Nonlinguistic Communication

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Communication, Nonlinguistic


the means of human communication involving movements of the hands, body, and facial muscles.

Nonlinguistic communication may be conventional or spontaneous. Conventional nonlinguistic means of communication consist of gestures incomprehensible to the uninitiated, usually stipulated beforehand and sometimes codified into rules of usage. They may be international, national, or narrowly restricted; for example, the signals used by soldiers or the sign language of monastic orders. Spontaneous gestures are divided into four groups: pointing gestures, gestures that convey or reveal emotions, emphatic gestures, and rhythmical gestures.

Gestures are not universal and are unique to a given language group. For example, the gesture of sticking out the tongue, used as a form of teasing by Europeans, expresses a threat among the Chinese and anger in India; among the ancient Maya, this same gesture represented wisdom. Nonlinguistic means of communication may accompany ordinary speech; they are also related to the timbre and intonation of the voice.


Apresian, G. Oratorskoe iskusstvo. Moscow, 1969.
Nikolaeva, T. M. Zhest i mimika v lektsii. Moscow, 1972.
Vereshchagin, E. M., and V. G. Kostomarov. lazyk i kul’tura. Moscow, 1973.
Pike, K. Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Behavior, 2nd ed. The Hague, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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