Каталог статей из сборников научных конференций и научных журналов- The role of interaction of verbal and non-verbal means of communication in different types of discourse

The role of interaction of verbal and non-verbal means of communication in different types of discourse

M. А. Orlova

State University – the Higher School of Economics,

Moscow, Russia


Today the theory and practice of communication attract more and more scholars, as it has become evident that the investigation of its problems requires expertise from different areas of study. The present state of communication theory research is characterized by a lack of general methodological foundations and common conceptual approaches. There is no clear theoretical basis, commonly accepted terminology, fundamental assumptions, which would allow representatives of different directions and trends achieve mutual understanding. Opinions differ as to what should be  seen  as  communication.

In the United States and other Western countries communication study is a well-developed field, but linguistic aspects of communication are largely ignored. In Russia, on the contrary, there is a strong preference for linguistics, whereas communication study is still at an early stage of its development. The most distinctive areas distinguished in Russia  are as follows: speech communication:  A. E. Voiskunsky, V. V. Bogdanov,   O. L. Kamenskaya, E. F. Tarasov, O. Y. Goikhman, T. M. Nadeina,    Pocheptsov; the relationship between consciousness and communication:  A. Zimnaya, B. Gasparov, V. V. Krasnykh, V. Y. Shabes; language and human communicative behavior:  T. G. Vinokur,   I. P. Susov; the modeling of the communicative process: S. A. Sukhih, V. Zelenskaya; communicative strategies:  E. V. Klyuev;  non-verbal communication: I. N. Gorelov, V. F. Yengalychev; computer-mediated communication: B. Y. Gorodetsky;  phatic communion genres: V.V.Dementyev; culture of communication: N. I. Formanovskaya.

 Many definitions of communication are used in order to conceptualize the processes by which people navigate and assign meaning. Communication is also understood as the exchanging of understanding.

We might say that communication consists of transmitting information from one person to another. In fact, many scholars of communication take this as a working definition, and use Lasswell’s  maxim, «who says what to whom in what channel with what effect», as a means of circumscribing the field of communication theory.

It is helpful to examine communication theory and interaction of  verbal and  non-verbal means of  communication through one of the following viewpoints: mechanistic (considers communication as a perfect transaction of a message from the sender to the receiver),  psychological (considers communication as the act of sending a message to a receiver, and the feelings and thoughts of the receiver upon interpreting the message), symbolic interactionist (considers communication to be the product of the interactants sharing and creating meaning), systemic (considers communication to be the new messages created via «through-put», or what happens as the message is being interpreted and re-interpreted as it travels through people), critical (considers communication as a source of power and oppression of individuals and social groups), constructionist view (assumes that «truth» and «ideas» are constructed or invented through the social process of communication). [2, p. 345].

The сonstructionist view is a more realistic view of communication because it involves the interacting of human beings and the free sharing of thoughts and ideas. Humans do not communicate simply as computers or robots so that’s why it’s essential to truly understand the constructionist view of communication well. We do not simply send facts and data to one another, but we take facts and data and they acquire meaning through the process of communication, or through interaction with others.

Another way of dividing up the communication field emphasizes the assumptions that undergird particular theories, models, and approaches. These approaches include:

·          rhetorical approach – practical art of discourse,

·          semiotic approach – intersubjective mediation through signs in order to mediate between different perspectives,

·          phenomenological approach – experience of otherness, dialogue,

·          cybernetic approach – information processing and explains how all kinds of complex systems, whether living or nonliving, macro or micro, are able to function, and why they often malfunction,

·          sociopsychological approach – expression, interaction and influence critical - discursive reflection,

·          sociocultural approach – reproduction of social order [2, p. 367]. 

Thus, communication theory remains a relatively young field of inquiry and integrates itself with other disciplines such as linguistics, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. The present state of  communication theory research is characterized by a lack of general methodological foundations and common conceptual approaches.

Effective communicators have many tools at their disposal when they want to get across a message. Whether writing or speaking, they know how to put together the words that will convey their meaning.

Effective  communicators reinforce their words with gestures and actions. They look you in the eye, listen to what you have to say, and think about your feelings and needs. At the same time, they study your reactions, picking up the nuances of your response by watching your face and body, listening to your tone of voice, and evaluating your words. They absorb information just as efficiently as they transmit it, relying on both non-verbal and verbal cues.

One should mention here, that an ever-growing interest to non-verbal means of communication has been concerned to a number of works, that focus their attention on  the  given  subject  considering  the  theory  of  communication,  psycholinguistics (Leonhard К.), sociolinguistics, anthropogenic cultural sociology (Birdswhistle), nonverbal  semiotics  (Veretscagin,  Коstomarov,  Gorelov,  Кreydlin,  Piz,  Trusov  and others) [3, p. 45].

The most basic form of communication is non-verbal. Non-verbal communication adds nuance or richness of meaning that cannot be communicated by verbal elements alone.

Non-verbal communication is usually understood as the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless messages, language is not the only source of communication, there are other means also. Nonverbal communication can be communicated through gesture and touch, by body  language or posture, by facial expressions and eye contact.

 Anthropologists theorize that long before human beings used words to talk things over, our ancestors communicated with one another by using their bodies. They gritted their teeth to show anger; they smiled and touched one another to indicate affection. Al­though we have come a long way since those primitive times, we still use non-verbal cues to express superiority, dependence, dislike, respect, love, and other feelings.

Non-verbal communication differs from verbal communication in funda­mental ways. For one thing, it is less structured, which makes it more difficult to study. A person cannot pick up a book on non-verbal language and master the vocabulary of gestures, expressions, and inflections that are common in our culture. We don't really know how people learn non-verbal behaviour. No one teaches a baby to cry or smile, yet these forms of self-expression are almost universal. Other types of non-verbal communication, such as the meaning of colors and certain gestures, vary from culture to culture.

Non-verbal communication also differs from verbal communication in terms of intent and spontaneity. We generally plan our words. When we say «please open the door,» we have a conscious purpose. We think about the message, if only for a moment. But when we communicate non-verbally, we sometimes do so unconsciously. We don't mean to raise an eyebrow or blush. Those actions come naturally. Without our consent, our emotions are written all over our faces.

Although you can express many things non-verbally, there are limits to what you can communicate without the help of language. If you want to discuss past events, ideas, or abstractions, you need words-symbols that stand for thoughts – arranged in meaningful patterns.

Some scientists 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.

They concluded there are five primary functions of nonverbal bodily behavior in human communication:

·          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).

Words are the lifeblood of group interaction. Even when we communicate non-verbally, we translate those behaviors into words (thoughts, impressions) as we construct meaning for the behaviors. Verbal communication, or what we say,  can hold a group together or drive a wedge among members, hindering the accom-plishment of goals. 

Although non-verbal communication is often unplanned, it has more impact than verbal communication. Non-verbal cues are especially important in con­veying feelings; accounting for 93 percent of the emotional meaning that is exchanged in any interaction.

One advantage of non-verbal communication is its reliability. Most people can deceive us much more easily with their words than they can with their bodies. Words are relatively easy to control; body language, facial expressions, and vocal characteristics are not. By paying attention to these non-verbal cues, we can detect deception or affirm a speaker's honesty.

 Not surprisingly, we have more faith in non-verbal cues than we do in verbal messages. If a person says one thing but transmits a conflicting message non-verbally, we almost invariably believe the non-verbal signal. To a great degree, then, an individu­al's credibility as a communicator depends on non-verbal messages.

Non-verbal communication is important for another reason as well: it can be efficient from both the sender's and the receiver's standpoint. You can transmit a non-verbal message without even thinking about it, and your audi­ence can register the meaning unconsciously. When you have a conscious purpose, you can often achieve it more economically with a gesture than you can with words. A wave of the hand, a pat on the back, a wink–all are streamlined expressions of thought.

Facial expressions and other body movements such as gestures, posture, and eye behavior are referred to as kinesics. Gestures and body movements are  often associated with leadership displays in groups. Eye contact is particularly  important in group settings because it regulates who will talk next. When group members are willing to talk, they are more likely to look at the current speaker or at the leader or facilitator, signaling their intention to communicate. Group members often use facial expressions to demonstrate their approval or disapproval of the topic being discussed or the person making the presentation.

Proxemics, or the use of space, is particularly important in group inter-actions because where group members sit relative to one another affects the flow of the conversation. Generally, group members who are dominant tend to position themselves more centrally in the group’s space. This is why group leaders often sit at the end of a conference table. Members who want to participate more  position themselves where they are visible to more group members and more likely to be included in the flow of the conversation. Members who want to participate less are more likely to find a seating position that removes them from the flow of the conversation or from direct eye contact with other group members.

Haptics, or touch, is the use of nonverbal cues that demonstrate perceptions of warmth and liking. Group members can touch one another on the hands, shoulders, and arms to demonstrate their affiliation with one another. Handshakes are a common nonverbal cue used at the beginning and end of meetings.

The use of time, or chronemics, is also important in group interaction. How much members talk, or how much time they let elapse before responding to other group members contributes to perceptions of leadership and influence. Likewise, showing up at a meeting on time or being habitually late nonverbally communicates information to other group members.

Speech contains nonverbal elements known as paralanguage, including voice quality, emotion and speaking style, as well as prosodic features such as  rhythm, intonation and stress. Paralanguage (sometimes called vocalics) is the study of non-verbal cues of the voice. Various acoustic properties of speech such as tone, pitch and accent, collectively known as prosody, can all give off nonverbal cues. Paralanguage may change the meaning of words [9, p.108].

The type of non-verbal communication, vocalics, or vocal characteristics, accompanies everything we say. Meaning can be derived from how we use our voices while we talk. Vocalics include inflection (upward as in asking a question, downward as in making a statement), tone (monotone, excited), accent (southern, eastern seaboard), rate (fast, slow), pitch (deep, nasal), volume (fast, slow), number of vocal interrupters («aaaahhh,» «well,» «uh»), and quality of voice indicators (clear, scared). Subtle (and not so subtle) cues – like irony and sarcasm – about intensity and emotion are given through vocalics.

Thus, non-verbal communication differs from verbal communication in funda­mental ways. 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.

Verbal and nonverbal communication are intertwined. However, the two message systems are not always in agreement. Research has demonstrated that when receiving inconsistent messages–messages in which the verbal and nonverbal components do not agree–receivers are more likely to believe the nonverbal message.  

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 a linguist Albert Mehrabian and reported in two papers.

In his studies, Mehrabian  comes to two conclusions. Firstly, that there are basically three elements in any face-to-face communication:

·          words,

·          tone  of  voice,

·          facial  expression.

 Secondly, the non-verbal elements are particularly important for communicating feelings and attitude, especially when they are incongruent: if words disagree with the tone of voice and facial expression, people tend to believe the tonality and facial expression.

According to Mehrabian, these three elements account differently for our liking for the person who puts forward a message concerning their feelings: words account for 7 %, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55 % of the liking. They are often abbreviated as the «3 Vs» for Verbal, Vocal & Visual.

For effective and meaningful communication about emotions, these three parts of the message need to support each other – they have to be «congruent». In case of any «incongruence», the receiver of the message might be irritated by two messages coming from two different channels, giving cues in two different directions.

When delivering a lecture or presentation, for instance, the textual content of the lecture is delivered entirely verbally, but non-verbal cues are very important in conveying the speakers attitude towards their words, notably their belief or conviction.

When communicating, nonverbal messages can interact with verbal messages in six ways: repeating, conflicting, complementing, substituting, regulating and accenting/moderating.

Repeating. «Repeating» consists of using gestures to strengthen a verbal message, such as pointing to the object of discussion.

Conflicting. Verbal and non-verbal 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.  When mixed messages occur, non-verbal 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.

Complementing. Accurate interpretation of messages is made easier when non-verbal 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 non-verbal signals affirm the verbal exchange.

Substituting. Non-verbal 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. Non-verbal signals can be used without verbal communication to convey messages; when non-verbal behavior does not effectively communicate a message, verbal methods are used to enhance understanding.

Regulating. Non-verbal behavior also regulates our conversations. For example, touching someone's arm can signal that you want to talk next or interrupt.

Accenting/Moderating. Non-verbal signals are used to alter the interpretation of verbal messages. Touch, voice pitch, and gestures are some of the tools people use to accent or amplify the message that is sent; non-verbal behavior can also be used to moderate or tone down aspects of verbal messages as well. For example, a person who is verbally expressing anger may accent the verbal message by shaking a fist.

In face-to-face communication, meaning is carried by blending two components: the verbal (with words) and the non-verbal (without words). Non-verbal communication adds nuance or richness of meaning that cannot be communicated by verbal elements alone. In real time, same place communication, face-to-face communication, ordinary chat, there are many opportunities for this blending to take place.

 A contrast to this is an online chat. Academic literature indicates an increasing role for computer-mediated communication (Collis, 2008; Graebner, 2008; Hiltz, 2007; Nichols, 2007; Schweizer, Paecter & Weidenmann, 2006; Geer, 2005).  Unfortunately, non-verbal elements are generally absent in online discourse. Online chat is simple and direct. While it contains many of the elements of face-to-face conversation: more than one person responding at the same time, overlapping, takeovers, digression from the main topic, slang expressions, and omissions, it is also different from it in that it is a textual representation of conversation. Online chat, therefore, can provide little opportunity for the non-verbal aspects of the ordinary conversational mode of communication.

In online chat people use verbal elements but they are often coupled with non-verbal elements in the same text message. The most common non-verbal elements include verbal pauses, repetition of words, emotive language, symbols and punctuation marks. Negative emotions and exclamations are usually used less frequently than positive, happy, agreeable exclamations. Non-verbal elements are generally absent in online discourse.  People use verbal elements and adapt these to add non-verbal communication to their postings.

  One of the main priorities of education nowadays is academic and professional training of specialists in humanities and sciences, specialists with a high level of professional and communicative competence. Academic culture of public presentations includes both verbal and non-verbal components. The coherent use of these two types of communication means creates the general style of presentation.

 Alongside with great attention to such segments of the academic presentation as clear structure (logical organization of the talk and argumentative patterns used), cognitive potential (new information of the general humanistic character and new information on specific issues) and linguistic competence (grammar, academic vocabulary, terminological lexis, discourse markers, verbal  means  of  attracting  attention  of  the  audience,  intonation,  pronunciation, fluency  of  speech),  it  is  very  important  to  develop   extra-linguistic competence.  The  latter  comprises  body  language,  voice,  eye-contact,  mimics, gestures, and dress code. Besides, the students should be trained in the art of creating a friendly emotional atmosphere and skills of transition from a presenter’s talk on the topic defined to a constructive discussion of its various aspects with the audience.

The pedagogical experience has proven that the competent use of rhetorical patterns, factual information, visuals (outline, hand-outs, pictures, graphs, tables, terminology lists) in the talk based on ethics of academic communication contributes greatly to the general success of public presentation.

Improving non-verbal communication skills is more difficult than improving verbal communication skills because we’re less conscious of the non-verbal messages we send. Thus, the first step is to identify what non-verbal messages you send and how they influence the group’s interaction. One way to do this is to ask a group member you trust to observe you during a group meeting. This person can help you identify those non-verbal messages that contribute to the group and those  that  detract  from it.

Another way to learn more about how your non-verbal messages influence the group is to watch how others respond to you. Suppose you want to ask a question and look toward the group member speaking to get his attention, but he ignores you. What other non-verbal message could you use to establish your talking turn?

It’s easy to assume that the other group member is being rude or impolite, but maybe your non-verbal cue wasn’t strong enough to signal that you wanted to talk.

Perhaps you need to make your non-verbal message more direct and forceful. You could lean forward in your chair and open your mouth in preparation to speak while directing your gaze at the speaker. Or you could add a short verbal message, such as «Tom?» to your lean and gaze.

You can also improve your non-verbal communication skills by observing and analyzing the effectiveness of other group members. Select a group member whom you admire, and pay careful attention to the type of non-verbal cues he or she uses. Try to identify how those cues functioned during the meeting. You are likely to identify a skill that you can incorporate into your communication repertoire.

When we think about how we communicate in groups, we often forget that, in addition to verbal and non-verbal messages, listening is a major part of the communication process. Because we focus so much energy on what we say and how we say it, we often overlook our listening skills. In the group context, listening is important because we spend far more time listening than talking.

The consequences of poor listening in groups include poor working relationships, ineffective group outcomes, and time lost to faulty group processes.  Replace these ineffective listening habits with active listening–paraphrasing what the speaker has said, asking questions to confirm what was said, taking notes, and so on.


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