Section A Mini-lecture
Paralinguistic features of languages
Good morning, everyone. Today we'll continue our discussion on describing language. Last week we examined such features of language as grammar, vocabulary, the sounds of language, etc. In this lecture, we'll look at another important aspect of language. Perhaps some of you may wonder what is this important aspect of language. Let me tell you.It refers to features of communication that takes place without the use of grammar and vocabulary.They are called ‘paralinguistic features of language'.These features fall into two broad categories:those that involve voice and those that involve the body.
Now, the first category, is what we call vocal paralinguistic features.Vocal features are actually tones of voice. While they are, perhaps, not central to meaning in communication in the same way as grammar or vocabulary, they may, nevertheless, convey attitude or intention in some way. Let me give you some examples. The first iswhispering, which indicatesthe needs for secrecy. The second isbreathiness. This is to showdeep emotion. The third ishuskiness, which is to showunimportants. The fourth isnasality. This is to indicate anxiety. The last isextra lip-rounding, which expressesgreater intimacy, expecially with babies, for example. So we can see that there are a number of ways of altering our tone of voice. And when we do this consciously, we do it to create different effects in communication.
Now, let's come tothe second category, physical paralinguistic features, which involves the body. In addition to convey meanings with tone of voice, we can also express our intentions through the ways in which we use our bodies. You may ask: what are the ways, then? Let me sight some brief examples. The expression on our face, the gestures we make and even proximity or way we sit, are some of the ways we send powerful messages. About how we feel, or what we mean. Let me explain some of these in more detail. First,facial expression. Facial expression is a powerful conveyer of meaning. We all knowsmilingis an almost universal signal ofpleasure or welcome. But there are other facial expressions that may not be so common. For instance,raising eye-brows- suggest that you aresurprised or interested in something. Other facial actions, such asbiting your lip, which indicates that you aredeep in thinking, or areuncertainabout something;compressing the lips, which show that you aremaking decisions; and a visibleclenching of the teeth, to show that you areangry, are all powerful conveyers of meaning, too. The second in this category is gesture. You see, we usegestureto indicate a wide range of meanings. Though I have to emphasize that the actual gestures we use may be specific to particular cultures. That is to say different cultures have their own favorite gestures in conveying meaning. Here, a few examples may show you how powerful gestures can be. In British English behavior,shrugging shouldersmay indicate an attitude of ‘I don't care', or ‘I don't know'.Crossing your armsmay indicaterelaxation. But it can also powerfully show you arebored.Wavingcan meanwelcome and farewell. Whilescratching your headmay indicate that you areat a loss. In other cultures,placing your hand upon your heartis to indicate that you aretelling the truth.Pointing your finger at your nosemeansit's a secret. That's why we say thatgestures are culture bound. The third isproximity, posture and echoing. Proximityrefers tothe physical distance between speakers.This can indicate a number of things and can also be used to consciously send messages about intent.Closeness, for example, indicatesintimacy or threatto many speakers. But distance may showformality, orlack of interest. Once again, I'd like to say,proximity is also both a matter of personal style, and is often culture bound. So, what may seem normal to a speaker from one culture may appear unnecessarily close or distant to a speaker from another. And standing close to someone may be quite appropriate in some situations such as an informal party, but completely out of place in other situations, such as a meeting with a superior. Next, posture.Posture means the way in which someone holds his or her body,especially the back, shoulders and head, when standing, walking or sitting. A few examples.Hunched shoulders and a hanging headgive a powerful indication of whether the person ishappy or not.A lowered headwhen speaking to a superior,with or without eye contact can convey the appropriate relationshipin some cultures. On the other hand,direct level eye contact, changes the nature of interaction, and can been seen as eitheropen or challenging. Last, echoing. Now, what is echoing? Let me start with an example. Some of you may have noticed this phenomenon in your experience. When two people are keen to agree each other, they would likely, though unconsciously adopt the same posture, as if an imitation of each other. They sit or stand in the same manor. When used in this way,echoing appears to complement the verbal communication. Of course, when such imitation is carried out consciously, it often indicates that someone is marking at another speaker.
Ok, in today's lecture,we looked at some paralinguistic features, such as tone of voice, gesture and posture. These features, together with linguistic features of language, like grammar, or vocabulary, are all part of the way we communicate with each other in face to face encounters. In our next lecture, we'll watch some video material, and see how people actually use paralinguistic means in communication to express their intention or desire or mood.
I. Vocal Paralinguistic Features
1. whispering- the needs for secrecy
2. breathiness- deep emotion
3. huskiness- unimportants
4. nasality- anxiety
5. extra lip-rounding- greater intimacy
II. physical paralinguistic features
1. facial expression- powerful conveyer of meaning.
--e.g.1 smiling: pleasure or welcome
--e.g.2 raising eye-brows: surprised or interested in something
--e.g.3 biting your lip:deep in thinking/ uncertain about something
--e.g.4 compressing the lips: making decisions
--e.g.5 clenching of the teeth: angry
2. gesture- culture bound
--e.g.1 shrugging shoulders: 'I don't care', or 'I don't know'
--e.g.2 crossing your arms: relaxation/ bored
--e.g.3 waving: welcome and farewell
--e.g.4 scratching your head: at a loss
--e.g.5 placing your hand upon your heart: telling the truth
--e.g.6 pointing your finger at your nose: it's a secret
3. proximity, posture and echoing
1). proximity: personal style & culture bound
--e.g.1 closeness: intimacy, threat
--e.g.2 distance: fomality, lack of interest
2). posture: the way in which someone holds his or her body
--e.g.1 Hunched shoulders and a hanging head: happy or not
--e.g.2 A lowered head, eye contact: the appropriate relationship
--e.g.3 direct level eye contact: open or challenging
3). echoing: to complement the verbal communication
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