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Reviewed by:
  • Nonverbal communication across disciplines Vol. 1: Culture, sensory interaction, speech, conversation; Vol. 2: Paralanguage, kinesics, silence, personal and environmental interaction, and; Vol. 3: Narrative literature, theater, cinema, translation. by Fernando Poyatos
  • Chaoqun Xie
Nonverbal communication across disciplines. Vol. 1: Culture, sensory interaction, speech, conversation. Pp. xxvi, 371. ISBN 1556197535. $125 (Hb). Vol. 2: Paralanguage, kinesics, silence, personal and environmental interaction. Pp. xviii, 458. ISBN 1556197543. $145 (Hb). Vol. 3: Narrative literature, theater, cinema, translation. Pp. xx, 287. ISBN 1556197551. $105 (Hb). By Fernando Poyatos. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2002.

It is generally acknowledged that more messages are conveyed through nonverbal means than through verbal ones when it comes to communication and interaction, and recent years have witnessed an upsurge of interest in this line of inquiry, resulting in a great number of publications. Fernando Poyatos, one of the more productive authors and a veteran in research in nonverbal communication, has made important pioneering contributions to this field in his thirty-some years of endeavor. This finds expression in the three volumes under review which bring together and enlarge on the author’s previous work. The volumes, which show the diverse approaches to nonverbal communication, are of great value to scholars of many academic domains.

Vol. 1, Culture, sensory interaction, speech, conversation, contains eight chapters. After defining in Ch. 1 the interrelated notions of culture, communication, and cultural fluency, the author shows in Ch. 2 that verbal language ‘is never the sole transmitting channel in a conversation’ (61). The face, for example, can also ‘speak’ and convey messages, and sound and movement cannot be separated from each other (Ch. 3). For the author, the basic triple structure of discourse is language-paralanguage-kinesics (Ch. 4), which finds expression in the areas of speech transcription and foreign-language teaching (Ch. 5). In Ch. 6, a model for the analysis of social interaction is presented; here the author argues for nonverbal categories as personal and sociocultural identifiers. Ch. 7 deals with a structural model of conversation, and Ch. 8 focuses on nonverbal communication in interpretation.

The eight chapters in Vol. 2 are devoted to paralanguage, kinesics, silence, and personal and environmental interaction. The first four chapters provide a very detailed account of paralanguage, including ‘Primary qualities or basic personal voice features’ (Ch. 1), ‘Qualifiers or voice types’ (Ch. 2), ‘Differentiators, our eloquent physiological and emotional reaction’ (Ch. 3), and ‘Alternants, our vocabulary beyond the dictionary’ (Ch. 4). Kinesics constitutes the focus of Ch. 5, where gestures, manners, and postures are differentiated and elaborated. In Ch. 6, ‘The sound of co-activities of language: From audible kinesics to environmental sounds’, the author draws our attention to, among other things, the study of bodily and environmental sounds in intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions.

Ch. 7 tackles ‘Silence, stillness and darkness as the communicative nonactivities opposed to sound, movement and light’. Personally, I would be glad to see the author devote some space to the discussion of the pragmatics of silence. In particular, the relationship between silence and politeness still remains a topic of interest and controversy. For instance, it seems hard to maintain that keeping silent in communication always means politeness or impoliteness. It is thus strange that throughout the three volumes, the author does not discuss politeness in nonverbal communication at all. Ch. 8 examines ‘The deeper levels of personal and environmental interaction’.

In Vol. 3, Narrative literature, theater, cinema, translation, the author investigates nonverbal communication in literature, a largely unexplored topic. This volume contains seven chapters. Ch. 1 explores the explicit and implicit nonverbal components existing in a narrative or dramaturgical text, the interpretation of which may vary according to the reader’s skills and sensitivity. As argued in Ch. 2, any study of nonverbal communication in the written text or the stage performance should not overlook the fact that differences in the writer’s character and the reader’s character or the spectator’s character may result in the plurality of the literary character. Ch. 3 goes a step further by trying to show, among other things, how we can reconstruct and recreate the characters’ voices and personalities through their paralanguage. Ch. 4 is concerned with kinesics and the other visual systems...


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