, that Birdwhistell has simply transferred
linguistics to the analysis of nonverbal behaviour or that he has nothing
new to offer by way of analysis of nonverbal behaviour. Birdwhistell's
contribution lies not only in showing the applicability of linguistic
analytical tools and methods to kinesic behaviour, but also in providing
an in-depth study of kinesic behaviour itself in several cultures. He
has also demonstrated the parallel in our chapter on proxemics.
Another significant anthropologically oriented study of nonverbal behaviour
is that of E. T. Hall (1959, 1969 and 1977). While Birdwhistell focuses
his attention on the description of kinesic behaviour in formulaic expressions,
involving a number of derived technical terms, Hall looks at nonverbal
behaviour from a descriptive, ethnographic angle without much technical
terms and formulaic expressions.
Hall's approach to study of nonverbal behaviour is decidedly anthropological
and very much ethnographic and crosscultural as well as meant to be
a guide for a better world of understanding, tolerance and insightful
utilization of human resources; it is also linguistically influenced
at least in its origins. There is not much of an influence of linguistic
terms but there is a sharing of concepts from structural linguistics.
However, Hall's work is more an anthropologist's study of nonverbal
behaviour. His transcription system does not draw from linguistics as
much as the Birdwhistell's system draws from linguistics. Also, Hall's
work is more a comparative ethnographic study of nonverbal behaviour
whereas Birdwhistell's approach generally restricts itself to the description
of nonverbal behaviour, in particular, the kinesic behaviour, of a group
without resorting to any comparison of the same with others.
E.T. Hall considers that culture is a bio-basic; it is rooted in biological
activities. There is an unbroken continuity between the very distant
past and the present in the sense that although man is a culture-producing
animal at present, there were times when there was no man and no culture.
This infra-culture became elaborated by man into culture. Hall argues
that by going back to infra-culture we could demonstrate the complex
biological bases upon which human behaviour has been built at different
times in the history of evolution. Infra-culture is behaviour on lower
organizational levels that underlie culture.
Hall suggests (along with his colleague Linguist Trager) that the numbers
of infra-cultural bases are indeed few and bear little or no apparent
relationship to each other on the surface. These are called primary
message Systems. There are ten systems:
- Exploitation (use
Note that only the first, the primary message system of
interaction, involves language. All other systems are nonlinguistic
forms of communication. Hall finds that language is the most technical
of the message systems. It is to be used as a model for the analysis
of others. In other words, Hall implies that the analysis of other forms
of communication may follow the procedures of analysis of language.
He also emphasizes that in addition to language there are other ways
in which man communicates that either reinforce or deny what he has
said with words. Nonverbal behaviour is an integral part of culture
and it includes not only acts but also material objects having the potential
Patterns are implicit cultural rules by which sets
are arranged to give meaning. For example, most people take horses as
a single set whereas a trainer of horses examines a number of sets such
as height, weight, length of barrel, thickness of chest, depth of chest,
configuration of the neck and head, stance, coat conditions, hoofs and
gait. Laymen see these as isolates but the trainers of horses see them
as sets leading on to patterns. Order, selection and congruence characterize
the system of communication.
Hall's major investigations center around
man's use of space. Every living thing has physical boundary that separates
it from its external environment. That space communicates is well recognized
in all societies. Hall studies space as an informal cultural system
in all its details. Formal patterning of space has varying degrees of
importance and complexity. Use of space is closely linked with status
as well. Hall investigates the use of space by humans in relation to
distance regulation in animals, crowding and social behaviour in animals,
distance receptors such as eyes, ears and nose, immediate receptors
such as skin, and muscles, visual space, and use of space in cross-cultural
Hall's investigations also exploit literary works and other
arts to an understanding of use of space by individuals, social groups
and different language communities. Hall presents his work on use of
space for a better understanding of different peoples and their cultures,
and for a better world of living and understanding. He finds that literally
thousands of our experiences teach us unconsciously that space communicates.
A painstaking and laborious process awaits one who wishes to uncover
the specific cues. The child who is learning the language cannot distinguish
one space category from another by listening to others talk (examples
are, He found a place in her heart, He has a place in the mountains,
I am tired of this place, and so on).
In spite of this, the children
are able to make the difference between various space terms from the
very few cues provided by others: Space, as an informal cultural system
is different from space as it is technically elaborated by classroom
geography and mathematics. Hall seeks to identify what space is in various
cultures, how it is interwoven with individual and social behaviour,
how space comes to communicate various values and how its use becomes
the diagnostic marker of various individual and social values. Hall
is the one who systematized the study of space in human interactions
and brought out various crucial facts underlying use of space. All this
he does taking an interdisciplinary attitude, but all the same the approach
is anthropologically oriented.
It is seen from the study of literature
on nonverbal behaviour that modern growth of explicitly stated studies
in communicative nonverbal behaviour in communicative interactions,
especially in the United States, indeed, is closely linked with the
contributions of Trager, Birdshistell and Hall. Trager's contributions
remained an island; continue to be so even now within linguistics, which,
while giving a spurt to investigations of language-related disciplines,
has somehow continued to treat nonverbal behaviour studies as a peripheral
A remarkable fact is that in spite of the very many attractions
within his own paradigm, calling him to go beyond language variables
and to attack variables that impinge on nonverbal behaviour, the linguist
in Trager has not strayed beyond what is strictly and formally linguistic
(according to Trager) and relevant to an understanding of nonverbal
behaviour. Birdwhistell's investigations continue but not with many
adherents, and yet his investigations have a distinct bearing on studies
of nonverbal behaviour.
Hall's work is largely absorbed in the current
experimental investigations of nonverbal behaviour although it is generally
restricted only to some aspects of nonverbal behaviour. Hall's work,
unlike those of many other authors, has also caught the imagination
of popular science writers leading on to both insightful and not so
insightful investigations of nonverbal behaviour, and to speculations.
All said and done, anthropologically-oriented approaches to the study
of nonverbal behaviour is a continuing and positive aspect of nonverbal
behaviour studies and enriches the experimental investigation by providing
possible and insightful variables for research and for cross cultural
validation of experimental findings.
3. 3. Psychologically-oriented Approaches to the Study of Nonverbal Behaviour
The psychologically oriented
approaches to the study of nonverbal behaviour are many and they currently
dominate the nonverbal communication research scene. Some psychologically
oriented studies focus upon the association of psychological states
with nonverbal behaviours. The nonverbal behaviours are taken to be
indicative of underlying psychological states.
In these studies description
of nonverbal behaviour is linked with the description of psychological
states of the individuals emitting nonverbal behaviour. In another approach,
the studies focus upon observers. The observers are asked to interpret
the given nonverbal behaviour in terms of psychological states. These
are studies that involve decoding of nonverbal behaviours presented
In encoding studies, different situations, to which corresponding
attitudes are explicitly ascribable and clearly linked and elicited,
are identified, subjects are placed in these situations and their responses
measured. These studies are generally of a role-playing type. There
is also another approach in which various choices of nonverbal behaviours
are presented to subjects. They are asked to indicate their preference
among the given nonverbal behaviours for specific social situations.
That is, subjects are asked to choose among forms or combinations of
behaviour to communicate various attitudes. Evaluating these approaches,
Mehrabian (1972) suggests that whereas encoding methods are appropriate
in the beginning stages of communication research, the last mentioned
above, which he calls the encoding-decoding method, is appropriate for
highly developed phrases of nonverbal behaviour research.
oriented approaches have led to a wider coverage of a variety of nonverbal
behaviours. Currently studies of all forms of nonverbal behaviour, such
as crowding, space utilization, visual behaviour, facial expressions,
abnormal nonverbal behaviour are generally initiated and enriched by
the emergence of psychologically-oriented researches.
can be traced back to the beginning of modern psychological investigations.
After all, retrieval of meanings of human behaviour, and interpretation
of human behaviour has been the major purpose of psychology. The specific
communicative means of behaviour have always been subject matter of
investigation along with the behaviour itself.
A salient feature of
psychologically oriented studies of nonverbal behaviour is the exploitation
of statistical measures which are generally not resorted to (or even
avoided) in the linguistically and anthropologically oriented studies.
Also, in contrast to linguistically and anthropologically oriented studies,
psychologically oriented nonverbal behaviour are mainly experimental studies. These studies are generally based on individual
psychological factors, rather than on social factors, although the social
function is not lost sight of.
the psychological-oriented studies of nonverbal behaviour are typically
articles in research journals based on controlled experiments focusing
on limited variables. Validation or rejection of hypotheses, description
and explanation of processes involved and an attempt at bringing out
a hierarchy of events and variables involved and the hidden processes
through an understanding of manifest processes become the focus of these
psychologically-oriented studies of nonverbal behaviour. All aspects
of nonverbal behaviour are sought to be dealt with under experimental
Accordingly, a lot of energy is expended not on identifying
facets and aspects of nonverbal behaviour per se, but on means to bring
out the observed nonverbal behaviour variables in a form suitable for
controlled experiments. The significance of these variables is hypothesized
beforehand and their validity proved or disproved in the experiments.
In the process, however, several new meanings hitherto hidden are identified
and a pattern as well as a hierarchy is established.
of psychology, particularly of learning, naturally, influence the psychologically
oriented studies of nonverbal behaviour. The psychologically oriented
studies of nonverbal behaviour, in a manner of speaking, have become
the central part of all nonverbal behaviour studies. These studies are
more in number, cover most of the aspects of nonverbal behaviour, attract
more investigators and students, and accommodate findings on nonverbal
behaviour worked out in other fields, such as linguistics, anthropology
Since most of the psychologically oriented studies are
independent articles, the overall assumptions of psychologically oriented
nonverbal studies are not generally explicitly stated. Mehrabian (1972)
suggests that any attempt at a comprehensive description of findings
in the study of nonverbal communication has to include the large numbers
of behavioural cues that are studied (e.g., eye contact, distance, leg,
and foot movements, facial expressions, voice qualities).
description should also account for the relationships among these cues,
the relationships between these and the feelings, attitudes, and personalities
of the communicators, and the qualities of the situations in which the
communications occur. Note that this scheme is carried out with well-designed
tools of questionnaires administered orally or visually under appropriate
situations for both controlled and experimental groups. Also, appropriate
statistical measures are applied to data thus obtained to prove or disprove
3. 4. Semioticallly-oriented Studies of Nonverbal
Where psychologically-oriented studies of nonverbal behaviour
restrict themselves to empirical methods and findings, subjecting them
to statistical measures and arriving at theoretical models that are
generally found in psychology proper, semiotics draws facts from different
disciplines and views them from the points of view of sign theory or
There is no experiment conducted as a matter of routine, or
as a norm in semiotic investigations. Observation, and reasoning out
the inter-relationships between observed facts, identification of patterns,
validation of facts based on patterns worked out, and identification
of/or bringing out manifestly the covert processes through proposals
as regards patterns and dynamic processes dominate semiotic investigations.
There is, indeed, no model building in semiotic investigations in the
sense of forming schools and restricting pursuits within the assumptions
and postulates of the school. However, there is a body of knowledge
contributed by different scholars as regards the nature, function and
componential features of signs and their inter-relationships. There
are also procedures, generally not stated explicitly but found practiced
in most of the semiotic investigations.
The semioticallly-oriented studies
of nonverbal behaviour view it as constituting semiotic systems involving
various types of signs. Investigations may be carried out based on models
of experimental psychology by individual authors. They may, however,
build their theory and explanations in a semiotic fashion, taking the
sign values of facts as crucial. The semiotic analysis of nonverbal
behaviour is mainly the interpretation and explanation of data collected
through other means.
This interpretation (and explanation), however, leads
on to newer insights and identification of hitherto unknown facts. This
is, indeed, one of the major strengths and achievements of the semiotic
method. The oriented-oriented studies of nonverbal behaviour, generally
speaking, compare and contrast the verbal with the nonverbal behaviours.
This comparison and contrast takes on the presentation of features involved
in a binary opposition. It is also shown as to how the features balance
themselves in a communicative act. In this analysis, hidden processes
and new information and variables are also revealed and added on.
A sign is everything which can be taken as significantly substituting
for something else. This something else does not necessarily have to exist
or actually be somewhere at the moment in which a sign stands in for it.
Saussure (1915) implicitly regarded sign as a communicative device, used
between two human beings intentionally aiming to communicate or to express
something. Not all signs are, however, communicative signs. For example,
black clouds are a sign of rain. Although they represent a meaning to
us, we do not communicate with the black clouds, and the clouds do not
respond to us.As Cherry (1980) points out, any artifact may possibly be
a sign (a scratch on a stone, a printed mark, a sound-anything), but its
signhood arises solely from the observer's assumption that it is a sign
that nonverbal behaviour does fall within the system of signs directly
and immediately, because nonverbal behaviours are acts of communication.
Peirce (1931, 1935) finds sign as something which stands to somebody
for something in some respects or capacity. Morris (1938) suggests that
something is a sign only because it is interpreted as a sign of something
by some interpreter. Eco (1977) defines sign as everything that, on
the grounds of previously established social convention, can be taken
as something standing for something else. It has also been defined as
a proposition constituted by a valid and revealing connection to its
consequent, when this association is culturally recognized and systematically
Half a dozen possible relationships are empirically found to
prevail between the signifier and the signified. Signifier is the sound
or visual image of a sign. Signified is the concept aspect of a sign.
Both the signified and the signifier are dialectically united in the
sign. The six species of the sign are as follows (Sebeok, 1976):
Signal: When a sign token mechanically (naturally) or conventionally
triggers some reaction on the part of a receiver, it is said to function
as a signal. Examples of signals are the exclamation "go!" or alternatively
the discharge of a pistol to start a foot race.
- Symptom: A symptom
is a compulsive, automatic, non-arbitrary sign, with a natural link
between it and what it signifies. For example, bodily symptoms indicate
the underlying disease.
- Icon: A sign is said to be iconic when there
is a topological similarity between it and what it signifies. Examples
are pictures, diagrams, etc.
- Index: A sign is said to be indexic
in so far as it is contiguous with what it signifies. Indexes give physical
indication. Examples are compass, needles, weather vanes, footprints
and droppings of animals, etc.
- Symbol: A sign is said to be a symbol
when it does not have similarity or continuity with what it signifies,
but a conventional link between them is established. Examples are badges,
- Name: A sign which has an extensional class for its designatum
is called a name. In accordance with its definition, individuals denoted
by a proper name as Veronica have no common property attributed to them
save the fact that they all answer to Veronica.
Note that of the six
types of signs listed above, signal, symptom, icon and index fall within
nonverbal domain fairly comprehensively and fully. There are elements
of symbol as well in nonverbal communication, but these are of a limited
quality and quantity.
The sign name is perhaps nonexistent in nonverbal
communication and its nonexistence is probably a distinguishing mark
of nonverbal communication.
There are also scholars who consider all
the six types of signs occurring in nonverbal communication.
approaches to the study of nonverbal communication focus more on the
dialectics within nonverbal behaviour, on how patterns are formed, and
on how the inter-relationships between verbal and nonverbal communication
balance themselves in communicative contexts. Coupled with the experimental
investigations and findings of psychologically oriented studies of nonverbal
communication, the semiotic approaches to the study of nonverbal communication,
indeed, dominate the current assumptions and procedures in studies on
3. 5. Indian Studies of Nonverbal Behaviour
Traditional studies of nonverbal behaviour by Indian scholars link the
nonverbal behaviour of every day life with t hose of performing and
other aesthetic arts and see these behaviours in terms of their exploitation
and function in these arts. In other words, nonverbal behaviours are
seen as something which occur in nature, in normal communication and
as something not fully at the conscious level. These unconscious acts
are studied to reveal their communicative nature and to bring out their
functions and patterns.
In the process of study, the roots of nonverbal
behaviour in language, social acts and biology are emphasized. While
every act of nonverbal behaviour in language, social acts and biology
While every act of nonverbal behaviour has its basis
in language, society and biology, their exploitation, use, and the manner
of their use is based on the psychological need and state of the individual.
The ultimate goal of the study of nonverbal behaviour is their exploitation
for effective communication in aesthetic arts, for enhancing the aesthetic
value of the communication resorted to.
It is then seen as an effective
tool for aesthetic communication, providing a variety of techniques
and a variety of acts. Because the study of nonverbal behaviour is tied
to performance, their physical manifestation in the body and the intent
of these manifestations to represent underlying psychological needs
and states were emphasized.
Since, in the view of Indian scholars, there
is a unity of purpose between poetry and drama, indeed, between all
arts, physical manifestation of nonverbal behaviour as representations
of underlying psychological needs and states is included in every art,
in poetry through appropriate description and metaphor using language,
in sculpture through direct, indirect and oblique representation of
nonverbal acts as physical manifestations, and in dance combining both
poetry and sculpture adding to the combination the dimension of movement
A chief characteristic of Indian studies of nonverbal behaviour
is the inclusion of the same in grammar. For example, Indian traditional
grammars include not only the description of intonation patterns and
their functions within their scope but also other paralanguage features
meant for sarcasm, doubt, emphasis, contradiction and specific identities
This is sought to be achieved in two ways-one, by a direct
description and analysis of utterances in terms of their functions in
communicative contexts just as in linguistic description which present
how segmental sounds and sentence intonations get elliptical in the
speech of certain professional groups. Secondly, by identifying linguistic
mechanisms that carry these nonverbal acts, as in the case of prolonging
the pronunciation of consonants for certain effects.
Also, Indian traditional
grammars have developed so as to include separate chapters on nonverbal
behaviours, and their import for poetry and other aesthetic arts. The
incorporation here with linguistic facts is sometimes peripheral, at
times not relevant, but many a time highly relevant for effective communication,
choice of diction and standard speech.
Thus, by incorporating chapters
on nonverbal manifestations, the grammars focus on the performative
factors of speech as well, apart from forming a bridge between language
of every day discourse and the language of poetry and aesthetic arts.
Then, by the mere inclusion of study of nonverbal acts, the overall
goal of grammar and its learning is changed. History has not, however,
seen to it that what began originally as a descriptive-cum-prescriptive
approach to account for the then prevailing practices grew wide and
dynamic enough to be alive to the changes in practices or to further
develop the system of research applicable to matter other than texts.
In the Sanskrit school of grammar, nonverbal behaviour is prominently
discussed within rasa theory. The theory of rasa is intimately connected
with the theory of dhvani. It forms the most important aesthetic foundation
of Sanskrit poetics. It first appears in the dramatic theory of Bharata;
originally in connection with drama (explicit nonverbal behaviour),
then as one of the essential factors of poetic theory (description of
the nonverbal as suggestive of the underlying intent). While the theory
of rasa itself is older than Bharata (500 B.C.?) the general conditions
of the theory as fixed by Bharata continue to be accepted as the basis.
Elevation of nonverbal communication to aesthetic status and the exploitation
of modes of nonverbal communication for aesthetic purposes is clearly
seen in the concept of abhinaya in treatises on drama and dance, in
essence on theatrical performance. Abhinaya, according to Bharata Muni
(Natyastra Chapter IV: verse 23, translation as found in Ghosh, 1967)
has four kinds of histrionic representation, or shall we say that communication
is carried on through four kinds of means in dance and drama.
are angika which deals with bodily movements in their subtle intricacies,
vacika which refers to vocal delivery, aharya is communication via costume
and make up and sattvika is communication through the accurate representation
of the mental and emotional feelings. All these are physical manifestations.
The angikabhinaya, which is the visible form of communication through
bodily gestures and facial expressions, is certainly primary nonverbal
communication mode; there is an insistence on the need for gestures
and facial expressions to be in consonance with one another.
through perceptual factors such as costume and make up, and the physical
manifestation of mental states and emotional feelings are also emphasized
for a successful performance. The role of vocal delivery is not minimized
either in the process of communication. The practice of representation
in a dramatic performance is two fold: realistic (Natural, popular)
lokadharmi and conventional (theatrical innovation, and used conventionally)
natyadharmi (Natyasastra, Chapter VI and verse 24, as found in the translation
of Ghosh, 1967).
In other words, the communication in aesthetic arts
is carried on both by natural (realistic) and conventional signs. Of
all the modes of nonverbal communication, gestures and implied meanings
in oral delivery have been given a pointed attention in the elucidation
and exploitation of nonverbal communication for aesthetic arts.
As regards implied meanings we may
make a brief statement here on the role of suggestion treated in the
Dhvani School of Sanskrit scholars. This should properly be dealt with under nonverbal characteristics of language
use and silence.
In course of our discussions on the scope and definition
of nonverbal behaviour we suggested that implied meanings, through an
absence of linguistic units, are a form of nonverbal expression. In
the Dhvani School of poetics, it is suggestion/implied meaning that
is considered the essential characteristic of good poetry.
School, in its analysis of the essentials of poetry, finds that the
contents of a good poem may be generally distinguished into two parts.
One part is that which is expressed and thus it includes what is given
in words; the other part is the content that is not expressed, but must
be added to it by the imagination of the reader or the listener.
unexpressed or the suggested part, which is distinctly linked up with
the expressed and which is developed by a peculiar process of suggestion,
is taken to be soul or essence of poetry.
The suggestive part is something
different from the merely metaphorical. The metaphorical or the allegoric,
however veiled it may be, is still in a sense expressed and must be
taken as such; but the suggestive is always unexpressed and is therefore
a source of greater charm through its capacity for concealment; for,
this concealment in which consists the essence of art, is in reality
no concealment at all. The unexpressed in most cases is a mood or feeling
(rasa) which is directly inexpressible. The Dhvani School took up the
moods and feelings as an element of the unexpressed and harmonized the
idea of rasa with dhvani.
It is suggested that poetry is not the mere
clothing of agreeable ideas in agreeable language. In poetry, the feelings
and moods also play an important part. The poet awakens in us, through
the power of suggestion inherent in words or ideas, the feelings and
moods. Rasa is brought into consciousness by the power of suggestion
inherent in words and their sense. Thus, nonverbal communication in
aesthetic arts is viewed in Indian treatises as spectacular presence
of physical manifestation and suggestive absence of vocal elements.
In the Dravidian School of Grammar (Tolkappiyam of pre-Christian era,
300 B.C.?) also, description and study of nonverbal behaviour is an
integral part of grammar, poetry and drama. Nonverbal communication
is seen anchored on to physical (and physiological) manifestations.
The term used to refer to the nonverbal itself clearly reveals that
the idea of nonverbal communication is grounded in physical and physiological
manifestations. MeyppaaTu (mey meaning 'body' and paaTu meaning 'the acts'
based on body or expressed through bodily acts) is the term used to
refer to those manifestations which appear on the body of an individual
as a sign of what goes on inside the mind. Those manifestations for
whose understanding there need be no deliberation and whose occurrence
is revealed (in poetry and drama) in a natural manner through the bodily
acts form the scope of the study of nonverbal behaviour.
presents eight types of meyppaaTu. All of these are grounded in bodily
manifestations. Each one of these eight manifestations is related to
four moods or feelings. These moods or feelings may be either causative
or consequential. In other words, the major eight manifestations are
related to 32 different types of moods/feelings; the latter could be
either the causative mechanisms or consequential results.
have differed among themselves as to the content of 32 items, but not
on the essentiality of body acts for nonverbal communication, it being
the natural, external manifestation of internal states, and its irretrievability
and comprehension without deliberation. It is also considered an essential
component of poetry. The grammar prescribes that the poets are not to
refer to the feelings as such experienced by the individuals but only
to the external manifestations on the body.
By reference to the bodily
manifestations, and with the help of such references, the reader retrieves
the causative and consequential contexts of the poem, its intent and
so on. Because of this device, suggestion reigns supreme in poetry.
The injunction that the poet is not to refer directly to the feelings
of characters but only to bodily manifestations, while recognizing the
communicative function of bodily manifestations, aims at making a poem
more suggestive and open for varied interpretations and enjoyment. The
nonverbal mode is considered a tool to express the internal states.
The scheme also includes certain verbal acts as part of the nonverbal.
We see that even speeches by the heroine and others have been included
as forming part of the (nonverbal) group. If the speeches are mere expressions
of inner thoughts they are speeches. But if they are emotional outbursts
of inner commotion and feeling they are certainly meyppatu. If we closely
scrutinize the list of meyppatus in Tolkappiyam we will see that only
such emotional expressions have been listed under meyppaaTu (Sundaramurthy,
Suggestive power includes under the rubric of the nonverbal whatever
has been left out, not said, in the verbal act but is communicated because
of their being left out, not said, in the verbal act. Another dimension
included is that the nonverbal also includes the verbal if the latter
is one of emotional outcome.
Note that these viewpoints are also currently
held in modern studies of nonverbal behaviour (See Mehrabian, 1972).
Also note that in traditional Indian treatises the nonverbal exploits
both aural and vision media. The same classification of the nonverbal
we find in the traditional Indian grammars is also found in several
modern studies of nonverbal behaviour.
3. 6. Literature and Text-oriented Studies of Nonverbal Behaviour
Creative artists provide insights into
human mind, human behaviour, and individual and social thought and behaviour.
Both intuitive observations and empirical experimentations of nonverbal
behaviour benefit a lot from absorbing what the creative artists have
to say on various facets of nonverbal communication and what they have
identified and exploited as regards nonverbal behaviour and communication
in their works.
Creative artists are similar to the investigators who
prefer to use mainly their own intuitive analysis, but with one difference.
The investigators may tend to look at an object and/or a phenomenon
with their own set of rules, ideas and concepts whereas the creative
artists may look at the same object and/or phenomenon from so many different
angles, rather get into the soul and body of their characters in order to provide the readers with a comprehensive or suggestive picture.
Note, however, that such
a picture may be at times quite far from reality.
In literature, the nonverbal
behaviour modes depicted by authors may illumine the content or be itself
the content of the literary work. The texts provide records of nonverbal
communication of the past as well as of the present. They may be in
codified ritual texts, in didactive works, in religious discourses,
or in literary or folk episodes handed down from generation to generation.
These provide a clue to the belief system of the societies, provide
the worldview of the society whose behaviour it regulates or had regulated.
Textual analysis gives us rare as well as frequent practices, indicates
the significance of nonverbal communication across several social and
spatio-temporal levels. The past is linked with the present in the textual
analysis. The present is more clearly revealed in the past and its understanding.
Textual analysis requires several tools-semantic analysis, morphological
and syntactic description, correct identification and interpretation
of the act described in the ext and establishment of linkage between
items across texts.
Assessment of correction of interpretation requires
several measures such as identification of roots of words, morphological
patterns, syntactic comparison and establishment of patterns. The most
important function of analysis of nonverbal behaviour as found in texts
is the understanding of current behaviour that is narrated.
analysis opens up a mine of information. In literary texts, such as
novels, story is carried on and established by what the characters say
(linguistic behaviour) and by a description of the nonverbal act indulged
in by the characters. Punctuation marks are but only one device, which
give focus to some paralinguistic features. Other nonverbal communicative
acts are revealed in terms of proxemic behaviour, expressions via eye
and face, kinesics, use of implied meanings and so on.
A large part
of the author's narrative, without any one being aware of it, is aimed
at the description of nonverbal communicative acts of the characters.
Thus, because of infinite possibilities for human stories and acts,
and because of insightful observations and artistry of the authors,
literary texts also become a mine of information for those who propose
to study nonverbal communicative acts.
The paralinguistic characteristics
are conveyed by the authors in two ways-through the use of punctuation
marks using both conventional ones and those specifically created ones
by the authors themselves. The punctuation marks are of a limited quantity.
Not many have been really added to the set available, and in Indian
languages they were largely adaptations from European languages.
of a punctuation mark, reversal of its placements (in contrast to normal
practice), omission of a punctuation mark where it would be generally
expected to be used, some peculiar devices either specially defined
or brought from a stock of symbols used elsewhere for other purposes
but now sought to be used as a punctuation mark, tinkering with the
spelling are some of the initiatives one notices in this area.
device resorted to, to give an aura of the paralinguistic characteristics,
is their description sometimes through metaphorical transfer, sometimes
through foregrounding processes (foregrounding refers to the stimulus
which is not culturally expected in a social situation; when foregrounding
of something takes place, it provokes special attention; foregrounding
is generally an intentional distortion of the linguistic), many a time
by impregnating an ordinary word with potent meanings.
suggests that it is the depiction of the linguistic-paralinguistic-kinetic
structure of the people involved in the story that conveys a feeling
of authenticity and becomes a vehicle to transfer what the author has
created to the mind of the reader.
Nonverbal communication, in the hands
of authors, performs six functions, according to Poyotos. Nonverbal
communication brings about physical realism, distorting realism, individualizing
realism, psychological realism, interactive realism and documentary
realism in literary texts. Physical realism conveys the sensorial perception
of people's behaviour. Physical realism is differentiated from psychological
In psychological realism, the narration of the author delves
into the subtle inner reactions, which may be both body and purely mind-based.
In distorting realism, the literary, or artistic, expressionistic rendering
of physio-psychological reality is "meant to ridicule, to offer a caricature
of reality, or, truly to show what the eyes cannot see."
realism is shown in "the conscious effort to differentiate the characters
as to their physical and psychological characteristics, by means of
their verbal repertoires and, in the best case, by their nonverbal ones
as well." Poyotos sees interactive realism employed by authors as "a
thoughtful depiction of the mechanism of conversation mainly in face
to face encounters."
The documentary realism is historical realism and
is a consequence of physical realism as regards depiction of nonverbal
behaviour. Ritualistic and etiquette behaviours, occupational activities,
general task-performing activities, and activities conditioned by clothes,
hairdo, furniture, etc., are part of this realism.
Poyotos also identifies
four ways by which the authors usually transmit the nonverbal behaviours
in the narrative text. One way is by describing the behaviour and explaining
This is plain and has been exploited for a long time.
Although this method is plain, it, in no way, diminishes the story telling
so long as the artistry and content of the story are superb and associated
with some greatly influential thoughts.
Also note that this plain way
of presenting nonverbal behaviours may be dictated by the current practices
in story telling and could also be a stylistic marker of individual
authors. Another process of transmitting nonverbal behaviour is by describing
the behaviour without explaining the meaning.
This is generally meant
for a contemporary audience familiar with the meanings of the nonverbal
behaviour described. Also note that in contemporary contexts, an obtuse
nonverbal behaviour when described, but without its meanings explained,
becomes a technique of narration, leaving more to the personal abilities
and sensitivities of readers to retrieve the meanings.
A third way is
by explaining the meaning without describing the nonverbal behaviour.
This meaning may or may not be fully understood by the reader in the
same manner it is meant by the author.
Another method of presenting
nonverbal behaviour in the narrative text is "by providing a verbal
expression always concurrent with the nonverbal one, which is important,
but not referred to at all."
Poyotos also finds that the nonverbal repertoires
of the characters play four definite and important functions in narrative
technique. These are initial definition of the character, progressive
definition, subsequent identification and recurrent identification of
Initial definition of the character is done by means of
one or more idiosyncratic linguistic, paralinguistic and/or kinesic
features. These features include use of verbal expletives, personal
choice of words, a particular tone of voice in certain situations, a
gesture, a socially but individually conditioned way of greeting others,
other manners and mannerisms, a typical posture which we can identify
as a recurrent behaviour, etc.
Progressive definition of characters
through nonverbal behaviour is by means of adding gradually new features
as the story proceeds. "A feature adds to another feature previously
observed, complements it, builds up the physical as well as the psychological
or cultural portrait, and assists the reader in the progressive total
appreciation of the narration."
Thus, in a narrative text, the depiction
of nonverbal behaviour has several functions to perform-it carries the
burden of the story; it complements what the characters say; without
such a complementation a comprehensive locale and content cannot be
built for the story to proceed further and be comprehended by the readers.
The depiction of nonverbal behaviour also provides various types of
realism to the story, while providing at the same time various means
at the disposal of the author-various processes to define the characters
and to retain and recall such definitions to meet the demands of the
story as well as the artistry.
Both textual analysis and the analysis
of literary works provide us with insightful identification of the types,
function and defining characteristics of nonverbal communicative acts.
Empirically oriented experimental investigations of nonverbal communicative
acts can draw from this mine of information so as to fashion the acts
for controlled experimental studies.
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