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The study of vocal (and sometimes non-vocal) signals beyond the basic verbal message or speech.

Paralanguage includes pitch, loudness, rate, and fluency.

See also:


From Greek and Latin, "beside" + "language"

Examples and Observations:

  • "We speak with our vocal organs, but we converse with our entire bodies. . . . Paralinguistic phenomena occur alongside spoken language, interact with it, and produce together with it a total system of communication. . . . The study of paralinguistic behavior is part of the study of conversation: the conversational use of spoken language cannot be properly understood unless paralinguistic elements are take into account."
    (D. Abercrombie, Elements of General Phonetics, 1968)

  • "The more technical discussion of what is loosely described as tone of voice involves the recognition of a whole set of variations in the features of voice dynamics: loudness, tempo, pitch fluctuation, continuity, etc. . . .. It is a matter of everyday observation that a speaker will tend to speak more loudly and at an unusually high pitch when he is excited or angry (or, in certain situations, when he is merely simulating anger and thus, for whatever purpose, deliberately communicating false information). . . . Among the most obvious non-vocal phenomena classifiable as paralinguistic, and having a modulating, as well as punctuating, function is the nodding of the head (in certain cultures) with or without an accompanying utterance indicative of assent or agreement. . . . One general point that has been continually stressed in the literature is that both the vocal and non-vocal phenomena are to a considerable extent learned rather than instinctive and differ from language to language (or, perhaps one should say, from culture to culture)."
    (John Lyons, Semantics, Vol. 2. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977)
Also Known As: vocalics
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