What is PARALANGUAGE ?
‘Paralanguage may be expressed consciously or unconsciously.’
Paralanguage is used to describe a wide range of vocal characteristics which help to express and reflect the speaker’s attitude.
The study of paralanguage is known as paralinguistics.
It was invented by George L. Trager in the 1950s. While he was working at the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State, he decided to differentiate between spoken words and the meanings that they convey, i.e., language, and the other communicative features of human speech. And so the formal study of paralanguage was born.
Paralanguage is non-verbal in nature and depends on voice, intonation, pitch, pause, volume, stress, gestures, and signals. Through these, one’s voice can convey enthusiasm, confidence, anxiety and the speaker’s mental state and temperament.
Voice is the first signal that we receive or use. There are various categories of voices like, a voice can be sweet, soft, musical, cultivated, pleasant, nasty, clear or indistinct, among other things. The voice can help reveal a speaker’s background, mental state, education, sex and temperament.
Intonation is the modulation of the voice and the shift in stress. For example, a message with serious content should not be delivered in a high tone, but in a somber tone.
Pitch is the vocal slant of the voice, that reveals the speaker’s frame of mind. An unusually high pitch may reflect agitation. An unchanging pitch may be boring or monotonous, decreasing the listener’s span of attention. A person in a position of authority uses a higher pitch than a subordinate.
A pause emphasizes a message. A pause is to speech what a comma is to prose. A pause at the wrong place may lead to miscommunication. For example, the difference between ‘fruit trees’ and ‘fruit trees’ is vast.
(v) Volume variation:
The speaker should adjust the volume of his voice depending on the size of the audience. Larger the audience, the louder the voice should be. Volume variation makes the speech effective. Sometimes changing from loud to soft and from soft to loud will have the desired effect.
(vi) Mixed signals: Mixed signals occur when the tone, pitch and facial expressions of the speaker do not match the words that he is speaking. This confuses the listener as to the exact motive of the speaker. For example, praise delivered in a sarcastic tone conveys mockery.
(vii) Proper word stress:
Communication is made more effective by putting proper emphasis or stress on the right words.
(viii) Overall impression:
The listener understands not only by the content, but also by the manner in which the speaker conveys it. The speaker’s attitude, dressing style, physical appearance, age, gender, accent and the quality and tone of the voice also affect the message that gets communicated.
To make a message effective, the individual gives the overall impression in the consonance with the message conveyed.
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