Sei sulla pagina 1di 493




General Editor
(University of Ottawa)


Advisory Editorial Board

Henning Andersen (Los Angeles); Raimo Anttila (Los Angeles)

Thomas V . Gamkrelidze (Tbilisi); John E . Joseph (College Park, M d . )
Hans-Heinrich Lieb (Berlin); Ernst Pulgram (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
E . W y n Roberts (Vancouver, B . C . ) ; Danny Steinberg (Tokyo)

Volume 92

Fernando Poyatos


University of New Brunswick
Fredericton, N . B . , Canada


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Poyatos, Fernando.
Paralanguage : a linguistic and interdisciplinary approach to interactive speech and
sound / Fernando Poyatos.
p. c m . - (Amsterdam studies in the theory and history of linguistic science.
Series I V , Current issues in linguistic theory, ISSN 0304-0763; v. 92)
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
1. Paralinguistics. 2 . Nonverbal communication. I. Title. II. Series.
P95.5.P69 1993
414'.6--dc20 92-42014
I S B N 90 272 3527 9 (Eur.)/l-55619-149-9 ( U S ) (alk. paper) CIP

© Copyright 1993 - John Benjamins B . V .

N o part of this book m a y be reproduced in any form, by print, photoprint, microfilm, or
any other means, without written permission from the publisher.

John Benjamins Publishing C o . · P . O . Box 75577 · 1070 A N Amsterdam · Netherlands

John Benjamins North America · 821 Bethlehem Pike · Philadelphia, P A 19118 · U S A
To m y wife, María,
with love

Preface & Acknowledgements xiii

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: From Movement to Sound

The Sign-Emitting Activities and Nonactivities of the H u m a n Body
as a Communicator 13
1.1 The sign-emitting activities and nonactivities of the h u m a n body 13
1.2 T h e anatomical-articulatory possibilities of the h u m a n body and their
relation to communicative sound 15
1.3 A n inventory of visual and visual-audible movements 16
1.4 T h e sounds of self-adaptors and alter-adaptors and their communica-
tive quality: when w e hear our touching ourselves and being touched 25
1.5 T h e sounds of body-adaptors: interpersonal and intrapersonal dimen-
sions 29
1.6 The sounds of object-adaptors: when things talk back to us 31
1.7 T h e sounds of object-mediated activities: audible body extensions 32
1.8 Mechanical, artifactual and environmental sounds as possible compo-
nents of interaction 35
1.9 Functions, culture, ontogeny and segmentality of bodily audible move-
ments 37
1.10 Conclusion 41
Notes 42

Chapter 2: The Anatomy and Physiology of Vocal-Narial Sound Pro-

A n Audible-Visual Approach to Language and Paralanguage 45
2.1 From external articulations and contacts to internal-external speech
activities and related signs 45
2.2 T h e lungs and bronchi 50
2.3 T h e esophagus 52
2.4 T h e larynx 54

2.5 The pharynx 63

2.6 The oral cavity 67
2.6.1 The alveolar-palatal areas 67
2.6.2 The dental areas 70
2.6.3 The labial areas and the cheeks 73
2.6.4 The tongue 89
2.7 The mandible 99
2.8 The nasal cavities 103
2.9 The vowel sounds as degrees in tongue and lip position: sound and ges-
ture 111
2.10 A note on secondary articulations 113
2.11 Conclusion 114
Notes 114
Appendix: Linguistic and paralinguistic transcription symbols 115

Chapter 3: Language-Paralanguage-Kinesics
The Basic Triple Structure of Communication in Face-To-Face
Interaction 121
3.1 The progressive phonetic-visual approach to speech 121
3.2 The expressive limitations of spoken and written words 123
3.3 A brief introduction to language, paralanguage and kinesics 129
3.4 The intervening silences and stills as elements of the basic triple struc-
ture 135
3.5 Segmental and nonsegmental elements within the basic triple structure 137
3.6 A note on the redundancy vs. complementarity of segmental and non-
segmental features of speech 139
3.7 Anthroposemiotic coherence and ontogenetic and social development
of the structure language-paralanguage-kinesics 140
3.8 Language markers and identifiers as the closest paralinguistic and
kinesic accompaniments to words 147
3.9 The ten different realizations of language, paralanguage and kinesics in
discourse 150
3.10 Intrasystem, intersystem, and environmental/cultural interrelationships 153
3.11 The total conditioning background of paralanguage 156
3.12 The basic triple structure in full interaction, reduced interaction, non-
interaction and environmental interaction 159
3.13 O n the concept of usage 166
3.14 The joint transcription of language-paralanguage-kinesics in their total
interactional context 167
3.15 Conclusion 171
Notes 172

Chapter 4: Primary Qualities

The Speaker-Identifying Paralinguistic Features 175
4.1 T h e conditioning factors and classification of primary qualities 175
4.2 Timbre 177
4.3 Resonance 178
4.4 Loudness 179
4.5 T e m p o 182
4.6 Pitch: level, range, registers and intervals 184
4.7 Intonation range 189
4.8 Syllabic duration 192
4.9 Rhythm 194
4.10 Conclusion 195
Notes 196
Appendix: Transcription symbols for paralinguistic primary qualities 196

Chapter 5: Qualifiers
The M a n y Voices of Interaction 199
5.1 Nature, classification and problems of voice types 199
5.2 Breathing control 202
5.3 Laryngeal control 203
5.4 Esophageal control 218
5.5 Pharyngeal control 219
5.6 Velopharyngeal control 221
5.7 Lingual control 227
5.8 Labial control 228
5.9 Mandibular control 229
5.10 Articulatory control 230
5.11 Articulatory tension control 233
5.12 Objectual control 233
5.13 Conclusion 235
Notes 242
Appendix: Transcription symbols for paralinguistic qualifiers 243

Chapter 6: Differentiators
The Eloquence of Emotional and Physiological Reactions 245
6.0 Introduction: the status of differentiators as a paralinguistic category
and as components of interaction 245
6.1 Laugther 248
6.1.1 T h e needed research perspectives on laughter 248
6.1.2 T h e morphology of laughter as a paralinguistic-kinesic c o m p o -
nent of interaction 249

6.1.3 T o w a r d a correct labelling and understanding of laughter types 261

6.1.4 Direction, control and eliciting situations 263
6.1.5 Categories of social laughter: A functional classification 266
6.1.6 A final note on laughter: historical and cultural perspectives 283
6.2 Crying 284
6.2.1 Crying as a research topic 284
6.2.2 T h e morphology of crying as a paralinguistic-kinesic or paralin-
guistic-kinesic-chemical component of interaction 286
6.2.3 T h e vocabulary for crying and the interpretation of labels 298
6.2.4 Direction, control, eliciting situations, and privacy invasion 300
6.2.5 Categories of crying: a functional classification 303
6.3 Shouting 316
6.3.1 Shouting as a research topic 316
6.3.2 T h e morphology of shouting as a paralinguistic or paralinguistic-
kinesic behavior 317
6.3.3 T h e vocabulary for shouting 320
6.3.4 Direction, control and eliciting situations 321
6.3.5 Categories of shouting: a functional classification 323
6.4 Sighing and gasping 330
6.4.1 Sighing and gasping as paralinguistic activities 330
6.4.2 T h e morphology of sighing and gasping and their similarities and
differences 331
6.4.3 T h e nature of sighing and gasping and their direction, control
and eliciting situations 333
6.4.4 Categories of sighing and gasping: A Functional classification 334
6.5 Panting 341
6.5.1 Panting as a paralinguistic p h e n o m e n o n 341
6.5.2 A functional classification of panting 342
6.6 Yawning 343
6.6.1 T h e nature and paralinguistic status of yawning 343
6.6.2 T h e morphology of yawning 344
6.6.3 A functional classification of yawning 346
6.7 Coughing and throat-clearing 346
6.7.1 Coughing and throat-clearing as paralinguistic activities 346
6.7.2 T h e morphology of coughing and throat-clearing 348
6.7.3 Nature, direction, control and eliciting situations 350
6.7.4 Categories of coughing and throat-clearing: a functional classifi­
cation 351
6.8 Spitting 358
6.8.1 Spitting as a voluntary paralinguistic-kinesic behavior 358
6.8.2 T h e morphology of spitting 359
6.8.3 Nature, direction and eliciting situations 360
6.8.4 Categories of spitting: physiological and social functions 361
6.9 Belching 366
6.9.1 Belching as a paralinguistic behavior 366

6.9.2 T h e morphology of a belch 367

6.9.3 A functional classification of belching: physiological and social
aspects 368
6.10 Hiccuping 370
6.10.1 Hiccuping as a paralinguistic behavior 370
6.10.2 T h e morphology of a hiccup 371
6.11 Sneezing 371
6.11.1 Sneezing as a paralinguistic behavior 371
6.11.2 T h e morphology of sneezing 372
6.11.3 Social sneezing and its associated behaviors: courtesy, supersti-
tion, religion 374
6.11 Conclusion 376
Note 376

Chapter 7: Alternants
T h e Vocabulary Beyond the Dictionary 379
7.1 Nature, meaning, iconicity, and lexicality of alternants 379
7.2 T h e needed research perspectives on alternants 387
7.3 Identified and unidentified alternants: verbal and visual representation 389
7.4 T h e inconsistency of written forms and the ambiguity of labels 403
7.5 T h e paralanguage of comics: sounds m a d e visible 407
7.6 Toward a classification of alternants 416
7.7 T h e paralinguistic and kinesic qualifiers of alternants 435
7.8 T h e paralanguage of animal calling as a topic of interdisciplinary
paralinguistic research 443
7.9 T h e communicative status of random alternants 446
7.10 Conclusion 448
Notes 449

Conclusion 451

References 453
Literary References 463
List of Illustrations 467
N a m e Index 469
Subject Index 473

There would be no doubt in the reader's mind that a comprehensive book

on paralanguage has been long overdue. Different areas in nonverbal c o m -
munication studies have been proliferating in the last thirty years, offering
a great number of research and pedagogical avenues, m a n y practical appli-
cations in very diverse aspects of life, and a general awareness of h o w
people and their environment communicate beyond words. But it seems
that paralanguage has proven too great a challenge to be dealt with because
of the difficulties involved and its inherent elusiveness. Thus, there being
no ground-breaking interdisciplinary work on the subject — for interdiscip-
linarity cannot be avoided today without detriment to one's knowledge in
any single field — a c o m m o n source of data and a useful theoretical and
methodological model was necessary for phoneticians, linguists,
anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, doc-
tors and nurses, speech therapists, anyone else engaged in professional
interaction, foreign-language instructors, writers, students or readers of
novels or plays, and those engaged in theater and film productions.
I trust this book will serve that purpose. I also hope that its readers will
read also between the lines and recognize in these pages m a n y undiscussed
implications and research suggestions. M y fellow researchers are encour-
aged to carry m y task m u c h further.


I would like to express m y gratitude

to those pioneers in paralinguistic studies mentioned in the Introduc-
- to the m a n y colleagues and students with w h o m I have discussed m y
work in paralanguage and nonverbal communication at lectures in the
last ten years, firstly, those of the Hungarian Linguistic Society and

the Copenhagen Linguistics Circle, then, in one or more visits to their

institutions, to those in different disciplines at universities in West
Germany (Berlin, Essen, Heidelberg, Mainz-Germersheim), Finland
(Vaasa), Holland (Tilburg, Amsterdam), Hungary (Budapest, Debre-
cen, Pecs), Yugoslavia (Ljubljana), Turkey (Bogazici [Istanbul],
Akdeniz [Antalia]), Japan (International Christian University),
France (Lyon, Paris V ) , Belgium (Mons) and Spain (Barcelona, Tar-
ragona, Valencia, Murcia, Oviedo, Pais Vasco).
to audiences at international conferences of Anthropology, Sociology,
Psychology, Applied Psychology, Crosscultural Psychology, Linguis-
tics, Applied Linguistics, Psycholinguistics, and Semiotics for those
comments and ideas I could not waste.
to the Canada Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada for their support in the past, and to the
University of N e w Brunswick for its continuing support.
in a very special way, to Konrad Koerner for inviting m e to write this
book, and to John and Claire Benjamins and Editors Bertie Kaal and
Yola de Lusenet for their kindnesses.

Fernando Poyatos
University of N e w Brunswick
September 1991

1. T h e pioneers' reactions to the traditional shortsightedness about


About twenty years ago m y dissatisfaction with the traditional constraints

of language studies led m e to acknowledge the reality of speech as the triple
structure language-paralanguage-kinesics simply because I saw myself and
others using the three channels simultaneously and therefore I could not
understand their 'scholarly' dissociation. I began to discover the various
aspects of paralanguage not addressed by the pioneers in the field, which
spurred m y attempts to identify whatever sounds w e utter beyond words
proper. I was inspired in that endeavor both by what I found and what I dis-
covered as missing in the work of specialists such as Bell (1867), Sweet
(1906), Russell (1931), Chiba and Kajiyama (1941), Weaver (1942), Pike
(1943, 1946), Trager (1949), Smith (1952), Smith (1953), Trager and Hall
(1954), Trager (1955, 1956), Trager and Smith (1956), the psychiatrist Pit-
tinger (1956), Pittinger and Smith (1957), M c Q u o w n (1957), Hill (1958,
after having coined 'paralanguage' [1952] to include also body movement),
Trager (1958, 1960), Kaplan (1960), Pittinger, Hockett and Danehy (1960),
Birdwhistell (1961), Crystal (1963), Catford (1964), Crystal and Quirk
(1964), Sebeok, Hayes and Bateson (1964), Austin (1965), Catford (1968),
and Pei's (1966) dictionary of linguistics (which included a number of
paralinguistic and kinesic terms). They represented not only a continued
effort to identify those audible phenomena they reckoned as indispensable
in speech, but a fruitful unhappiness about the rather unmoveable,
shortsighted and obscuring stand of traditional linguistics and phonetics.
Pike (1943) said, "phonetic systems have not been based upon the total
number of sounds which are k n o w n to occur in speech" (31), as "Phoneti-
cians [...] usually start with the assumption that [phonetics] does not
include sounds apart from speech" (34-35), although they "cannot afford to
overlook them" (36), besides the fact that "sounds which are nonspeech

from the point of view of one language may be phonemic in another" (37).
Twenty years later Catford (1964) would still complain that "phoneticians
have always been primarily concerned with setting up descriptive categories
for phonemic features which are utilized phonologically in languages [and
therefore] no great delicacy of description or classification has seemed to be
called for", and that there was no attempt "to set up a systematic
framework of categories for the description or classification of different
kinds of voice quality" (29).
A more insightful attempt to see verbal language and paralanguage
together in the speech stream had been the book by the psychiatrist-lin-
guist-psychiatrist team of Pittinger, Hockett and Danehy (1960), a trans-
cription-analysis of The First Five Minutes of a psychotherapy interview.
That allowed them to keep a more faithful record, not only of what the
patient would say, but h o w he would say it, a method that would culminate
in The Natural History of an Interview, by M c Q u o w n et al (1971) (unfortu-
nately still in microfilm form), which already acknowledged what I was then
discussing both at conferences and in some papers as the unquestionable
'triple structure' language-paralanguage-kinesics, as the speaker 'sounds'
but 'moves' what he says. However, the pervasive disagreement and limita-
tions as to what to include under paralanguage incited m e to m a k e some
classifications of categories and phenomena (e.g., Poyatos 1975, 1976a,
1979), as I recognized the m a n y gaps in the theoretical literature and the
m a n y needed applications in various fields. A t the same time, amidst a pro-
liferation of kinesic studies, there was still a typical neglect of the fact that
those very kinesic acts cooccurred with paralanguage and verbal language
in various combinations and that a knowledge of paralinguistic behaviors
was a prerequisite for any realistic study of language or kinesics or, for that
matter, of the structure of conversation. In other words, m y initial identifi-
cation and classification of paralinguistic and kinesic phenomena (e.g,
Poyatos 1977a) responded to m y thoughts concerning what I later found
Abercrombie (1968) had referred to as the "unfortunate separation of the
visible and the audible" (58), naturally agreeing with him that "fact-finding,
not theorising, is what is wanted at this juncture" (58). In fact, I realized
the great need for both simultaneously in view of the misconceptions (e.g.,
that language was cognitive, paralanguage emotional) and understatements
(e.g, that paralanguage was marginal to language, m a d e only of affects and
effects) which relegated paralanguage to the most ambiguous state of what
I saw as a perfectly established vocal system shunned through ignorance of
the communication processes.

2. The 1973 IXth I C A E S and a state-of-the-art article

It was then that the IXth International Congress of Anthropological and

Ethnological Sciences (Chicago, 1973) and some of its pre-congress confer-
ences afforded serious discussions of paralanguage, later contained in vol-
umes edited by K e n d o n , Harris and Key (1975) and M c C o r m a c k and
W u r m (1976). W u r m summarized the severe criticism undergone by the
transformational-generative approaches for their "artificially restrictive
nature in dissociating the subject matters which they study from their social
and cultural background" (363). H e cited Kendon's discussion of the ses-
sion 'Language and M a n , ' in which "The notion of language as an abstract
system, as 'a thing in itself to be studied apart from the utterances of live
individuals in interactional situations no longer appeared tenable to m a n y
of them" (364). K e n d o n explicitly quoted "Crystal, Poyatos, Slama-Cazacu
and von Raffler-Engel as being all quite explicit in their dissatisfaction with
the scope of linguistics as currently conceived" (365), that is, the treatment
of "any information linguists could not describe with their present theoreti-
cal and notational apparatus as nonlinguistic" (365), adding that one defin-
ition of language could be that it is "a communication system which is capa-
ble of transmitting new information" (365) (both ideas expressed by Lieber-
m a n [1972 and 1975]), and that language was n o w being defined in terms of
its function or functions. H e added that Crystal (1976) and Poyatos (1975),
though in different ways, "point out that what has hitherto been disre-
garded by linguists in the vocal output of people has as m u c h structural and
functional claim to be incorporated into language as words do, and von
Raffler-Engel and, particularly, Slama-Cazacu m a k e the same point for
body motion" (365). Finally, Slama-Cazacu's discussion affirmed that the
papers presented reflected an "état d'âme which is symptomatic of the pre-
sent crisis" (369). O n e could then link the earlier statements by Pike (1943)
and Trager (1958), already seeking the linguisticness of m a n y paralinguistic
features, to others m a d e at that time, such as Crystal's (1975), saying that
"observations of people's everyday reactions to language suggest that
paralinguistic phenomena, far from being marginal, are frequently the
primary determinants of behaviour in an interaction" (164), and that
"paralanguage cannot be given anything other than a central role". Lieber-
m a n (1975), complained about lack of adequate transcription systems and
about the artificial "rigid dychotomy wherein certain semantic constructs
are 'paralinguistic' and others 'linguistic'" (279), and it was becoming obvi-

ous that, as Crystal (1975) would point out, "just because this area of
behaviour is difficult to describe and quantify, it does not m e a n that it lacks
systems altogether" (169).
Further proof of the état d'âme noted by Slama-Cazacu were Crystal's
(1974) masterful state-of-the-art paper and a paper (Poyatos 1975) and a
book (Poyatos 1976a) of mine, as they contained m a n y interesting coinci-
dences of thought with respect to the kind of development needed in
paralinguistic studies, the lack of some of which would still be criticized
m u c h later by Scherer (1982): (a) Crystal advocated a phonetic criterion
(i.e., not a phonemic one from the standpoint of English or any particular
language) to allow for crosscultural comparison, actually in keeping with
Catford's (1968) efforts to show man's anthropophonetic possibilities, while
Poyatos (1975) worked in that direction in his I C A E S paper "to elaborate
a realistic phonemic chart of a culture or subculture beyond what is pro-
vided by the International Phonetic Alphabet", applying it to the analysis
of paralinguistic 'alternants' (299-311); (b) Crystal referred to the need for
functional definitions, so far insufficient, while Poyatos' (1977b) functional
classification for kinesic behavior could be applied to paralanguage; (c)
Crystal complained about the lack of serious research for structural or
denotative functions and a potential structural function, while Poyatos
(1975,1976a, 1976b, and earlier) claimed for paralanguage not only a struc-
ture in its o w n right, but its costructuration with language and kinesics
within the 'basic triple structure' and within the structure of interaction; (d)
Crystal referred to the lack of descriptive studies, especially outside English,
while Poyatos suggested phonetic descriptions of a number of constructs,
trying to encourage further systematic study; (e) consequently, Crystal
complained also about the absence of a "systematic survey of paralinguistic
effects [as a] routine part of [the fieldworkers'] investigations" (276), and
the few attempts to transcribe utterances, while Poyatos' (1975, also in 1976b)
suggested at least transcriptions and n e w symbols (echoing Pike's complaint
[1943:39]) for s o m e sixty paralinguistic constructs of our daily repertoire
and expressed the great need for n e w labels for m a n y of them, as they func-
tion as true dictionary items but cannot be referred to by verbs and nouns;
which in turn agreed also with (f) Crystal's plea for normal data;,(g) Crystal
encouraged the search for the functional roles of paralanguage, away from
the purely 'emotional' or 'affective' types of information usually mentioned
in the literature, and m o r e in relation to social function, while Poyatos
(1975, 1976b) emphasized precisely social functions, socioeducational

stratification of paralanguage (along with language and kinesics) and

crosscultural research, discussing its interactional context and the kind of
interactivefluency(not just linguistic) one must achieve, while suggesting
the elaboration of paralinguistic and/or kinesic atlases (cf. Morris et al,

3. T h e contributions of phonetics and psychology and the public discus-

sion of nonverbal communication issues in the 70s and 80s.

It was obvious that no conspicuous systematic efforts resulted from those

attempts to m a k e linguists and phoneticians more aware of the relevance of
paralanguage, nor from the extremely insightful manuals of phonetics by
Abercrombie (1967) and, ten years later, by Catford (1977), although Mary
Ritchie K e y (1975a, 1975b, 1986, 1987) has been an inspiring force for
many years. T h e exemplary exception was finally the book The Phonetic
Description of Voice Quality, by John Laver (1980), w h o in 1977 spoke at
the VIIIth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, where I had
organized a session on paralanguage (and where Konrad Koerner with
m u c h perspicacity first suggested this book), similar to the one I had had in
1972 for the Northern Modern Language Association, to which I invited
Philip Lieberman after reading his book on the speech of primates (Lieber-
m a n 1972). Laver's book on voice qualities was a great incentive for m y
ongoing work, as have been two more papers by him (Laver 1972, Laver
and Hanson 1981). In addition, I had been aware for a long time of what
Crystal (1975) had critically referred to as the inaccuracy of the traditional
psychological view that "verbal language communicates 'cognitive' m e a n -
ing, whereas the non-verbal code [...] communicates 'affective' meaning'
[...] an important role for paralanguage [...], but by far not the only one"
(165). A whole interdisciplinary panorama was rapidly unfolding before
m e , but also the awareness of the difficulties that would confront anyone
trying to study paralanguage systematically.
While speaking about the needed interdisciplinary approach to
paralanguage and nonverbal communication in general at m a n y confer-
ences and in lectures during the 70s and early 80s, which I also discussed in
several papers and two books (Poyatos 1976a, 1983), I was aware — and
acknowledge it in m y nonverbal communication courses — of the various
applications of voice type analyses in psychological studies of personality

(notably Scherer 1972, 1973, 1978, 1979a, 1979b), age (e.g., Helfrich 1979),
emotions (Scherer 1979b, Scherer and E k m a n 1984,), etc., in which some-
times, as should be expected, experimental control would impede a realistic
knowledge of m a n y subtle paralinguistic behaviors and features. There
appeared then excellent state-of-the-art treatments and other discussions
and compilations, mainly Harper, Wiens and Mattarazzo's (1978), Weitz's
(1979); Scherer's (1982; 1984, analyzing the shortcomings and needs in this
area), all with very useful bibliographies, as well as very helpful voice
analyses in the field of voice disorders and speech therapy (e.g., Travis
[Ed.] 1971). A t the same time, the field of nonverbal communication had
been gaining m u c h m o m e n t u m through a rapidly growing serious literature,
by its frequent discussion at interdisciplinary congress sessions and sym-
posiums (many of which I organized myself within anthropology, linguis-
tics, applied linguistics, psychology, applied psychology, crosscultural
psychology, psycholinguistics, sociology, semiotics, etc.), and through a
number of very useful textbooks (e.g., K n a p p and Hall 1992; Malandro and
Barker 1989; Burgoon, Buller and Woodall 1989), all with ample bibliog-
raphies, yet typically lacking references to, for instance, the fields of litera-
ture, theater, film-making, architecture, etc., thus missing some very
important perspectives for lack of sufficient interdisciplinarity.

4. T h e definition of paralanguage and the contents of this book

Having at least outlined the development of paralinguistic studies — but

purposely avoiding a lengthier state-of-the-art chapter on the work of other
students in the field — one can still wonder what exactly should be right-
fully included under the term 'paralanguage'. Fig. 0.1, Taralanguage', rep-
resents the 'categories' and 'forms' of what is understood as paralanguage
in this book: the nonverbal voice qualities, voice modifiers and independent
utterances produced or conditioned in the areas covered by the supraglottal
cavities (from the lips and the nares to the pharynx), the laryngeal cavity
and the infraglottal cavities (lungs and esophagus), d o w n to the abdominal
muscles, as well as the intervening momentary silences, which w e use con-
sciously or unconsciously supporting or contradicting the verbal, kinesic,
chemical, dermal and thermal or proxemic messages, either simultaneously
or alternating with them, in both interaction and noninteraction.

This realistic definition constitutes, therefore, the basis of this book.

B y necessity, however, C H A P T E R O N E discloses the eloquence of the
human sounds, beyond those produced in the vocal-narial channel, deter-
mined by our movements in contact with ourselves, others, and the objects
w e are surrounded by in each culture, for they all blend with language and
paralanguage, and even with the sounds of the environment, in mysteriously
meaningful, language-like audible sensations that cannot be ignored and
unrealistically detached from the p h e n o m e n o n of h u m a n language and the
processes of communication. It is only after sensitizing ourselves to all c o m -
municative sounds that w e can try to focus on the strictly organic sounds of
language and paralanguage, as is done in C H A P T E R T W O . This approach
to speech, however, is an audible-visual one; thus, besides discussing the
anatomical characteristics of the speech organs, their articulatory pos-
sibilities and the muscular physiology involved, the classification and iden-
tification of communicative sounds goes inevitably well beyond the tradi-
tional I P A limits, as they are seen in their relations with the communicative
aspects of each visible speech organ and the face in general, that is, the
speaking face;, the basic typical pathology of each speech organ is also iden-
tified, and m a n y needed transcription symbols (based on computer sym-
bols) are suggested to at least attempt a realistic social or clinical notation.
C H A P T E R T H R E E , then, acknowledges the expressive limitations of
words, and the triple reality of speech language-paralanguage- kinesics (the
'basic triple structure') in its various combinations; naturally including the
intervening silences and stills of speech, indispensable for a detailed
analysis of discourse — or for weighing the communicative possibilities and
problems in 'reduced interaction' (i.e., by/with the deaf, the blind, the
limbless) — and for which a multi-system transcription is proposed which
cannot neglect other cobehaviors, nor the m a n y variables of the 'total con-
ditioning background'. The next four chapters discuss the four paralinguis-
tic categories. C H A P T E R F O U R deals with the fundamental primary qual-
ities of speech (loudness, pitch, etc.) and their linguistic, social, cultural and
pathological aspects. C H A P T E R F I V E identifies and classifies paralinguis-
tic qualifiers, that is, the m a n y voice qualities or voice types, the labelling
problems involved, their production, attitudinal and communicational func-
tions, social perception, cultural aspects, and pathological occurrences.
C H A P T E R SIX is the longest, as it deals with paralinguistic differentiators,
not discussed systematically and interdisciplinarily before despite their
enormous relevance phonetically and kinesically as audible-visual

phenomena, as well as socially, psychologically, clinically, culturally and

crossculturally (not only laughter and crying, but lesser behaviors like
coughing and sneezing). C H A P T E R S E V E N offers a theoretical and
methodological model for the identification, classification, analysis, and
writing of paralinguistic alternants, the word-like independent constructs
(qualified by paralanguage and kinesics) that constitute our daily repertoire
beyond the official dictionary, an extensive and colorful series of segmental
utterances, but also the most elusive and challenging from the point of view
of identification, labelling and written representation.
A n eight chapter would have dealt with paralanguage in narrative liter-
ature as the basis for an analytical dimension of the visual written text. It
was based on the other h u m a n and n o n h u m a n sounds discussed in Chapter
1, their semiotic-communicative itinerary between the writer's conception
and the reader's visual-intellectual experience of reading — in which punc-
tuation deserves an in-depth discussion as a definite form of paralanguage
— the stylistic and technical functions of paralanguage in literature, and the
n e w perspectives this area offers in literary translation. H o w e v e r , due to
inevitable editorial constraints, the various aspects of nonverbal c o m m u n i -
cation in literature are being arranged as a separate publication (initially in
Poyatos 1992b, 1993a, 1993b).

5. The interdisciplinarity of paralanguage: applications and implications

A s soon as I began to be seriously interested in communication behavior

almost twenty-five years ago, I could not but agree wholeheartedly with a
statement read in a book (Thayer 1967: iii) to the effect that whenever one
tries to study h u m a n communication from within his o w n discipline, "he
soon finds himself at an impasse; the corpus he wants to comprehend
stretches perversely, indeterminately across m a n y fields of study in the life
and behavioral sciences and the applied arts". I consider the present book
a totally interdisciplinary endeavor, notwithstanding the severance from it
of most of the literary discussion. H o w e v e r , even a perfunctory discussion
of the m a n y applications of paralinguistic research would have taken too
m u c h space. Instead, although frequent references are m a d e (apart from
those to linguistics, phonetics and literature) to areas like what has been
called the ethnography of speaking and to crosscultural aspects and
pathological paralinguistic behaviors, the readers are most emphatically

encouraged to think of their o w n individual research field or professional

type of interaction as they read through each chapter. Implicit and explicit
comments and suggestions can be found throughout which are relevant to
cultural anthropology, ethnology, h u m a n ethology, psychology (particu-
larly areas like development, abnormal psychology and social psychology),
psychiatry, counselling, doctor/nurse-patient interaction, theater and film
acting, teaching, business meetings and interviews, oratory, etc., although,
for lack of space, they truly constitute only the tip of the iceberg. The main
objective of the book is to identify and describe paralinguistic behaviors in
order to m a k e the general reader aware of a neglected but fascinating real-
ity in daily h u m a n communication, but, above all, to incite researchers to
improve upon any of the areas discussed, as this study is very far from being
exhaustive and cannot pretend to be free from certain shortcomings. It con-
stitutes also a useful set of theoretical and practical models with m u c h
crosscultural documentation and countless research suggestions. In addi-
tion, a most important objective is also to m a k e ourselves aware of the
m a n y nonverbal signals and messages conveyed by our o w n sounds and,
through that awareness, hopefully become more sensitive to others in m a n y
everyday-life situations.

6. The use of literary quotations

D u e to the above-mentioned editorial constraints, only less than 400 remain

of the 1,000 original literary quotations (mostly from novels, a few from
plays), which I regarded as a very special feature worth their painstaking
selection from personal readings. I hope, nevertheless, that the readers will
recognize their indispensability in this book, as they have a twofold func-
tion: first, to sensitize one to 'hearing' a text better and enter a realm which
so often remains insufficiently explored w h e n w e read; and then, to
enhance the theoretical discussion of paralinguistic behaviors with the writ-
ers' acute observations of the reality of h u m a n communication.

7. A note for the non-English-speaking reader

Apart from the occasional thoughts on translation and the m a n y crosscul-

tural observations — which suggest diverse problems and possibilities — I

have kept the non-English-speaking readers very much in mind when com-
piling the different lists of words and phrases as well as the great number of
examples from everyday language and the literary quotations, which should
be a useful source of vocabulary build-up and of usages with which one can-
not be in contact away from the daily cultural experience of the language.

Figure 0.1 Paralanguage

Chapter 1
From Movement to Sound:
The Sign-Emitting Activities and Nonactivities
of the H u m a n Body as Communicator 1

The two combatants [...] crashed together like

bullocks. There was heard the cushioned sound of
blows, and of a curse squeezing out from between
the tight teeth of one (Crane BH, V I , 305)1

1.1 T h e sign-emitting activities and nonactivities of the h u m a n body

In order to understand the forms and functions of paralanguage one cannot

try to focus on that particular communication modality — or any other
single one for that matter — without first acknowledging all the sign emit-
ting possibilities of the h u m a n body as a potential communicator. Paralin-
guistic utterances can often cooccur with other sign-conveying bodily
activities by which they can be conditioned throughout the stream of m e s -
sage-conveying events, just as they can in turn determine s o m e specific
characteristics of those activities.
This is a fundamental yet neglected fact applicable to speech. For
instance: a gesture conveying a pleasurable sensation or thought (e.g., /
closed eyes + inward tightening of the lips/) will condition an equally
pleasurable paralinguistic independent (from a phonetic point of view)
utterance anatomically possible with that gesture (e.g., a closed-lip, high-
pitched and drawled ' M m m m m m m ! ' ) , or a paralinguistic voice modifier
while speaking (e.g., ' O h , it feels so good!', drawled, with initial and final
slight glottalization and an overriding creaky quality); whispery, breathy
voice m a y increase intimate contactual kinesics; clicks and pauses m a y
occur with or precede blushing; a drawled closed-lip ingressive narial fric-

tion may coincide with the act of smelling a rose; the Japanese (mostly
feminine) paralinguistic expression of delight referred to food, [ao∫I:::],
conditions the congruent facial expression.
This obvious intrapersonal, intersystem costructuration is thus an
essential fact in discourse (though, again, so neglected in so m a n y otherwise
worthy studies of language and communication) and the main characteristic
of the triple structure language-paralanguage-kinesics. A s for interpersonal
exchanges, m a n y have attempted to investigate h o w language functions in a
communication situation between dyads or larger groups, but have failed to
realize to what extent that situation depends o n m o r e intersomatic
exchanges of signs and messages that w e wish to acknowledge, that those
individuals are socializing organisms equipped with a unique highly cogni­
tive and intellectual ability that combines their mutual sensorial and intel­
ligible perception and the perception of their sensibly apprehended envi­
ronment; and further, that they are, at the time of our analysis and propor­
tionally to their ages (i.e., according to their stored experiences of self and
others), inevitably conditioned by the two vital dimensions of space (i.e.,
the social and geographical or cultural locus) and time (i.e., not only their
o w n cultural-historical time, but the storage of previous sensory and mental
experiences as well as the duration of the very situation under analysis).
In earlier research I emphasized the fact that, despite the preponder­
ance of sound and m o v e m e n t , one must not overlook the six different ways
of perceiving directly the behavioral and nonbehavioral activities and static
characteristics of others (vision, audition, olfaction, gustation, and cutane­
ous and kinesthetic sensations), nor the sender's systems, consisting of both
active stimuli (kinetic, acoustic, chemical, thermal and dermal) and static
characteristics (shape, color, size, consistency and weight). These emitting
and perceiving systems generate a total of twenty-one channels along which
travel all the messages that are possible between two bodies (Poyatos 1983:
56-66, with two useful diagrams). W e must not, however, underestimate
the relationship of verbal and nonverbal signs, as w e should consider (a)
that all nonverbal acts can be mutually related and finely costructured
a m o n g themselves, as has just been illustrated, and (b) that both activities
and nonactivities, and the latter a m o n g themselves, can be also mutually
related and even conditioned in ways which I have discussed in detail
elsewhere (Poyatos 1985). Furthermore, w e cannot ignore either the
twenty-one synesthesial ways in which w e can perceive our cointeractants,
in addition to the twenty-one direct channels (e.g., the truly synesthesial

'soft look' suggested by soft voice, or the glottalized, nasal and breathy
voice and intense stare of the stereotyped television model). 2
But, again, sound and m o v e m e n t account for the transmission of ver-
bal language and paralanguage along the vocal/narial-auditory channel, and
kinesics along the kinetic-visual channel. Which compels us to acknow-
ledge, by necessity, the intervening silences and still positions as opposed to
language-paralanguage and kinesics, respectively (Poyatos 1981, 1983:
Chapter 6). F r o m that arsenal of sign-conveying systems, which has been
suggested only in passing, w e can single out the topic of sound production
and then specifically of paralanguage. Paralanguage, however, must be
seen, first, as part of the body's kinetic articulatory possibilities determined
by its physiology and anatomy; then as part of its kinetic-acoustic systems;
next as part of the basic triple structure language-paralanguage-kinesics;
and finally, and only then, as a phonetic system in itself. This chapter, then,
attempts to develop the first two aspects of bodily communication.

1.2 T h e anatomical-articulatory possibilities of the h u m a n body and their

relation to communicative sound

Types of human movements

T h e h u m a n body is a magnificently articulated apparatus provided with a

great variety of muscular-skeletal possibilities for visually perceived m o v e -
ments (see an exhaustive anatomical chart, 'Areas and Points of External
Bodily Articulations', in Poyatos 1988a) which serve locomotive, interac-
tive, noninteractive and task performing functions. T h e communicative
functions are intimately associated with sound-producing possibilities (i.e.,
language, paralanguage, audible kinesics), but they can also operate exclu-
sively on the visual channel (e.g., a beckoning gesture). W h e n associated to
sound they can still be perceived visually as external articulations (e.g.,
finger-snapping, slapping someone else), or they can be intimately
associated with and influence internal sound-producing movements (e.g.,
voice change due to momentary mandibular retraction). Each category of
movements, those that are silent and those that produce sound, can be part,
therefore, though in different degrees, of the basic triple structure lan-
guage-paralanguage- kinesics and they are both constituents of each of
those three communicative modalities. Therefore, the body while in

interaction can be said to be, o n the one hand, a continuum of potentially

communicative activities, its movements and its sounds, and o n the other
the intervening nonactivities, that is, still positions and silences which
delimit and define the activities. Both of them develop from infancy as the
anatomical, physiological and cognitive capabilities of the interactor
increase in sophistication.

The four kinds of articulations

T h e term 'articulation' is used here in a rather unorthodox sense in part, as

it will identify,
(a) movements in which parts of the body acquire specific positions in
space without coming into actual dermal contact with itself, but maintaining
distances from it which recur as part of voluntary or involuntary kinetic-
spatial formations within our expressive repertoires (e.g., the cupped hand
facing the chest with or without a verbal expression of emotion, thus
expressively joined to, or articulated with, the heart, that is, our feelings);
(b) movements performed by contacting ourselves (self-adaptors) in
any ways that are possible anatomically, all of which can be defined by join-
ing two or more of the active and passive body parts or points shown in the
(c) movements which are performed by touching another person or
animal in any part of the body with whatever function (alter-adaptors),
which again constitute strictly body formations, m a n y times in the same
manner in which one can touch oneself; and
(d) movements through which w e contact objects that m a y be still inti-
mately associated with our bodies (e.g., body-adaptors like clothes), or that
belong to the objectual surroundings (e.g., object-adaptors like tools, furni-
ture) or are even natural elements (in general, object adaptors against
which w e can plop, splash, pat, crush, etc.).

1.3 A n inventory of visual-audible movements

T h e list that follows is an inventory of external body movements that pro-

duce different types of eloquent, quasiparalinguistic sounds, excluding for
editorial reasons those that are only visible, as listed elsewhere (Poyatos
1988a). It is important to realize that this list is written in English, that were

it to be translated into other languages even the most accurate renderings

would convey subtle semantic nuances, but above all — very often because
of their echoic nature — different (even though seemingly very slight or
nonexistent) mental images and even acoustic, visual and tactile synesthe-
sial associations, since each language is felt by speakers, native and foreign
alike, in its o w n ways and those feelings and associations simply defy trans­
In what could be a progressive discussion of sound-producing kinetic
activities towards the concrete study of paralinguistic sounds, the list
includes: (a) a few sounds that evoke the person's movement but do not
refer to the movement itself (e.g., Ί could hear the furious clatter of his
typewriter', as opposed to ' H e was pounding on his typewriter furiously';
(b) the person's production of some sounds that evoke the characteristics of
the movement, as ' H e rattled the door handle'; and (c) the reference to a
specific movement in cases in which it is not seen, as in 'I heard him turn
the key in the lock cautiously', which specifies the turn of the hand
synesthesially evoked by the low and slow friction sound. W e often refer to
such actions as qualified by 'angrily', 'violently', 'slowly', 'impatiently', and
the like, as are in a novel or in stage directions, the text then producing the
sought evocation in the reader's imagination. The list would be virtually
endless if movement-modifying adjectives and adverbs were added as in
' H e shook m y hand warmly, -coldly, -energetically, -hesitatingly, -in a very
jerky way', etc., each of which implies a different set of parakinesic qual­
ifiers of intensity, range and velocity. Logically, the inventory does not
include cultural gestures, manners and postures for their o w n sake, unless
they are given by the movement described (e.g., 'She waved goodbye', but
not ' H e m a d e the V-sign', m a d e up of lifting the hand and spreading two
fingers), nor verbal references to kinesic behaviors (e.g., 'She threw m e a
kiss', which does not specify movement at all and can be individually and
culturally determined).
O n e important point must be m a d e . The sounds let out by some of
those actions can be perceived only if w e touch ourselves (e.g., brushing
back one's hair), if w e touch an object delicately or too far from our coin-
teractants for them to hear it (e.g., stroking a velvet arm chair), or if w e are
being touched, but not always by the toucher (e.g., a caress). Yet those
sounds are added to their generating actions in the minds of those w h o can
hear them, w h o evaluate them as interactive expressive components of that
particular personal encounter or situation, in greater or lesser degree,

according to their sensitiveness. Each action in the inventory is identified as

a transitive and/or intransitive verb (e.g., ' H e hangs his head in shame',
'Her eyes rolled contemptuously'), which sometimes are complemented by
an adjective (e.g., 'She did a mincing step'), an adverb (e.g., 'She walked
with a shoving gait') and a noun ('She gave him a tap on the shoulder',
'jerk', 'a blink'). T h e action is often qualified in order to emphasize the
interactive effect of the audible perception of its specific performance, as it
can evoke various attitudes, emotions and even personality characteristics,
as in 'They clinked the glasses enthusiastically', 'She was stirring her coffee
nervously'. In addition, having the non-English speaker-reader in mind,
some actions are clarified by one or more equivalents added parentheti-
cally, as in 'Sheflittered[moved rapidly and lightly] about the house', or
'She scuffed along [with a dragging motion]'.
Another perspective would be based on a taxonomy of the sounds,
whether their generating actions are seen or unseen by others as the person
produces them, and on the unseen activities (which naturally presupposes
the previous visual experience in order to identify the m o v e m e n t ) , as in
'Their skirts swished and rustled across the quiet room', 'I could hear the
furious clattering of his typewriter'. Since the movements could only be
evoked, and not seen, only the quasiparalinguistic but most communicative
qualities of the resulting sound would be of relevance. Such a perspective
would certainly complete the exhaustive study of h u m a n bodily-generated
sound production, which should include the individual as well as the
crosscultural communicative effect of those sounds on people. T h e latter
aspect should intrigue researchers in a very special way: h o w w e are
affected by all those quasiparalinguistic sounds, h o w w e interact with them,
and h o w their specific acoustic characteristics acquire an almost h u m a n
quality, in addition to the fact that w e k n o w they are being produced with
specific bodily activities of equally specific characteristics. T h e readers are
invited, therefore, to ponder this particular aspect of audible movements as
they read the examples offered, imagining those activities as performed
with qualities and in degrees beyond those offered in the inventory, and
considering their communicative effects in their o w n culture.
T h e four types of kinetic-audible constructs are identified in the margin
by the following signs: [+] indicates sounds produced by contacting oneself;
[°], produced by contacting another body; [·], produced by contacting
objects in general; and [*], not produced by our direct contact with any-
thing but by artifactual extensions of the body against something else, the

characteristics of which sounds, however, reflect those of the originating

movement (e.g., ' H e closed the door with a slam').



Bang vi.t .He banged against the wall, «-with his fist on the table, *-the door; adv * H e
closed the door with a bang.
Bat vi.t °He batted him with his fists, H e didn't bat an eye.
Batter vt °They battered him mercilessly.
Beat vt °He beat him until he knocked him d o w n , * H e was beating the clay with a piece
of w o o d .
Belt vt °He belted him [with his fist] across the face.
Biff vt °She biffed [cuffed] the child's face.
Bite vi.t »She bit into the apple, She bites her lip w h e n she hesitates; η »She gave it a big
Bounce vi.t .She bounced into the r o o m noisily, * H e bounced the ball forcefully.
Brush vt + S h e brushed her hair back with her hand, °He brushed her arm lightly, »-some
flecks of dust from the chair, *-her teeth vigorously; η °She felt a light brush on
her arm.
B u m p vi.t °She b u m p e d against m e , °-me; η ·Ι heard a b u m p against the floor and then
the child began to cry.
Bundle vi .He bundled [moved hastily] across the house.
Bustle vi »She bustled [busily, noisily] across the house; η ·Ι could hear the bustle in the
upper rooms.
Butt vi.t °The wrestler butted him in the stomach, .He butted the wall with his head like
a ram!; η He expresses his anger with a butt of his head.

Chatter vi +His teeth chattered from the cold.

C h e w vi.t «He was chewing slowly, - g u m in class, -his pencil.
C h o m p vi .He was chomping on something.
C h o p vt °He chopped his opponent savagely; adj °He was massaging his back with light
chopping blows.
Clap vi.t + H e was clapping happily, +-his hands; η °He slapped his neck affectionately
with a clap, °He gave m e a clap on the shoulder; η + H e s u m m o n e d the waiter
with a clap.
Clatter vi.t + H e was clattering his teeth, +His teeth clattered; η *Ι could hear the clat­
ter of his typewriter.
Click vt + H e was clicking his teeth, +-his fingernails together, —his fingernails against
his pencil; vi H e r teeth clicked as she walked.
Clinked vi.t * W e clinked our glasses, *A11 the glasses clinked delicately/enthusiastically
in the toast; η *Ι heard the clink of fine glass.
Clip vt °He clipped her [with a quick, sharp blow] across the head.
C l o m p vi .He clomped d o w n the corridor in his heavy boots.

Compress vt She compressed her lips in pain.

Crack vt * H e cracked the whip lightly, then loudly.
Crawl vi H e crawled under the table, «-across the whole room.
Creep vi H e was creeping up the stairs on all fours, H e crept through the crowd
unnoticed, She crept up to m e during the party.
Crumple vt «He crumpled the newspaper in anger.
Crunch vt »He was crunching potato chips.
Crush vt «He crushed the beer can with his hand.
Cuff vt °He cuffed [slapped] his face, °-his ear.

Dart vi «She darted across the room in a panic.
Dash vi H e dashed out of the house and ran, *-something violently into the drawer and
closed it.
Diddle vi She diddled along [moved back and forth jerkily].
Drag vt «He dragged his feet as he walked.
Drop vi.t »She dropped to the floor unconscious, -her head on the pillow, —her eyelids,
She dropped her jaw open in unbelief.
D r u m vi + H e kept drumming with his fingers on his belly, «-on the table.

Edge vi H e edged [walked sideways] awkwardly toward the door.

Fall vi »She fell d o w n , -forward, -back, His mouth fell open in bewilderment.
Flail vi »The crippled m a nflailedalong [walked in an uncoordinated way]; adv H e
walked with aflailinggait through the snow.
Flap vi.t »She flapped into a chair, »He flapped his arm against the water.
Flick vt + H eflickedm y ear from behind, «-a crumb with her fingers; η + S h e struck the
child's ear with a flick.
Fling vi.t »She flung [quickly] out of the room, H e flung his arms about her, * H e flung
the book on the table.
Flip vi.t She flipped from the surprise, *-the box shut [with a quick jerk]; adv. She
walked up with a flip.
Flitter vi Sheflittered[moved rapidly and lightly] about the house.
Flop vi H e flopped onto the couch exhausted, «-his hand on the table; adv H e walked
with afloppinggait.
Flounce vi «She flounces girlishly across the room remembering her young days.
Flounder vi H e floundered around awkwardly.
Flutter vi Sheflutterednervously about the house, -her eyelids flirtatiously.
Flump vi T h e fat m a n was flumping along the hall.

G n a w vi.t »He was gnawing on a piece of candy, »-an apple, -his lips.

Halt vi H e halted [walked with uneven, limp gait] along.
Hobble vi H e hobbled [halted], -unsteadily on one leg.
H o p vi H e hopped on one foot.
H u g vt °They hugged each other tensely; adv °He greeted m e with a hug.
Hurl vt * H e hurled the stick over the ravine, *-his cap to the floor in anger.
Hurtle vi H e hurtled up theflightof steps and stormed into the room.
Hustle vi.t +-them [pushed] very rudely.

Jab vi.t °He kept jabbing his opponent with quick blows.
Jerk vi.t H e jerked abruptly as he walked, «He walks with a jerk.
Jiggle vt * H e jiggled the door handle softly, then violently.
Jog vi.t «He jogged along heavily [in slow, heavy manner], *The beggar jogged his plate
to m a k e the coins jingle, *-the piggy bank to see h o w m u c h he had.
Jostle vt °He was jostling [pushing roughly] people in the crowd.
J u m p vi »She jumped from joy, -to his feet w h e n he saw m e .

Kick vi.t +-him in the shin; η H e gave his car a kick.

Knock vi.t »He knocked on the door, +-his knees nervously, * H e knocked the lamp
d o w n , *-the ashes out of his pipe.

Lap vi.t »He bent d o w n and lapped the water, »-the water up loudly.
Leap vi H e leaped in the air from joy, -to his feet.
Limp vi »She limps after the accident; adv «She walks with a limp.
L u m b e r vi »The big m a n lumbered up the stairs, — like an elephant.
L u m p vi «The m a n with his heavy load was lumping along up the street.

Massage vt °She was massaging his back; η °She was giving him a good massage.
Mince vi «She was mincing around the room as in a delicate dance; adj »She did a minc­
ing step around the room.

Paddle vi H e paddled [toyed with his fingers] absently on the table, -[walked] like a
toddler across the room.
Pat vt °He patted the child's cheek affectionately, +-his [own] thigh impatiently, * H e
was patting the dough with a wooden spatula.
Peck at vi »-at the table with the handle of her teaspoon.
Pelt vt °The children pelted [beat, pound repeatedly] each other.
Pitter-patter vi »Stop pitter-pattering all over the room! [with quick tapping steps]; η ·Ι
could hear a pitter-patter upstairs; adv H e walked with a pitter-patter.
Plod vi ·Α very obese m a n , slowly plodding along.

Plop vi She plopped d o w n into the chair exhausted.

Pluck vt »He was plucking the strings of his guitar, »He plucked the catgut, which
twanged and buzzed, »-a chicken in a hurry.
Pound vi H e was pounding on the door insistently, °The little boy pounded and kicked
and finally w o n the fight, +He pounded his knee with his fist, +-his chest
Puff vi.t »He puffed at his cigar/pipe, H e puffed out his cheeks, -chest.
Punch vt °He punched m e on the face, -his pillow.

R a p vi.t »She rapped nervously on the door, »-on the table; η H e opened the newspaper
and gave it a sharp rap with the back of his hand.
Rattle vi.t *The door rattled, it was him, * H e rattled the handle; η I heard the rattle.
Reel vi H e reeled as if he were drunk and fell on the floor.
R u b vt + H e rubbed his hands together in anticipation, +-his nose trying to remember,
°-her back with sun lotion.
R u n vi.t «He ran fast, +-through his hair nervously, °-his fingers d o w n her back seduc­

Scamper vi «They scampered [walked quickly] through the garden.
Scrape vt «She scraped the ground [with her feet].
Scratch vi.t + D o n ' t scratch or you'll itch even m o r e , + H e scratched his face.
Scud vi »She scudded across the lawn swiftly [as if skimming along it].
Scuff vi.t She scuffed along [with a dragging motion], She sat scuffing the floor ) with
her feet, + T h e teacher scuffed the back of his neck; η ·Ι could hear her scuffing
Scuffle vi H e scuffled [dragged his feet] as he walked.
Scurry vi H e scurried [walked hastily] along and disappeared.
Shake vi.t *He was shaking the piggy bank.
Shamble vi «The poor m a n shambled into the luxurious mansion [walking clumsily,
hardly lifting his feet].
Shove vi. H e walked with a shoving gait.
Shuffle vi.t «She shuffled along the r o o m , »-her feet impatiently, H e shuffled embarras-
Sink vi «She sank into her chair and cried, «-to her knees.
Sit vi H e sat quietly, -up in bed, H e sat d o w n .
Slam vt * H e slammed the door angrily, *-the box into the cupboard; adv * H e closed the
door with a slam.
Slap vt °He slapped him on the back, °-his face, °-across the face, +-his [own] thigh
laughing at the joke, »-his hand on the watermelon, * H e slapped the hamburger
onto the hot plate; η °He gave him a slap on the back.
Slide vi.t * H e slid the bolt open slowly, H e slid the hand along the top of his n e w car.
Slip vi.t »He slipped on the ice and fell, °She slipped her fingers through his hair.
Slump vi H e slumped d o w n in his chair and bowed his head pensively.

Smack vi.t + H e smacked his lips after drinking, * H e m a d e the snowball smack loudly
against the window, °He smacked the face of the child sharply.
Snap vi.t + H e snapped his fingers, * H e snapped the lock closed, *-the whip loudly,
+ H e could play a tune by snapping his cheek.
Sock vt °He socked him unexpectedly and knocked him d o w n .
Spank vt °She was spanking the child.
Spat vt + H e spatted his knee with his palm and got up decidedly, °-my knee.
Splash vi »The child splashed on the surface of the water.
Squeak vi * H e m a d e the door squeak mysteriously, »He m a d e his shoes squeak loudly
and rapidly.
Stagger vi He staggered from weakness and then fell.
Stalk vi.t «She stalked haughtily out of the room, -the chicken trying to catch it.
Stamp vi He stamped in anger, »The flamenco dancer stamped on the floor.
Step back vi H e stepped back startled.
Stir vi.t H e stirred in his bed and opened his eyes, *-his coffee nervously.
Stomp vi.t He threw it on the floor and stomped on it with rage.
Stride vi.t He strode haughtily across the room, H e strode the street, H e strode to pass
over the puddle.
Strike vt + S h e struck him on the face, «-her head against the cupboard, *-a match on the
sole of his shoe.
Stroke vt °He stroked her hair gently, +-her (own) armflirtatiouslywhile she talked,
•She was stroking the velvet cushion sensually.
Strut vi He strutted with a swagger to show his contempt; adv H e walked with a strut.
Stuff vi He stuffs his hands violently into his pants' pockets, then jerks them out again.
Stumble vi He was so weak that he stumbled terribly.
Swap vi.t He swapped quickly to his left, +-him in the hand.
Swat vt + H e swatted the child in the hand and told him not to touch.
Sweep vi.t + S h e swept her hand through her hair, *She swept her fingers over the
keyboard, «-the crumbs off the table; adv H e put it away with a sweep of his hand.

Tap vi.t H e kept tapping on the table with his fingers, --with his feet, * H e tapped a stick
against m y window, *The blind m a n tapped his cane on the pavement as he went
on impatiently, + H e tapped his temple to signify he was smart; + * H e could play
a tune by tapping the edge of his teeth with his fingernail or with a pencil; η °She
gave him a tap on the shoulder.
Tear vi H e tore d o w n the stairs in a big hurry, * H e tore at the curtains and brought
them d o w n to the floor.
Thrash vt + H e was thrashing his arms to fight the cold.
Throw vt H e threw his cap on the floor in anger, She throws her arms around him.
Thud vi + H e thudded on his chest proudly; adv °He hit him with a thud, «-the cushion
with a thud.
T h u m p vi.t + H e thumped on his chest, »He thumped the sandbag; adv °He hit him with
a thump.
Thwack vt °He thwacked [whacked] him on the face with the back of his hand.

Toss vi.t He tossed about in bed all night, He tossed about the room,
Totter vi She tottered [unsteadily] on the step, »-away but then regained his balance.
T r a m p vi He tramped [firmly and heavily] d o w n the street.
Trample vi He trampled [tramped] heavily.
Tremble vi H e was trembling all over.
Tumble vi »She tumbled out of bed half awake.
Twirl vi.t »She twirled around the dance floor, -her hair with two fingers.

Wallop vi.t He walloped along clumsily.
W a m b l e vi He wambled unsteadily from dizziness.
W h a c k vt °He whacked her on the face, *The piano lid as hard as he could; η H e gave
her a good whack.
Whirl vi «They whirled around the dance floor, H e whirled quickly to face the m a n
behind him.
Whisk vt He whisked off the crumbs from her lap.
W h o p vi*HeHewhopped on the couch.
Wriggle vi.t »She wriggled nervously in her chair, -her foot.

Zigzag vi He zigzagged to avoid the bullets.

In order to fully understand these sounds and properly weigh their

expressive status it is necessary to take a close look at each of the four
groups suggested above and then discuss what they have in c o m m o n as well
as their individual, unique peculiarities. T h e most useful general identifica­
tion is perhaps that which follows the model (discussed later in the book) of
the nonverbal categories — established by E k m a n and Friesen (1969) and
initiated first by Efron (1941), later substantially enlarged and elaborated
on by Poyatos (1983: Chapter 4; 1986) — as w e find a m o n g them sound-
producing 'self-adaptors' (contacting ourselves), 'alter-adaptors' (contact­
ing others), and 'object-adaptors' (contacting objects). In addition w e
should identify within the latter category sound-producing movements
which are mediated by artifactual extensions.

1.4 T h e sounds of self-adaptors and alter-adaptors and their communica-

tive quality: w h e n w e hear our touching ourselves and being touched

W h e n w e try to identify the strictly somatic sounds, those produced by self-

adaptor activities appear as the closest, organically and anatomically, to the
linguistic and paralinguistic ones, since they are truly bodily 'articulations'.
Their acoustic characteristics are those associated mainly with the following
activities involving the following body parts:
brushing hand-to-hair, -any surface
caressing hand-to-any surface
chattering teeth-to-teeth
chopping hand-to-any surface
clapping hand-to-hand
clicking teeth-to-teeth, fingernail-to-fingernail, -teeth
cracking hand-to-knuckles
crunching teeth-to-object-to-teeth
drumming fingers-to-surface
flapping hand-to-ear
gnashing teeth-to-teeth
grating teeth-to-teeth
grinding teeth-to-teeth
gritting teeth-to-teeth
knocking knuckles-to-skull
patting hand-to-surface
pounding fist-to-surface
punching fist-to-surface
raking fingers-to-hair, -hairy surface
rubbing hand-to-body, -to-hand
running fingers-to(through) hair, -(along) surface
scratching fingernails-to-surface
slapping hand-to-surface
snapping finger-to-finger, teeth-to-teeth
stroking hand-to-surface
sweeping hand-to(through)-hair
tapping fingers-to-surface
thudding hand/fist-to-surface
O f the almost thirty listed (cf. the study done by Wescott [1967] of
h u m a n and animal 'strepital communication'), the hands (the palm, the
outer edge, the second knuckles, the back of the fingers, the fist, the balls
of the fingers) are the most versatile active parts for sound production, cap-
able of a whole gamut of audible movements beyond the few for which each
language has coined words. T h e vocal (linguistic and paralinguistic)-narial

tract repertoire has its o w n limitations for expressing m a n y , a t times ineffa-

ble, semantic nuances, despite a seemingly boundless lexical and paralin-
guistic repertoire. But an energetic slapping of the thigh can qualify a ver-
bal statement as m u c h as an equally intense paralinguistic modifier, in fact,
it can even replace it, or accompany it. It is that intensity that w e can care-
fully measure as w e gnash our teeth in anger, or while glowering at some-
one, drumming with our fingers or snapping them, thudding on the chest,
punching the palm of the hand, rubbing both hands in excited anticipation,
etc. These are the sounds that function as 'auxiliaries' of the basic triple
structure language-paralanguage-kinesics with the same communicative val-
ues paralinguistic 'alternants' have. Actually, since they are produced by
the same sound-generating body that produces and coordinates language,
paralanguage and kinesics they become veritable extensions of paralan-
guage and, in fact, perfectly segmental components of interaction, subject
to the same encoding-decoding processes any other components are subject
to (Poyatos 1985). " H e [Scully, the hotel keeper] slapped his knee impres-
sively, to indicate that he himself was going to m a k e reply" (Crane B H , IV,
There is one difference, however: unlike paralinguistic modifiers (e.g.,
creaky voice, coughing while talking) and alternants (e.g., a click, a throat
clearing, a sigh), they can act as both, coinciding or alternating with verbal
language, just as kinesic behaviors do. In addition, the frequent synchroni-
zation of, say, thigh-slapping or hand-rubbing can perform, w h e n accom-
panying verbal paralinguistic constructs, the same typical functions played
in discourse by kinesic and paralinguistic 'language markers'. 3 This con-
firms once again the mutually inherent nature of m o v e m e n t and sound
within the basic triple structure language-paralanguage-kinesics and h o w
the whole body contributes to its finely structured communicative totality.
In other words, both the performer and his cointeractant perceive the sym-
bolic acoustic quality of the activities themselves along the communicative
stream, as with a hand-rubbing sound, which can be increased in intensity
as would voice volume, for there is a perfect congruence between those
kinesic actions and the verbal-paralinguistic actions w h e n both cooccur:
m o v e m e n t intensity is akin to voice volume and articulatory tension, range
in space to the lengthening or shortening (drawling, clipping) of syllables,
and visually perceived speed to tempo of speech. It is clear, then, that the
structural and communicative qualities of those visual components of dis-
course warrant their inclusion in the kinesic level of the total transcription
suggested in Chapter 3.

W e can conclude, therefore, that alter-adaptors partake of similar

communicative qualities as self-adaptors, as they can also qualify in an
additional paralinguistic fashion what is being expressed verbally and
paralinguistically, or replace those two modalities altogether, as w e touch
the other person. Again, their acoustic characteristics and their contactual
movements possess that mysterious language-like quality which is decoded
in interaction in systematic, learned ways. Those audible actions and the
articulations that produce them are:
batting hand-to-body
beating hand-to-body
biffing hand-to-body
brushing hand/arm/leg-to-body
bumping body-to-body
caressing hand-to-body
clapping hand-to-neck/back/buttocks
clipping hand-to-head
cuffing hand-to-body
flicking fingers-to-body
fondling hands/arms-to-body
hugging arms and chest-to-chest and back
jabbing fist-to-upper body
kicking foot-to-body
patting hand-to-body
punching fist-to-body
raking fingers-to-hair
rubbing hand-to-body
running hand/fingers-to-surface/hair
scratching fingernails-to-body
shoving hand/arm-to-upper body
slapping hand-to-body
slipping hand/fingers-to-hair/between two body parts
socking fist-to-upper body
spanking open hand-to-buttocks
stroking hand-to-body surface
sucking mouth-to-body
swapping hand-to-body
swatting hand-to-body
sweeping hand-to-body surface
thudding hand/fist-to-abdomen/torso/back
wacking hand-to-body
whacking hand-to-body

Onomatopoeia, synesthesial evocation and the sounds in literature

O n the other hand, those actions have generated the words with which w e
refer to them, most of the time out of a necessity to follow an echoic acous-
tic-phonetic-written coining process and utilize in interaction the verbal
evocations of the communicative movements and their sounds, as with 'bif-
fing', 'drumming', 'slapping', 'thudding', 'whacking', etc. Beyond those,
however, w e always leave out of the established lexicon a series of lower-
status (from a linguistic point of view), purely paralinguistic formations that
must be studied, however, as 'alternants' (Chapter 7), a m o n g which only
some will eventually acquire the linguistic status by generating also a verb
and a noun. But there is a further communicative consequence in these
coinages. A s w e speak about those actions our synesthesial associations
function in two ways. First, w e evoke the contactual perception of those
actions, as w h e n w e hear someone say, or w e read, that ' H e was pounding
on his chest defiantly', 'She kept stroking her leg as she talked flirtatiously',
although w e might describe it, if asked about it, as the imagined visual per-
ception only. T h e other association is the audible evocation of the audible
self-adaptors and alter-adaptors, as in 'The two m e n hugged each other
heartily', 'She slapped him angrily'.
In addition, linguists cannot fail to acknowledge the evocative pos-
sibilities of descriptions of audible movements and kinesics contained in
narrative literature (Poyatos 1977b; 1983: Chapter 9), an important part of
the recreative process of reading.

The articulations of alter-adaptor behaviors

If w e consider the movements symbolized by the words listed so far w e see

that they constitute also a repertoire that, as the previous ones, develops
ontogenetically with the socialization skills and exposure to interpersonal
situations. Finally, besides the aspects just discussed, such as their visible
and even acoustic synchronization within the triple structure language-
paralanguage-kinesics and their echoic evocation in m a n y instances, the
concept of bodily 'articulation' must be brought up again in connection with
alter-adaptors. If w e imagine two socializing h u m a n beings — two bodies
engaged in interaction — near each other, w e see that their repertoires of
free and bound movements (with and without contact) extend themselves
beyond their o w n bodies. Those kinesic behaviors that cooccur with speech

and so often are truly part of the triple structure (e.g., a pat on the shoulder
with or without a verbal encouraging expression, a slap given with glower-
ing eyes, or while muttering something) qualify as articulations as m u c h as
the self-adaptors discussed above do. T w o facing interactive bodies with
their articulatory systems can engage each other in a great number of ways
as alter-adaptors, both in a tactual visual-manner and in a tactual-visual-
audible one as well, and the communicative functions they perform will
depend m u c h , of course, on the degree of socialization and sensitivity of the

1.5 The sounds of body-adaptors: interpersonal and intrapersonal dimen-


I have defined body-adaptors before as the objects and substances most

immediately attached to the body because they are aimed at protecting it,
nurturing it and satisfying it, modifying its appearance or assisting it in var-
ious ways, and as the interactive and noninteractive movements and posi-
tions conditioned by them (Poyatos 1983:156; 1986:505). T h e audible
actions through which w e can c o m e in contact with them are, of course,
very limited, for instance:
biting teeth-to-object (bread, apple)
brushing hand-to-object (clothes)
chewing teeth, tongue, cheeks-to-object (food, tobacco)
chomping teeth, tongue, cheeks-to-object (food)
crunching teeth-to-object (food)
patting hand-to-object (clothes, shoes, pipe)
rubbing hand-to-object (clothes)
slapping hand-to-object (large fruit, clothes)
sliding hand-to-object (clothes)
stroking hand-to-object (large fruit, clothes)

These few actions, however, should not be neglected, since they pro-
vide two distinctive audible experiences. O n e is produced by the sound of
biting on solid food and pseudonutritionals like hard candy, that is, objects
on which w e can bite, chew, c h o m p and crunch. Depending on their speed
and their intensity, w e produce sounds that can be interpreted as betraying
certain feelings, as w h e n w e m a y , intentionally or not, convey contempt or
derision by chewing and crunching, which, again, becomes part of our
expressive repertoire in an ontogenetic way; or social status (e.g., the care-

less smacking and chomping accompanied sometimes by audible nasal brea-

thing), childishness (e.g., the noisy biting and crunching of hard candy)
and, of course, certain pathological instances of those behaviors. " W e m -
mick was at his desk, lunching — and crunching — on a dry piece of bis-
cuit" (Dickens G E , X X I V , 190).
T h e second audible realization of body-adaptors is that of the sounds
produced during self-adaptor and alter-adaptor activities in which w e touch
our or someone else's clothes. Ostwald, in one of his inspiring discussions
of h u m a n sounds (Ostwald 1973), mentions some of those sounds in pas-
sing, but one can see (so does he perhaps) two deeper dimensions: the
interpersonal, social one, and the intrapersonal and their actualized percep-
tion as w e perform certain behaviors and after w e do. In fact, he states:
"the body contains its o w n power source, is driven by a built-in executor,
and has ears to receive and a brain to evaluate its o w n performance" (28).
T h e hands can slide over one's or someone else's velvet or silk dress and
produce the characteristic swishing sound, rub on corduroy or denim and
let us hear their soft rustling, glissando (as Ostwald calls it) effect, brush
our woolen sweater up and d o w n and emit that peculiar muffled tone, etc.
But, at a deeper intrapersonal level (which can affect the interpersonal
encounter), those actions, which w e perform with various degrees of speed
and intensity or friction, are conscious or unconscious contacts with our
o w n bodies, mediated solely by the material, and those sounds are per-
ceived simultaneously to the tactile receptions transmitted to the brain by
our skin organs and by the hand's perception of texture and our kinesthetic
perception of shape and area size, perceptions which at times m a y respond
unconsciously to certain narcissistic impulses. T h e tactile-audible realiza-
tion of body-adaptors is, therefore, the most important aspect of our
intrapersonal interaction and an important one in interpersonal encounters.
M u c h research can be done regarding that aspect of clothes, h o w it can
affect face-to-face interaction, and even the historical development, includ-
ing the appearance and disappearance of certain tactile-audible experiences
determined, for instance, by a tight hose, the crinoline, long skirts, jeans,
A s for the same activities in the form of alter-adaptors, both the
sounds and the sensations of active touch are still present, but here the
articulations are between the two bodies. This means that the tactile and
acoustic sensations are associated with certain characteristics of the touched
person's body and, further, with certain personality qualities, such as soft-
ness, ruggedness, sensuality, delicacy, etc.

Again, the sounds produced by self-adaptor and alter-adaptor ways of

touching body-adaptors can be controlled through speed, intensity and, of
course, by alternating them with silences and stills (e.g., as w h e n the hand
rests motionless at times on those sound-producing textures). Which means
that w e should acknowledge also the often subliminal linguistic and paralin-
guistic-like quality they possess, as though, for instance, in an interpersonal
intimate encounter those sounds could not only accompany what w e say
and h o w w e say it (paralanguage) but fill the intervening silences with
eloquent sounds beyond our words, as extensions of them, sometimes
expressing the ineffable, even beyond our awareness.

1.6 The sounds of object-adaptors: w h e n things talk back to us

There is one more kind of movements in which the body can produce
sounds, namely, w h e n w e engage in object-adaptor behaviors in contact
with cultural artifacts (e.g., furniture, a bell) and organic and inorganic
objects of the surrounding environment (e.g., thefloor,the wall, a tree, a
watermelon), performed mostly with the hands and the feet:
banging hand
beating hands
brushing hand, forearm, foot
bumping upper body
drumming fingers
flapping hand
flicking fingertips
flopping trunk, body
knocking knuckles
patting hand
ounding side of fist
punching fist
raking fingers
rapping knuckles
rubbing hand
shuffling feet
scratching fingernails
scraping feet
sliding hand, forearm, foot
slapping hand
splashing hand
stamping feet

stomping feet
striking hand, head
sweeping palm/edge of hand
tapping fingers, feet
thudding hand
thumping fist, foot, knee, chest, back
tramping feet
trampling feet
wiping fingers, hand
whisking hand
Object-adaptor activities possess always the communicative qualities
that qualify them as an integral part of the triple structure language-
paralanguage-kinesics in discourse (e.g., pounding on a lectern as an e m o -
tional language marker). That is w h y they sometimes stand by themselves
as powerful communicative, segmental elements (e.g., that same pounding
by itself, or an impatient, insistent rapping on a table) and, in addition, pro-
vide peculiar tactile and even synesthesial experiences, as w h e n stroking the
velvet arm of an upholstered chair, perhaps even while interacting with an
opposite-sex person, or the tingling sensation associated with the mere vis-
ual perception of someone scratching a plaster wall.
Through the frequency, intensity and duration (of the contact) w e can
infer with varying reliability certain personality traits, and, with more accu-
racy, m o o d , emotional state and medical state, as w h e n hearing the charac-
teristic footsteps of the different types of gait (e.g., dragging, floundering,
halting, hobbling, hopping, kicking, plodding, scraping, shuffling, totter-
ing, tramping), the gentle or authoritative door-knocking that can 'speak'
as clearly as words, contemptuous finger-drumming, the slow, sensual fig-
ure-tracing stroking of a smooth surface. "She rapped imperatively at the
w i n d o w " (Laurence SL, I, 30).
A n exhaustive study of audible object-adaptors beyond the aims of this
chapter would include, of course, percussion musical instruments, task-per-
forming activities like punching and slapping dough in kneading, etc.

1.7 The sounds of object-mediated activities: audible body extensions

But the discussion of bodily-generated sounds can be exhaustive only if one

more category is included, that of artifactual and artifactually-mediated
sounds. These sounds are not produced by the active or passive direct con-

tact of the body with objects, but through other mediating objects or agents
that w e manipulate, that is, object-adaptors which sound either by them-
selves or, mostly, come in contact with something else. While it is true that
these artifactual externalizers4 or object-mediated sounds are not truly
somatic they are, however, projections of somatic movements and in that
way they are somatic and convey a great deal of information. The charac-
teristics of the sounds of object-mediated externalizers depend, of course,
on the material those artifacts are m a d e of as well as that of the objects they
contact. That audible repertoire is formed mostly by sounds such as:
banging H e banged the door, H e closed the chest with a loud bang
brushing She was brushing her teeth vigorously
clacking The latch opened with a loud clack and I started
clanging H e threw the shovel at him, but it hit the wall with a clang
clanking The heavy metal door closed with a clank.
clattering I could hear the furious clatter of his typewriter, I can imagine the
clattering of the chariots!
clicking Her heels clicked forcefully on the pavement
clinking They clinked their glasses gently while staring at each other
creaking Every step of those stairs creaked, M y boots were creaking all the
crunching I heard the rejected sheets crunching in his nervous hand
jiggling She was jiggling the door handle
jingling His hand kept jingling the coins in his pocket
knocking H e knocked the ashes out of his pipe against the desk
patting She was patting the dough gently with a wooden spatula
rattling The door handle rattled insistently, His cup rattled against its saucer
when he was nervous, The carriage wheels rattled
rustling She m a d e her long skirt rustle as she walked
scraping I could hear his scraping the paint off hurriedly
screeching H e m a d e his tires screech on purpose
slamming H e slammed the door furiously, -the book closed
slapping She slapped the hamburger onto the grill, -the wall in excitement
smacking She m a d e the snowball smack loudly against m y back
snapping H e snapped the lock into place, -her with a rubber band
squeaking His new shoes squeaked embarrassingly, The door squeaked slowly
squelching M y wet shoes squelched as I walked.
swishing I heard the swishing of her corduroy pants
tapping H e tapped a stick against m y window to wake m e up
thumping The officer's night stick thumped on each door
tinkling H e m a d e his bunch of keys tinkle loudly, H e tinkled his glass with
the knife to call our attention, The very American morning sound of
the milkman's bottles tinkling towards the house

This list, unlike the previous ones, is not meant to be nearly exhaustive
at all, as the important issue here is only sound that can be produced
directly by the body. However, if w e set out to study h u m a n sounds w e can-
not ignore those which are produced by things that function as extensions of
the organism. A glance at the examples just offered reveals that, while the
basic characteristic nature of each of those sounds depends only on the
material and consistency of both the manipulated objects and the objects
they c o m e in contact with (wood against w o o d , glass against glass, w o o d
against dough, metal against metal, meat against metal, metal against
w o o d , etc.), it is again the parakinesic somatic qualifiers of intensity, range
and velocity that qualify them with their meaningful, even intentionally
communicative qualities, for example: ' H e slammed the door angrily', ' H e
walked out furiously kicking thefloorboardswith his heels', ' W e could hear
the slow scraping sound of the old man's shoes', ' H e kept tapping the table
nervously with his fork', 'By the slow, spaced rattle of her dishes I could tell
her mind was fixed on that idea only'.
W h e n w e imagine 'how those actions sound' w e again find the mysteri-
ous language-like effects of those auditory experiences and, even w h e n the
objects that produce the sounds seem to be disconnected from the person,
one needs to be but minimally sensitive and perceptive to associate the
audible experiences to emotions and intentions that originally cause them
to sound the way they do, whether that language-like quality lies in their
loudness, speed or resonance. " M r . Dedalus's cup had rattled noisily
against its saucer [...] that shameful sign of his father's drinking bout"
(Joyce P A Y M , II, 93).
It should be beyond any doubt that all those sounds are m u c h more
than just 'noises', and w h e n they happen in interaction (but interaction can
be also imagined, accompanied perhaps by soliloquy) they are far from
being marginal to it. The person w h o walks into our room and slams the
door behind m a y have communicated already the central message of our
encounter.5 W h a t he is going to verbalize later, or rather, what he is going
to express through certain verbal-paralinguistic-kinesic structures, has
already been encoded by his body and conveyed by such mediating agents
as the door banging against its frame, such a powerful component of the
interaction; for the interaction has started already, even though not strictly
conversationally, before any words are uttered; and, if the slam closes the
interaction instead, its intensity then expresses all the emotional content of
that encounter. A s has been suggested with regard to the other modes of

communicative audible body activities, that slam must be acknowledged in

the detailed, accurate transcription of the encounter. W h e n that notation is
integrated into the transcription w e see that conversational props like the
handling of the door, the pencil tapping the desk while conversing or the
jingling of coins in a pocket operate at two levels: the kinesic, visual one,
and, perfectly congruent with it, its powerful quasiparalinguistic manifesta-
The thoughts just suggested in section 5 regarding the historical
development of clothes as elements of intrapersonal interaction would be
even more applicable to their interpersonal audible realization, that is,
w h e n by themselves they can produce sounds generated by the movements
of the body that wears them, sounds which today can be appreciated and
enjoyed only on very formal occasions, when long, ample dresses and skirts
are worn. But in the past the 'swishing' and 'rustling' of skirts could cer-
tainly become a component of interaction between, for instance, two lov-
ers: " T h e rustle of her pretty skirt was like music to him" (Dreiser S C ,
X X I , 203-204).

1.8 Mechanical, artifactual and environmental sounds as possible c o m p o -

nents of interaction

It should follow then that the sounds discussed in this chapter, that is, pro-
duced autonomously by the body (i.e., verbal language and paralanguage),
by the body in direct contact with other bodies and with the environment at
large (whether artifactual or natural) and those caused by the body but
mediated by sound-producing objects (e.g., door-slamming) should also be
seen, for a truly realistic and total picture of communicative sounds and
communicative events, as forming part of a m u c h larger communicative
complex which, as suggested by the diagram in Fig. 1.1, 'The Interrelation-
ships of H u m a n and Environmental Sounds', includes (beyond whatever
can be initiated by the h u m a n body): the sounds of the artifactual world,
whether generated by themselves (e.g., a whirring engine, a ticking clock),
that is, as if they were some sort of mysterious organisms, or in contact with
other objects (e.g., the clanking of a train crossing a metal bridge in the
stillness of night), and even beyond all those man-deviced sounding ele-
ments, the natural environmental sounds, such as the rumbling storm, the
howling wind, the pattering of rain or the murmuring brook.

Figure 1.1 The interrelationships of human and environmental sounds

W h a t is important to establish is that any of these sounds can become

components of a personal interaction at one time or another, even though
sometimes their effect on the encounter m a y go totally unnoticed at a con-
scious level. This is part of what elsewhere I have studied as the deeper
levels of interaction (Poyatos 1985). In other words, beyond all the body-
generated sounds discussed earlier one must acknowledge the equally lan-
guage-like effect of the m a n y artifactual, strictly mechanical and even
environmental sounds. T h e examples w e find in narrative literature and
also carefully synchronized in films are familiar to everyone, and their pos-
sible interactional consequences, even their effect on the verbal-paralin-
guistic- kinesic activities of speech, cannot be underestimated by linguists,

as they may interrupt it (e.g., the unexpected thunder) or make it quite

irregular, cause it to become more intimate (e.g., the sound of rain softly
pattering on a window pane), etc., and, at the very least, accompanying or
triggering one's thoughts. "There was no sound through the house but the
moaning wind [...] the faint crackling of the coals, and the click of m y snuf-
fers as I removed at intervals the long wick of the candle" (E. Brontë W H ,
X V I I , 144).

1.9 Functions, culture, ontogeny and segmentality of bodily audible m o v e -


S u m m i n g up the communicative aspects of audible self-adaptors, alter-

adaptors, object-adaptors and artifactual extensions as quasiparalinguistic
emissions, the following four observations could be added to the discussion
regarding their functions, their cultural development and distribution, their
ontogenetic development and their segmental status.


A detailed study of their functions reveals several overlapping categories

that suggest the next two general aspects. T h e four groups can perform
important intentional or unintentional communicative functions, firstly, in
face-to-face interaction, for instance: vigorous hand-rubbing, hugging with
back-slapping, the speaker's rubbing of his corduroy pants, the skeptical
desk-tapping, the stalling, slow knocking of a pipe against the ashtray. Sec-
ondly, in reduced-interaction situations (see Poyatos 1983:85-89), for
instance: the clicking of someone's hesitating or quick typing heard from
another r o o m , the blind person's perception of someone's tooth-gnashing,
or the rustling and swishing of other people's clothes, the timid or authori-
tarian door-knocking interpreted without seeing the person yet. Thirdly, in
noninteractive situations (exclusive of alter-adaptors), for instance: some-
one's anxious thigh-slapping, the sound of someone's noisy, 'aloof crunch-
ing while eating alone, the various audible types of gait (when not inten-
tionally conveying a message), the shop attendant's unconscious rapping on
the counter while waiting for customers, angry door-slamming, or a tire-
screeching start. A n d fourthly, in task-performing activities, for instance:
the slow or fast tempo of someone's scrubbing, sawing, digging, h a m m e r -

ing, giving a shoeshine, writing with a pencil, scrubbing oneself, giving a

backrub, chewing something, dancing.

Cultural development and distribution

A s for their cultural development and distribution, if w e consider the sen-

sory involvement to which w e are differently subject according to culture
(Poyatos 1983:358-59) and even try to categorize the peculiar sound-pro-
ducing behaviors that have just been discussed into what elsewhere I have
studied as 'culturemes' (Poyatos 1976, 1983:35-44), w e will find, besides
certain rather universal acts, others that typify specific cultures. Witness,
for instance, the social meanings attached to finger-snapping (as beckoning,
an audible gesture that could be offensive in some cultures), vigorous hand-
rubbing in expectation, the various percussion instruments used for music
or signals, the beggar's coin-jingling, the furious horn-honking in southern
European countries, or the peculiar sounds of crafts that betray different
ways of performing those actions. But it is also the cultural development of
such sounds, the tradition of those message-conveying bodily originated
sounds, added as a true repertoire to the linguistic-paralinguistic speech
sounds of the culture, that is decoded by its m e m b e r s , regardless of their
intentionality, but perhaps misinterpreted by a foreign 'listener'. In s u m , to
be exhaustive one certainly has to acknowledge those additional extension-
like repertoires characteristic of each culture, as they are part of the h u m a n
sound system exchanged a m o n g its people.
A s for their development, Ostwald (1973), tracing the history of
sound-making, besides commenting on the religious, poetic and musical
aspects of sounds throughout history, refers also to the development of
sound effects in theater, radio and cinema and the various evoking qualities
through variations of pitch, volume, and tempo (and, one should add,
silence). H e also mentions in passing what I would suggest as an intriguing
research topic: h o w sounds can vary through the day, mentioning the very
American morning sound of the milkman rattling up the steps, the m a n y
noises as 'by-products' of people's labors during the day, and finally, w e
could add, the occasional sounds of the night, such as the passing train, the
faraway siren sound, the already disappeared Spanish night watchman
whose stick knocked the pavement in answer to our clapping for him to
open our street door. Only the last example could generate m u c h thought
regarding the subtleties of the somatic and extrasomatic extensions, or sur-
rogates, of our basic communicative repertoires.

Ontogenetic development

Just as one attempts to study the individual's maturation of the linguistic,

paralinguistic and kinesic repertoires, the developmental aspects of somatic
and artifactual sound production should be incorporated into the c o m m u n i -
cation research and as part of the study of the various nonverbal categories,
for it would shed m u c h light upon the gradual appearance of those extralin-
guistic expressive behaviors. T h e typical childhood exploration of one's
body and its almost unlimited choices a m o n g self-adaptor articulations
gradually becomes more selective and the enrichment of the cognitive and
communicative capabilities determines the use of behaviors like finger-
drumming, self-patting, self-slapping, finger snapping, etc., as specific
interactive situations begin to recur and innate tendencies and learning
begin to shape that repertoire until it reaches its maturity. T h e same would
apply, for instance, to the intentionally communicative use of slow, con-
temptuous or derisive noisy chewing, or the conscious audible rubbing of
one's clothes, a m o n g body adaptor behaviors, to object-adaptors such as
door-knocking, table-rapping, table-banging and pounding and floor-tap-
ping, and to perfectly integrated conversational props like pencils and cut-
lery. Even within artifactual audible extensions those sounds become
gradually incorporated into the person's repertoire, while unseen nonin-
teractive and task-performing behaviors like walking, writing or hammering
m a y betray the age of the developing person with m u c h accuracy. A t the
same time the basic triple structure language-paralanguage-kinesics has
been also growing into maturity until the adult person has at his disposal the
whole arsenal of expressive behaviors, not only as speaker-actor but (some-
thing so often neglected) as listener-observer.


Finally, the segmental nature of the sound-producing movements has been

suggested at various points in the preceding pages. W e must concede, first,
that any of these behaviors need to be acknowledged as a potential effective
component of an interactive encounter (leaving aside for n o w noninterac-
tive situations), a concept I have developed at length elsewhere (Poyatos
1985). Therefore it should follow that those behaviors which, as has been
seen, are being clearly delimited by silences and cessations of m o v e m e n t
m a y appear often as perfectly integrated in the linguistic paralinguistic

structure. They may either accompany their three components or replace

them with a perfectly syntactical value. Since the sounds produced by those
movements are very m u c h like paralinguistic alternants (which, like alter-
nants, are qualified by certain characteristics similar to paralinguistic fea-
tures, mainly pitch, resonance, volume and duration), and since the m o v e -
ments themselves appear as clearly and visibly definable as kinesic
behaviors do (that is, subject also to parakinesic qualifiers of intensity,
range and velocity), it is therefore quite apparent that the visible-acoustic
behaviors that have been discussed occur at perfectly segmental levels,
either simultaneously to the basic structure language paralanguage-kinesics
(of which they can be part) or adjacent to their audible or visual c o m p o -
nents. The following examples will illustrate these two possibilities (slashes
[/] delimit kinesic behaviors):
Audible self-adaptor behaviors
1. /slapping one's knee/ + ¡I remember n o w ! 6
2. /pounding on the chest/
¡I did it alone, I did!

Audible alter-adaptor behaviors

1. /slap on his back/ + ¡Good work!
2. /slapping his back/
¡I'm so happy to see you!

Audible body-adaptor behaviors

1. /rubbing one's pants/ + Well... I don't know
2. /rubbing hard on one's pants/
i Well, let's see how w e do it!

Audible object-adaptor behaviors

1. ¿¡Are you there!? + /knocking on door/ 4- ¡Answer m e !
2. /knocking on door/
¿¡Are you there!? ¡Open up, T o m !

Audible artifactual behaviors

1. ¡Open up, will you!? + /jiggling the door handle/ + ¡I k n o w you're there!
2. /scrubbing the floor/ + Yes, I remember him + /scrubbing again/
3. /tapping the table with a fork/
Well, we'll see what w e can do

It must be noted that w h e n m o v e m e n t precedes or follows language

what is expressed kinesically could also be expressed verbally-paralinguisti-
A second look at the examples offered shows that, instead of slapping
one's knee w e might say something like '¡Yes, of course!; instead of slap-

ping someone else's back we might say 'Well!'; instead of rubbing one's
pants back and forth one might say 'Well, let's see!'. It is true, on the other
hand, that the visible-audible behaviors, like conversational kinesic
behavior, do not always convey a different message, but rather reinforce
the verbal one (which does not m a k e it necessarily 'redundant' but ' c o m ­
plementary' [see on this topic Poyatos 1983:81-82]). Other times, however,
the nonverbal behavior m a y carry an independent message, or what truly
qualifies the verbal part, as w h e n an emotion is expressed in the nonverbal
behavior and not in the verbal one. A t any rate, w e can see once more w h y
these nonlinguistic sound- producing behaviors must occupy such an impor­
tant place in the realistic, total transcription of interaction and discourse.

Λ note on the possible written representation of nonvocal sounds

While some attempts have been put forth by novelists to represent these
sounds in writing, mainly since last century, the majority of them however
have been only described, some in addition to having specific labels to
define them (e.g., to slap, to click, to thump, to clank), others being still
unidentified, except by periphrastic descriptions. In fact, the very limited
repertoire of such written forms has been enormously engrossed by the
written, 'visible' sounds, or 'soundgraphs', invented (most of the times
quite sensibly) by cartoon, comic strip and comic book authors (discused in
Chapter 7 within paralinguistic 'alternants'), certainly a challenge to our
traditional inability and inertia as regards this sort of unofficial vocabulary
that w e use freely in conversation but cannot write.

1.10 Conclusion

T h e h u m a n body is a communicator far beyond our knowledge of language

and even of paralanguage, kinesics, proxemics and the other communica­
tion modalities that have attracted m u c h attention already. While attempt­
ing to probe those message-conveying systems — with which w e believe to
exhaust our communicative possibilities — one is liable to neglect the fun­
damental fact that our bodies articulate with themselves, with other bodies
and with their surrounding environment in ways that are intimately related
to other somatic systems, and that m a n y of those contactual movements
produce sounds that should not be neglected in any in-depth investigation

of human communication. A n area of study that should incite further

research has been sufficiently delineated in this first chapter, I hope, as an
important part of nonverbal communication studies for a realistic approach
to, and a true understanding of, the communication process, whether it be
in real-life situations or in the perception and evocation contained in a liter-
ary text. This research should stand side by side with that of paralanguage,
but also as part of kinesics and, in m a n y instances, as intimately associated
with the basic triple structure language paralanguage-kinesics, therefore
also with verbal language, based on the differentiation of self-adaptors,
alter-adaptors, body-adaptors and object-adaptors. Rather than shunning
all those intriguing sounds as marginal curiosities, the serious researcher
must strive to develop m a n y of the topics that will have been suggested
already, for instance: an in-depth linguistic-cultural-interactive study of
onomatopoeia; audible movements in blindness or in situations in which
vision is blocked, the former full of implications as to the compensating
functions of such movements and their communicative values in the cogni-
tive development of the congenitally blind; their socioeconomic and educa-
tional stratification, as they are part of the person's repertoire; their ori-
gins, since the objectual and artifactually mediated ones, for instance, m a y
define whole cultures and subcultures.
Finally, concerning the quasiparalinguistic qualities of environmental
sounds, they should be also investigated as 'cointeractors' in our interaction
with the environment; not only w h e n one is alone with that invisible but
very real presence, but as third elements or partners in, for instance, a
dyad, whether they contribute positively or negatively to the interaction
(e.g., the flowing of a stream, which is felt like murmuring voices, o n the
one hand, or the moaning-like howling of the wind, on the other).


1. Titles of literary works quoted (except biblical books) appear in initials through-
out the book. [/] in quotations indicate separation of lines or, in poetry, of verses;
w h e n enclosing other examples they indicate kinesic behaviors. Literary Refer-
ences appear after the References at the end of the book.
2. T h e importance of synesthesia (the physiological sensation on a part of the body
other than the stimulated one, or the psychological process whereby one type of
sensorial stimulus produces a secondary subjective sensation from a different
sense) can never be emphasized enough in the study of the sign-exchange proces-

ses of social interaction, both between fully-equipped individuals or in situations

of reduced interaction (blindness, deafness, anosmia, lack of limbs, etc.).
3. 'Language markers', one of the most important nonverbal categories, are con-
scious or unconscious behaviors which punctuate and emphasize the acoustic and
grammatical succession of words and phrases according to their location and rele-
vance in the speech stream and coincide with written punctuation symbols, which
are grammatical and attitudinal themselves (Poyatos 1983: 104), being mainly
kinesic, but also kinesic-paralinguistic (e.g., 'If you don't like that, well...!', where
'that' is accompanied by a head jerk and uttered with high pitch and volume, all
conveying irritation) and even chemical (e.g., a word-and-sentence punctuating
tear) and dermal (e.g., an equally emphasizing blush).

4. 'Externalizers' are not illustrations of the words said, but reactions to other
people's past, present, anticipated or imagined reality, to what has been said, is
being said or will be said, silenced, done or not done by us or someone else, to
past, present, anticipated or imagined events, to our o w n somatic p h e n o m e n a , to
animal and environmental agents, to esthetic experiences and to spiritual experi-
ences (Poyatos 1983: 128).

5. T h e slam of a door can actually be said to belong to two subcategories within this
category: to be holding the door w h e n it produces the slamming sound is one
thing; another is the same sound generated by an intentional thrust, but whose
characteristics are not functioning anymore as a continued extension of the pro-
ducing organism.

6. T h e opening exclamation and question marks [¡], [¿] (as in Spanish) are used
throughout whenever they reflect better the reality of loud voice and interrogation
as overriding features (see on this topic, Poyatos 1983: 273-275; cf. c o m m e n t in
favor of [¡!] by Potter [1964:72]).
Chapter 2
The Anatomy and Physiology
of Vocal-Narial Sound Production:
A n Audible-Visual Approach to Language and Paralanguage

The pouted-up deep red mouth to which this sylla-

ble was native had hardly as yet settled into its defi-
nite shape, and her lower lip had a way of thrust-
ing the middle of her top one upward, w h e n they
closed together after a word (Hardy TD, II, 23)

2.1 F r o m external articulations and contacts to internal-external speech

activities and related signs

The communicative status of interbodily external articulations and contacts

If in this progressive study of communicative audible body movements w e

try to investigate the possibilities open to people for reaching each other in
interaction w e c o m e to a logical conclusion: that the term 'articulation', as
used in the previous chapter to refer to the intrapersonal and interpersonal
types of contacting movements and positions, should be understood also as
signifying the establishment of any of the intersomatic encoding-decoding
sensory channels mentioned in the first chapter. If m y cointeractant grabs
m y forearm to drive a point h o m e he has established a very specific articula-
tion that forms part of his triple linguistic-paralinguistic-kinesic speech
activity, two parts of our respective bodies having c o m e into true dermal-
kinesthetic perception of each other. If w e view it on film or just as social
observers it will appear as a clear, definable interpersonal 'articulation'. If,
however, he does not reach far enough to touch m e , but only stretches out
his hand toward m e , he is still forming a kinetic (in fact, kinesic) articula-

tion more broadly aimed at m y thoracic or abdominal regions, or perhaps at

m y face (which seems to carry a m o r e direct, personal meaning). This non-
contactual behavior I perceive visually — as I do the kinesics of the 'speak-
ing' lips — but not necessarily less effectively than if I felt his hand on m y
arm, which qualifies his verbal language (and paralanguage) as m u c h as
paralanguage would, being not less the 'kinesic tone' of his verbal expres-
sion than the paralinguistic one.
In addition, and spatially above that 'contact', our eyes have met too,
perhaps just as he points at m e , thus constituting another part of a c o m m u -
nicative behavioral cluster along a visual channel. But let us suppose that
the topic has triggered in m e a chemical reaction such as tears, which he is
perceiving visually. In a deep study of interaction (as discussed in Poyatos
1985) that chemical-visual channel or relationship constitutes another type
of 'contact' that m a y either accompany or replace a kinetic contactual
articulation with just as m u c h meaningful contact. Vision, in fact, can
establish visual-kinetic, visual-chemical and visual-dermal types of contacts
or articulations involving bodily activities. But w e must not hastily limit the
communicative contribution to speech to 'activities' and neglect the sort of
contacts that are established w h e n simultaneously to sound w e perceive vis-
ually the characteristics of shape and size of the body (and synesthesially
even weight and consistency also), or the olfactory perception of natural or
artificial odors, for, as with other encoding-decoding processes, they can
become effective components of the encounter.

The dual system of internal and external articulations: phonatory movements

Hearing, therefore, with which w e perceive language, paralanguage and all

the sounds of the other audible or visual-audible kinesic activities seen ear-
lier, is usually the most important communicative channel, but m a n y times
it does not carry the whole weight of a conversational sign exchange. Lan-
guage and paralanguage can be used in the dark, or over the telephone, and
most of its acoustic-communicative qualities can be evoked and reproduced
in the reading of a written text, the visual elements being, up to a point, dis-
pensed with, even though a linguistic-paralinguistic-kinesic construct m a y
lose an important part of its semantic content. Thus, all the sounds studied
in Chapter 1 do become part of intersomatic interactive contacts or inter-
system 'articulations', even of the triple structure language- paralanguage-
kinesics, w h e n they are caused by its kinesic components.

If audible-visual signs are, therefore, the carriers of the most important

communicative dual system, language-paralanguage, between two fully-
equipped individuals, an exhaustive approach to language and paralan-
guage (i.e., speech), would identify all the potential external bodily articu-
lations — including the audible ones — and all the possible sound produc-
ing or sound-generating internal articulations, that is, phonetic articulations
or movements. Without neglecting, of course, that m a n y of those internally
produced or conditioned utterances can be modified by external visually
perceived movements, in turn conditioned by anatomical characteristics
(e.g., lip protrusion or tense unilateral protraction of the mandible will lend
the same verbal or paralinguistic expression different acoustic and semantic
Thus, beyond the external articulations discussed earlier, which can
produce intentionally or unintentionally communicative sounds, the next
logical step is to consider the sound-producing system that utilizes both
internal and external movements (i.e., the internal organs of speech and
their areas and points of articulations whose primary functions are phonat-
ory functions), but also the sound-conditioning kinesics of the face mainly,
which will show the true richness of the repertoire of phonatory possibilities
as an essential aspect of paralanguage.

The necessary dual approach to speech anatomy and physiology

W h a t follows is — for the benefit of those readers w h o might not be too

familiar with the anatomical and physiological background of speech — a
succinct discussion of the body areas and points that take part in the pro-
duction of verbal and paralinguistic sounds, identifying them as the tools of
verbal language and paralanguage. Departing, however, from the usual
introductory descriptions of speech production (which can be easily found
in a more detailed fashion in the words referred to), the emphasis here is on
the recognition of the dual reality of perceptible sound and m o v e m e n t as
the two inseparable channels of the basic triple structure language-paralan-
guage-kinesics. It should be noted, however, that if w e wish to identify and
define the functional anatomical and physiological characteristics of speech
sound-production in h u m a n communication w e must acknowledge the
inherent external movements of patterned symbolic value that take place as
those sounds are produced. Those sound-accompanying movements possess
a double dimension: a kinesthetic or kinesthetic-visual one on the part of

the speaker-mover — who senses with a variable degree of awareness his

communicative behaviors — and a visual one o n the part of the listener-vie-
wer, for w h o m the m o v e m e n t s schematically suggested in Fig. 2.1, 'Basic
A n a t o m y and Muscular Physiology of Language and Paralanguage', are
certainly not only speech m o v e m e n t s but meaningful bodily m o v e m e n t s ,
that is, kinesics.
Although the audible-visual approach is applied here only to the
strictly speech-producing mechanisms in the head, the triple structure
would require that w e be cognizant of the verbal-paralinguistic-kinesic clus-
ters involving the whole body and, therefore, all the contactual and audible
m o v e m e n t s studied in the previous chapter.
T h e primary objective of this chapter, only as the necessary
background for dealing later with paralanguage itself, is:
(a) to identify the various organs of speech as producers or condition-
ers of language and paralanguage;
(b) to briefly describe their basic anatomical configuration (as one
describes the external anatomical characteristics of the body), seeing h o w
certain aspects of a person's voice depend on specific and permanent
organic factors;
(c) to identify the basic muscular physiology of those speech organs
and actions, that is, the m o v e m e n t s which along with their anatomical
peculiarities determine the sound of the linguistic and paralinguistic c o m -
municative repertoires;
(d) to introduce the sound-producing articulations possible in each of
the areas in order to establish an inventory of linguistic and paralinguistic
sounds; in connection with this, the term 'setting' or 'posture' is used to
m e a n a short-term or long-term muscular adjustment or 'articulatory set-
ting', as defined by Laver (1980:2-4), while 'articulation' has the traditional
meaning of a mutual contact between an active and a passive articulator or,
in a few instances (with the lips, or the lips and tongue), two active ones;
(e) to introduce also, besides articulations proper, the voice qualities
or voice modifications determined by changes undergone in those same
areas (e.g., breathy voice, palatalization);
(f) to suggest s o m e basic transcription symbols for both articulations
and qualifiers, including the ones in the International Phonetic Alphabet
(IPA) (grouped in a general inventory at the end of the chapter);
(g) to identify the kinesic consequences of those anatomical and
physiological characteristics congruent with each other;

Figure 2.1 Basic anatomy and muscular physiology of language and paralanguage

(h) to identify in turn some of the paralinguistic consequences of

kinesic behaviors as they affect the sound-producing physiological
(i) to at least point out how the congruity or incongruity of kinesic
behaviors with linguistic and/or paralinguistic emissions proves the perfect
coherence of the triple structure language-paralanguage kinesics; and
(j) to point out some of the abnormalities that may affect the anatomi-
cal, physiological and phonetic characteristics of speech.
The speech organs will be surveyed as traditionally distributed into
three areas: the infraglottal area (that is, below the vocal bands), compris-
ing the lungs and the esophagus; the larynx, where the vocal bands are
located; and the supraglottal cavities, which include the pharynx, the oral
cavity and the nasal cavities.

2.2 The lungs and bronchi

The basic physiology of breathing in communication

The sound-producing mechanism of speech depends almost entirely on the

respiratory apparatus, enclosed with the thoracic cavity, where the lungs
expand to take air in during inspiration — externally visible by the size
increase of the rib cage, aided by the intercostal muscles, and by the depre-
ssion of the diaphragm — and then contract during expiration, with a cor-
responding observable size decrease of the rib cage and elevation of the
diaphragm to let the accumulated air flow out through the trachea, the
larynx and the supraglottal cavities (pharynx, mouth, nose).
Even w h e n this breathing process is only a respiratory activitiy its his-
sing sound can become quite conspicuous in heavy or deep breathing, not
just audibly through either the mouth, the nose or both with pharyngeal
friction or dorsovelar friction (all with true paralinguistic voluntary or
involuntary communicative value), but visibly as well through, for instance,
the emotional expansion-contraction of the thorax as the lungs become
inflated or deflated; this is susceptible of functioning as a truly eloquent
kinesic behavior which can be but a part of a more complex kinesic cluster
involving also general facial expression with tense dilation of the nostril
wings. O n the other hand, depending on "posture, clothing, or individual
habits" (Malmberg 1968:30), but also betraying, for instance, the typical

behavioral configuration of the asthma sufferer, abdominal breathing will

also become part of the person's visual repertoire.
Although voice is not produced (since the vocal cords are not made to
vibrate with pulmonic air, the condition for true voice) the stream of air can
be interfered with on its way out at various points, as has been pointed out,
and the resulting modified sounds become truly paralinguistic, either as
'qualifiers' of voice (e.g., velopharyngeal control) or as independent 'alter­
nants' (e.g., a prompting throat-clearing). A s well, both the audible and
visual realizations of breathing are qualified by two scales ranging from
very slow to very rapid and from very smooth to very spasmodic (as in sigh­
ing), respectively. In sum, breathing can certainly convey different mes­
sages, both audibly and visibly, in both normal or pathological states, in
specific ways that must be included in the study of communication, as they
cooccur, alternate with or replace verbal language; far beyond the fact that
"these two functions [respiration and speech production] have a considera­
ble influence on each other" (Sonesson 1968:45), as admitted by many pho­
While pulmonic egressive air or expiration is the one utilized almost
always for speech production, ingressive speech is possible in short utter­
ances as words and paralinguistic alternants. Ingressive sound production
must be studied also within breathing control, one of the paralinguistic
qualifiers, which can also be accompanied by characteristic kinesic
behaviors, mainly of the face (e.g., O h ! + /wide-open eyes, raised brows
and prolonged mouth opening/', in fearful surprise).

Abnormal respiration and interactive behavior

During both egressive and ingressive breathing, but more noticeably during
inspiration, the asthmatic person, particularly during mild attacks which
will allow him to carry out a conversation, will let out his typical whizzing,
due to the production of mucus in the bronchioles, while the also typical
bronchial rattling characterizes the breathing and speech of bronchitis and
similar problems, which, again, contribute to the visual-acoustic interactive
characteristics of certain persons: "his weak wheezing voice out of hearing
[...] a plump woollengloved hand on his breast, from which muttered
wheezing laughter" (Joyce ΡΛΥΜ, V , 210-11).

Sounds with nonpulmonic air

Finally, the absence of lung-initiated air — with which the 'official'

phonemic norms of, for instance, English, are produced — does not
exclude the possibilities of (a) other air-sound productions discussed later
on, as with esophageal air (e.g., in belches), pharyngeal air (e.g., ejectives
and implosives), mouth air (e.g., audible kissing and some clicks) and some
minor mechanisms initiated by the tongue against the lips (e.g., if the ton-
gue tip makes a suction sound by sliding up from behind the lower lip), or
against the teeth sucking them as w h e n removing food particles, and (b)
certain airless sounds, such as Pike's (1943:103-105) 'percussives' (e.g., the
tongue slapping the mouth floor) and 'scraping' mechanisms (e.g., tooth-
gnashing), all qualifying as paralinguistic alternants.

2.3 The esophagus

Basic anatomy and muscular physiology

T h e esophagus (the gullet), the narrow food passage behind the larynx and
the trachea and below the pharynx (Fig. 2 . 1 . A ) , has a sphincteric (ring-
like) muscle, the pharyngoesophageal segment between the laryngopharynx
and the esophagus proper (the cricopharyngeal ring being the best-known
part), that keeps it closed from the pharynx, except w h e n swallowing. B y
expanding and contracting the esophagus as an initiator of esophagus air,
which is used mainly in belches and belch-like sounds, that opening can be
used as a vibrator similar to the vocal bands, but of course, with the charac-
teristic belch timbre given to the m a n y sounds that can still be produced
there. S o m e of their characteristics, although losing m a n y of the typical fea-
tures of normal voice produced with lung air, are masked out in that
esophageal type of voice, distinguished by vibratory trill quality, in which
the separate pulsations of a typical trill are not clearly audible (hence its
vibratory quality). O n the other hand, during belched sounds the lungs m a y
also let air through the vocal bands, thus adding true vocal-band voice to

Abnormal use of the esophagus

If the larynx has been removed due to cancer the person must learn to
speak with esophageal voice, a type of alaryngeal speech produced by swal-
lowing air and talking in controlled belches using the pharyngoesophageal
segment as a pseudoglottis in the absence of vocal bands, which sounds bur-
bly. Esophageal initiation is generally used to produce certain open articu-
lations such as fricatives. T h e speaker does not have at his disposal a breath
stream because the windpipe is closed at the top to prevent food, etc., from
going into the air passages and he has to breathe through a tracheotomy
tube in the neck. In esophageal speech, through controlled belches, the
amount of air from the esophagus is m u c h smaller than the one used from
the lungs in normal speech and only sounds that depend on resonance in the
upper cavities are produced in this w a y (see a succinct explanation in
O ' C o n n o r 1973:280-81; or the more scientific one in Snidecor [1971]; and
his vivid photographs of the pseudoglottis showing the mucus bubbles that
cause the burbly, rough tone). Pitch is also very difficult to control through
the vibration of the sphincteric opening.

The role of the esophagus in audible-visual communication

Thus the role of the esophagus should not be shunned just because it does
not contribute to normal speech. N o t only is that esophageal voice of
laryngectomized persons an important part of their communicative reper-
toire — which elicits in them other paralinguistic behaviors (e.g., higher
volume for fear of not being heard sometimes) as well as kinesic behaviors
(e.g., compensating gesticulation in some) and certain attitudes on the part
of their cointeractants — but there are other esophageal paralinguistic
utterances displayed in interaction which must be studied within paralan-
guage because of their social connotations. Besides, there are equally
accompanying kinesic behaviors that m a y serve to identify certain cultural,
socioeducational and personal characteristics (e.g., a belch can be executed
in various ways and accompanied by facial and hand acts that will
emphasize it or deemphasize it), as will be seen w h e n discussing paralin-
guistic 'qualifiers' and 'alternants'.

2.4 The larynx

Basic anatomy

The larynx, crudely suggested in Fig. 2 . 1 . A , is the third of the speech

organs whose basic anatomy and muscular physiology must be k n o w n in
order to appreciate its sophisticated paralinguistic functions. It is the voice-
box proper, situated at the top of the trachea or windpipe, immediately
below the pharynx. Besides producing sound it protects the air passage by
closing its gap w h e n swallowing, while a cartilaginous flap above it at the
root of the tongue, the epiglottis (actually in the pharynx and m o v e d by
moving the tongue and the hyod bone) helps to push food d o w n and drops
hinge-like as a valve over the larynx, as the cricopharyngeal muscle opens
and closes the food passages; except w h e n water or even a tiny particle of
food 'goes the wrong way' into the larynx, violently affecting speech, caus-
ing choking and triggering equally tense kinesic behaviors.
The basic anatomy of the larynx consists of (a) two unpaired cartilages
enclosing the larynx proper: the thyroid (attached upward at the important
U-shaped hyod bone suspended between the jaw and the larynx as the
anchorage for numerous muscles), perched on top of the other cartilage
(the cricoid) as a V-shaped enclosure or wall whose two halves meet at the
front (forming in males the projection k n o w n as A d a m ' s apple, conspicu-
ously visual during speech and as a static feature); and, right under it, the
cricoid, a smaller and firm cartilage in the form of a signet ring turned back-
ward (in fact, the uppermost ring of the trachea), which constitutes the
pipe-like entrance to the trachea proper; and (b) two small identical paired
cartilages, the arytenoids (Fig. 2 . 1 . A and B ) , mounted on top of the front
part of the cricoid and joined to the inner front wall of the thyroid by two
elastic lips or ridges, the so-called vocal folds (or bands, or cords) across the
hole of the trachea; w h e n w e say vocal folds w e actually include the long
folds themselves and the arytenoids at their ends, as illustrated, but some-
times w e must refer to them separately to better understand sound produc-
tion. Since they do not always open or close at the same time, the vocal
bands are subject to widening and narrowing in V-shape (as illustrated) as
air goes through their opening, the glottis, to produce linguistic and paralin-
guistic sounds. The vocal folds are shorter and thinner in w o m e n and chil-
dren, of a higher-register voice than adult males, although the larynx and
the vocal bands grow very m u c h during puberty, w h e n the voice gradually

changes to a lower register, because they vibrate at a lower frequency. In

general, persons with large body form tend to have larger folds, but excep-
tions typically deceive the unseeing listener.
There is still another similar pair of lips or folds right above the vocal
folds, the ventricular folds or 'false vocal folds', which usually lie still with-
out participating in normal sound production; but w h e n , for instance, they
swell or m u c h muscular tension press them d o w n against the vocal folds and
brings them closer together, the air then makes them vibrate along with the
true vocal folds in an extremely harsh and deep voice, 'ventricular voice'
(Laver 1980:118), which can also be produced voluntarily, both by itself
(e.g., in some types of raucous shouting) and in combination with normal
glottis voice (the two-toned voice called 'double voice', as in some instances
discussed within qualifiers as a form of 'laryngeal control').

Basic muscular physiology and related kinesic behaviors

A s for the basic muscular physiology of the larynx (the details of which can
be found in Sonesson 1968, Abercrombie 1967, Malmberg 1968, Catford
1977, Laver 1980, etc.), it m a y reflect, within a limited range of possibilities
and together with external kinesic behaviors (as do pharyngeal, vocal and
nasal activities), voluntary or involuntary indexical information as varied as
sex, age, socioeducational status, emotional attitude and medical state.
Those movements affect the position of the larynx in the throat (by raising
or lowering it) and the opening-closing and tension of the vocal folds. T h e
vocal folds and their opening or glottis, where the air stream, and thus
voice, is first affected on its way up, can be modified by four basic types of
activities (Fig. 2 . 1 . A and B ) and corresponding muscles: opening, narrow-
ing, closing, widening, and raising and lowering of the larynx.
Opening. T h e only muscle that separates the vocal folds and opens the
glottis is the paired posterior cricoarytenoid, behind and joined to the
arytenoids on the cricoid wall. T h e vocal folds (and the arytenoids) are
open in a triangular w a y for normal breathing and deep breathing. During
normal breathing the air produces at the most a gentle rustling or hissing
sound (of obvious paralinguistic value at times, as during certain types of
silences), which can augment with the tension of the muscular action and as
the flow of lung air through the glottis becomes turbulent, until in distressed
breathing there can be not only audible friction in the larynx and pharynx,
but even visible muscular tension in the neck, truly a paralinguistic-kinesic

behavior with communicative status (e.g., after running or under great

emotional tension). But, returning to the open glottis, speech sounds are
produced both like this and with the vocal folds coming together, and any
voice segments or sounds that are produced with separate voice folds, that
is, without vibrating together, are the so-called voiceless sounds, such as [p,
t, k, f, Θ , s, ∫, h], as in 'size', where s is voiceless and z voiced (because in
the latter the vocal folds vibrate together), or in the voiceless interjection
T h e opening of the vocal folds lets m u c h lung air through for loud
sounds and less for softer sounds. Lung-air pressure and loudness, that is,
amplitude, do not always cooccur with external kinesic 'openness' (e.g., one
m a y involuntarily suppress anger kinesically, but hardly so acoustically, and
vice-versa, depending on personality), yet a 'loud' person is also charac­
terized by 'loud' kinesics, and anyone will normally match loudness and
softness of voice with generally corresponding, congruent kinesic activity
(e.g., throwing one's arms up while shouting a happy greeting), unless one
is trying to mask his emotions or there is some sort of traumatic or
pathological lack of correlation between voice and m o v e m e n t .
Narrowing and closing. T h e closing of the glottis is done by three other
muscles: the lateral cricoarytenoid, joined to the arytenoids on the outer
sides of the cricoid ring (following the muscle that opens it), which closes
the glottis by bringing together the vocal folds and the ends of the
arytenoids closest to them (as in whispering); the thyroarytenoid muscles
(which actually form the true and false vocal folds), which m o v e the
arytenoids forward and toward the thyroid wall; and the arytenoid muscles,
which close also the posterior part of the glottis closest to the cricoid ring
(as for true speech). Thus what w e might just call closing of the glottis can
be understood better by differentiating between narrowing or approxima­
tion and the actual tight closing of the vocal folds in their entirety (cf. Aber-
crombie 1967:27-28), within a scale that comprises: fully open (breath) —
narrowed (whisper) — opening and closing (voice) — closed only at the
arytenoids (creak) — totally closed (glottal stop).
Although whispering will be discussed later within 'differentiators' its
muscular physiology should be outlined here because it is the result of those
narrowing postures of the vocal folds brought about by the above-men­
tioned muscles, during which they do not close and vibrate yet. They pro­
duce only a hissing noise which can be quiet whisper, loud whisper, if the
vocal folds get closer to each other, and loudest whisper, often called 'stage

whisper', when only the vocal bands are together but a narrow chink is left
between the two arytenoids in a Y-shape glottis, glottis friction and air pres-
sure increasing accordingly as they c o m e closer and closer to actual voice,
while in normal breathing the larynx is relaxed. A s Abercrombie (1967:28)
points out, one thing is 'whisper' as a phonetic term, applied to any speech
segment uttered with a closed glottis, and another what w e commonly refer
to as 'whispering speech', in which all segments are voiceless, not just the
normally voiceless or whispered ones. For Catford (1977:96) whispering is
"a strong 'rich' hushing sound, generated by turbulent air-flow through a
considerably narrowed glottis". O n e form of whisper, mentioned by Pike
(1943:128), is false whisper, with the in position for false voice but not vib-
rating, which he describes as "sharp and high-pitched", but not so m u c h as
a whisper, "which has voice position of the vocal cords and simultaneous
faucal constriction".
A s for the actual closing of the glottis, both the vocal bands and the
arytenoids can c o m e tightly together interrupting completely the pulmonic
air stream, as opposed to the minimal interference seen in silent breathing.
Total interference is what happens, first of all, if w e close the larynx inter-
rupting respiration momentarily and then release that closure, called glottal
stop, as a soft h-like explosive sound [?h]. Glottal stop (or glottal catch) —
the only c o m m o n laryngeal articulation — is, of course, the first phase of
retching, coughs, hiccups, expressions of physical exertion (e.g., during
heavy lifting) or repugnance ('Eeugh!') and other paralinguistic alternants.
Glottal stop in language appears at the beginning of a vehement expression
like 'Idiot!', and, besides other languages, in G e r m a n consonants before
stressed initial vowels, in London cockney and American English 'bo'el'
and 'wa'er' (bottle, water), in Arabic, and sometimes with ventricular stops
in certain other languages (Catford 1977:105).
Besides glottal stop, produced with lung air, complete closure of the
vocal cords and sounds with just pharynx air occurs using the so-called glot-
talic air-stream mechanism or pharynx-air mechanism for the production of
two types of consonants: (egressive) ejectives (sometimes called glottalized
stops or glottalic pressure stops), for which, having formed an isolated c o m -
pressed-air cavity between the glottal closure (by raising the larynx "as a
plunger in a syringe" [Abercrombie 1967:28] and the tongue), the closed
velum and some point in the mouth, w h e n this mouth closure (for instance,
at the lips) is opened suddenly there is the explosive sound of an ejecrive p
(also possible for d, k, even without complete mouth closure, and in s, ƒ);

and (ingressive) implosives (sometimes called suction stops and glottalic

clicks, although they are not true clicks) for which, with the same enclosed
cavity, the larynx, tongue and mandible area are lowered and the air rushes
in w h e n , for instance, the lips part explosively for an implosive p. Aber-
crombie (1967:29) mentions h o w these ingressive or egressive pharynx-air
sounds (possible only for "a small fraction of speech", but not for continu-
ous talking) appear in m a n y languages "interspersed, so to speak, in the
stream of pulmonic-egressively produced speech", and sporadically in
others, and they are "often m a d e by small children for fun".
Voice vibration, however, continuous opening and closing of the glottis
caused by the action of the muscles discussed above — effected by egressive
pulmonic air (rarely ingressive) flowing through it, which makes the vocal
folds flap open and shut m a n y times in a second — is what produces the vib-
ration called phonation, which constitutes voice. Pike (1943:126) considers
voice to be "a vibratory trill produced by the vocal cords and modified by
pharyngeal, nasal and oral mechanisms". This can be verified by stopping
the ears and saying words like 'Savoy', 'science', 'fever', 'pagan', in which
the first consonants are voiceless (i.e., the vocal folds do not vibrate) and
the second ones are voiced and produce that buzzing sensation inside the
head. Both voiced and voiceless sounds can be produced with ingressive air,
that is, inhaled, rather than exhaled, as speech normally is, but only excep-
tionally, as in the Atlantic Canada ingressive 'Yeah!' and ' N o ! ' , or uttering
short interjectional utterances like '¡¿Whaat?!', ' O h , no!', discussed within
qualifiers as 'respiratory control' and others within alternants. For speech,
then, both the glottis and the arytenoids are opened and closed c o m -
plemented by the muscles described below which regulate the tension and
vibration rate of the vocal folds. For swallowing, however, both glottis and
arytenoids are closed and covered by the epiglottis; unless, as was m e n -
tioned, w e try to speak while eating or drinking and inhale foreign matter
into the larynx, immediately choking and producing violently tense egres-
sive and ingressive speech and other noises coupled to overall tense body
musculature and facial expression.
Vibration tension and pitch. Besides the opening, narrowing and total
closing of the glottis, there are two muscles which regulate the tension and
elongation of the vocal folds, thus controlling the frequency of vibration;
the cricothyroid (as its n a m e indicates, between the thyroid and cricoid car-
tilages) and the vocalis (the inner side of the vocal folds). B y regulating the
tension and the lengthening or shortening of the vocal folds (the latter by

the cricothyroid), those muscles change the speed of frequency at which

they vibrate, therefore the pitch of the sounds (which, as has been seen,
depends, first of all, on age, sex and individual characteristics): shortness
(thicker vocal folds) produce slower vibration and thus lower pitch (e.g., an
indignant 'Of course not!'), while lengthening (thinner folds) and higher
tension produce faster vibration and higher pitch (e.g., a surprised
'¡¿Whaaat?!'). Variations in frequency occur during speech in all lan-
guages, either during long stretches of it (a sentence), as in 'intonation lan-
guages' (English, French, Spanish, etc.), or only in very short stretches
(morphemes: syllables, words), as in 'tone languages' (Chinese, Viet-
namese, Zulu, etc.).
Mode of vibration and voice quality. Actually, the tension and vibra-
tion of the vocal folds affect also the quality of the voice, producing several
types — discussed again later as 'laryngeal control' within paralinguistic
qualifiers — about which Laver has written the most in-depth phonetic
study to date (Laver 1980), but to which other phoneticians referred to here
have also devoted systematic attention. Just to introduce them, apart from
the forms seen already, that is audible breathing, glottal stop and normal
voice (for which an average amount of air escapes through the vocal folds
every time they come apart in vibration), the following types of voice qual-
ity (also referred to as phonation types or stricture types) should be dif-
Breathy voice. If w e narrow the glottis a little bit letting through more
air than for normal voice and the vocal folds vibrate without closing but
only "flap in the breeze" (Catford 1977:99), w e produce the typical sighing
quality of breathy voice (e.g., a passionate ' ! O h , h o w I love you!') and voi-
ced [h].
Whispery voice. If w e narrow the glottis as for whisper and add to it the
normal periodic (but relaxed) vibration of normal voice leaving an arytenoi-
dal chink open all the time, w e produce whispery voice, sometimes called
'murmur', as in a confidential but not quite whispered conversation or
statement, but sometimes only overriding some unstressed syllables, as in
' W h y , that's fantastic!', where why, fan and tic are whispered.
Glottal trill, creaky voice or laryngealization. If m u c h less air than for
normal voice goes in slow periodic bursts through only a small chink near
the front end of the vocal folds (not between the arytenoids as for whisper),
w e then produce a "rapid series of taps rather like the sound of a stick being
run along a railing, or one of those noise-making devices in which a wooden

toothed wheel [...] 'tweaks' a "wooden clapper" (Catford 1977:98); this is

what is called 'creak' (or 'glottal fry' or 'fry' in North America), also
described as a bubbling, cracking type of low-pitched phonation, and as
'gravel voice' (Nicolosi et al. (1983:257), a further step of which is the total
closure of glottal stop. A n isolated (without voice) creaking noise (actually
a good imitation of the stork's cry from the nest) can be modulated with
oral resonance and w e can 'play music' with it quite audibly. T h e creaky
effect has also been illustrated by referring to "children playing 'motor
boat'" with these slow glottal pulse rates (Perkins 1971:518). A s the same
author notes, "The puzzlement is w h y the pulse generator, the larynx, pro-
duces such a different range of pulse rates for m e n , w o m e n and children in
the heavy m o d e [modal, habitual voice], yet, in the pulsated m o d e , they all
function at the same rate". This type of sound by itself, without speaking,
is best referred to as glottal trill (Pike 1943:124-125), leaving the other two
terms for its most c o m m o n occurrence, w h e n it is added to voice in what is
k n o w n as creaky voice or laryngealization, which some call also 'glottaliza-
tion', perhaps because of the c o m m o n feature of having a constricted
larynx. It is typical of old age, while lifting a heavy weight, etc., and fre-
quent in a lower-pitch voice in some types of British English and in low-
toned stretches of speech, as in a scornful ' O h , you fool!'.
Although the traditional English term 'creaky voice' is still used here
because of its acceptance a m o n g linguists and its onomatopoeic value (from
Middle English 'creken', to m a k e the sound of geese, crows, a variation of
'craken', 'croken'), a more international term would be 'laryngealized
voice', which is used here also for the sake of the foreign reader. Besides,
some speech specialists prefer the term 'pulsated voice' as more accurately
descriptive of the feel of the behavior and sound of the voice produced in
this m o d e of vocalization at the low end of the pitch scale than the older
terms, creaky voice, dicrotic voice, and glottal fry.
A s Laver (1980:126) points out, laryngealization or creaky voice
appears in m a n y tone languages "in the paralinguistic regulation of interac-
tion", w h e n completing the speaker's turn, and also signalling "bored resig-
nation" throughout a whole utterance, and in "Tzeltal, a M a y a n language,
to express commiseration and complaint, and to invite commiseration",
which, one might add, is also heard in children in their typical coaxing of
adults. Pike (1943:127-128), w h o considers laryngealization as trillization
with superimposed voice, states that "the separate percussions of the glottal
trill are audible while at the same time regular voice vibrations add their

characteristic sound", and refers to the 'rumbling' or 'growling' heard in

that low tone of voice and to the often heard laryngealized vowels in British
English (e.g., in the surprised greeting 'Aah!', typically with raised brows).
H e also refers to 'false laryngealization' (here called 'false creaky voice') as
the combination of 'falso trillization' and false voice or falsetto, seen below,
and to 'false trillization' as a glottal trill (i.e., creak) produced with a
falsetto articulation.
Falsetto voice. If w e speak while the vocalis muscles remain relaxed
and only the edges of the vocal folds vibrate very rapidly (that is, with high
pitch and tension) w e produce falsetto voice (i.e., false voice), which is
reached as a paralinguistic language quality by black speakers, particularly
males or, for instance, in a highly surprised '¿Whaaat?!', as well as in cer-
tain other instances discussed later within paralanguage. Pike (1943:128)
points out how passing from voice to falsetto "provides the basis for yodel-
ling" (the typical abrupt alternation between chest voice and falsetto used
in the typical songs of the mountain people of Switzerland and the Austrian
Tyrol), and also that "most w o m e n seem incapable of using false voice",
although "some w o m e n can 'squeal' or scream in a false voice".
Harsh voice. Finally, if excessive and aperiodic approximation of the
vocal folds produces high laryngeal tension (sometimes even the ventricular
folds vibrate), and usually pharyngeal tension as well and relatively low
pitch, w e speak in a harsh voice, described also with labels like 'rasping',
'strident', 'shrill', 'raucous'. A n extreme degree of harshness is a type of
ventricular voice, mentioned earlier. Harshness, of course, as other voice
qualities, can modify many paralinguistic utterances, as will be seen.
Raised-larynx and lower-larynx voice. Finally, besides the various
activities in the region of the vocal folds (opening, narrowing, closing), the
further type of activity that should be mentioned involves actually two types
of laryngeal movements caused by two antagonistic muscles attached to the
hyod bone which can lower and raise the larynx. The lowering of the larynx
shortens it and at the same time lengthens the laryngopharynx as a resonat-
ing cavity, which produces lowered-larynx voice, with lower pitch and
breathy effect that seems to contribute to 'sepulchral voice' (perhaps due
also to lip rounding, a feature which "has much in c o m m o n with lowering of
the larynx, acoustically, and hence auditorily" [Laver 1980:309]. The other,
raising and shortening of the laryngopharynx, produces a higher-pitched
larynx voice.

On the relationship between laryngeal voice qualities and kinesics

A s a kinesic attitude congruent with lowered-larynx voice, Laver (1980:31)

mentions that "Speakers w h o use lower larynx voice seem to adopt a post-
ure with their chin 'tucked' in", as it were, together with a slight downward
rotation of the head, which reduces the angle between the neck and the
under surface of the chin. O n e can easily imagine h o w m a n y speakers
would add to this phonatory-gestural attitude other kinesic behaviors, such
as lowering of the brows and frowning and either lip-rounding (e.g., with a
'mysterious' voice) or distension of the mouth and neck muscles. A s for
raised-larynx voice, its higher pitch occurs usually with varying degrees of
neck, brow and eyelid raising and even upward hand gestures (e.g., a tense
ingressive paralinguistic interjection of repugnance or fear, or as in
'¡¿Whaaat?!'), all of them kinesic behaviors that would on their part elicit
those very paralinguistic effects, preserving the coherence characteristic of
the linguistic-paralinguistic-kinesic structure. W h e n dealing with harshness,
Laver (1981:129) quotes other students of voice as saying that "harshness
results from overtensions in the throat and neck: it is often, if not usually,
accompanied by hypertensions of the whole body", as in fact gestures can
be referred to also as harsh, the whole linguistic paralinguistic-kinesic clus-
ter or configuration being of harshness, just as a tense, low-pitched ' N o ? ' of
incredulity read in a novel, for instance, or in a play's stage directions,
evokes rather low eyebrows and slightly tucked-in chin. A n expression like
'But that's awful!' suggests drawling of the syllable aw with open mouth,
lowered brows and perhaps enhanced nasolabial furrows, while m a n y
expressions with falsetto voice a m o n g black speakers are accompanied by
raised brows and often wide-open eyes. In general, lower and higher ten-
sion in sound production correspond to muscular tension in kinesic articula-
tions. Research on voice, therefore, or rather, on voice (sound) and
kinesics (movement), as the two mutually costructured activities in c o m -
munication, must seek to define personal as well as cultural fixed patterns
in expressions, for instance, of emotions. W e should be able to correlate,
for instance, E k m a n and Friesen's (1976) 'facial action units' with the cor-
responding paralanguage as part of the total audible-visible configuration of
'harshness' — or the total behavioral configuration of 'uncouth laughter', or
all manner of voluntary or involuntary tenseness of facial, abdominal and
thoracic musculature and tongue protrusion — rather than indicating only a
glottal-stop type of sound (see, for instance, Fig. 6.2., 'Laughter Configura-
tion Chart').

Laryngeal speech disorders, voice quality and visual features: hoarseness,

diplophonia, eunochoid voice

A more complete study of the forms and function of laryngeal voice pro-
duction would include also the physiological and audible characteristics of
voice disorders localized in the larynx. O n e , for instance, is pathological
hoarseness, one of the most c o m m m o n dysphonias, which can be produced
by anything that interferes with the normal vibration of the vocal folds,
such as the inflammation typical of laryngitis caused by c o m m o n cold or
bronchitis, the hoarseness from vocal-fold cancer, or the irritation from
smoking or after shouting; the latter associated with emotional excitement,
and thus with specific facial and bodily gestures, as well as with certain
occupations in which the person has to spend hours shouting in public. O n e
form is called 'rough hoarseness', a two-toned type of voice caused by vib-
ration in two different points of the vocal folds. T h e double voice or dip-
lophonia, mentioned w h e n discussing ventricular voice, can be also a
speech disorder, as can the so-called eunuchoid voice, that is, a high pitched
falsetto. Again, any of the laryngeal disfunctions tend to be accompanied
by typical muscular activities of the face that can become long-term charac-
teristics in the individual and part of his kinesic repertoire as perceived by

2.5 The pharynx

Basic anatomy and visual aspects

The first of the supraglottal cavities is the pharynx (Figs. 2 . 1 . A and C ) ,

whose muscles cooperate both in swallowing and speech production and
even determine certain kinesic behaviors. It is a tubed-shaped channel
which extends from the lowest part of the nasal cavities to the esophagus
and thus comprises the nasopharynx, the oropharynx and the laryn-
gopharynx, of which three it forms the backwall. It is wider at the top,
m u c h narrower at the level of the larynx and then continues with the
esophagus, at which level the front and back walls touch each other except
to let food and drink through. Its lower two-thirds can change considerably
in dimension from front to back and from side to side, which contributes
not only to swallowing but to voice resonance. The pharynx, therefore, is to

the vocal folds as the box of a violin is to its strings, for it serves, together
with the nasal cavities and the mouth, as a resonator of the vibrations rising
from the larynx to be amplified by the air contained in those cavities.
A s for swallowing, one must acknowledge, besides its physiological
function, the kinesic behavior of swallowing for its various communicative
roles. While it can be an unconscious muscular movement triggered by
social tension, fear, etc., it can be used also as part of a kinesic repertoire
and accompanied by facial gestures, typically in children, but also used by
others in, for instance, m o c k fear, as stereotyped by comic performers quite
hystrionically. T h e muscles used include those mentioned below as deter-
mining the changes in the pharynx and it can be accompanied by an
unnecessary and exaggerated sound of swallowing produced by extreme
pharyngeal constriction and release. T h e up-and-down movement of a
man's A d a m ' s apple can sometimes be a subtle silent clue to concealed ten-
sion and emotion.

Muscular physiology

Apart from the cricopharyngeal sphincter (pharyngeosophageal segment),

mentioned earlier in connection with swallowing and with the esophagus,
the muscular physiology of the pharynx involves, (a) two valve systems: the
velopharyngeal or soft-palate one at the top (seen later w h e n discussing the
mouth), which closes the nasopharynx from the oropharynx to contribute to
the nasal or oral resonance of sounds, and the epiglottis, also mentioned
before as covering the laryngeal opening w h e n w e press the tongue d o w n -
ward and raise the larynx; but mainly (b) the modifications of its volume,
brought about mainly by the movements of three sets of muscles and of the
mandible (i.e., 'mandibular control' within paralinguistic qualifiers), the
hyod bone, the body and root of the tongue (i.e., lingual control'), the
larynx, and the epiglottis. Those muscular actions that cause the pharynx to
rise, drop, expand and contract can be summarized as follows (based
mainly on Laver 1980).
Constriction. T h e pharyngeal cavity can be constricted by the superior
pharyngeal constrictor, which shortens the nasopharynx w h e n raising the
soft palate and closing the velum in a sphincteric w a y narrowing it and pul-
ling its rear wall forward and downward, and which also lifts the root of the
tongue up and backward constricting the oropharynx; by the middle
pharyngeal constrictor, which constricts the oropharynx and retracts the

back of the tongue even until the epiglottis touches the back wall of the
oropharynx; and by the inferior constrictor muscle, which raises the larynx
and, when the larynx is fixed, narrows the upper and lower pharynx in a
sphincteric way. The effect of all these activities is that of raising pitch and
producing a tense, metallic and strident voice (often called 'sharp') which in
typically extreme cases can be externally correlated with muscular tension
of face and neck, intense gaze, tense articulation and high-volume or con-
trolled but vehement words. W h e n the wall of the pharynx and the tongue
root approximate each other the voice becomes pharyngealized, a feature
mentioned later as a paralinguistic qualifier of both verbal and paralinguis-
tic voice.
Expansion. The pharynx can be expanded when the stylopharyngeal
muscle, which pulls the larynx and the pharynx walls upward, widens the
pharynx laterally if the larynx is fixed by other muscles, and when w e push
the body of the tongue forward and away from the pharynx wall, which low-
ers pitch and makes voice sounding muffled and relaxed through damping
of the laryngeal vibrations. The congruent kinesic behaviors for low
pharyngeal speech (which, as with the kinesics of sharp voice, can be eli-
cited first and then in turn determine the paralanguage) can be shortening
of the neck, sometimes lowering the chin too, lip rounding, sometimes
slight frowning and slight eyelid dropping, accompanied by slower speech
and slightly breathy voice.

The faucal pillars

Within the pharyngeal area, the fauces, that is, the muscular faucal pillars
or arches (Fig. 2.1.A and F), are two arched folds between the pharynx and
the mouth which join the soft palate to the tongue, pharynge side walls and
pharynx. The back one (formed by the palatopharyngeal muscle) on the
pharyngeal wall with the tonsils between its two pillars, the front one (made
up of the palatoglossal muscle) formed by the soft palate, with the uvula
projecting in its center. Besides helping in swallowing and in keeping food
or drink from returning to the mouth (except when regurgitating or retch-
ing, with the typical accompanying kinesic behaviors), the posterior pillars
help to raise the larynx and shorten the pharynx, while the anterior ones
raise the tongue, both pulling the velum (soft palate) downward, thus con-
tributing to the regulation of the nasality of sounds.

Pharyngeal articulations and voice modifiers

A n y possible articulation in the oropharynx involves the drawing of the ton-

gue root toward the back wall of the pharynx, but m a n y people can produce
a pharyngeal stop which, although not impossible, requires a highly unusual
and violent muscular m o v e m e n t . A logical classification of both linguistic
and paralinguistic possible pharyngeal articulations should include:
- audible swallowing, a violent epiglottopharyngeal muscular movement;
- audible pharyngeal friction, such as the ingressive one immediately
after a pre-speech apicoalveolar click, or a tense egressive friction of
- faucal approximant, identified by Catford (1977: 163) as the 'faucal or
transversal pharyngeal' of the conspicuous Arabic sound 'ein: the lateral
walls of the oropharynx are compressed, the larynx is usually raised, pro-
ducing glottal tension, drawing the faucal pillars toward each other and
almost closing the passage, as in retching, which can be provoked as a
paralinguistic behavior but also to produce the twangy speech "used by
comedians in speech mimicry to imitate the 'nasal twang' of the hillbilly
speech" (Key 1975a: 61);
- the m o r e c o m m o n pharyngeal articulations, however, are the
pharyngeal fricatives and included in the I P A as typical of Semitic languages
(Arabic voiced ha and unvoiced 'ain), which can have "a great deal of
laryngealization (creaky voice)" (Ladefoged 1975:143) and which Catford
(1968:326, 1977:163) prefers to classify as approximants, that is, approach-
ing the pharynx wall somewhat less than for a true fricative;
- the linguopharyngeal described by Catford (1977:163), a narrowing of
the pharynx by approximation to it of the root of the tongue and the epig-
lottis, " m a y be the pharyngeal component of various types of
pharyngealized articulation", that is, the secondary articulation mentioned
- the epiglottopharyngeal stop suggested by Catford (1968:326) as an
almost impossible articulation should be considered as a possible paralin-
guistic sound accompanied by equally noticeable facial and even bodily
- an epiglottopharyngeal fricative, also suggested by Catford;
- a possible epiglottopharyngeal trill, equally suggested by Catford,
should not be neglected as a paralinguistic articulation.

The faucal-approximant type is used phonologically to produce the

pharyngeal fricatives, as has been seen. But there is also a modification of
basic articulations by approximation of the faucal pillars, faucalization, dis-
cussed later within qualifiers as a form of pharyngeal control.
T h e retraction of the root of the tongue toward the back pharynx wall
causes the secondary articulation called pharyngealization, which affects
linguistically m a n y sounds in Arabic (e.g., the / in 'Allah', G o d ) , but which
paralinguistically can be a voice modifier.

2.6 The oral cavity

T h e oral cavity is our true sound-box and principal communication instru-

ment where, besides giving shape to all the phonologically agreed words for
the exchange of almost countless messages in each individual language, w e
produce another vast repertoire of 'unofficial' yet equally symbolic and
eloquent utterances with which at times w e can convey the mental sub-
tleties of a message otherwise impossible to put in words. But very often
this is possible only w h e n those internal muscular activities, consciously or
unconsciously generated, are complemented by the external bodily articula-
tions of our universal, cultural and personal kinesic repertoires, fused to
linguistic and paralinguistic sounds in the basic triple structure language-
paralanguage kinesics. In the upper areas of the mouth in which the tongue,
the lips, the labial cavities, the teeth, the inside of the cheeks and the nos-
trils are involved in different combinations, the activation of the otherwise
'static signs' of the face into 'rapid signs' blends and alternates with sound-
making and, further, with gestures, manners and postures.1

2.6.1 The alveolar-palatal areas

Basic anatomy and muscular physiology

T h e commonly called roof of the mouth (Fig. 2 . 1 . A and E ) includes: the
alveolar area or alveolar ridge (alveolum), the convexity of the g u m s behind
the upper teeth, similar to which is the lower ridge (though used m u c h less
and thus traditionally neglected). T h e ridge of both the upper and lower
premolars and molars must not be ignored, since the tongue can modify
verbal and paralinguistic sounds and articulate some paralinguistic ones
against the posterior areas of both g u m s , as will be seen; the hard palate or

palatal area, the first part of the concave mouth-roof; and then its rear part,
the soft palate or velar area. While the hard palate is a stationary potential
passive articulator for the tongue, the soft palate or velum is a moveable
m e m b r a n e that ends in the uvula, theflexiblepart seen before as the princi-
pal tool in the velopharyngeal activities (besides being articulated against
by the tongue) (Fig. 2.1. , and E ) . Thus, from the uvula to the upper
teeth and their alveolar ridge the upper part of the mouth forms an
articulatory continuum from front to back. T h e velum can be pulled d o w n
by the two paired faucal muscles, the palatoglossal (front faucal pillars) and
the palatopharyngeal (rear faucal pillars), and raised by the paired palatal
muscles {levators and tensors) and, variably, by one of the pharyngeal con-
strictors acting in a sphincteric w a y and closing the velopharyngeal valve in
a velic closure.
Although nasality vs. orality will be identified as 'velopharyngeal con-
trol' within paralinguistic qualifiers, it must be said that lowered velum and
raised velum do not radically produce oral and nasal voice respectively and
that the production of nasality depends very m u c h on personal anatomical
differences of the oral and nasal cavities. But the nasal cavity can resonate
without air passing through it (as w h e n w e hold the nostrils closed), w h e n
adenoidal inflammation on the nasopharynx impedes the flow of air and
neither nasal nor nasalized sounds are possible, or w h e n the nostrils are
blocked by a cold but air resonates in the cavities without leaving through
the nostrils.
A s one of the main sources of h u m a n sounds, the alveolar-palatal area
gives audible form to and semantically modify our mental constructs. But
those alveolar, palatal and velar articulations can also correlate with visible
facial and bodily behaviors mainly, as in apicoalveolar clicks of commisera-
tion or disapproval ('Tz-'tz'), in palatalizing and nasalizing speech of m o c -
kery, or w h e n expressing repugnance with a '¡Yeeugh!' sound, all of which,
even if heard over the telephone, evoke congruent facial expressions.
Since the alveolar-palatal-velar areas act as passive articulators (al-
though the velum moves up and d o w n against the nasopharynx) contacted
by the tongue, which is the active one, alveolar, palatal and velar articula-
tions will be identified w h e n discussing the tongue, while velic ones will be
included in the discussion of the nasal cavities.
Certain p h e n o m e n a involving the alveolum, the hard palate and the
soft palate or velum include another initiation mechanism and three voice
modifiers or secondary articulations.

T h e mouth-air mechanism or oral air-stream mechanism (a term used

by some [e.g., Pike 1943:93-95], while others prefer velaric air-stream
mechanism [e.g., Abercrombie 1967:31-33] is one of the major ways of
initiating an air-stream mechanism besides doing it with lung air, pharynx
air (glottalic air-stream mechanism) and esophageal air (mentioned ear-
lier). In this w a y of producing sounds (very briefly and only the oral ones)
the back of the tongue touches the velum firmly (roughly as for the velar k)
and, still touching, is pushed forward to m a k e egressive sounds called clicks
(the m o r e c o m m o n sounds with this type of mechanism), typical of certain
African languages and, paralinguistically, of m a n y others with different
meaning and virtually lexical value, as will be discussed within alternants.
If while forming primary articulations w e also raise the front of the ton-
gue (tip turned rather downward) toward the hard palate w e are adding to
them the secondary articulation of palatalization. If, on the other hand, w e
raise the back of the tongue toward the soft palate or velum w e add velari-
zation to our sounds as another secondary articulation. While palatalization
and velarization are used linguistically (e.g., in Russian 'soft' and 'hard'
consonants, differentiated precisely by palatalization and velarization,
respectively; Arabic has the 'emphatic' velarized [s,z,d] besides the regular
ones), the average speaker can of course utilize them as paralinguistic
effects with various idiosyncratic meanings, such as a forced babyish
palatalized w a y of speaking, typically accompanied by slight bilateral d o w n -
ward lip distension, while palatalizing with raised tongue can cause a for-
ward posture of the face. Finally, although not mentioned in phonetic
studies, there is the possibility of engaging the other part of the mouth roof,
the alveolum, in a paralinguistic passive function of alveolarization by rais-
ing the blade of the tongue further front than for palatalization, mentioned
again together with the other two secondary articulations under lingual con-
trol within paralinguistic qualifiers. "Tst! Tst! Tst!", a sucking sound of the
tongue and the palate" (Dreiser AT, III, 35.

The speech-affecting abnormal palate

T h e well-known abnormality affecting the palate is what is called cleft-
palate, a congenital failure of the two sides of the palate to knit together,
leaving a fissure in the medial line — which m a y extend through the uvula,
soft palate and hard palate (sometimes involving the so-called cleft lip as
well) — through which air passes into the nasal cavities. Before this is cor-
rected surgically and the patient is taught, if possible, to use the valvular

action of the soft palate, typical cleft-palate speech is characterized by

hypernasality (causing lack of sufficient velopharyngeal closure needed to
properly produce, for instance, stops [p, t, k, b, d, g] and close vowels like
[i] in 'beet' and the [u] in 'tooth'), inaccurate articulations and frequent sub-
stitution of the glottal stops, and nasalization of the fricative sounds. Per-
sons with a cleft-palate display typical facial distortions while speaking,
such as constriction of the nostrils.

2.6.2 The dental areas

The teeth and their auditory and visual functions

F r o m the point of view of sound production the dental areas comprise the
incisors, canines and premolars (in this order of articulatory importance) of
both the upper and lower jaws, the lower one being the m o r e active as it
depends on mandibular movements. Naturally, one must include again the
upper-teeth ridge or alveolum, as well as the lower ridge, for the tongue can
touch both sets of teeth and g u m s for certain articulations. Most dental
articulations are m a d e with the rims of the upper incisors against the lower
lip (even biting its outer surface toward the chin in some paralinguistic
utterances) or their rim or back against the tongue. H o w e v e r , the lower
incisors, besides being susceptible of being articulated against by the ton-
gue, can also, by lowering, raising and protrusion of the mandible (discus-
sed below), touch and bite the upper lip in some paralinguistic alternants,
as in a prolonged strong dentilabial fricative, perhaps with a glottalized
laryngeal sound (e.g., in m o c k threatening).
That paralinguistic example above provides an illustration of a kinesic
correlate, as would the typical facial expression adopted with, for instance,
the tense, aggressive pronunciation of '¡First give them their five thousand
dollars!', in which, besides raising the five fingers in front of the face with
intense gaze, one m a y articulate [f, v] and [ Θ , δ] with the same degree of
intensity. Whether the formation of the kinesic composite gestures deter­
mines the paralinguistic vehemence or viceversa would be a rather futile
discussion in most cases, as they both simply correspond to the same e m o ­
tional feeling. W h a t should be clear is that, as with other parts of the face
that are used for speech (lips, mandible, nostrils) or during speech (brows,
cheeks), the teeth, intimately associated with the lips, contribute to our
perception of the speaker, to our evaluation of the 'speaking face', where
the shape, position and color of the teeth, encased between the two lips (of

positive or negative characteristics themselves) and accompanied by the

tongue, appear and disappear in the formation of sounds and, for instance,
during 'smiling speech', as it is mostly during speech and smiling and laugh-
ing that the teeth are perceived.
A s the dental articulations traditionally acknowledged in phonetics
engage the lips or the tongue as active articulators against the teeth, they
are included within labiodental and linguodental articulations, while the
few for which the teeth can be active articulators are included here, and cer-
tain dental speech modifiers will be mentioned within paralinguistic qual-

Linguistic and paralinguistic dental articulations

Although most of the dental articulations engage the teeth as passive
articulators with either the tongue or the upper lip, and will be mentioned
w h e n discussing those two organs, the lower teeth can actively produce the
following five possible articulations, for which the term 'denti-' (lower
teeth) is borrowed from Catford (1977) (See n o w , and for the following sec-
tions, Fig. 2.2, "Points of Linguistic and Paralinguistic Articulations'):

Figure 2.2 Points of linguistic and paralinguistic articulations


- bidental or dentidental fricatives or approximants (without either lips

or tongue interfering) while blowing through the teeth (Catford 1977:148);
what Catford (1977:148) defines as 'dentilabial' for the production of a
lower-teeth version of labiodentals [f, v] could be subdivided into dentiexo-
labial fricatives — frequent in speakers with a protracted mandible — and
dentiendolabial, with which the labiodental fricative becomes further dis-
torted by the audible friction.
It must be noted that the lip posture required changes the visual kinesic
component of both dentiexolabial and dentiendolabial according to
anatomical configuration and articulatory emphasis. Further, both articula-
tions can be used with normal facial articulation only as typical paralinguis-
tic features, in which case there can be a sustained hissing friction (as in
Finally, a position of almost bidental contact can be a paralinguistic
voice qualifier or secondary articulation w e should acknowledge as dentali-
zation, that is, the articulation of vowels and consonants 'through one's
teeth', which can m a k e the labial kinesic component of normal articulation
be still present and vary from lip rounding or protrusion with close front
vowels to horizontal distension with close back vowels.
Fully within paralinguistic articulatory possibilities, the teeth can pro-
duce m o r e communicative sounds by means of bidental articulations and
assisted dental articulations. Paralinguistic articulations are of two kinds:
- dental scrapives (Pike 1943:105), rubbing or scraping the lower teeth
against the upper ones, that is, as tooth gnashing, grating or grinding, an
intentionally communicative rasping sound, for instance, with rage;
- dental percussives, produced by clicking maxillary and mandibular
teeth together at different speeds, but typically as a bidental chatter, that is,
in a repeated rapid w a y (as in chattering from cold or fear); with bidental
percussives resonating in the oral cavity musical notes can be played up and
d o w n the scale in various keys;
- with or without percussive contact an audible ingressive or egressive air
stream m a y escape through the interstices and cause a bidental fricative
chatter, present sometimes even in certain types of voiceless laughter;
- dental assisted articulations (by which term I refer to any sound produc-
tion helped by the hand or hands, or an object), that is, snapping the upper
incisors with the fingernails of the second and third fingers (or just the sec-
ond) and, by the pitch- and resonance-modifying changes in the pharyngeal
and oral areas, producing perfectly controllable musical notes, which can be
achieved also with a pencil, small stick, etc.

Speech-affecting abnormalities of the teeth and their visual aspects: malocclu­

sion, malposition, missing teeth
A s for abnormal modification of speech caused by the teeth, both malocclu­
sion (misalignment of maxillary and mandibular teeth) and malposition (de­
fective positioning of some teeth) contribute not only to facial cosmetic
appearance but to articulatory defects. For instance, open-bite (the anterior
upper teeth fail to reach and contact the lower ones) usually distorts the
sybillants [s, z, ƒ , 3 ] and even[t∫]and[dz],perhaps produced interdentally
but still without sibilance, while cross-bite (the upper and lower teeth not
aligned vertically with each other) sometimes interferes with linguo-alveo-
lar articulation and produces lisping. S o m e forms of open-bite, such as
overbite (the upper teeth are slanted forward) constitute also a visual fea­
ture conditioning facial kinesics, as does underbite (the mandibular teeth
overlap the maxillary ones in a permanent jutted-mandible posture).
O n the other hand, missing teeth, particularly the upper incisors, and
excessive wide separation of upper and lower teeth, cause distortion of the
dental fricatives [s] ('saint'), [z] ("Zen'), [Θ] ('thorn') and [δ] ('that').
Anomalies of the mandible that affect the location of both sets of teeth are
mentioned later on in this chapter.

2.6.3 The labial areas and the cheeks

The communicative functions of the lips: anatomy and dynamic visual fea­
Next in the oral cavity, and in constant contact with the maxillary and m a n ­
dibular teeth in neutral position, are the upper and lower lips and the inner
cheek surfaces. Besides their anthropomorphic and anthropophonic pos­
sibilities — by themselves and articulated with the teeth, the tongue and,
unlike any other sound organ, with the hands and fingers — the lips can be
more expressive and communicative than any of them, as they become in
speech an object of visual and acoustic perception. "The pronunciation of
certain syllables gave to her lips this peculiarity of formation — a formation
as suggestive and moving as pathos itself" (Dreiser SC, X V , 153).
T h e lips alternate between (a) periods of rest as one of the static signs
of the face (along with eyes, brows, nose, cheeks, chin and forehead), intel­
lectually evaluated as attractive (sensual, beautiful, innocent), unattractive
(repulsive, cold), emotion-laden (sad, happy, nervous, angry, surprised,

contemptuous, scornful) or simply neutral and not 'thought of; (b) due to
their great plasticity, periods of everchanging communicative mobility, giv-
ing bodily shape to those utterances and allowing us to 'see what w e hear':
words that express abstract concepts, moral and physical qualities of
people, the environment, etc. But, even further, the sounding lips give also
visual form to functional utterances like interjections (e.g., ' ¡ W o w ! ' ) , con-
junctions (e.g., an emphatic ' B U T be careful!'), prepositions (e.g., 'That's
for you'), pronouns (e.g., ' O h , I love you'). Particularly interjections can be
m u c h m o r e expressive w h e n , for instance, w e add to the audible expression
of fear, hate, repulsion, grief, surprise, or disapproval its visible kinesic rep-
resentation as well, qualified, as all kinesic acts, by muscular tension or
intensity (akin to articulatory tension), range or extent of the m o v e m e n t
(similar to syllabic duration) and velocity or temporal length (similar to
speech tempo). This 'audible-labial' exteriorization of abstract and physical
concepts falls clearly within the nonverbal categories I have studied
elsewhere (Poyatos 1983: Chapter 4, 1986), for example: identifiers, illus-
trating with truly bodily form what w e are saying (e.g., pursing them in
hesitation or deep thinking), and externalizers, which are not illustrators but
reactions to what is being said, silenced, done or not done by us or someone
else, to past, present or anticipated or imagined events, to our o w n somatic
p h e n o m e n a , to esthetic or spiritual experiences, etc. (e.g., lips distended
downward while saying '!Eeugh!', or biting the lower lip in an anticipatory
' M m m m m ! ' ) . That is w h y the lips, besides our evaluation of their appear-
ance, can blend the phonetic construction of words — which m a y have had
slightly different visual form back in their etymological history — with h o w
the speakers 'feel' them in a unique individual, circumstantial way; and
further still, those visible sounds m a y blend with, for instance, a smile, and
thus w e speak through a smile, or 'smile our words', adding another dimen-
sion to speech in its true triple verbal-paralinguistic-kinesic reality, a reality
that can be so powerfully evoked by a painting or photograph.
In addition, the visual appearance of the lips as 'speakers' can be the
object of artificial manipulation, which can change both their interactive
role according to the interpersonal proxemic relationship and the percep-
tion of their m o r e permanent characteristics (e.g., fleshy, moist) and their
dynamic ones (i.e. their shaping of words and h o w they qualify those words
by additional changes, smiles, etc.). This can be enhanced, first, naturally
by moistening them against each other and (less frequently, but with clear
unconscious or conscious social functions) with the tongue — two charac-
teristic kinesic behaviors in themselves — and also by the use of female's

lipstick of various colors and shades that can even modify the shape of their
outer edges. All those modifications will congruently or incongruently
accompany the vocabulary, paralanguage and kinesics of the speaker
(again, as sensual, mannish, uncouth, etc.), the kinesic component being in
the lips themselves.
Finally, another aspect of the lips which is not included in the
taxonomy of labial settings offered below is their anatomical configuration
as a permanent postural conditioner. T h e most typical configurations are:
permanent opening posture of the interlabial space, due to a lowered m a n -
dible or to a raised upper lip; permanent moderate protrusion of both lips
as if ready to speak in the open-rounded position; very fleshy lips or very
thin ones; protraction and, m o r e out of habit, a lateral tendency of the
mandible, with or without permanently opened lips. T h e visual effect of
any of these postures during conversation can be consciously or uncon-
sciously evaluated by the listener, while a protracted mandible can lend
voice slight nasality. Another thing which is not included, as it falls within
kinesics only, is any posture of the lips independent from speech, although
it precedes and follows it and m a y definitely combine visually with it in
expressing, or rather, supporting, emphasizing or even contradicting what
sounds seem to communicate.

The muscular physiology of the lips and their kinesic behaviors

T h e physiology of the lips consists basically of (a) neutral position, (b) sca-
lar degrees of vertical expansion, involving either both lips or only the lower
one as activated by the mandible, susceptible to the parameter of lip retrac-
tion or protrusion, (c) scalar degrees of horizontal expansion, also with or
without the parameters of lip retraction or protrusion, of which phoneti-
cians distinguish the goldfish-like 'open rounding' (vertical expansion with
lateral constriction and normally with lip protrusion) and the smile-like 'lip
spreading', with lateral expansion and normally without protrusion, (d) two
scalar realizations of unilateral horizontal expansion, on the right or left
side, (e) scalar degrees of vertical constriction and (f) scalar degrees of hori-
zontal constriction, in both of which phoneticians distinguish 'close round-
ing' (pursing) with vertical and lateral constriction of the interlabial space,
normally with slight protrusion, (g) two scalar realizations of unilateral hori-
zontal constriction on the right or left side, (h) scalar degrees of lip protru-
sion, that is, turned outwardly, and (i) not acknowledged by most, the posi-
tion of lip retraction against the teeth, the latter two constituting actually a

protruded-retracted parameter. Based on the first four actions, expansion

(E) and constriction ( ) , either horizontally ( H ) or vertically ( V ) , Laver
(1980:35-37) has classified eight parametric descriptions of labial settings
for speakers of English (besides the protruded or nonprotruded neutral
positions): H E , VE, H C , VC, H E + VE, H E + VC, H C + VC and H C +
V E . However, neither this classification nor the exhaustive articulatory
classification by Catford (1977:140-48 and Fig. 43) would suffice, nor would
it do justice to the enormous versatility of the lips. Catford differentiates
articulations with the outer labial area (exolabial) and with the inner area
(endolabial), either against each other or against the teeth. But w e need an
acoustic and visual approach to 'labial communication' that can be actually
encoded and decoded (the former consciously or not) in face-to-face con-
versation, instead of looking only for the linguistic and paralinguistic conse-
quences of labial changes.
T o summarize the basic muscular activities that determine all the possi-
ble lip movements and postures (some dealt with again under 'labial con-
trol' within paralinguistic qualifiers), there are seven types of muscles that
can be mentioned as basic to labial physiology (Fig. 2 . 1 . D ) : the orbicular
muscles (often called the kissing muscle), which is a complete oral sphincter
that serves to close the lips, press them against the teeth or m a k e them
pout, pull the upper lip d o w n and inwardly and the lower lip up and
inwardly, and also help (together with the mental muscle) to protrude the
lips; the two levators, running from the upper face to the angles of the
mouth, raise the upper lip and the mouth angles vertically and diagonally;
the depressors attach the lower lip to the mandible, contracting to depress
the mouth angles and the lower lip diagonally; the mental muscle, between
the lower lip and the chin, turns the lower lip outward; the buccinators,
which m a k e up most of the cheek wall running horizontally across it from
the back of the jaw inserting into the orbicular muscle,flattensthe cheeks
and pulls the mouth corners bilaterally or unilaterally, being one of the
chewing muscles and serving also to whistle and blow (it is also called the
trumpet muscle); the zygomatic, running from the mouth corners to the
cheekbone, called the smiling muscle because it raises the corner of the
mouth also bilaterally or unilaterally; and the risorius (Lat. risu, laugh),
used for the horizontal spreading of the mouth toward the cheek.
Knowing the basic movements of the lips and h o w the main muscles
work, it is easier to recognize the communicative importance of their post-
ures adopted intentionally or unintentionally as 'labial control', and the

permanent visual-audible conditioning of congenital or pathological config-

urations, such as a slightly open jaws, which keep the lips parted at all
Returning to the possible labial settings, even considering the paralin-
guistic possibilities it is necessary to acknowledge also the physiologically
possible directional parameters (the broken lines in Fig. 2 . 1 . D ) , that is,
depending on whether each action is or is not symmetrical with respect to
the right and left sides from a vertical plane, to the upper and lower ones
from a horizontal plane, and again to the right and left sides but from a
diagonal plane, plus the protrusion and retraction parameters.
W h e n dealing with lip protrusion, Laver (1980:33) acknowledges that
it is "occasionally asymmetrical, on either the vertical or horizontal plane or
both, but discussion of such idiosyncratic factors is beyond the scope of this
book". H o w e v e r , if w e consider the sound and the kinesics of lip behavior,
asymmetricality, not only on those planes but on a diagonal one, appears as
a whole constellation of extremely expressive postures defining personality,
gender and sexual deviances, socioeconomic and cultural attitudes, etc.
T o those parameters suggested in the diagram, however, one must still
add the following: (a) a series of additional physiologically possible settings,
both across the whole length of the lips and o n each side, according to
whether they are retracted against the teeth (even turned inwardly around
the edge of the teeth) or protruded, that is, turned inwardly; (b) another
series of labiofacial positions with the lips closed and involving also the
cheeks; (c) another according to whether the mandible is retracted or pro-
tracted or swung left or right; (d) wanting to be exhaustive, certain labial
and labiofacial postures shaped by the position of the tongue behind the lips
or cheeks or between the lips, and (e) by the teeth biting the lips; and (f)
some externally caused modifications of the lips2 performed by the hands,
the fingers and even objects, that is, assisted labiofacial articulations.
Regretably, however, due to editorial constrictions, only a few sample
postures have ben retained of the original clearly distinguishable 1728 iden-
tified labial scalar settings. Each one had been defined according to the
dominant feature of vertical, horizontal or diagonal expansion or constric-
tion (with either labial protrusion or retraction) and to certain labiofacial,
labiodental and mandibular settings and, finally, certain assisted forms. Fig.
2.3, 'The Kinesic Possibilities of the Lips, Cheeks, and Mandible', simply
indicates the broader categories, but each of the postures should be not
only described, but visually illustrated in future research. In fact, with that

Α . Dominant Expansion Settings

Vertical Horizontal Diagonal
Symetrical Symmetrical Symmetrica]
Unilateral Unilateral Unilateral
Mandibular Shifts Mandibular Shifts Mandibular Shifts
B . Dominantc Constriction
Horizontal Vertical
Symmetrical Symmetrical
Unilateral Unilateral
Mandibular shifts
C . Labiofacial and Labiodental-Cavity Settings
D . Labiodental-Mandibular Settings
E . Assisted Labial and Labiofacial Settings

F. Mandibular Settings
Vertical Lateral
Horizontal Rotational
Figure 2.3 The kinesic possibilities of the lips, cheeks and mandibles

kind of study at hand the reader could verify with the help of a mirror the
characteristics of each scalar series and posture, considering his or her per­
manent settings (whether anatomical and/or habitual or attitudinal), which
on occasion m a y hinder the ability to achieve certain configurations. A s
well, one should weigh the communicative functions of the kinesic aspects
of those configurations (an aspect of labial behavior that would not be pos­
sible to discuss properly in this book) by imagining in which ways he or she
would combine specific labial postures.

A. D o m i n a n t expansion
Expansion of the lips can be horizontal, stretching from the center toward
the cheeks, or vertical from the transversal center line upward and d o w n -

ward (both combining in quite a few typical settings), and diagonal, the
three in turn susceptible of occurring symmetrically or unilaterally (although
the unilaterality of vertical expansions can be included better within
diagonal postures), and laterally displaced if the lower jaw is swung right or
left, for which reason these actions are included within labial settings,
besides their subsequent discussion as mandibular settings.

1. Horizontal expansion settings

Symmetrical. There is a basic symmetrical expansion scale on both sides of
the sagital plane (differently modified in every category identified from
here on) distending the mouth corners beyond the neutral position (and
slightly upward diagonally, without the characteristics of full diagonality
discussed below): slightly expanded — expanded — very expanded — m a x -
imally expanded (at which latter point two small oblong openings appear at
the mouth corners as in some forms of childish or feminine crying, or as in
some Japanese paintings) ;
- the same with upper lip/lower lip/both retracted against the teeth;
turned inwardly against and around the edge of the teeth; with deep lower
lip retraction against them, etc.;
- the first basic horizontal setting + awning-shaped lip stretching.
W h a t here is identified descriptively as awning-shaped denotes a very
interesting forward diagonal 'awning-like' stretching of the upper lip (much
less noticeable in the lower one), typically accompanied by slight horizontal
constriction and slight raising of the mouth corners, which in several west-
ern cultures I have always observed in socioeducationally lower male speak-
ers (and interestingly enough in several females with strong masculine
traits) in different conversational contexts (e.g., in humble or embarrassed
Unilateral. Each of the above can also appear unilaterally, on the right
or left side (out of personal habit or as an attitudinal feature, as w h e n want-
ing to appear tough, etc.), without engaging the mandible, but only the
labial musculature; with awning-shaped lip-stretching, etc.
Mandibular Shifts of Horizontal-Expansion Settings. A n y of the hori-
zontal-expansion settings can be displayed by right or left swinging of the
mandible and by retraction and protraction, also with similar uses.

2. Vertical expansion settings

Symmetrical. A basic scalar setting determined by the lower lip depends o n
the lower jaw position lowering from a transversal center line beyond the
neutral position: slightly open — open — very open — maximally open
('maximally' understood from here o n as achieved by great muscular ten-
sion). Since this depends on the mandible separating from the upper jaw, it
is symmetrical on both lips, since unilaterality in vertical expansion falls
better within the diagonal settings classified below; this basic setting can be
modified by upper-lip raising and resulting increasing tooth-showing, or
increasing lower-lip lowering and tooth showing, or both at the same time,
with no visible unilateral expansion, but with either retraction against the
teeth or protrusion away from them;
- the settings with no upper-lip raising, lower-lip lowering, protrusion or
horizontal constriction can combine with upper-lip/lower-lip/both turned
inwardly against and around the edge of the teeth, but only with moderate-
to-deep degrees (as in, or w h e n , imitating a toothless old person);
- those with no retraction can combine with upper lip/lower lip/both
turned outwardly, making the mouth square, called 'open rounding';
- between retraction and protrusion, the awning-shaped posture.
Unilateral. T h e basic vertical expansion setting with vertical upward
expansion of the right or left side only (as in disgust or confusion) without
mandible movements; in its basic neutral position and in slight interlabial
opening, a slight lowering of the right or left side alone (as in anger).
Mandibular Shifts of Vertical-Expansion Settings. Apart from congeni-
tal or pathological mandible position away from the usual neutral one, if in
any of the above settings with dominant vertical expansion (in fact, 252 pos-
sible postures) w e displace it to either the right or left side w e not only
change facial expression but, in a moderate degree, resonance as well; and
if w e retract or protract the mandible (that is,flatteningor protruding the
chin), w e likewise modify facial expression and m a y also lower or raise
pitch (resulting in 1008 postures). Lateral offset settings are widely used
socially to portray toughness, anger, derision, aggression, contempt, and
similar negative attitudes (typically stereotyped in films and theater). T h e
protracted position is used for the same purposes, but also by some country
types, while the retracted settings can be seen also in the typically shy and
generally stereotyped speech of rural persons.

3. Diagonal-Expansion Settings
Although lip postures and movements other than vertical and horizontal
have been neglected, one can see their importance acoustically and even
more kinesically for their affective (grief, contempt, etc.) and social (tough-
ness, superiority, etc.) functions and permanent personal characteristics.
Symmetrical upward. A basic setting (favored by a protracted config-
uration of the mandible), without changing the vertical basic position, with
the mouth corners raised toward the cheekbones: slightly expanded —
expanded — very expanded — maximally expanded (the positions in smil-
ing speech);
- this same basic setting can be modified by: increasing upper-lip raising
and tooth showing, lower-lip lowering and tooth-showing, or both; upper/
lower lip/both retracted against the teeth; lower lip turned inwardly against
and around the lower teeth; awning-shaped lip stretching, etc.
Symmetrical Downward. A symmetrical diagonal setting, favored in
some speakers by a permanent 'tragedy-like' mouth posture (typically with
permanent or momentary furrows running from the sides of the nostrils to
the corners of the mouth): slightly expanded — expanded — very expanded
- maximally expanded;
- this same setting can be modified by: lips retracted against the teeth, as
in some childish or feminine forms of crying, or as typical of the old comic
actors Stan Laurel and Joe E . B r o w n ; awning-shaped stretched lips, etc.
Unilateral Upward. Each of them can also occur on the right or left side
only (without necessarily moving the mandible) but the expanded side
draws the opposite one slightly in that same direction (although the upper
lip can be turned slightly outward, doing it with the lower lip neutralizes the
upper diagonality) ; the same settings modified by awning-shaped stretched
lips, etc.
Unilateral Downward. T h e symmetrical downward diagonal settings
can also occur on the right or left side only (also without lower jaw partici-
pation), but the expanded side draws the opposite one slightly in that direc-
tion. Although the lower lip can be slightly turned outward, doing the same
thing with the upper lip neutralizes the downward diagonality on the right
or left side; the two unilateral realizations of the basic symmetrical d o w n -
ward diagonal setting + awning-shaped stretched lips, etc.
Mandibular Shifts of Diagonal-Expansion Settings. A n y of the possible
diagonal-expansion settings can be modified by the four lower-jaw positions
of lateral shifting, retraction and protraction. In the upward settings the

mandibular effect is most noticeable in the maximal posture, forming the

mouth-corner oblong opening typical of the protracted upward gesture of
the cartoon character Popeye. In the downward positions the most charac-
teristic mandibular effect is in the two unilateral diagonal expansions typical
of the stereotyped portrayal of villains, both in retracted and protracted

B. Dominant constriction
Constriction of the lips can be horizontal, narrowing from the mouth corner
toward the center, and vertically, that is, narrowing the interlabial space
from above and below and bringing the lips closer together toward the
center, as opposed to widening it in vertical expansion; as with expansion,
it can be displaced laterally by swinging the lower jaw right or left.

1. Horizontal Constriction Settings

Symmetrical. There is a basic setting of increasing horizontal constriction
(pursing) from a neutral lip position: slightly constricted — constricted —
very constricted — maximally constricted;
- this same setting can be modified by: upper lip/lower lip/normally both
retracted against the teeth; upper lip/lower lip/normally both turned against
and slightly around the teeth edge; the same basic setting + upper lip/lower
lip/normally both (as in a kissing gesture) turned outwardly (protrusion); by
awning-shaped lip stretching, etc.
Unilateral. While the horizontal and diagonal expansion settings can
occur also unilaterally and without mandible movements, this is not easy to
achieve with the horizontal constriction settings because one side draws the
other toward itself, but retraction is also easier than protrusion.
The basic horizontal-constriction setting, but mainly with vertical con-
striction and upper-lip lowering and lower-lip raising on the right or left
side, in a twisted posture forming a crease perpendicular to the mouth
Mandibular Shifts of Horizontal-Constriction Settings. A n y of the hori-
zontal constriction settings can be affected by retracting, protracting, and
mandible displacement to the right or left side. Although these settings are
not so typically stereotyped as when they are applied to the vertical and
horizontal-expansion settings, they occur very frequently in many speakers,
often as kinesic speech habits that we recognize as idiosyncratic, but also as
cultural and socioeconomic identifiers (e.g., in English, the protracted hori-

zontal constriction accompanying the drawled and higher pitch estimation

vowel sound, ' W e were, ooooh, thirty people or so'). Different settings in
this category are typical in specific contexts in our speech habits.

2. Vertical constriction settings

Symmetrical. Although the more frequent types of vertical constrictions
were suggested in combinations with horizontal constrictions, there are still
some interesting and very expansive vertical settings.
At the neutral position both lips can press against each other reducing
theirfleshysides to just a thin line until they touch; with upper lip stretched
downward overlapping and touching the lower one, the latter stretching
upward and inward against the lower teeth (farther in by the retraction of
the jaw) and the mouth corner vertically constricted (typically with eye-
squinting and frowning), it is stereotyped in film base characters; both lips
can be retracted against and around the teeth as far as they can go (as in
some toothless persons); the lower lip can overlap the upper without any
conspicuous forward m o v e m e n t or raising of the mandible (as one can do
with clenched teeth), etc.;
a jutted or anatomically protracted mandible makes the lower lip prot-
rude further than the upper and overlap it in the closed position; and with
forceful protrusion it forms a fleshy ledge that can open and close at the
center making the chin boss go up and d o w n ;
- maximal vertical (leaving a minimal interlabial opening) and horizontal
constriction + lowering of the mandible up to maximal opening as in the
Spanish feminine high-pitched prolonged exclamation \Uuuuuuuh!.
Unilateral. All those vertical constriction settings (but excepting the
protracted mandible setting, the one with forceful lip protrusion, those with
maximal horizontal constriction, etc.) can occur on the right or left side
only, without engaging the mandible, although they are not as feasible for
m a n y speakers as are other unilateral formations because both sides tend to
be forced into that posture at the same time.

C. Labiodental and labiofacial-cavity settings

In addition to all the modifications of the interlabial space and the shape of
the lips, some muscular activities included in those settings can result in the
modification of the upper and lower labiodental cavities (mentioned by
Catford [1977] in passing as "labial cavity") between the teeth and the
inside surface of the lips, according to: degree of protrusion or retraction,

whether or not one introduces the tongue in the lower or upper cavity (this
tongue intervention being a m o n g the lingual settings discussed later on),
and whether in a closed-lip position the cavities are inflated or sucked in
along with the cheeks themselves.
Symmetrical Labio dental-Labiofacial Expansion. F r o m the neutral
closed-lip mouth position air can be pressed inside the upper and lower
cavities (with the same or different volume), inflating them in different
degrees, as a kinesic behavior that stops at that point (e.g., while hesitating,
memory-searching, showing impatience, etc.): slightly inflated — inflated
— maximally inflated;
the same inflated posture as the first phase previous to an explosive air
release of that air through thinly closed or inwardly retracted lips in a thin
whistling or trumpet-like sound; also followed by a vibratory bilabial sound;
the whole labiodental-labiofacial cavity, that is, lips and cheeks, can
become inflated with pursed lips as a kinesic behavior (e.g., expressing
fatigue) with a similar setting, etc.
Unilateral Labio dental-Labiofacial Expansion. Although the first set-
ting can be slightly leaning on the right or left side, it is actually the whole
labiofacial one that can show total unilaterality, the whistling or trumpet-
like release of air being produced in the inflated right or left side, and, as
with other unilateral settings, without any mandibular m o v e m e n t .
Symmetrical Labio dental-Labiofacial Constriction. F r o m the neutral
closed-lip m o u t h position the lips can be retracted symmetrically against
and around the teeth edge as a kinesic gesture; the same posture followed
by an ingressive whistling sound; with resulting lip pursing the cheeks can
be sucked in symmetrically until a suction sound is produced;
- closed-lip slight symmetrical cheek constriction + mandible downward
expansion, sometimes ending in an alveolar or palatal lingual click or in a
double lateral click as the suction on the cheeks is released.

D. Labiodental-mandibular settings
These are a series of settings, not always in a scale, in which the upper teeth
c o m e in contact with either the inside upper or outer surface of the lower
lip at the center (or, by means of mandibular displacement, with its right or
left side), or in which the lower teeth c o m e in contact with the lower or
outer surface of the upper lip or also with its right or left side. T h e teeth
are, therefore, the main active element, although the muscular physiology
of the mandible plays an important part, and they could also be discussed

when dealing with the mandible, as they could be included as dental set-
tings. Labiodental-mandibular postures are, among others, the following.
Symmetrical-Vertical Settings. Upper teeth pressing against the inner
surface of the lower lip, protruding it: deep contact — mid contact — upper
- same setting with outward expansion of upper lip (protrusion) ; upper
lip pressing against rear or front of upper surface of lower lip; also with
upper lip vertically expanded, maximally as an inverted number-three fig-
- upper lip biting outer surface of lower lip: high — mid — low (raised
chin); the basic biting setting with upper lip stretched d o w n (forming
creases on lower lip); turned outwardly; shaped awning-like;
Unilateral-Horizontal Settings. Unilaterality in labiodental-mandibular
settings means only that the teeth must m o v e to either the right or the left
side of either lip by shifting the lower jaw to either side, while the lips main-
tain their elasticity for the various scalar settings and stretch on the side
opposite the one bit by the teeth. W h e n doing so the lips are subject to
postures similar to those seen before, as, for instance, with the small oblong
openings at the mouth corners w h e n expanding horizontally.

E. Assisted labial and labiofacial settings

Leaving aside the labial settings determined by the predominant active
intervention of the tongue — included therefore under lingual settings —
the discussion of labial postures and activities can pretend to be exhaustive
(from a linguistic and even more paralinguistic point of view) only if w e
acknowledge the formation of a brief but typical series of facial-manual ges-
tures in which the fingers manipulate the lips to produce or accompany cer-
tain paralinguistic alternants. Without elaborating on those utterances at
any length at this point, the following assisted settings can be listed:
- index finger presses vertically against horizontally constricted lips +
fricative-like release of air, as with the palatal hushing sound; presses the
lower lip slightly + nasal drawling sound (as in feminine hesitation); or
presses against horizontally and vertically constricted lips + drawling nasal
sound (as in feminine hesitation, or equivalent to "Oohps!');
the w e b between thumb and index vertically touching slightly open and
protruded lips, emitting a prolonged fog-horn type of sound; or pressing the
lip upward from underneath while the whole upper lip vibrates loudly with
an engine-like sound;

- index finger reaches the inner surface of either cheek, stretches it out-
ward and then slides out of the mouth tensely (as w h e n producing the
'champagne-bottle' popping sound);
- both index fingers forcing a symmetrical horizontal expansion of the
lips as in mockery uttering a sound, or trying to scare someone; or with ton-
gue protrusion up to maximal position;
- thumb and index pressing against the mouth corners, the tongue pro-
truding minimally between the lips (as in producing a typical potent whis-
- thumb and fingers of one hand squeeze the cheeks and lips into a pro-
truded horizontal constriction and vertical expansion (as w h e n uttering a
prolonged glottalic sound meaning ' O h , no!');
- the backs of the joints of the fingers tap the open lips rapidly (as w h e n
imitating the North-American Indian cry);
- snapping the cheek with the fingers while shaping the pitch and reso-
nance-modifying cavities can produce, by percussion, controllable musical
notes, as has been described within assisted dental articulations;
- medial side of fist pressed against the lips and then blowing into fist, as
from cold.
T h e readers will think of quite a few other culturally differentiated
forms besides these few examples. T o which, of course, one would still add
those formed in contact with musical wind instruments, from harmonica to
trumpet-like or clarinet-like type of labial postures.
O n e could devote a whole monograph to the topic, analyzing, of
course, not only the linguistic, paralinguistic and kinesic aspects of the lips
in all their articulatory possibilities, but their correlation with the rest of the
facial gestures of the eyes, brows, nose and forehead (as dynamic c o m p o -
nents of speech) as well as with the static signs of the face (i.e. location, size
and shape of its various parts); and not just as elements that accompany the
production of sound and m o v e m e n t , but from the point of view of the lis-
tener-viewer. T h e listener is not always sighted, thus he can be subject to
one of the most important situations of reduced interaction, in which those
visual components of speech which share the semiotic-communicative con-
tents of the interaction are simply lacking for the blind person.
A s for certain purely labial sounds produced by some of the m o v e -
ments described, they will be discussed as paralinguistic alternants (vibrat-
ory labial trills, bilabial percussions, etc.).

Linguistic and paralinguistic labial articulations

It will be seen that m a n y , if not most, of the labial postures identified in the
preceding sections can have specific effects on our speech, quite a few of
which could very well be regarded as labialization of some sort, and that w e
do not necessarily have to limit the definition of that secondary articulation
or voice qualifier to what traditionally has been identified as rounding of
the lips. Also, as was suggested, those lip gestures constitute a repertoire of
kinesic behaviors. A s for labial articulations, the classification that follows
(which differentiates between the outer and inner part of the lips), includes,
besides those identified by the I P A , the ones defined by Catford (1977: 146-
148) and a few m o r e of paralinguistic status only (i.e., mainly bilabials and
a few labiodentals (See Fig. 2.2):
- exobilabial (the two outer parts) stops [p, b], fricatives [ Φ , β] and nasal
- exobilabial unvoiced egression [ < w ] , as w h e n blowing, and with
paralinguistic meaning (e.g., ' O h , well!', That's too m u c h ' ) ;
exolabio-endolabial (outer part of lower lip — inner part of upper li )
realizations of the same stops, fricatives and nasal [p:, b:], [Φ:, β:], [m:];
- exolabiodental stops (outer part of lower lip bent over teeth-backs of
upper teeth) [p, b];
- exolabio dental fricative approximant [υ] (outer half of lower lip-edges
or backs of upper teeth);
- endolabiodental (labiodental) fricatives [f, v] ;
- endolabio dental nasal [m] (as before [f] or [v], e.g., in 'comfort', ' D u m ­
phey') or nasalized voiced fricative (i.e., [v~]);
- exolabio dental affricate [pf], as in G e r m a n Pfad (path) or in a glot-
talized paralinguistic expression of indifference, contempt, etc. ['pf];
- exolabio alveolar stops, fricative and nasal [p, b], [f, v], [m];
- endobilabial (both inner parts) approximant [ W ] , also a form of labiali­
- endobilabial trill (bilabial trill) [w r ], as w h e n expressing cold, identified
by Abercrombie (1967:49) as one that " m a y still occasionally be heard from
a groom as he is rubbing d o w n a horse";
- unilateral endobilabial Ingressiv e fricative [ > w ] , usually very brief, as
used by s o m e to express resignation;
- endobilabial click [ > B ' ] , that is, a dorsovelar closure and a forward
labial one, the latter producing the plosive kissing sound w h e n it is released
while an ingressive air current is sucked in;

- the same kissing sound as a nasalized endobilabial click [>B'], that is

accompanied by an egressive h u m m i n g sound produced with lung air going
into the nasal cavity and out the nostrils;
both bilabial contacts can be reverse endobilabial clicks [<B'], [<B'], if
w e m a k e the plosive labial release with egressive air;
- endolabioexolabial (inner lower lip — outer upper lip) realizations of
the standard bilabial stops, fricatives and nasal [p÷, b ÷ ] , [f÷, v ÷ ] , [ m ÷ ] ;
- bilabial percussive (the airless minor mechanism acknowledged by Pike
(1943:103), by either opening [ w ] or closing [ w ] the lips, or both;
- two assisted articulations of the lips and cheeks can be mentioned: the
rapid up-and-down flapping of neutral lips with the side of the index finger
[-W], and the percussive caused by snapping the cheek with the fingers
[ W < ] (which with open, rounded lips can be subtly modulated by the oral
cavity), to which others could be added as parahnguistic alternants (some of
which have been mentioned in the last section on labial settings earlier).
A s for labialization ([w] or [w]), besides the effect produced by the
rounding of the lips [(e.g., in 'swim', 'Reynolds', 'shall'), it would seem
legitimate to speak also at least of labialization caused by: bilabial retrac-
tions (e.g., an emphatic 'Maybe'); horizontal constriction (e.g., ' N o ' with
emphasis or contempt) and expansion (e.g., a prolonged joyful Spanish
¡Siii!); vertical constriction (e.g., a dry 'Nope!') and expansion (e.g.,
' G o ' ! ) ; diagonal symmetrical upward expansion (e.g., a bashful, sort of
American country-folk ' G e e , thanks!'); diagonal symmetrical downward
expansion (e.g., a stereotyped villain's 'I'm going to kill you!'); and
diagonal unilateral downward expansion (e.g., in the stereotyped pirate's
or gangster's talk).
A n abnormal, nonspeech form of labialization which should at least be
mentioned is labial trembling, as w h e n shivering from cold, pain, fear, etc.,
often linked to mandibular trembling, but affecting more specifically the
labial consonants and producing a general incompleteness of articulation.

Anomalies of the lips

Since the lips provide a powerful visual component in interpersonal interac-
tion, what w e should consider anomalies could not be only those preventing
the normal production of sounds, but also the ones that could be neglected
as affecting only cosmetic appearance, for the latter, as a component of the
interaction, m a y likewise affect it on different levels, as do most of the
labial anomalies: underdevelopment, deficiency from disease, trauma of

surgery, restricted mobility and even paralysis, asymmetry of muscular con-

traction, excessive fullness, etc. For instance, while the so-called 'double
lip' or permanent swelling of the lips interferes with labial closure and thus
with the articulation of [p, b, m ] , rounded vowels, etc., their additional
inner folds m a y show during smiling and even at rest, providing a peculiar
and generally not pleasant fleshy quality to labial speech movements and
kinesics; an abnormally thick or short upper lip fails to cover the teeth and
affects the production of sibilants; if the upper lip is retracted (because the
maxilla is), it will affect the labiodentals [f, v].

2.6.4 The tongue

The communicative functions of the tongue: audible and visual aspects

Although m a n y of the labial settings discussed depend on the lower jaw, to
which the lower teeth and lip are attached, the tongue, rather than the m a n -
dible, is discussed n o w as the organ that can articulate with the areas seen
so far, from the pharynx to the lips.
The tongue appears as the most mobile and versatile speech organ
which not only can change positions all around the mouth, from the
pharyngeal area to the teeth and over and around the external surface of
the lips, almost as far as the chin, but can become straight and narrow, flat
and wide, or curled. Since it becomes visible in the formation of some lin-
guistic and paralinguistic sounds it is also, like the lips, teeth and mandible,
though on fewer occasions, an element of kinesic behavior w h e n (as will be
seen w h e n speaking of lingual control as a paralinguistic qualifier) words
can be intentionally emphasized through their interdental sounds by more
pronounced, longer and tenser protrusion of the tongue; or w h e n it is dis-
played in ways which m a y correspond to the articulations of certain stan-
dard paralinguistic utterances that are in reality paralinguistic-kinesic con-
structs, meant as such by the speaker, for instance: in an emphatic, irritated
'¿¡Why don't you think for once!?' (with a prolonged, tongue-thrusting/
showing 'think'), in the sensual, slow interdental emphasis ('surrounded' by
sensual lips) used with equally slow and sensual breathy voice by the televi-
sion female model advertising a perfume brand as she looks intently into
the camera, or in a feminine mocking closed-lip tongue-thrusting gesture
accompanying a prolonged nasal emission, a construct in which the kinesic
component is the main element and can stand independently as an
emblematic gesture. Evidently, the function of the tongue is far more com-

plex than just the articulation of a word, which warrants a rather holistic
treatment beyond the sort of anatomical, physiological and phonetic discus-
sions found in very competent books. A s with the lips, but in m u c h lesser
degree and with fewer possibilities for subtleties of visual expression, the
kinesic behaviors of the tongue while engaged in the production of sound
can be also part of a paralinguistic- kinesic emblem (e.g., 'Did you see
her boyfriend? ;Eeugh!', symbolizing the person's quality with a velarized
postdorsal articulation while sticking the tongue out and downward, thus
emphasizing further what can be expressed without showing the tongue), an
echoic (e.g., imitating certain animal calls), an identifier (e.g., similar to the
e m b l e m above, 'Her n e w boyfriend is a little yeeuh'), an externalizer (e.g.,
biting a protruded tongue between the teeth while inhaling air bilaterally as
a reaction to one's o w n or someone else's physical pain), as a conversa-
tional regulator (e.g., putting it out and then in while displaying the a turn-
claiming click) and, of course, as an emotional display (e.g., the forward
m o v e m e n t over the lower lip + maximal horizontal labial expansion expres-
sing disgust).
Thus, what was said about the visual symbolic aspects of the lips during
speech (including, of course, its grammatical and attitudinal silences) can
be applied to some instances of lingual behavior, as was mentioned above.
T h e tongue, like the lips, can become in some persons a m u c h more con-
spicuous component of their repertoire than in others and even define some
deviant attitudes, such as effeminate tendency to articulate some front
sounds with excessive tongue-showing, as in 'that', 'today', 'yeah', 'dear',
and in paralinguistic alternants like lingual clicks, which, of course, must be
seen together with certain cobehaviors, such as rolling the eyes and/or head
tilting. Finally, although the tongue is not subject to the sort of shape-mod-
ifying and color-modifying practices the lips are, one could mention, just to
be exhaustive, the curious effect on the westerner w h e n our colleague in
India is conversing with us after having been chewing his betel, his tongue
and g u m s colored a scandalously conspicuous vermillion.

The basic anatomy of the tongue

A s suggested in Fig. 2 . 1 . A and E , the parts of the tongue are: the forward
edge or rim, and its central point, the tip or apex (hence 'apico-', used to
describe certain articulations); the blade or lamina (used as the prefix
'lamino-') around the tip; the upper side opposite the hard and soft palates,
called dorsum (subdivided into predorsal, mediodorsal and postdorsal

areas), bordered on each side by the margin or margo; the underside, where
one should differentiate the underapex and the underblade or sublamina to
later refer to possible 'subapico-' and 'sublamino-' paralinguistic articula-
tions; and the root or radex (hence the 'radico-' articulations).

The muscular physiology of the tongue

The muscular physiology and settings of the tongue rely on the movements
of its body and those of the tip and blade, as indicated schematically in Fig-
ure 2.1, and E . Mainly the stylo glossal (running from the styloid process
under the ear to the sides of the tongue) and the palatoglossal (the forward
faucal arch attached to the hard palate between the mouth and the
pharynx) pull the tongue body up and back, assisted by the longitudinal
muscles, which shorten it from front to back; the genioglossal (most of the
tongue, anchored to the front of the mandible) counters these actions and
pulls it forward, and d o w n making it longer and widening the pharynx; the
hyoglossal depresses it; a vertical muscle (from the underside toward the
back) helpsflattenit, while the transversal muscle (running from side to
side) makes it narrow and longer; and, finally, the pharyngeal constrictors
(mentioned earlier; Fig., 2.1. ) retract it toward the pharynx wall, coun-
tered by the genioglossus just mentioned. A s for the tip-blade part, one of
the longitudinal muscles (from the root to the tip) makes it go up, and the
transversal muscle makes it curl in a retroflex way, that is, up and back-
With such a set of muscles the tongue has a great mobility and quite a
few linguistic, paralinguistic and, if visible, even kinesic consequences
throughout a varied range of possible settings. While a formal classification
of lingual articulations includes four groups in which the protagonists are
the apex, the blade, the underblade, the dorsum and the root, tongue
movements are so varied and can cause such different contacts within the
oral cavity as far as the pharyngeal-laryngeal area that to refer only to its
four basic dimensions (i.e., fronting, retracting, raising and lowering)
would be m u c h too vague and would disregard the semi-independent mobil-
ity of the tip-blade part. At the very least, even a broad classification would
distinguish the following eight basic dimensions of movement: fronting,
touching the teeth and/or the lips, expanding the pharynx at the back and
sometimes protruding out of the mouth with specific linguistic, paralinguis-
tic and kinesic values (e.g., in a femininely sensual realization of the inter-
dental in 'I think so...'); raising, touching the palate, or in general the roof

of the mouth, narrowing or closing the air passage (e.g., in a drawled

'Ciao!'); front-raising, touching the alveoli and/or the hard palate (e.g., in a
palatized girlish voice, in baby talk, in hissing); retracting, w h e n the back
part touches the wall of the pharynge, constricting it (e.g., the
pharyngealized voice in s o m e paralinguistic expressions of pain) ; retracting-
raising (of the back), touching the uvula (e.g., the uvularized voice of s o m e
'gargling-like' or 'beast-like' sounds); raising-retracting, touching the soft
palate (e.g., a velarized laugh); lowering of the mass of the tongue (e.g., in
what Laver [1972:193] refers to as 'hot-potato voice', as in a portrayal of an
'abnormal' person); and lowering-retracting, the tongue root touching the
lower and upper pharynx in a sort of strangulated type of articulation (e.g.,
a paralinguistic tense gulping sound signifying real or m o c k fear).
H o w e v e r , w e could not appreciate fully the linguistic-paralinguistic
kinesic (visual) versatility of the tongue without identifying the possible
meaningful (acoustically or visually) lingual articulations formed by each
part, including the tip, the blade and the underblade and the dorsum. T h e
articulations described below do not constitute an exhaustive inventory,
and a few others will be mentioned in the chapter on paralinguistic alter-

Linguistic and paralinguistic lingual articulations

The bulk of the articulations needed for the production of linguistic and
paralinguistic communication is m a d e up of the active contact of various
parts of the tongue with the pharynx, the lips, the teeth and the alveolar,
palatal and velar areas, thus all the upper speech organs, except the nasal
cavities. Furthermore, it is by changes in tongue posture that m a n y sounds
can be given (in speech segments of varying length) the peculiar charac-
teristics k n o w n as secondary articulations, s o m e of which (alveolarization,
palatalization and velarization) have been mentioned already. Here, to the
phonemes included in the I P A are added some of those which fall outside
it but are acknowledged in the m o r e realistic classification by Catford
(1968, 1977), a few identified by Pike (1943) and a n u m b e r of sound-pro-
ducing lingual contacts that must definitely be taken into account w h e n try-
ing to identify and define certain paralinguistic utterances existing in differ-
ent cultural repertoires and even as part of possible individual habits. They
are classified by lingual areas, that is, tip or apex (apico-), underside of tip
(subapico-), blade or lamina (lamino-), underblade (sublamino-), dorsum
(dorso-) and postdorsum (dorso- and postdorso-), and root (radico-), with

a total of 57 distinguishable articulations in a nonexhaustive inventory (see

Fig. 2.1.A and Fig. 2.2).

A. Tip or apex (apico-) articulations

- T h e tip of the tongue momentarily showing between the lips followed
immediately by its retraction, as w h e n dislodging or spitting out a tiny
foreign body with an explosive sound, that is a reverse apico-bilabial (i.e.,
triple) articulation on the left or right side [ < w ' ] , [ > ' w ] ;
- the tip against the upper lip, left or right, either its inner (apicoendola-
bial) or outer (apicoexolabial) side, articulated either as a stop [w'-] [-w']
(defined in Catford 1977:151 as the one used in ejecting a foreign body) or
as a paralinguistic fricative [+w'] [ w ' + ] ;
- the tip vibrating (actually flapping) against the inner edge of the upper
lip and visibly moving rapidly in an apicoendolabial trill, as in some paralin­
guistic imitations of sounds [rw] ;
- the tip against the lower lip (either endolabial or exolabial) with the air
making a hissing or whistling sound over the tongue as an apicosublabial-
dorsopalatal groove fricative (hiss) [ w n + ] ;
- the tip against the rims of the backs of the upper incisors (usually with
the blade touching the alveolar ridge), producing an apicodental like stops
[t'] and [d'] and nasal [n'] in Sp. once, and the lateral [Γ] in 'health';
- the tip between the upper and lower teeth, making the interdentals
fricatives [Θ] and [δ], as in 'think' and Sp. cada;
- the tip inside the upper labiodental cavity, an unvoiced apico-
labiodental [wt'], with the blade touching the teeth, a posture during which
s o m e speakers m a y utter a nasal paralinguistic sound, as in hesitation;
- the tip inside the lower labiodental cavity, an apicosublabiodental, with
the underblade touching the teeth, and with a similar possible paralinguistic
function [wt,];
- the tip pushing the lower lip outward from inside the labiodental cavity
until the predorsal area shows an apicoendosublabial, as w h e n uttering a
nasal sound of mockery [,w], which can vary kinesically and acoustically if,
for instance, the lips are distended horizontally and the sound becomes also
lateral with air escaping on both sides of the tongue;
- the tip against the upper alveolar ridge, producing apicoalveolar articu­
lations like typical English [t, d, n], the tip making a trill against the upper
alveolum, as for Sp. rolled [r];

- the tip against the upper alveolar ridge, but producing typical apicoal-
veolar lateral [1] (i.e. l-sounds), for which the air escapes over the sides of
the tongue while its center remains blocked (e.g., 'call', 'lad');
- the tip making forceful contact on the alveolar ridge is an apicoalveolar
percussive [t], the brief percussive sound produced upon release of the con-
tact (Pike: 1943:103) with possible paralinguistic meaning;
- the tip producing a forceful continuous apicoalveolar trill ["r"] (e.g.,
imitating an engine, in 'Rrrrr!';
- the tip producing an apicoalveolar flap [R"], that is, slower than the
trill, byflickingmomentarily against the upper teeth ridge, as in the [r] of
British 'merry', American 'city', also with possible paralinguistic meaning;
- the tip producing the apicoalveolar click [>tz'], formed by the alveolar
closure plus the dorsovelar one, the former releasing while ingressive air is
sucked in, as in the typical prespeech click;
- the same click accompanied by voiced lung-air nasalization as a
nasalized apicoalveolar click [>tz'], as w h e n expressing commiseration with
this double ingressive-egressive mechanism;
- both apicoalveolar clicks can be reversed apicoalveolar clicks [>tz'],
[<tz'] if w e use an egressive plosive release;
- the tip against the lower alveolar ridge, a possible apicosubalveolar
articulation and epiglottopharyngeal fricative [Ç] for paralinguistic purposes
(e.g., glottalized fricatives signalling scorn or in s o m e hissing sounds);
- the tip against the curved rear end of the upper alveolar ridge, an
apicopostalveolar articulation, as in British [t, d] in 'try' and 'dry', m e n -
tioned above, or in s o m e paralinguistic clicks or clucking sounds;
the tip hardly making contact for the [r] sound, an apicopostalveolar
approximant [J], as in English 'red' or the apicopostalveolar [t, d] before [r]
in 'try' and 'dry';
- the tip against the concave part of the hard palate, or even farther back
(retracting the tongue body), making an apicopalatal contact [V] (without
yet using the underblade as in retroflex articulations), as in s o m e clicks
(e.g., the palatal, postpalatal or lateral clicks used to encourage a horse).

B. Underapex (subapico- or retroflex) articulations

Since there are articulations in which the underside of the apex (rather than
the underblade proper) touches or approaches the postalveolar (or even
prepalatal) zone, and others for which the actual underblade contacts the
lower teeth or the mouth floor, the former will be identified by the tradi-

tional term retroflex and the latter as 'sublaminal', used by Catford (1977)
for retroflex.
'Retroflex' (IPA [ ], or [·] for the writer's convenience), as emphasized
by Ladefoged (1975), denotes a place of articulation (included in the I P A
after dentals and alveolars and before palatals), not a manner of articula­
tion (as do trilled, fricative, etc.), although it refers to a specific gesture of
the tongue, which in fact m a y determine the sound qualifier k n o w n as 're­
troflexion', discussed below.
- the underside of the tip against the back of the upper incisors, slightly
curving the underblade outward in a silent subapicodental articulation [•tz]
while opening the mouth, thus presenting the tongue's lower surface to the
listener, which can be a feminine conscious or unconscious flirtatious
behavior, sometimes accompanied by a drawled nasal sound, as in hesita­
the tongue tip is curled up and back so that its underside touches the
back of the alveolar ridge, forming subapico-postalveolar retroflex stops [•t,
•d],andfricatives [•s, •z], as used by m a n y Indian speakers of English;
- the underapex can form a voiceless retroflex click [•t'] similar to the lat­
eral click (the 'Gee-up' click in m a n y cultures);
- the same movement of the tongue tip can form a subapico-prepalatal
[•r], so typical of several areas of American English (in fact, retroflexion is
one of its more salient features), another realization of [t, d] and a retroflex
- the underside of the tongue tip can form also a forceful retroflex palatal
click [•»t'] with which, for instance, one can imitate the cry of the red par­
the tongue can form a retroflex lateral [•1] (e.g., in several Indian lan­
guages) of possible paralinguistic use;
the underapex touching the inner surface of the upper teeth, a possible
retroflex subapicodental of mostly paralinguistic functions or for an abnor­
mal realization of interdentals [·Θ, ·δ];
- the underapex contacting the inner surface of the upper lip as a possi­
ble subapicolabial flap [/r"] with a forceful forward release of the flap
articulation, itself preceded or not by a lingual suction.
A s for the qualifier known as retroflexion (also referred to as 'r-color-
ing'), it is one of the secondary articulations that can be superimposed upon
vowels and consonants that are primary articulations (some others have
been mentioned already: palatalization, velarization, pharyngealization,

etc.). This additional tongue posture, while still articulating another seg­
ment, consists of that raising and curling back of the tip while contracting
the whole tongue laterally. It is, as has been mentioned, one of the main
distinguishing features of English in m a n y areas of the United States, pro­
nouncing, for instance, the r in 'bird', 'rain', ' R a y m o n d Burr', and t, d
a m o n g speakers of Indian languages w h e n speaking English (O'Connor
1973: 45).

C. Blade (lamino-) articulations

T h e blade and underblade showing between and touching the lips (with var­
ying degrees of horizontal construction or vertical expansion or constric­
tion) can m a k e a laminosublamino-interlabial vibratory fricative trill [ W r ] ,
articulated used paralinguistically to produce, for instance, a variety of the
scornful American 'Bronx cheer', a forceful air emission over the center of
the tongue which makes the inner edge of the upper lip vibrate;
- the blade against the inner upper lip and the tip of the edge of the
upper incisors, forming a laminolabial setting used paralinguistically in, for
instance, a type of whistling [Sw];
- the blade and underblade between the teeth, a laminosublamino-inter-
dental articulation used linguistically for a very emphatic pronunciation of
interdentals or for s o m e paralinguistic sounds [«Θ»];
- the blade against the backs of the upper incisors, the tip just below the
rims of the lower ones, a laminodental articulation used for s o m e varieties
of dentals [t, d, Θ , δ], and of whistling [:S:] and hissing [S:];
- the blade against the upper alveolar ridge and the tip on the backs or
rims of the lower teeth, for a laminoalveolar production of apicodental
stops [t, d] and for the pronunciation of the typical English alveolar frica­
tives [s] and [z], and for paralinguistic utterances like the glottalized explo­
sive with abdominal contraction [2] signifying contempt;
- the blade against the concave part of the alveolar ridge, for the English
laminopostalveolar fricatives [ƒ, 3] and africates like [t∫, dz] in 'church' and
'junction', as well as in paralinguistic sounds like a forceful palatal click
used in s o m e animal calls;
- the blade against the upper alveolar ridge, plus a velar closure, produc­
ing the laminoalveolar click, similar to the apicoalveolar one seen earlier
with a negligible change in timbre;
- the blade against the hard palate, mostly in paralinguistic sounds, as in
another forceful click similar to the dorsopalatal click identified later.

D. Underblade (sublamino-) articulations (4 articulations)

- T h e underside of the tongue blade or underblade against the rims of
the lower teeth as a sublamino dental (also sublaminolabial) production of a
prolonged mocking nasalized resonant [ae] or a glottalized [?ae] (e.g., while
grabbing one's throat in a clownish gesture of expected punishment);
- the underblade can repeatedly hit the floor of the mouth in front of the
tongue's frenulum with a slapping L-like sound or percussive, a sublaminal
percussive [Γ], which can be modulated with laryngeopharyngeal and ton­
gue-body changes and varying oral resonance to play a tune quite loudly;
- the above sublaminal percussive can follow the release of the predor-
sopalatal click mentioned in the next group (cf. Pike 1943:13 on the latter
two) [>tsT].
All tip and blade articulations can be accompanied by vertical lip
expansion, which lends certain visual kinesic characteristics to sound pro­
ductions, particularly in paralanguage.

E. D o r s u m (dorso-) articulations
The flat dorsum can protrude out of the mouth until the upper teeth lean on
the center of the tongue, a dorsodental posture used in paralanguage with
various pharyngeal or uvular sounds as their accompanying kinesic
behavior (often also with nasolabial fold, neither of them necessary for the
production of those sounds), as in an expression of repugnance;
- the same dorsodental contact, but with rounded tongue, and lips closed
around it, as w h e n emitting a paralinguistic nasal sound of mockery;
- almost exactly the same setting, but showing only the predorsal zone
and making the lower lip vibrate strongly as the air escapes forcefully
between it and the tongue, as in the so-called 'Bronx cheer' and similar
- the same tongue protrusion (actually within a protrusion scale between
the blade and the dorsum), but within a scale of mouth opening with m o d ­
erate and maximal mandible lowering, also typical of various mocking ges­
- the forward part of the dorsum touches the forward part of the hard
palate, a dorsoprepalatal articulation with which several language sounds
are formed (e.g., prepalatal fricatives [c, z] and some clicks);
the part of the dorsum near its center touching the highest part of the
hard palate, a dorsopalatal articulation that produces some of the typical

language palatals, such as stops [c, j], fricatives [ç, z], affricates [ts, dz]
nasal [n], lateral [λ], resonant [ε, æ, a], etc. and paralinguistic sounds, like
continuous resonants [e], [æ] or [a] expressing displeasure (with a con-
gruent facial expression), or the suction or clicking sound m a d e w h e n trying
to detach something stuck to the roof of the mouth;
- the dorso against the hard palate in a suctional contact and release, a
dorsopalatal click [>ts'], as the one used after tasting a good wine;
- the air m a y escape only along one side while the dorsum (or rather,
postdorsum) produces a paralinguistic dorsovelar unilateral click [>lx']
(often described as alveolar), used for clucking to horses (the 'Gee-up!'
type), in which it is the dorsovelar closure released plosively into a click,
and not the apicoalveolar one, which remains closed while repeatedly utter-
ing the clucking sound;
- the rear part of the dorsum against the soft palate, where dorsovelar
sounds of m a n y languages are formed (e.g., stops [k, g] fricatives [χ, γ],
affricate [kx] the nasal [n] in 'tongue'), as well as quite a few paralinguistic
ones (e.g., velar laughter, the fricative velar of repugnance 'Eeugh!', etc.;
- the dorsum (or even the tongue root) touching the very end of the soft
palate and the uvula, a dorso-uvular articulation responsible for a number
of sounds in various languages, such as stops [q, G ] , nasal [N], the uvular
trill [R], etc., as well as in paralinguistic utterances with different meanings.

F. Root (radico) articulations

T h e classification of lingual articulations must include the radico-
pharyngeal or linguopharyngeal articulation (seen w h e n discussing the
pharynx), that is, w h e n the tongue root and the epiglottis retract toward the
pharynx and narrows it. This produces various pharyngeahzed sounds, such
as one kind of ah and, with pharyngeal friction (because the tongue gets
even closer to the back wall), the Arabic fricatives [h, ?] and s o m e paralin­
guistic utterances with expressions of, for instance, scorn.

Speech-affecting anomalies of the tongue

A s for abnormalities of speech caused by the tongue, the one that has been
given the most attention in speech therapy (but which produces also a typi­
cal kinesic behavior) is the interdental lisping due to the so-called tongue-
thrusting, an abnormal behavior consisting in interdental protrusion of the
tongue (possible also during swallowing) or forceful contact against the sur-

face of the teeth (which may be caused to protrude also, thus affecting
speech). O n the other hand, if the tongue is too small (microglossia) it fails
to m a k e normal contact, while an excessively large tongue (macroglossia)
interferes with m a n y articulations (on these three disorders, see, e.g.,
Bloomer 1971:733-735, 749-750).
The preceding sections, then, have attempted to suggest a possible
classification of tongue articulations beyond the usual established ones,
including a number of kinesic postures that m a y accompany linguistic sound
production, but above all paralinguistic utterances. A s with other organs
discussed, one must acknowledge as m a n y paralinguistic activities as possi-
ble allowing for future refinements and the elaboration of cultural inven-

2.7 T h e mandible

Anatomical and communicative aspects of the mandible

The mandible, the only moveable facial bone that participates actively in
settings that produce or modify sounds, moves constantly during sound-
making in sympathy with the tongue and its hyod bone, although one
(though not always a mediocre ventriloquist) can still hold a pencil or a pipe
in the mouth and articulate intelligibly enough with a fixed-jaw position. A s
can be understood at this point, those settings are intimately related to
labial settings and, of course, affect also the raising and lowering of the ton-
gue. It has been seen through the various categories of labial settings and
w h e n discussing the changes in the pharynx (and then in the velopharyngeal
region) that those supralaryngeal structures are affected — kinesically and,
in greater or lesser degree, acoustically — by each of the four possible posi-
tions of the lower jaw: retracted, protracted, and swung to the right or to
the left.
Both labial and mandibular movements and postures can modify
speech and are very important in the acoustic-kinesic, or audible-visual,
repertoire of the speaker, w h o , for instance, during a conversation is
activating those and other facial features; which become, at the decoding
end of the exchange, fused and perceived and evaluated by the listener vie-
wer. Elsewhere (Poyatos 1985:117-118) I have elaborated on the fact that
perception is not only sensory, as it usually undergoes a process of 'intellec-

tualization' during which the listener is not only hearing what his cointerac-
tant is telling him but also evaluating positively or negatively those audible
and visual characteristics of his delivery. That is w h y the anatomical charac-
teristics of the mandible can be important in the visual-acoustic-intelligible
perception of the speaker. In fact, our first impressions of people can be
influenced by the personality and temperament characteristics w e attach to
certain morphological features of the mandible, such as 'a squarely-set jaw',
more appreciated in m e n (as it suggests the energetic, self-confident,
aggressive, forceful type) or, at the other extreme, of the positive-negative
scale, the 'lantern-jawed' person, w h o will typically add to his/her anatomi-
cal configuration a rather droopy mouth posture and w h o will m a k e
unpleasant remarks seem even more unpleasant because of that visual c o m -
ponent of his speech. But the more extreme instances of mandibular shapes
are caused by perverted, delayed or advanced patterns of growth and,
therefore, will be mentioned below as abnormalities. O n the other hand,
the chin can be the most conspicuous part of a mandible, and it can be
parted, have a dimple or just a smooth boss, in each case closely associated
with the lips and the whole 'talking face'. "There is strength and obstinacy
in her jaw" (O'Neill D U E , I iv), " a handsome fighting chin" (Shaw SJ, I).

The muscular physiology of the mandible

If with the lips and muscles of the face in neutral position w e swing the
mandible freely from side to side w e see that those n e w sideways positions
of the lips do not require the action of any of the labial muscles. Thus it is
necessary to distinguish, in the first place, between the postures that appear
on one side of the mouth because of unilateral vertical, horizontal or
diagonal settings and movements of the lips, and then what are actually
horizontal laterally offset settings and movements determined by those
independent movements of the mandible, since the labial ones do not actu-
ally engage it, as was pointed out w h e n describing them earlier.
T h e mechanism of the mandible's muscular physiology consists of the
following movements: vertical (open-closed), horizontal (retracted prot-
racted), lateral (right-left) and rotational (in the coronal plane), the first
and last ones used also in mastication. Although certain paralinguistic qual-
ifiers will be seen later as caused by 'mandibular control', the anatomy and
physiology of the mandible, as well as some speech anomalies due to abnor-
malities, must be discussed at this time. T h e vertical dimension is the one

constantly used in speech, higher and lower vowel tongue positions nor-
mally, but not indispensably, corresponding to narrower and wider jaw sep-
aration respectively. Honikman (1964:80, cited also in Laver and Hanson
1981:63-64) describes the characteristic wider jaw opening of Indian Eng-
lish. But it is the other three types of movements that constitute typical
paralinguistic qualifiers, as will be seen later.
The four dimensions of mandibular movements, determining some sig-
nificant labial settings, depend on the following muscular physiology
(suggested in Fig. 2.1.F, based on Laver 1980:65): the mandible is raised by
three paired muscles: masseter, the most powerful one, temporal, a fan-
shaped one, and internal pterygoid; lowered by the same three muscles and
by four more, called external pterygoid, geniohoyd, digastric, and
mylohoyd, but gravity may also cause the slack-jawed position; protruded
by the masseter and the two pterygoid muscles; retracted by the temporal,
digastic, mylohoyd and geniohoyd; and laterally offset by the two pterygoid
muscles. T h e following succinct classification of mandible postures (for
which notation symbols are suggested in the appendix) indicates their
potential combinations with many of the labial settings, thus complement-
ing previous discussion of labial mandibular shifts and postures.

A . Vertical settings
Scalar degrees of maxillary opening between closed teeth and open mouth:
closed—slightly open — open — very open — maximally open. The two
extremes of this basic scale can be qualified by muscularly tense closure
(clenched teeth) and by laxly open mouth (slack-jawed expression), two
postures that therefore may qualify those two extremes in any of the other
identified groups. T h e basic scale (but excluding all mandibular settings
identified before among labial settings) can be further qualified, more or
less conspicuously (according to facial anatomy and expressive mobility),
by the labial scales, that is, those in symmetrical/unilateral vertical expan-
sion, in symmetrical/unilateral horizontal expansion, in symmetrical/unilat-
eral diagonal expansion, in symmetrical/unilateral horizontal constriction,
in symmetrical/unilateral vertical constriction, and in symmetrical/ unilat-
eral labiodental/labiofacial expansion/constriction.

B . Horizontal settings
During normal speech w e can adopt as short-term or very rapid settings any
position between protruded and retracted mandible: maximally protruded

— moderately protruded — neutral — moderately retracted — maximally

retracted, a basic scale susceptible of being qualified by the same labial
scales that can qualify the vertical settings.

C . Lateral setting
These are positions laterally offset on the right or left side from a central
sagital plane: central — moderately offset — maximally offset, which can
be combined with vertical settings (although interfering with each other at
the two maximal positions). A s with vertical settings, the lateral settings by
themselves can be further qualified by the same labial settings that can
qualify the vertical and horizontal settings.

D . Rotational settings
Rotational settings (asymmetrical o n the coronal plane), identified by
Laver (1980:64) as the stereotyped pirate's gesture in films (used also by
other stereotyped villains), goes actually through a protracted and a
retracted position and from right to left while speaking, truly one single
dynamic setting susceptible of different labial protrusions and retraction.
T h e other possible settings would occur within abnormal configurations.

Anatomical and muscular anomalies of the mandible: visual and audible


T h e most conspicuous instances in which the visual appearance of the m a n -

dible can have a definite effect on the perception of the speaker are the
ones caused by abnormal patterns of growth, affecting speech as well,
namely: mandibular protraction, a protrusion that makes the lower teeth
touch the upper lip and affects the articulation of bilabials and sibilants
because of the dental malocclusion, sometimes making the speaker's face,
at rest and w h e n speaking, appear stern or as kinesically qualifying what he
is saying; mandibular retraction, a recession of the chin because of an
abnormally small mandible ('micrognathia'), which produces also dental
malocclusion and a visual effect with various equally negative connotations
at times; mandibular attraction, a shortening of the vertical dimension that
brings the chin closer to the lip; mandibular abstraction is the opposite, a
lengthening that causes the typical 'lantern jaw', which determines a very
conspicuos gesticulation in the lanter-jawed speaker, as used sometimes to
portray strict, prudish spinsters, mentally retarded persons, etc; and

ankilosis of the mandible joints, fused and immobile (often associated with
micrognathia), which affects not only mastication but the articulation of
consonants and vowels, making voice sound muffled and very nasal
(Bloomer 1971:742). Just to be exhaustive, mandibular trembling, as from
cold, fear or in a state of temporary nervous disorder, produces a kind of
quaver or rumbling in the voice from incorrect or incomplete articulation of
mainly consonants.

2.8 The nasal cavities

Basic anatomy

The last organ of speech, having started upward from the larynx, is the
nasal cavity or cavities (Fig. 2 . 1 . A ) . It begins at the upper end of the
nasopharynx, where the uvula acts as the velopharyngeal velic valve, the
first of the only two points at which articulations are possible in this cavity.
From there on it is divided into the right and left halves of the nose, ending
in two exits, the nares or nostrils, provided with muscular walls and con-
stituting the second articulatory zone, the narial one. Unlike other organs,
the central channels of the nasal cavity have no muscles to modify it, but its
important resonatory function in speech is enhanced by the sinuses, the
cavities of the hollow bones surrounding the nasal cavity and connected to
it which act as extensions and resonators for the voice too.

The anatomical and interactive-communicative aspects of the nose

The central channels and the nostrils are the two parts of the nasal cavities
that form the external appendix w e call nose and they can play important
communicative functions within our repertoire of facial behaviors, typically
in association with the lips and cheeks because of their c o m m o n muscles,
but also with eyes, eyelids, brows and forehead.
A s will be seen when discussing paralinguistic velopharyngeal control
within qualifiers and then the independent word-like nasal alternants, m a n y
nasal sound productions (and some oral ones) are accompanied by kinesic
behaviors visible on the outer sides of the nose through widening and com-
pressing of the nostril wings, deepening of the nasolabial furrows (going
from the back of the nostrils wings to the corners of the lips) and, further

up, wrinkling of the bridge and sides of the nose near the infraorbital cor-
ners. These 'facial actions units', which of course can at times be only
kinesic (alternating syntactically with language and paralanguage as w e
form verbal-nonverbal sentences), can also be inherent parts of paralinguis-
tic/ linguistic-kinesic expression clusters that will, individually, culturally or
universally, signal emotions (e.g., narialflare+ unilateral nasolabial fold +
lip distension, while uttering a slight nasal chuckle of contempt), and others
which can be coupled to specific sounds, as in doubt, disgust, rage, fear,
frustration, skepticism, etc. O n e could, in fact, draw in three columns the
emotions, the corresponding kinesics of the nose and the corresponding lin-
guistic, linguistic-paralinguistic or paralinguistic utterances.
At the same time, as with the tongue or lips, the otherwise very limited
repertoire of nose actions can be most versatile as some of the nonverbal
categories, particularly emblems (e.g., a nose twitch + closed-mouth bila-
bial nasal ' M m ! ' of doubt), language markers (e.g., the nose wrinkling in a
rejecting ' O f course not!'), identifiers (e.g., tensely flared nostril wings
while describing a 'very energetic' person, nose-wrinkling while referring to
someone's 'shady life'), externalizers (e.g., a forceful narial fricative expres-
sing impatience). A s with other visible speech organs, those actions are
a m o n g the rapid, dynamic facial signs displayed as part of our conversa-
tional repertoires, thus activating what are actually static signs, exposing
them to the perception of others as 'lively', 'cute', 'nervous', 'stern', 'sour',
etc., labels that m a y very well correspond to the linguistic and paralinguistic
components of our delivery. In addition, although not so importantly as the
lips or the tongue, the nose can be m o r e or less conspicuous, 'ugly' or
'beautiful' according to our o w n esthetic values and 'large', 'small', 'beaky',
'flat', etc., a person can be 'snub-nosed' (with a turned-up nose) or 'hook-
nosed' (with an aquiline nose), have a nose of smooth complexion, scaly,
with a wart on it, etc., and in some m e n with nostril hair sticking out. All
those visible features do share the effect of nasality in speech, of paralin-
guistic nasal sounds, even of the verbal messages being delivered. T o m e n -
tion but two extremes, a delicate sniff produced by a delicately shaped
feminine nose is very different from a man's nose twitching and loud ingres-
sive nose-clearing.

The basic muscular physiology of the nasal cavities

T h e most important and most moveable articulatory part of the nasal cavity
is the zone where the posterior end of the soft palate, the velum, faces the
wall of the nasopharynx. T w o paired muscles, the levators and the tensors,
flatten and raise the velum closing the oropharynx from the nasopharynx
and the nasal cavities, while two other paired muscles, the palatoglossal and
the palatopharyngeal (Fig. 2 . 1 . D ) draw it downward and open the passage.
This is the only m o v e m e n t on which depend the changes discussed below as
well as the basic division of sounds into nasal and oral, although the two can
be combined in m a n y articulations. A t the front end of the nasal cavity in
the narial zone there is a perceptible external movement of the nostrils,
which can cause changes in narial sounds.

Oral, nasal, and nasalized sounds

T h e physiology of the nasal cavities, therefore, depends — apart from

abnormal occurrences due to inflammation and excessive mucus — only on
the factors affecting the degree of the oral or nasal resonance of language
sounds, but for paralanguage one must acknowledge the communicative
functions of the nares and their local muscles. T h e sound-modifying and
sound-producing possibilities of the nasal cavities are (see Fig. 2 . 1 . A and
Fig. 2.2):
First of all (before defining the actual intervention of the nasal cavity),
if the uvula is raised against the nasopharynx acting as a closed valve, the
air vibrates only in the oral cavity through which it goes out, and there are
m a n y linguistic and paralinguistic sounds produced in that way, called oral
sounds, such as in ' O h , it's late!' or 'SsssP, but the nasal cavity can still reso-
nate without any air passing through it, thus nasality m a n y times is not
totally absent. If, however, the velum is lowered so that the oropharynx,
the nasal cavity and the oral cavity are connected and the air thus goes
through the three of them, oral sounds are then nasalized, that is, modified
by the effect k n o w n as nasalization, during which the air passes into the
nasal cavity (although not necessarily on through the nostrils or nares), as
happens in nasalized ' O h ! ' , the a in Portuguese sao, French banc, Spanish
tango, etc., or a paralinguistic 'Eeeungh!'. However, velic opening m a y
occur and still not be enough to produce audible nasality, since nasality
depends also on 'the ratio of two cross-sectional areas — the areas of the

oral entry from the pharynx to the mouth, and the area of the nasal port at
the pharyngeal entry to the nasal cavity' (Laver and Hanson 1981:65).
Besides, "nasality is essentially a condition of resonance [...] and the nasal
cavity can resonate without the passage of air through it as w h e n the nostrils
are held tightly closed" (Laver 1980:80). Nasalization — which has also
been called 'secondary feature' added to an oral sound — is also what
results in the so-called 'nasal twang', typical, for instance, of the speech of
the stereotyped American hillbilly type, w h o seems to speak with "a vigor-
ous lowering of the velum, plus some constriction of the palato-pharyngeal
arch" (Pei 1966:176; cf. Laver 1980:86). T h e audible inhaling-exhaling
phases of breathing through the nostrils, or nostrils and mouth simulta-
neously, are also nasalized sounds that can have paralinguistic value, as was
mentioned w h e n discussing the lungs and respiration.
But if the velum is also lowered and the oral cavity is blocked at some
point, then the air can go out only through the nasal cavity and out the
nares, and that is a true nasal articulation, which is what happens w h e n the
sound is produced while (not before or after) articulating the stops [m] (la-
bial or labiodental) and [n] (alveolar and sometimes palatal), as in 'camp-
ing' and 'I can't', or in the 'Eeeungh!' just mentioned (with palatal closure),
and in ' M m m m m m m ! ' (with closure at the lips).
If w h e n w e are going to emit the paralinguistic expression 'Eeeungh!'
w e nip both nostrils with thumb and index finger w e will not be able to
m a k e this variety because it requires a stop nasal consonant and it is impos-
sible to articulate it without free narial exit; but by nipping the nose w e can
produce an assisted nasalized sound for which the air rushes into the nasal
cavity and vibrates in it without being able to go out.
Apart from these shorter- or longer-term types of nasality there is of
course the nasal resonance which, as opposed to oral resonance, can charac-
terize a person's voice as a permanent feature, as seen in Chapter 4.

Velic articulations

Velic articulations, produced by the velic contact with the nasopharyngeal

wall, can be of the click, stop or plosive, fricative, affricate and trill types
(almost all, of course, of paralinguistic nature) and should not be confused
with some dorso-velar articulations m a d e on the mouth side of the velum.
Besides their nasal resonance, they all resonate in the mouth and can lower
and raise its pitch. T h e following are only some examples, as others will be
discussed as paralinguistic alternants.

- T h e smallest, briefest velic articulation is a velic stop [>g']> mainly

ingressive but also egressive, occurring typically while sleeping with the
mouth open, and even m o r e easily if lying face up; but one can m a k e it at
will, its sound being similar to the m o r e powerful dorso-velar snort;
- w h e n the velic completely closes and then opens suddenly into the nose
with a clear nasal resonance — as in English [tn] and [dn] in 'cotton' and
'sudden' (Catford 1968:325, 1977:139) — w e produce a velopharyngeal
stop, better identified as a velic nasal plosive [K'] used also paralinguisti-
cally, as in a light chuckle which, of course, consists of an isolated plosive
with the mouth either open or closed;
- one can produce a nasal approximant or fricative with only the explo­
sive phase of it, and keep increasing it with either an m sound and closed
mouth [am'] or an η sound with open mouth [n'], adding to it a naturally
increasing narial friction, as for a forceful emotional reaction;
- an ingressive velic nasal plosive [>k'] can occur if the air goes into the
nasal cavity and then the velic closes for the stop and releases through the
velopharyngeal passage into the oropharynx, but producing only a low-vol­
u m e pharyngeal friction with oral resonance after the nasal one; or, if it is
articulated with the mouth closed [ a > K ' ] , with merely nasopharyngeal
resonance, both having paralinguistic value in, for instance, a repressed
expression of pain (often followed by an audible glottalized egressive vowel
- if the velic air passage is narrowed the two respiratory phases, inspira­
tion and expiration, can produce an audible friction that constitutes a true
velic fricative [^ ], identified sometimes by s o m e phoneticians as 'a variety
of catarrhal snort' as an example (Catford 1977:139);
- if that fricative friction becomes tenser and the velic contact is m a d e
tighter by the upward pressure of the tongue-back a quick succession of plo­
sive + friction results in a sort of velic nasal affricate [kx], as w h e n clearing
the nose, with the mouth either closed, or open; with open mouth oral reso­
nance is added to nasal resonance, and either w a y it can be used paralin-
guistically to convey, for instance, contempt;
- if the latter is m a d e an ingressive velic nasal fricative [>hx] with open
mouth, or with closed mouth (and quite rapid, or it can become a trill), a
clean stronger friction is heard, as w h e n clearing the nose inwardly, which
can be either a physiological reaction, an unconscious behavior or a w a y of
encoding various feelings (e.g., readiness, while rubbing hands);
- if one should escalate this velic friction, the next logical articulation to
be discussed would be that of a typical snoring sound, that is, an ingressive

vibratory velic trill [V] that can rise and fall up and d o w n the inner side of
the uvula (raising and lowering pitch accordingly) and to which m o u t h reso­
nance is added according to the degree of mouth opening and shaping; with
closed m o u t h the tongue-back pushes the soft palate upward, preventing
the velic from vibrating m o r e freely and forming a fricative sound again;
- the egressive phase, with m o u t h either open or closed, is generally of
the fricative type, but a very forceful muscular contraction can also produce
the egressive vibratory velic trill [ < V ] which goes out the nostrils with a
slight vibration of its walls;
- w h e n in either the ingressive or the egressive form (but m o r e easily in
the former) saliva concentrates in the oropharynx the vibration acquires a
slight gargling quality in either phase of the trill, resulting in what could be
conveniently termed wet trill [V o ] ;
- if between the two respiratory phases w e bring the tongue-back up
against the soft palate contracting the pharynx in a swallowing m o v e m e n t a
strong momentary dorso-uvular or dorso-velar articulation occurs, inter­
rupting the air flow and thus releasing in a loud suctional dorso-velarI uvular
click [ > X ' ] , the one that typically awakes the sleeper — sometimes with
momentary gurgling as the passage is cleared of saliva — which then can be
followed by a violent glottalized radico-uvular plosive sound and a swallow­
ing sound.

Narial articulations

Narial sounds, that is, produced at the nares or nostrils, are of the fricative
type, the only one possible at that end of the nasal cavity, and they can be
either ingressive or egressive, the latter always weaker. They all fall within
paralinguistic alternants, thus most of them will be discussed later. T h e fol­
lowing are the various narial physiological possibilities.
- Air from the lungs can flow into the velic valve through the main nasal
cavity and out the nostrils [Θ] (the m o u t h open or closed but without neces­
sarily going through it) during normal, audible or inaudible breathing;
- heavier breathing, without voice, out of fatigue or emotion (e.g.,
rage), usually with visibleflaringof the nostrils and a congruent facial and
bodily gesture, forms an egressive or ingressive continuous narial fricative
- the same articulation can be produced as a forceful ingressive narial
fricative [ > ¥ - ] , as in heavy sniffing, often followed by a velic trill, as w h e n
clearing the nose forcefully, with various unrefined nasofacial gestures;

- an explosive narial fricative [Y*] occurs as the release phase of a velic

stop, as a nervous tic or as an explosive onset of nasal laughter with open or
closed mouth (or a single-pulse chuckle), often accompanied by a slight
jerk of the head;
- an ingressive explosive narial fricative [ > Y * ] occurs also after a velic
stop, as w h e n clearing the nose or sobbing;
- if w e close the lips and force a voiced air current through the nostrils
w e produce an egressive voiced narial bilabial nasal [rh], with various
paralinguistic meanings (e.g., in h e m m i n g and h u m m i n g , ' M m m m m m ,
- if w e articulate an alveolar η with the mouth either closed or open w e
form an egressive narial-alveolar nasal [ή], a narial retroflex nasal [ή'], a
narial palatal nasal [ji], or a narial velar nasal [rj], as w h e n expressing
repugnance with the latter, or as the egressive phase of an open-mouth
- w e can also glottalize the two nasal consonants [m] and [n], the latter in
the realizations just mentioned, as w h e n expressing physical pain.

Assisted narial articulations

Several narial sounds can be produced as assisted narial articulations, that

is, by pressing and releasing the nostrils mainly, as in the c o m m o n m a s ­
culine behavior, often unconscious, of rapidly drawing thumb and index
finger d o w n the sides of the nostrils, thus momentarily interrupting the air
flow and then letting out a forceful ingressive or egressive fricative; or pres­
sing just one nostril (e.g., taking snuff, the typical boxer's gesture).

Abnormal nasality: nasality, denasality, adenoidal voice, cleft palate

T h e normal physiology of the nasal cavities can be altered by certain disor­

ders in ways that can also affect paralanguage and paralinguistic effects of
verbal speech as well as the visual appearance of the face. T h e two basic
abnormalities are excessive nasality and denasality. Nasality as a voice
defect depends on its intensity — related physiologically to the size of the
velopharyngeal opening (not closing properly) and the degree of closure of
the mouth cavity — and some speakers are hardly intelligible; the quality
m a y be openly resonant (as in cleft palate, seen below) or 'twangy', as w h e n
pinching the nose. Denasality is a reduction of the expected normal nasal-

ity, or total absence of nasal sounds, caused by obstruction of the

nasopharynx or the back of the nasal passages. W h e n it is not chronic, it
happens, for instance, with a c o m m o n head cold, during which the bloc-
kage caused by inflammation of the mucous m e m b r a n e lining the nasal pas-
sage (rhinitis) makes one speak with 'head-cold speech'. Which does not
m e a n that nasal sounds are not possible, as sound waves still travel through
the tissues to m a k e the cavity resonate, but with a very damped nasality,
that is, a head-cold voice. Besides, sounds with [m], which need closed lips
and a raised lowered velum, take a [b] quality w h e n one breathes through
the nose and cannot close the mouth. This type of voice can be imitated by
trying to speak with a lowered mandible and a lowered velum, not allowing
articulations to fully form.
Another very interesting disorder is caused by adenoids, an enlarge-
ment of the pharyngeal tonsils above and behind the soft palate, which pro-
duces adenoidal voice, caused basically by velic closure, velarization (ton-
gue tendency toward the soft palate) and an open mouth ('adenoidal
gape'), the former two features achieved by contraction of the palatoglossal
(Fig. 2 . 1 . D ) , with tense fauces. Thus adenoidal voice can be used paralin-
guistically, which is in fact the explanation given by Abercrombie (1967:94-
95) for the Liverpool accent displayed by m a n y speakers w h o have no
adenoidal condition but have learned it from the m a n y w h o have it (also
cited by Laver 1980:88-89).
A third cause of nasality affecting all sounds in speech is the anatomi-
cal malformation k n o w n as cleft palate, a congenital fissure of the soft
palate and roof of the mouth which lets air into the nasal cavity making all
sounds nasal or nasalized (except the normally nasal [m] and [n] in what is
called cleft-palate speech; for example, most of the hissing quality of [s] is
lost through the nose instead of being channeled through a narrow oral pas-
sage, and stops [p, t, k, d, g] and vowels [i, u] suffer from hypernasality due
to insufficient velopharyngeal closure.
T o mention one more nasal but visually important abnormality, and
the correlation between abnormal nasality and even facial growth and facial
expression, the need to breathe through the mouth in those called mouth
breathers can be typically betrayed by thin nose and constricted nares (the
nostrils cannot flare on deep inhalation). There is an absence of normal
kinesic behavior, and w h e n mouth breathing has been affecting orofacial
growth the face becomes elongated and narrow, caused by the dropping of
the mandible (with parted lips) and the pressure of the cheeks on the sides

of the upper arch, the nostrils becoming narrowed from disuse, facial
expression appears dull and drawn (from Bloomer 1971:751-752), and the
tongue m a y be postured forward and even resting between the teeth (Brac­
ke« 1971:457).

2.9 The vowel sounds as degrees in tongue and lip position: sound and ges­

Having outlined the audible and visual aspects of the various speech organs
and areas it is also necessary to identify the articulations of vowels to iden­
tify all the linguistic and paralinguistic utterances. The factors that deter­
mine the differences a m o n g vowels determine also the facial visual c o m p o ­
nents of speech: shape of the lips, opening between the jaws, position of the
soft palate and, most of all, shape and position of the tongue in the mouth.
Fig. 2.4, 'Articulatory-Kinesic Positions of Vowels', shows, using the tradi-

Figure 2.4 Λrticulatory-kinesic positions of voweis


tional quadrilateral, a rectilinear representation of nineteen vowels

(mostly, in general North American English) differentiated by two
parameters: tongue position, that is, high (close)-mid-low (open) and front-
central-back, corresponding to close-, half-close, -half-open and close in
jaw position — ; and shape of the lips, from unrounded or spread in palatal
or front vowels to rounded in velar or back ones.
Those positions, however — and others which would be possible in lin-
guistic and paralinguistic sound production — determine, as with consonan-
tal articulations, peculiar facial expressions that vary among speakers and
according to attitudinal changes. Take, for instance, 'But / could not see the
other car, dearV, said in a low-key fearful way and then said in a loud and/or
very vehement voice, emphasizing the personal /, the negation, and its
verb, the reference to the other car and, finally, the loving or studied affec-
tionate manner of address. If w e try to silently articulate only the vowels of
that sentence, first in one way and then in the other, w e appreciate better
their kinesic qualities. A s with all the articulations seen before, but even
more because they constitute the articulatory skeleton of language sounds,
vocalic gestures have a strong kinesic-communicative potential, accom-
panied by degrees of eyelid opening and brow raising and lowering and
knitting, as well as by hand gestures and other body movements. They
range from unrounded lips for [i] (with or without lip distension), with
increasing vertical expansion toward [a], to rounded lips with horizontal
constriction for [u] and increasing vertical expansion toward [o] and [a].
Furthermore, as with certain conspicuous consonantal articulations, some
vowels can differentiate visually the kinesic repertoires of members of
specific language groups, as with the French and the G e r m a n [y] in non-
sense sentences like Le duc du Mur dût dire du mal du musle après qu'il
Veut vu dans la rue d' Ulm and Er führt uns über die grünen Hügel in die
Wüste. In fact, m a n y of the typical kinesic language markers that charac-
terize the more 'French-looking' French speakers in France are formed by
close-rounded vowels like [y], [u] and [oe], and their correlation with facial
expression should have been studied and included in the otherwise very
simplistic existing inventories.
Semivowels. W h e n the bilabial fricative [w] and the dorsopalatal [j] are
frictionless they are called semivowels (or glides) because they partake of
the nature of both vowels and consonants, and are included as such in the
IP A . For [w] the articulation begins with the dorsum close to the velum (as
for [u]) and rounded lips, then the tongue goes d o w n and the lips spread

(e.g., 'what', ' w h e n ' ) ; for [j] the tongue gets close to the palate, as for [i],
and then goes d o w n quickly (e.g., yes, young).

Diphthongs and triphthongs

A n inventory of linguistic and paralinguistic articulations must provide at

least some of the m o r e c o m m o n gliding or double-vowel groups called
diphthongs and the triple ones called triphthongs, for in paralanguage w e
find m a n y of these c o m p o u n d phonemes of rising articulation (toward
greater closure) or falling articulation (toward greater opening), for
instance: closing diphthongs like [ai] in Sp. aire, [ai] in 'while' and G . mein,
[aw] in 'house', [ei] in M a y , [eu] in Sp. feudal, [ ] in 'ago', [ou] in Br. ' g o ' ,
[oi] in 'boy' and G . heute, [ui] in Sp. ruido; opening diphthongs like [ia] in
Sp. viaje, [ ] in 'pier', [ie] in Sp. tiempo, [is] in 'clear', [io] in Sp. salió, [iu]
in 'use', [iu] in 'fuse', [ua] in Sp. guapo, [ue] in Sp. bueno, [uo] in Sp. quota,
[w] in poor, [εο] in 'bear', [OQ] in 'pour'; triphthongs like [ai] in Br. 'fire',
[iei] in It. miei, [wai] in 'quite', [waw] in ' w o w ! ' , [wei] 'sway'.

2.10 A Note on secondary articulations

Although secondary consonantal articulations have been identified within

the various cavities, there should be seen together at this point, for, as
Abercrombie (1967:61-62) notes, "the total configuration [of a consonant]
can hardly at all be inferred from the place and manner of the stricture",
but looking also at "what goes on elsewhere", which "is usually ignored".
Although he specifies that a secondary articulation "is a stricture of open
approximation of the articulators, and as such involves less constriction of
the vocal tract than the primary articulation", one is tempted to regard cer­
tain strictures below the supraglottal cavities as secondary articulations,
particularly if, as he says, "It is possible for there to be simultaneous sec­
ondary articulations". Besides affecting certain sounds in different lan­
guages, m a n y can color or modify long speech segments and even charac­
terize a person's speech, as with labialized voice, a dental (or mandibular)
w a y of speaking 'through one's teeth', etc. Nine secondary articulations are
possible between the laryngé and the nasal cavities: Glottalization,
laryngealization (creaky voice), pharyngealization, faucalization, velariza-
tion, palatalization, retroflexion, labialization, mandibulization, nasaliza-

2.11 Conclusion

M u c h too often students of 'phonetics', 'language', 'communication' 'non-

verbal communication', etc., try to microfocus on minute aspects of their
topics, but, in doing so, they fail to seek the inherent interrelationships
between language sounds and the rest of the activities that are truly funda-
mental components of speech and analyze them together, that is, as they
actually occur. O n e must strive not to perpetuate an attitude whereby the
fine semiotic, semantic and communicative levels of what w e call 'speech'
are simply missed. Therefore, the m a n y eloquent nuances of expression
which can be conveyed solely through the subtle costructuration of words
and their closest audible and visual qualifiers — even without yet consider-
ing the wealth of independent paralinguistic utterances inherent in each lan-
guage, each culture and each person — m a y escape them. This realistic
approach offers added depth not only to the study of any aspects of face-to-
face interaction, but also (on a level which should interest the psychologist
as m u c h as the linguist, or the anthropologist as m u c h as the student of lit-
erature) of the intellectual experience of literary 'recreation', that is, read-
It has been suggested h o w sound production can determine movements
that should be regarded as part of a person's kinesic repertoire, and h o w
kinesics can for its part determine specific features of verbal and paralin-
guistic communication, which in reality are encoded both audibly and visu-
ally and must be studied as two mutually inherent channels. It is only w h e n
w e see sound and movement as two inseparable coactivities that w e can
truly define them and interpret them in their full signification. It is only
w h e n w e seek all the possible components of, for instance, a face to-face
conversation or a public address that w e open our eyes to the totality of
speech and of the interactive encounter itself; but this is a process in itself,
one which begins actually w h e n w e recognize the triple reality of speech,
language-paralanguage- kinesics, the topic of the next chapter.


1. Using E k m a n ' s (1978) terms, w e can differentiate on the face: static signs, that is,
location, size and shape of eyes, nose, forehead, cheeks, lips, chin, jaws, etc.; and
rapid signs, the dynamic aspects of some of those static signs w h e n , in the context
of the present discussion, they become animated in speech, in other words, 'the

talking face', w h e n according to general social perception and individual sensibil­

ity, 'attractive' signs do not appear necessarily 'beautiful' during speech or interac­
tion movements; and vice-versa, generally considered 'unattractive' features m a y
be lent attractiveness and esthetic appeal 'when they talk'.

2. O n e can think also of the characterization effects attained by the cosmetic modifi­
cations of the lips (or by their natural features) for, say, Charles Laughton's
Henry VIII, or Laurence Olivier's Richard II.

3. These symbols and those in subsequent chapters are borrowed from a m o n g c o m ­

puter symbols used in various combinations for convenience. Others would be
needed w h e n collecting, for instance, paralinguistic 'alternants' and other mate­
rial. They would be indicated at the beginning, or before and after a portion of
speech (e.g., [+ + ] for whispering), either one single p h o n e m e or sound (e.g.,
bilabial protrusion, palatalization) or perhaps including the entire intervention of
a given speaker as a personal characteristic (e.g., nasality, mandibular protru­
sion). T h e location of each symbol within [ ] indicates whether it goes before,
after, above or below the main symbol.




Lungs and Bronchi

normal audible breathing (inspiration-expiration) by itself [Φ]
audible deep (heavy) breathing [ Φ + ]
ingressive air (placed before symbols) [>]
egressive air (used w h e n not during verbal speech) [<]
a sigh: long ingressive-long egressive spasmodic [ > 0 < ]
bronchial whizzing [(z)]
breathing speech modified by whizzing [<z>]
bronchial rattling [(=)]
rapid breathing ['Φ']
slow breathing [:Φ:]
spasmodic breathing ["Φ"]
mouth breathing only [(Φ) ]
nose breathing only [~Φ~]
breathing (or speech) modified by pharyngeal friction [-| 0 (-]
breathing (or speech) modified by dorsovelar friction [xOx]

esophageal voice [{0}]
belch [{}]

ventricular voice [(=)]
double voice (diplophonia) [( | = | )]
quiet whispery voice [±]
loud whispery voice [¡ + !]
loudest whispery voice [¡¡ + Ü]
false whisper [++]
glottal stop [?]
glottal stop + release [?h]
voiceless sound [°] before symbols
breathy voice [(Φ)]
tense breathy voice [(Φ+)]
glottal trill [?r]
creaky voice (laryngealization) [(A)]
falsetto [(f)]
false creaky voice [ |A]
false trillization [ |r]
harsh voice [(Γ)]
hoarse voice (hoarseness) [(Ω)]
eunuchoid voice [(f+)]

audible swallowing [< | > ]
audible pharyngeal friction [-f], tense [Φ]
audible ingressive pharyngeal friction [>-f], tense [ > Φ ]
faucal approximants [ < > ]
faucalization [<>]
pharyngeal fricatives (unvoiced, voiced) [h,îl
epiglottopharyngeal stop [î>]
epiglottopharyngeal fricative [£]
epiglottopharyngeal trill [?r]
pharyngealization [-] crossing the basic symbols
overriding pharyngealization [?]

Alveolar-palatal area
palatalization f ]
velarization [~] crossing the basic symbols
alveolarization [ ]

Dental areas
bidental fricative [=1=]
dentiexolabial fricatives [-v] [-f]
dentiendolabial fricatives [v-] [f-]
dentalization ["]
dental scrapive [-U-]
dental percussive [Ύ]

bidental chatter [ ]
bidental fricative chatter [ ]
assisted dental articulation ['=']
open-bite [=]
cross-bite [ ]
overbite [ ]
missing upper incisors [ ]

Labial areas and cheek

exobilabial stops [p b]
exobilabial fricatives [Φ] [β]
exobilabial unvoiced egression [ < w ]
exolabio-endolabial stops [p:] [b:]
exolabio-endolabial fricatives [Φ:] [β:]
exolabio-endolabial nasal [m:]
exolabiodental fricative approximant [υ]
endolabiodental fricatives [f v]
endolabiodental nasal [m]
endolabiodental nasalized voiced fricative [v~]
exolabiodental affricate ['pf]
exolabioalveolar stops [p] [b]
exolabioalveolar fricatives [f] [v]
exolabioalveolar nasal [m]
endobilabial approximant [w]
endobilabial trill [wr]
unilateral endobilabial ingressive fricative [ > w ]
endobilabial click [>B']
nasalized endobilabial click [>B']
reverse endobilabial clicks [<B'] [<B']
endolabioexolabial stops [ ÷] [b÷]
endolabioexolabial fricatives [f÷] [v÷]
endolabioexolabial nasal [ m ÷ ]
bilabial percussive (opening, closing) [ w ] [ w ]
assisted labial articulation (with finger) [ - W < ]
assisted labiofacial articulation [ W < ]
labialization [w] or [w]
labial trembling [W»]
bilabial retraction [ W ] / B R
bilabial protrusion [ W ] / B P
vertical symmetrical expansion [ | W | ] / V S E
vertical unilateral expansion [ W | ] [ | W ] / V U E (right), V U E (left)
horizontal symmetrical expansion [ - W - ] / H S E
horizontal unilateral expansion [ W - ] [-W]/HUE-(right), -HUE(left)
upward diagonal symmetrical expansion [ \ W / ] / H D S E
downward diagonal symmetrical expansion [ A V \ ] / D D S E

upward diagonal unilateral expansion [ W / ] [ \ W ] / U D U E - ( r i g h t ) , -UDUE(left)

d o w n w a r d diagonal unilateral expansion [ W \ ] [AV]/DDUE-(right), -DDUE(left)
horizontal symmetrical constriction [ > W < ] / / H S C o
horizontal unilateral constriction [ W < ] [>W]/HUC-(right), -HUC(left)
vertical symmetrical constriction [ ' W ' ] / V S C
vertical unilateral constriction [AV] [W/]/VUC-(right), -VUC(left)
symmetrical labiodental-labiofacial expansion [-(W)-]/SLLE
unilateral labiodental-labiofacial expansion [W)-] [-(W]/ULLE-(right) -ULLE(left)
symmetrical labiodental-labiofacial constriction ['(W)'] SLLC
symmetrical labiodental-mandibular settings [LWJ] (up. teeth), [rW~1] (lwr. teeth)
unilateral labiodental-mandibular setting [WJ] [LW] (up.teeth, right, left), [W] [W1]
(lwr. right, left)

The tongue
reverse apico-bilabial, to right [ < w ' ] , left [ < ' w ]
apicoendolabial or exolabial stop [w'-], [-w']
apicoendolabial or exolabial fricative [ + w ' ] , [ w ' + ]
apicoendolabial trill [rw]
apicosublabial-dorsopalatal groove fricative [ w n + ]
apicodental stops [t'] [d']
apicodental nasal [n']
apicodental lateral [Γ]
interdental fricatives [Θ], [o]
unvoiced apicolabiodental + nasal resonance [wt']
apicosublabiodental + nasal resonance [wt,]
apicoendosublabial + nasal resonance [,w]
apicoalveolar stops [t] [d]
apicoalveolar nasal [n]
apicoalveolar trill [rr]
apicoalveolar lateral [1]
apicoalveolar percussive [t]
continuous apicoalveolar trill ["r"]
apicoalveolar click [>tz']
nasalized apicoalveolar click [>tz']
reversed apicoalveolar clicks [<tz'], [<tz']
apicosubalveolar 4- epiglottopharyngeal fricative [Ç]
apicopostalveolar stops [t, d]
apicopostalveolar approximant [J]
apicopalatal [t^]
retroflexion [•]
unvoiced subapicodental (+ drawled nasal resonance) [.tz:]
subapico-postalveolar retroflex stops [.t,.d]
subapico-postalveolar fricatives [-s] [·ζ]
retroflex click [·t']

subapico-prepalatal [-r]
subapico-prepalatal nasal [·η]
forceful retroflex palatal click [·»t']
retroflex lateral [·l]
retroflex subapicodental [·Θ, ·δ]
laminosublamino-interlabial vibratory fricative trill [ W r ]
laminolabial [Sw]
laminosublamino-interdental [«Θ»]
laminodental [J (under symbol), [:S:] whistling, [S:] hissing
lamino alveolar [^ ] (over and under symbol), glottalized explosive [2]
laminopostalveolar fricatives [ƒ] [3], affricates [t∫] [dz]
sublaminodental-labial nasalized open-front vowel [ ]
glottalized sublaminodental/labial nasalized open-front vowel [?ae|
sublaminal percussive [ ] ; after predorsopalatal click [>tsT]
dorsoprepalatal fricatives [ç] [z]
dorsopalatal stops [c] [f]
dorsopalatal fricatives [ç] [j]
dorsopalatal affricates [ts] [dz]
dorsopalatal nasal [n]
dorsopalatal lateral [λ]
dorsopalatal résonants [ε] [æ] [a]
dorsopalatal click [>ts']
Odorsovelar unilateral click [>lx']
dorsovelar stops [k] [g]
dorsovelar fricatives [χ] [γ]
dorsovelar affricate [kx]
dorsovelar nasal [n]
dorso-uvular stops [q] [G]
dorso-uvular nasal [N]
dorso-uvular trill [R]

The mandible
vertically closed (almost clenched teeth) [A ]
vertically open (slack jaw) [ | | ]
horizontal protrusion [ r]
horizontal retraction [Ί ]
laterally offset (swung to right) [ \]
laterally offset (swung to left) [_| ]
rotational setting [-J-]
protraction [ L]
retraction [J ]
attraction [-i-]
abstraction [T]

Nasal cavities
nasalization [~], heavy nasalization [~]
velic stop [>g']
velic nasal plosive [K']
nasal approximant fricatives[m',n']
ingressive velic nasal plosive [ > K ' ] , with closed mouth [ α > K ' ]
velic fricative [=]
velic nasal affricate [kx], with closed mouth [akx]
ingressive velic nasal fricative [>hx], with closed mouth [a>hx]
ingressive vibratory velic trill [ > V ]
egressive vibratory trill [ < V ]
wet trill [V o ]
dorso-velar/uvular click [>X']
narial sound [Y], forceful narial sound [¥]
nasal (narial) breathing [φ"], with closed mouth [α ~]
narial fricative [Y-]
forceful ingressive narial fricative [ > ¥ - ]
explosive narial fricative [Y*]
ingressive explosive narial fricative [>Y*]
egressive voiced narial bilabial nasal [m]
egressive narial-alveolar nasal [ñ]
narial retroflex nasal [·ή]
narial palatal nasal[n]
narial velar nasal [r]
glottalization of the above five [ ? m] [?n^] [?η^] [?n^] [η^]
head-cold voice (damped nasality) [( | " | )]
nasality [(~)]
denasality [(-)]
adenoidal voice [ |°°| )]
cleft-palate speech [(ƒ)]

highest front [i] unrounded high-central [υ]
retracted high-front [i] rounded high-crntral [y]
high-mid front [e] unrounded mid-central [ ]
low-mid front [ε] unrounded low mid-central [^]
lower-mid front [ae] rounded mid-central [œ]
lowest-front [a] low mid-central [3 3]
highest-back [u] low-mid back [ ]
unrounded high-back [w] lower-mid back [o]
high-mid back [o] lowest-back [a]
unrounded high mid-back [γ]
semivowels: closing palatal [j], opening labiovelar [w]
Chapter 3
T h e Basic Triple Structure of Communication
in Face-to-Face Interaction

" O h ! To hear him!' cried m y sister, with a clap of

her hands and a scream together
(Dickens GE, X V , 110)

3.1 The progressive phonetic-visual approach to speech

W h e n I began to seek deeper structures of communication beyond the tra-

ditional study of language I did so by simply reflecting on the reality of the
speech of others as I 'heard' it and 'saw' it. I soon realized that by blindly
accepting language as the uniquely anthroposemiotic, most elaborate and
advantageous transactional tool and the backbone of h u m a n communica-
tion, the very word 'language' or 'discourse' had been given a meaning
which seemed either too broad or too limited in the light of a finer and
more realistic analysis of our communicative activities. For these activities
included not only what I heard other persons 'say' to m e , but ' h o w they said
it' and ' h o w they m o v e d it' w h e n these aspects could affect m e in so m a n y
different ways.
Thus, as soon as I gave some attention to all that was generally not
understood as language and yet communicated, the m a n y forms of mes-
sage-conveying systems which did not even have to cooccur with words,
something was evident to m e . I was fascinated by the w a y in which those
people, as they spoke, accompanying, altering or alternating with the
purely linguistic core of their delivery, supporting or contradicting the
essential messages conveyed by their words and sentences with their stres-
ses and intonation contours, were using other subtly interrelated structured

elements: what had been already called paralanguage (mainly in Trager

1958) and kinesics (Birdwhistell 1952). But paralanguage and kinesics were
not being studied together, at least not sufficiently; and neither were, from
an interactive point of view, all the other systems whose analysis could not
be disassociated from what I already saw as a triple and inseparable body,
language-paralanguage-kinesics. I could not any m o r e isolate a 'verbal sen-
tence' and naively distinguish in it patterns of stress, pitch and pausal
p h e n o m e n a , but nothing else, for that combination of phonemes and mor-
phemes acoustically perceived appeared to m e quite lifeless if I only
attached to it the intonational features of stress, pitch and juncture. That
stretch of speech under normal circumstances carried other voice modifica-
tions and often even independent word-like utterances; and further, I could
see that sentence accompanied by gestures, manners and postures and post-
ural shifts, perhaps hardly noticeable at times, but, I realized, 'felt'
nevertheless as intimately intertwined with both the linguistic and the
paralinguistic costructures. M a n y researchers w h o would not probe into the
intricate w e b of intersomatic sign exchanges but w h o , however, pretend to
have grasped the reality of language in a live verbal exchange, whether in a
therapist-client encounter or studying its development in childhood, still fall
short of their expectations because they fail to see precisely this inseparable
triple reality of discourse, which exists only as a verbal-paralinguistic-
kinesic continuum formed by sounds and silences and movements and stills.
This is what I began to develop about twenty years ago as the basic tri-
ple structure of human communication behavior, launching into a natural
progressive study of communication in which I acknowledged the rest of the
somatic systems as potentially related to verbal language — around and
sometimes even replacing the basic triple structure. A s I illustrated it once
in class, the m a n - w o m a n sequence 'I love you!' — 'I love you too!' could be
uttered, first of all, with perhaps labialization on her part and certain
palatalization on his, both of which would certainly be accompanied by cor-
responding changes in the facial features; but while she might attach to it a
breathy and slightly glottalized voice with higher-than-normal pitch, he
might say it while shaking his head slightly and diagonally and smiling and
frowning a little, and he might hold her by the arms, and just look intently
into her eyes. Each of them has constructed at least an indispensable triple
behavioral configuration of words, paralanguage and kinesics, to which
other signs, such as tears, might add important information, but would not
be as mutuallly inherent as the three of them are. That mutual inherence

has been seen also in the first two chapters. It was seen what exactly w e can
do in interaction with sound and movement: with the sounds of language
and paralanguage w e can contact another person through the vocal/narial-
auditory channel; with the movements of speech production and others,
particularly gestures (and not necessarily touching), w e also establish con-
tacts, 'articulating' our bodies with those with w h o m w e interact, most of
the time, by making sounds and movements the two mutually inherent
parts of the same expression.

3.2 The expressive limitations of spoken and written words

The semiotic-communicative insufficiency of our 'spoken dictionary'

T h e example in Fig. 3.1, T h e Basic Triple Structure', tries to illustrate that

indivisible semantic and grammatical value of the three components of the
triple structure w h e n they happen as a single expressive unit within a seem-
ingly 'simple' phrase like 'Well, what did you think of that?'1. A s I write it,
I can hardly 'read' it in m y mind without elements present in its simplest
graphic representation, such as opening and closing exclamation marks and
the underlining of you. Without elaborating on its m a n y possible paralin-
guistic and kinesic variations, the table attempts to represent just one of
those ways of 'saying it' and 'moving it', since a verbal description of its
paralanguage and kinesics would never be accurate. A s presented here, this
construct expresses a rather surprised and curious reaction. W e r e w e to
start with a shortened 'Well', tense frowning and tightly-closed lips, and
then say the same words without noticeable pitch variations, maintaining
the frown and ending with a closed-lip ' M m ? ' , the meaning would c o m -
pletely change to a displeased reaction. W e could combine the linguistic,
paralinguistic and kinesic pieces of an imaginary puzzle in still other ways to
convey different meanings and semantic nuances that the reader can easily
A s for words themselves, whether coined and utilized as arbitrary signs
('house') or echoic signs ('swish'), they lack the capacity to carry the whole
weight of a conversation, that is, all the messages being exchanged in the
course of it. O u r verbal lexicons, our 'dictionaries', are extremely poor in
comparison with the capacity of the h u m a n mind for encoding and decoding
an infinitely wider gamut of meanings to which at times w e must refer as


Tz' opening apico-alveolar click brows begin to rise,
+ pharyngeal ingression direct eye-contact
Weeell, high volume, drawl, raised brows, then
c o m m a for falling junction facial stillness
and tone-group pause
what lower pitch and volume lowering brows
did same same
you higher volume and pitch slightly knit brows +
narrow-angle head-nod
deictic +gazing at
think lower volume and pitch same
of same same
that same volume, higher pitch lat. head-tilt
+ tone-group falling deictic; stillness +
terminal junction final lingering smile

Figure 3.1 The basic triple structure

ineffable. If a natural conversation were to be conducted by m e a n s of 'strip-

ped words' only (rather hard to imagine), there would be not just an inter-
mittent series of 'semiotic (yet signless) gaps', but s o m e overriding vacuums
as well; however, there are n o such v a c u u m s in our speech, for they are
actually filled by nonverbal activities, either clearly separable a m o n g other
parts of our delivery (e.g., a click of the tongue, a sigh or a meaningful
silence) or stretching over varying portions of it from single p h o n e m e s to
sentences to the complete conversational segments called speaker's turns
(e.g., quavery voice, high pitch).
W e can see with h o w m u c h difficulty w e would communicate with only
words if w e try to imagine h o w w e would m a n a g e to express, for instance,
anguish, doubt and fear in only one emission of voice. W e could certainly
express anguish with the single w o r d ' G o d ! ' said 'with anguish', doubt with
the word ' M a y b e ' , and fear with a fearful ' O h ! ' — and, as can be seen, w e
are already adding to them certain prosodic and paralinguistic modifiers.

But, h o w could w e utter just one of those words and express all three e m o -
tions? Such an emotional blend could not be expressed either by means of
a morphologico-syntactical arrangement of words — since w e would not
include in that sentence the lexemes 'anguish', 'doubt' and 'fear', to begin
with, as it would entail an 'unnatural' complex periphrastic expression
which just would not happen in such a state. W h a t actually suffuses those
words with life, then, is a series of paralinguistic and kinesic elements subtly
interrelated in perfect mutual inherence, which support, emphasize or con-
tradict them.

The written word: linguistic meaning and beyond

A s for the written word — which is mentally uttered as long as it is visually

perceived — it is farther removed from the reality of the verbal-nonverbal
construct, for which reason the narrative writer refuses to just let his
characters speak in a printed language without commenting on that lan-
guage himself and describing its paralinguistic features (and, in fact, its
inherent kinesic elements). Written words are not just printed symbols on a
piece of paper. Even the snow-white paper, the smelly rough one or the
grayish or time-yellowed one do become semiotically interrelated with both
the events in the story and its readers' attitudes and sensitivity. Those
words are, in the first place, mentally (if not sotto-voce) uttered by the
reader, w h o must ascribe to them a series of linguistic, paralinguistic and
kinesic elements — besides all the described, represented, evoked or
between-lines situations which transcend the page and constitute an impor-
tant part of the story. Besides, although it is true that writing and reading
are predominantly intellectual activities, they are far from being limited to
visual perception. Precisely because both writer and reader — in greater or
lesser degree — attach to the verbal constructs they produce or interpret a
series of nonverbal voice modifications and, if dealing with literary charac-
ters, speech-accompanying body movements and positions (plus any other
somatic activities and contextual elements of the explicitly or implicitly
described objectual world), the coding of signs in written language becomes
an intricate and often ambiguous task, m u c h more so w h e n the written text
is, in addition, an interlinguistic-intercultural translation.

The lexicality and grammaticality of paralanguage and kinesics

A s for lexicality, the basic triple structure is the only communicative c o m -

plex in which an object of the tangible world or an abstraction can be indis-
tinctively denoted by a word from our established lexicon, a paralinguistic
construct, or kinesically. A bad odor, for instance, after impinging on the
olfactory epithelium and being decoded in the brain, can elicit a verbal
reaction (That stinks!'), a paralinguistic one ('Eeugh!'), or a hand-to-nose
gesture. Furthermore, considering the capacity of these three systems for
mutual substitution within a preserved syntactical order (altered only from
a 'linguistic' point of view), w e can argue that the sentence '¡Oh, I feel — !'
can be completed, rather than verbally ('¡Oh, I feel like kissing you!'), pro-
xemically, moving toward one's interactant while displaying an congruent
facial expression; or that blushing can act as a cutaneous predicate of '¡Oh,
I'm so — [embarrassed]!', but this internal costructuration is never so deep
as within the triple structure, where verbal, paralinguistic and kinesic
expressions combine invariably in a live sentence. Thus, what makes lan-
guage-paralanguage- kinesics a functionally cohesive structure — and
therefore the true core of h u m a n communication — is, first of all, their
c o m m o n kinetic generator, and then their combined semanticity and lexi-
cality and their capacity to operate simultaneously, alternate with or substi-
tute for each other as needed in the interactive situation, as was just illus-
T o further illustrate this word-like quality of paralanguage and kinesics
the reader m a y consider again the examples given on page 40, in which the
audible or sound-generating kinesic behaviors were shown occurring either
preceding, following or simultaneously to accompanying verbal (and obvi-
ously paralinguistic) expressions. Paralanguage and kinesics m a y appear (in
what is actually a complete verbal-nonverbal sentence) in three basic differ-
ent ways in relation to verbal language:
(a) simultaneously to verbal language, that is, superimposed to it,
Pg pitch 2 — pitch 3 — pitch 1 + drawling + laryngealized voice
Lg But... that's awful!
frowning 4- quick head shake

(b) as a syntactical replacement for verbal language alternating with words

in the same sentence,
Pg forceful narial egression — [tz'] click — glottalized voice
Lg Get out of here!
tight lips + unblinking gaze + /2 pronominal deictics/ + /get out/
but that sentence could also begin verbally-paralinguistically and end kine-
sically only, with the two pronomial deictics,
Pg drawling 4- palatalization
Lg Y o u and you!
(c) independently of verbal language, paralanguage being an unambiguous
sentence-like construct, accompanied only by kinesics, as in an expression
of approval which would be equivalent to 'I see, I think that's very good!',
Pg Mmmmmmmmm Uh-huuuuu!
smiling + raised brows + repeated head-nodding
Over the phone, or as a blind person would perceive it (hence the
mutual compensatory functions of language, paralanguage and kinesics in
certain types of reduced interaction situations) this paralinguistic sentence-
like structure would stand in its o w n right as a quasilexical structure, a value
not diminished by the argument that it 'simply evokes' a verbal sentence.

Additional information, communicative economy, verbal deficiency, and

formal and semantic congruence

W h e n K e n d o n (1972:451) expressed so rightly the obvious but neglected

thought that "we must consider m o v e m e n t as well as speech [of which the
former is but an inherent part, w e m a y add now] if w e are to understand
what is entailed in what w e somewhat loosely refer to as an act of speech"
— and I would link this statement with those just m a d e in Chapter 2 regard-
ing the kinesic-audible basis of speech and communication — he confirmed
the additional information provided by kinesics to what is being said (be-
sides phonetic stress and kinesic grammatical markers). This shows that
besides the very doubtful redundancy of kinesics in most situations, it is

also an economy device, as it 'says' something else in the same length of

time. This is seen in other instances, as w h e n the same person addresses
two receivers simultaneously, one verbally and nonverbally and another
kinesically only, while giving directions to a waiter without interrupting his
conversation with them, or w h e n someone w h o is engaged in a telephone
conversation with one cointeractant initiates a simultaneous exchange with
a second by using a string of kinesic emblems to say (i.e., move) to him 7
C o m e in/, /I'll be with you in one minute/, / G o o d to see you!/, /Sit d o w n / /
look at this in the meantime/,' while listening to his speaker on the phone
(cf. Johnson, E k m a n and Friesen 1975:342). A s for paralanguage, w e can
also see it as providing additional information (e.g., w h e n a tone of suspi-
cion or mistrust is added to the statement ' O h , yes, he'll do it for you') and
as an economy device (e.g., a globalized utterance dismissing the subject
rather impatiently).
Furthermore, gesticulation can be used also for lack of words, that is,
out of verbal deficiency, as w h e n someone says 'They bought one of those,
aaaah /manually describing a chandelier/ elaborate lamps, you k n o w , all
aaah.' (not knowing or remembering the word 'chandelier'), this deficiency
being typical particularly of a foreign speaker of a language, in earlier
stages of language acquisition, and according to socioeducational level. The
same lack of appropriate words can be compensated sometimes by paralan-
guage, as w h e n a foreign speaker m a y say 'Aaah!' with a tone of disbelief in
answer to 'What do you think of him?', instead of saying verbally ' Y o u can-
not really trust him', which, of course, can also be used by the native
speaker as an economy device.
W h a t w e can see also is that, if the nonverbal expression becomes
m u c h more elaborate and lengthier than a shorter verbal way of saying the
same thing, w e can speak of nonverbal periphrasis, a concept worth
acknowledging in order to evaluate the exact role of paralanguage or, m u c h
more, kinesics (e.g., the description of the chandelier), in face-to-face
But, at any rate, w e always see — as has been amply discussed in the
first two chapters — h o w , no matter whether the nonverbal parts of our
speech are providing additional information, serving as economy devices or
responding to verbal deficiency, they are perfectly costructured with our
verbal system (or with what w e would say verbally) and in perfect formal
and semantic congruence with it; except, of course, w h e n lack of congru-
ence is clearly identified as such constituting, for instance, nonverbal leak-

age ( E k m a n and Friesen 1974). Thus w e express something 'softly' both

paralinguistically and kinesically (e.g., a mother's 'gentle' words, loving
tone of voice and calm, slow smile and movements as she tucks her child in
and kisses him goodnight), 'tensely' (e.g., the same mother uttering a scold-
ing ' Y o u should be ashamed of yourself!' with low pitch, glottalization and
tense facial expressions, while nervously tucking him in and with a final pull
and slap on the bedspread which looks like an angry 'There!'), or 'au-
thoritatively' (e.g., a superior slowly addressing a subordinate from behind
his desk with carefully articulated words marked by slow but ample,
intimidating gestures).

3.3 A brief introduction to language, paralanguage and kinesics


If w e try to compare verbal language and paralanguage w e see that verbal

language, in the sense of the spoken string of words and sentences of
h u m a n speech, shows, morphologically, (a) a segmental level or 'layer'
formed by vowels and consonants m a d e up of phonemes, or smallest dis-
tinctive units (with their alophones or variations), combined to form mor-
phemes (words, suffixes), or smallest semantic units, which are themselves
combined to form syntagms and syntactic costructurations; to that almost
lifeless body w e must attach (b) a suprasegmental layer formed by what is
commonly referred to as intonation, consisting of about four degrees of
relative loudness, or stress, four different pitches, and three terminal
junctures (rising, falling, level). These intonation patterns have no referen-
tial meaning in themselves, unless they qualify the lexical construct;
although a paralinguistic inarticulated closed-lip expiration of air can con-
vey different meanings simply by varying its most important component,
intonation. But w e can say that in a real communication situation a phrase
with its intonation contour is 'colored' by certain paralinguistic and kinesic
elements, and that only then are expressed m a n y semantic changes and
m a n y otherwise impossible nuances; in other words, w h e n that phrase
reaches the totality of the interrelation of the three communicative
activities which are the basis of unobstructed interaction.


In essence, paralanguage was defined in the Introduction as the nonverbal

voice qualities, modifiers and independent sounds and silences with which
w e support or contradict the simultaneous or alternating linguistic and
kinesic structures. Thus, combined with those essential segmental and sup-
rasegmental elements, it offers the observer a series of equally segmental,
but m a n y more nonsegmental, vocal and narial effects and sounds that
cover a very wide range of acoustic p h e n o m e n a determined, first of all, by
the anatomy and physiology of the individual's vocal tract, and secondly, by
the idiosyncratic use he makes of those possibilities. W e , therefore, distin-
guish in paralanguage, (a) qualities closest to the basic suprasegmental ele-
ments of the linguistic structure proper (primary qualities: timbre, volume,
pitch, etc.), (b) qualities which, in special biological, psychological or cul-
tural circumstances, m a y also be basic to the linguistic structure, but which
otherwise modify it (qualifiers: laryngeal control, articulatory control,
labial control, etc.), (c) one step further, utterances that qualitatively m o d -
ify verbal language and its suprasegmental features, but can also occur
independently (differentiators: laughter, crying, sighing, etc.) and (d) those
independent occurrences and m a n y more perfectly identifiable utterances,
which can actively function as semantically as words, but whose status
needs recognition (alternants: a sigh, a click, a m o a n , a hesitation, vowel,
T h e problem with paralanguage is that it does not always offer a 'unit'
analogous to the p h o n e m e , susceptible of being built up into larger struc-
tures. All w e can do with paralinguistic nonsegmental voice modifiers is
abstract a specific quality of the voice, say, syllabic duration, and establish
a scalar series of degrees below and above a m e d i u m line, that is, overclip-
ped — clipped — m e d i u m — drawled — overdrawled; or velar control,
which makes voice very nasal — nasal — m e d i u m — oral — very oral.
Other features, which override actual speech admit, (a) a scalar classifica-
tion of, for instance, giggling (which, at any rate, would also depend upon
other features such as velar control or pitch, showing also as m a n y as five
degrees in each case), or (b) a sort of 'class' ranging, in the case of laughter,
from closed-lip muffled snickering to uproarious guffawing. But there is a
fourth group ('alternants') which is independent from 'words' and shows
actual phonemes (like the apico-alveolar click, although not from the point
of view of the English language) and also certain inarticulated sounds dif-

ficult to measure according to a base line (unless w e consider their modify-

ing accompanying features) and whose variations may or m a y not produce
a semantic change.

A practical thought on intonation and communication

W e k n o w that intonation, even if viewed as m a d e up of stresses, pitches and

junctures, cannot be broken into discrete units because it is a continuum
formed, at any rate, by gradual elements (even if w e acknowledge 'al-
lotones', similar to allophones, or phoneme variations) whose meaning is
given by the whole contour and not by individual stresses or junctures, as it
is not given by single phonemes either. T h e fact that a number of non-
vocalic, nonconsonantal, closed-lip or open-lip nasalized utterances are
regarded by m a n y as intonation ('intonation without words') leads some to
the equivocation that intonation can be isolated, separated from a segmen-
tal stretch of speech and uttered alone, w h e n in reality w e are again produc-
ing the two levels referred to above, the segmental one (in this case a
paralinguistic construct) and the nonsegmental or intonational one. Such is
the case of a paralinguistic alternant like a glottalized gliding mid-to-higher-
back vowel (segmental), with open or closed lips, overridden by a pitch
contour 4-2, two stresses and a falling terminal juncture (nonsegmental),
meaning, according to context and pitch variations, ' O h , I see!', ' G o o d ! ' ,
'Delicious!', etc.
The fact that intonation can be both grammatical and attitudinal (Crys-
tal 1971:200) does not m e a n that it can carry any more meaning than nasal-
ity or whispering would by themselves, unless they occur with words or with
paralinguistic alternants (considered segmental) like '¡Eeugh!', ' H m m ! ' .
O n e cannot speak with intonation alone. W e can modulate a long stretch
like ' M m m m m m m m ' , attaching to it the intonation contour for ' M a y I go
with you?', for instance, or 'I don't k n o w where she went' — and if done
face-to-face, it would be doubly expressed by facial and other kinesic
activities — but w h e n w e do that w e are simply evoking an established and
perfectly coded verbal or paralinguistic utterance, to both of which either a
person or a domesticated animal will easily react. A n d if that person (e.g.,
a child) or that dog has only heard our ' M m m m m m ' , that paralinguistic
construct is a perfectly lexical item of that established repertoire.
This notion is, of course, compatible with the concept of 'entoneme'
(Quilis 1975), a meaningful unit comparable to the m o r p h e m e , as opposed

to a meaningless p h o n e m e . But, from a linguistic point of view, intonation

operates as a permanent feature of speech however it m a y occur, impossi-
ble to isolate and not modified by other phonetic elements (but only by
kinesic ones within the basic triple structure), although it modifies those
which are nonsegmental, since segmental or nonsegmental elements of
speech cannot modify themselves.


Given all the discrepancies w e find in the literature, kinesics can be defined
as: the conscious or unconscious psychomuscularly-based body movements
and intervening or resulting still positions, either learned or somatogenic,
of visual, visual-acoustic and tactile or kinesthetic perception, that, whether
isolated or combined with the linguistic and paralinguistic structures and
with other somatic and objectual behavioral systems, possess intended or
unintended communicative value. Whatever external m o v e m e n t in some-
one's body can be detected visually or tactually-kinesthetically qualifies as
kinesics: eye movements, unconscious jerks and twitches. There is no dif-
ference, from a kinetic point of view, between a brow raise and a gaze
raise, or between an intended smile and a facial tic, since they all m a k e up
the visual image of the person as perceived by others. T h e intervening still
positions within the interactive linguistic-paralinguistic-kinesic stream qual-
ify also as kinesic behaviors, as they are costructured with m o v e m e n t as
m u c h as postures are. Thus, whether the m o v e m e n t is intentional (or c o m -
municative) or not, is irrelevant. W h e n applying to its analysis the
methodology of linguistic structuralism, Birdwhistell (1952, 1970) identified
in conversational kinesics a smallest discrete element, the kineme (analog-
ous to the p h o n e m e , or smallest speech sound unit), m a d e up of various
allokines (similar to allophones or p h o n e m e variants); kinemes combine
into morphological constructs called kinemorphs (analogous to morphs, or
pronounceable p h o n e m e groups that can function as morphemes), forming
kinemorphemes (comparable to morphemes, that is, words or meaningful
parts of words), and kinesyntactic constructions. W h a t is more, some sup-
rasegmental elements, namely, kinemes of stress and juncture, were
reported by Birdwhistell (1970) as appearing in the linguistic-kinesic stream
(while the relationship between linguistic pitch and body m o v e m e n t is
under study). In addition, parakinesic degrees of intensity, range and velo-
city (akin to stress and articulatory tension, syllabic duration and speech

tempo) have been identified which differentiate personal styles and all
kinds of normal or abnormal visual behaviors as m u c h as paralanguage dif-
ferentiates audibly ones, therefore being as important to kinesics within the
basic triple structure as paralanguage is to verbal language.
A foreign language, or a regional variety of the native one, can be spo-
ken fluently but usually with a certain accent which, under analysis, is
revealed as inexact placement of stresses, pitches and junctures and incor-
rect articulation of some vocalic and consonantal sounds (that is, inaccurate
internal movements). In like manner, a foreign kinesic repertoire, or a re-
gional variety, can be imitated, learned and performed with more or less
fluency, but perhaps with an inevitable alien 'accent' in m a n y instances,
consisting in inexact placement of kinesic stress and junctures and, m o r e
noticeably, in the incorrect use of the parakinesic qualities (intensity, range
and velocity) and the misplacement of certain kinemes within kinemor-
phemic constructs. Kinesics is always present, m o r e or less, in face-to-face
interaction and personal and cultural speech repertoires are characterized
by their visual peculiarities as they are by their different languages, or dif-
ferent varieties of the same language (e.g., in the United States, England
and India).
It is very important, w h e n relating verbal language and paralanguage
to m o v e m e n t to m a k e a clear distinction between: gestures, conscious or
unconscious movements m a d e mainly with the head, the face alone (includ-
ing the eyes) or the limbs, dependent or independent from verbal language,
simultaneous to or alternating with it and serving as a primary communica-
tive tool (e.g., smiles, gaze movements, a beckoning signal); manners,
more or less dynamic and mainly learned and socially ritualized according
to specific situations, either simultaneous to or alternating with verbal lan-
guage (e.g., the way w e eat, greet others, cough, cross legs to adopt a cross-
legged posture); and postures, equally conscious or unconscious, but more
static and also codified by social norms and used less as communicative
behaviors, although they m a y reveal sex, status, culture, etc. Another basic
distinction in kinesics is between free, performed by one or more parts of
the body by themselves in the air, and bound, for which w e touch ourselves,
others or the objectual environment. It also essential (though sorely ne-
glected) to recognize the three phases of any kinesic behavior: a beckoning
gesture, a leg-preening manner or a crossing of legs are not formed only by
their identifying central or peak m o v e m e n t or still position in a posture, but
by a formative or shaping m o v e m e n t which can begin in different positions

and describe different itineraries, in fact, a manner (e.g., h o w w e cross our

legs), and a releasing m o v e m e n t , or manner (e.g., a hand slowly receding
after beckoning). This three-phase quality of kinesic behaviors is intimately
related to the parakinesic qualities of intensity, range, and velocity, iden-
tified above. Both in normal conversational style and in traumatized or
pathological states — subject to age, sex, culture and the rest of the condi-
tioning background discussed later — the intensity, range and speed of
movements are to be noted carefully as qualifiers of the kinesic nonverbal
categories, discussed in section 8.
Finally, what no serious analysis of bodily m o v e m e n t and positions
should ignore is the presence within kinesics itself of what could be termed
intrasystem cobehaviors. W e might wish to study the expression on the face
of a child, a manic depressive, an extrovert, or a counselee, but the con-
comitant m o v e m e n t and positions of legs, hands and arms and the whole
trunk must not be judged solely as independent 'contextual' elements, for it
is the whole body that becomes articulated along with the face in that par-
ticular situation and with language and paralanguage, if they are present. If
w e decide to record, for instance, someone's brow raising + smile or sur-
prise as someone else enters the scene, but he also uncrosses his arms or
legs or leans forward slightly as he says something, w e must actually record
what he says, h o w he says it and the complete articulated kinesic construct
'happy surprise' as engaging face, trunk, legs and/or arms and hands, that
is, the whole kinesic phrase, for each of those seemingly trivial acts carries
its o w n semantic value. Beyond this intrasystem costructuration there is the
intersystem one, within at least the triple structure language-paralanguage-
kinesics, but potentially involving activities like tear-shedding, blushing,

The structural and communicative functions of audible-visual movements

It was seen in Chapter 1 h o w the sounds produced by movements k n o w n as

self-adaptors, alter-adaptors, body-adaptors, object-adaptors and those
identified as object-mediated sounds possessed a 'mysterious language-like
quality'. T h e sound of intensely-anticipating hand-rubbing, of congratulat-
ory back-clapping, of purposely uncouth chomping, of a book being slam-
m e d shut in front of a class, or of the nervous rattling of a door knob, all
qualify as components of the basic triple structure which pertain to the
characteristics of both paralanguage (their language-like quality) and

kinesics (the visual aspect, that is, the m o v e m e n t , although it could be hid-
den from view while still hearing the sound of it). T h e deserved status of
those sounds in the study of interaction cannot be argued. In fact, the
quasiparalinguistic effect becomes costructured with words, paralanguage
proper and kinesics at the receiver's end m u c h more noticeably than for the
emitter himself, w h o would hardly ever encode them with the intention to
communicate. This is, of course, one more instance of the communicative
quality of unintentional behaviors, against the definition of communication
favored by m a n y w h o do not seem to consider the deeper levels of interac-
tion. It is precisely at these deeper levels (Poyatos 1985) that those sounds
communicate and constitute an important part of the basic triple structure,
often with messages relevant enough to have interactional consequences,
while their parakinesic qualities determine the specific characteristics of
those messages.

3.4 T h e intervening silences and stills as elements of the basic triple struc-

If w e consider all the emitting and perceptual possibilities in face-to-face

interaction, that is, language-paralanguage-kinesics and the other inter-
somatic message-conveying channels, w e see the preponderance of sound
and m o v e m e n t over any other nonacoustic or static modes of conveying
information. But to refer to sound and m o v e m e n t is to acknowledge by
necessity the intervening silences and still positions as opposed to language-
paralanguage and kinesics, respectively. A n d yet, linguists and others
working on communication have wasted m a n y of the research possibilities
offered by the study of silence by directing all their attention at a very
limited number of otherwise perfectly segmental, syntactical silences, the
so-called internal and terminal junctures in tone groups (as affected by into-
nation, lengthening of the preceding p h o n e m e , and intonation), and a few
attitudinal ones, involving personality, cultural, and circumstantial charac-
teristics in given situations. Rarely, however, have they referred to silence
— m u c h less still positions — as an element of interaction, thus missing the
true relationship between language and interaction. They have invariably
ignored the important fact that w h e n speech is interrupted by a 'pause', at
least one of the other two cooccurrent activities, that is, paralanguage or
kinesics, or both, still fill that apparent gap, which once more proves the

semantic and structural characteristics of language, paralanguage and

kinesics a m o n g themselves as well as with relation to silence and stillness.
They have also ignored the eloquent information offered by the punctua-
tion system in literature, which provides m o r e information about the c o m -
municative and social forms and functions of silence and stillness than the
fields of linguistics and phonetics put together, particularly through the
descriptions in narrative fiction and, in a lesser degree, in the theater.
A s for the inaccuracy (especially from a semiotic or communicative
point of view) of the poorly studied dichotomy filled pause (e.g., 'Er — ')
and unfilled pause, it simply leads m a n y into disregarding the communica-
tive values of nonverbal paralinguistic and kinesic messages, for 'Er — 'is,
in the first place, a very lexical paralinguistic alternant and it is difficult,
besides, to imagine it orally displayed without an accompanying kinesic ges-
ture of hesitation, or at least a purely contextual kinesic behavior which
also fills that communicative segment. But even the so-called 'unfilled
pause' is not unfilled at all either, since any breaks in speech are actually fil-
led by paralanguage (e.g., a narial egression of contempt) or by kinesics
(e.g., a beckoning gesture), or both, and on some occasions by proxemic,
dermal, thermal or chemical activities that m a y very well convey certain
messages as effectually or m o r e than words. W h i c h compels one to defend
the true continuity that exists between the beginning and end of an interac-
tive encounter, as w e should obviously not consider solely the behaviors
that w e might, perhaps incorrectly, regard as the principal ones, but all the
other somatic activities that m a y perform important interactive, and even
syntactical functions (in combination with verbal language) within different
types of pauses. In other words, there are no pauses that can be truly called
unfilled; or put differently, a truly 'unfilled' space would not be a 'pause',
for a pause is, by definition, an interactive segment with a very specific
structure determined by the cooccurrent behaviors and the varying intensity
of those behaviors, and by its duration, affecting in turn the preceding (in
its decoding) and succeeding (both in encoding and decoding) behaviors. A
silence, in s u m , or a still position, which is not limited at both ends by inter-
related behaviors, nor related to those behaviors itself, is not a pause, and
it occurs only as noninteractive silence or stillness.
O f the ideas on silence and stillness proposed earlier (Poyatos 1981,
1983: Chapter 6), their three functions, as belonging within paralanguage
and kinesics, can be summarized as follows: (a) as sign proper, as w h e n w e
read "there was in her silence/stillness all the anguish of the situation", an

occurrence certainly not understood as 'absence' of, nor replacement for,

sound or m o v e m e n t , as the true message is not given by the 'lack' of
expected signs but by the silence or still position as sign clusters in their o w n
right, without reference to anything else; (b) as zero signs, signifying pre-
cisely "by their very absence" (Sebeok 1977:118), w h e n the words, paralan-
guage or kinesic behaviors should be expected, as w h e n w e halt in our
speech to avoid saying something or in the middle of a kinesic phrase with-
out completing it; (c) as carriers of the preceding sound or movement, as
w h e n a long pause follows a rotund 'Stop it!' and that verbal negation pro-
longs itself more intensely in our minds — as would a cynical smile — car-
ried over and enlarged by the silence and m a d e more conspicuous in a sort
of mental replay, with a greater effect than if our interlocutor continued to
speak, and intensified perhaps by simultaneous stillness.2

3.5 Segmental and nonsegmental elements within the basic triple structure

If w e try to consider only a breath-semantic stretch of utterance — limited,

that is, to the vocal-auditory channel involving language and paralanguage
— as the most sensible division in speech (disregarding neither its
physiological configuration nor its meaning or message) w e soon c o m e to
the conclusion that it is possible to single out the vocal-auditory band, so to
speak, and that w e need to include kinesic behaviors as well, from both a
semantic and syntactic point of view. That breath-semantic group (like the
one shown in Fig. 3.1 or a m u c h more elaborate one) allows us to recognize
the segmental and nonsegmental levels of sign production, that is, two
types of activities:
(a) segmental, preceding or following each other as discrete portions of a
noncontinuous whole: words (i.e., phonemes), paralinguistic alternants
(e.g., ' U h ' , a narial egression of contempt), silences or measurable
breaks in that audible chain of segmentable events, conversational
kinesic constructs (e.g., a gesture) which coincide or alternate with the
audible ones (although some movements can be heard as well) and are
also discrete semantic segments, and still positions of one or several
body parts which alternate with the kinesic chain;
(b) nonsegmental, clearly changing throughout that communicative stretch
of sounds and movements and silences and still positions, with not-so-
clear boundaries and overriding those other elements, from syllables

and/or simple kinemic constructs to m u c h longer portions of speech or

whole kinesyntactic complexes, varying slightly but with a cumulative
impression never given by the clearly discrete parts, therefore not
being segmentable: intonation, primary qualities (e.g., volume,
t e m p o ) , qualifiers (e.g., laryngeal control) and differentiators (e.g.,
overriding laughter), and the parakinesic qualities of intensity, range
and velocity.
It is interesting to note that while two segmental vocal constructs can-
not go together (e.g., silence with an apico-alveolar click), vocal segmental
constructs and kinesic segmental ones can (e.g., a word with a gesture), just
as vocal nonsegmental and kinesics can (e.g., high pitch and gesture).
W h i c h further proves the semantic and somatic cohesion of the basic triple
structure — without ignoring other cooccurring and conditioning (not just
contextual) systems (e.g., dermal) — and totally justifies the study of punc-
tuation, not just o n the basis of language but as involving language,
paralanguage and kinesics.
This realistic view of discourse — which suggests, of course, the
ontogenetic costructuration of the basic triple structure — m a k e us realize
the high cognitive capacity of its three components (not inferior in a beck-
oning gesture than in its verbal equivalent) and the inevitable broadness of
the very concept of language, since it is clear that not only different m e s -
sages, but a single one, can be — and most of the time is, though perhaps
almost imperceptible — carried out in its totality only by the cooccurrence
of verbal, paralinguistic and kinesic behaviors. In consequence, the seg-
mental and nonsegmental elements can be diagrammatically represented as
in Fig. 3.2.

Paralinguistic Paralinguistic Kinesic Still

alternants Silences <constructs Positions
Intonational Paral. Primary Qualities, Parakin. Intensity
Features Qualifiers, Differentiatos Range, Velocity

Figure 3.2 Segmental and nonsegmental elements in the basic triple structure

Again, the extreme communicative limitations of written language,

most significant in narrative and dramaturgic literature, become obvious
w h e n w e realize that, apart from words, the only representable nonsegmen-
tal elements are some ambiguously written alternants ('Tsk-tsk', ' U g h ' ,
etc.), a few paralinguistic features ([!], [?], [( )], [ C A P I T A L S ] , the Spanish
accent ['], etc.), and some unmeasurable silences ([, ,]. [...], etc.).

3.6 A note on the redundancy vs complementarity of segmental and non-

segmental features of speech

Something that needs to be revised in the light of the interchangeabihty of

language, paralanguage and kinesics within the same stretch of discourse is
the concept of redundancy, traditionally misused, for what appears to be
redundant is, most of the times, only complementary, that is, supporting,
emphasizing or contradicting the essential message. Blushing, for instance,
is not necessarily redundant after or before words of the same message, for
it m a y act as a dermal means of expressing the degree of emotion con-
tained, or controlled, in those words ('I think I love you'), in their paralin-
guistic equivalent (a hesitant/affirmative closed-lips m o a n ) or in their
kinesic equivalent (a closed-eyes smile with averted gaze). It could also be-
tray a deceiving verbal or nonverbal statement. Likewise, a beckoning ges-
ture is complementary to ' C o m e here' w h e n it specifically denotes h o w w e
really m e a n it, since the kinesic act can be performed in different ways. A
silence, even after having verbally stated that w e cannot say anything, adds
information, as a complementary message, by its duration and by its co-
structuration with our kinesic behavior (perhaps our very stillness). O n e
could argue, then, that redundancy is a fallacy most of the time, as the
blushing or the gesture always assist the verbal or nonverbal message.
But redundancy must not be given a negative connotation of pur-
poselessness either. Gesticulation, frequent pauses in conversation, the
adoption of still positions, could certainly be redundant, yet express a per-
sonal style characterized precisely by redundancy. Thus, w e might speak of
redundancy on the communicative or message level, since nothing is being
added, but hardly on the social level or the cultural one w h e n a crosscul-
tural difference is being observed. S o m e people refer to the redundant
quality of Italian or Spanish gesticulation, but that kinesic quality allowed
them to identify those specific cultures!

This idea of redundancy vs. complementarity links with another

needed differentiation in communication studies, that which exists between
primary systems (or messages) and secondary systems (or messages), not to
be confused with redundancy-complementarity. If w e try to establish a
hierarchization of systems in a given interactive situation — for each situa-
tion would entail a different organization of verbal and nonverbal behaviors
— w e soon discover that the verbal code, despite the claimed superiority of
'language' over any other systems, is not necessarily the main one. A rise in
body temperature, blushing or a silence m a y carry the main message w h e n
either language, paralanguage, kinesics or proxemics simply support it as
complementary information or duplicate it as a true redundancy. In this
respect, what determines the hierarchization is the location, intensity and
duration of the various verbal, paralinguistic or kinesic behaviors involved
during speech.

3.7 Anthroposemiotic coherence and ontogenetic and social development

of the structure language-paralanguage-kinesics

The basic triple structure and Hockett's design features

T o further appreciate the mutual coherence of language, paralanguage and

kinesics it is interesting, at least out of curiosity, to see h o w the triple struc-
ture would fare if w e apply to it the scheme developed by Hockett (1960a,
1960b) and Hockett and Altman (1968) to compare the communicative
abilities of m a n and animals. I always thought that that type of system — of
which a clear summary and critical commentary is found in Thorpe (1972,
1974) — would gain m u c h from acknowledging the joint occurrences of lan-
guage, paralanguage and kinesics, as it would assist in verifying the inter-
relationships and communicative properties of the two nonverbal cosystems
of speech and in asserting the features c o m m o n to all three components as
well as their limitations. In turn, the triple- structure approach to the
ontogenesis (and even phylogenesis) of language — and the very definition
of language — would gain m u c h from the application of Hockett's system.
For the sake of convenience, all of Hockett's (and Hockett and Altman's)
sixteen features of language appear in the first column on the table in Fig.
3.3, ' T h e Basic Triple Structure Within the Language Design-Feature
Scheme', indicating with capitals both the modifications incorporated into

two of them (1 and 9) and the ten features of language added to the scheme
(8 and 18 to 26), as they both strengthen the communicative semiotic status
of paralanguage, and also of the basic triple structure as the most cohesive
body-based complex of h u m a n communication. 3 It will be noted that with
the features included this scheme suggests m a n y of the topics about dis-
course contained in this and other chapters, such as the temporal dimension
of sound and m o v e m e n t (3),the typically unconscious nature of m a n y non-
verbal behaviors (5), the semanticity and lexicality of paralanguage and
kinesics (7, 8) the arbitrariness and iconicity of sound and movement
encoding (9), their segmentality-nonsegmentality (10), the power of
paralanguage and kinesics for evoking other people's audible and visual
behaviors, besides just referring to them (11), phonemes and kinemes have
a similar structural value (14), paralanguage and kinesics are part of the
learning objective of a foreign speaker (17), their developmental aspects
(18), their encoding-decoding problems (19), their syntactical-interactive
functions 20), the problems of written representation (21), their expressive
capabilities of, for instance, 'identifiers' and other nonverbal categories
(22), their costructuration with preceding, simultaneous and succeeding
silences and stills (23), and with any other possible components of an
interactive encounter (24) (Poyatos 1985: Fig. 1), the paralinguistic and
kinesic repertoires used to communicate with other species, mainly domes-
tic animals (25), and the possibility of conveying m a n y messages through
one, two or the three components of the triple structure (26).


1 vocal/NARlAL-KINETIC- mutual inherence of sound & . m o v e . &
Auditory/Visual Channels single/double channel perception
2 Broadcast Transmission and according to sound/move. transmission
Directional Reception & auditory/visual percep. capability
3 Rapid Fading but traveling through time with short/
long-term int/noninteract. consequences
4 Interchangeability transmit & receiver can exch roles
5 Complete Feedback unaware of some of our sound/move.
qualif. features & unconsc. behavior
6 Specialization energy conseq. of signals not relevant,
but response-eliciting ones are
7 Semanticity paraling. & kinesics constructs &
qualifying features have meaning


LEXICALITY paraling. alternants. emblematic &
r descript. gestures
9 Arbitra riness/ICONlCITY arb. echoic sounds arb./iconic m o v e
10 Discreteness dis. alternants dis. emblems, posture
cont. features | continuous movements
11 Displacement can refer to things remote in
place & time
12 Openness or Productivity new messages can be coined &
understood with/without a context
13 Tradition can be taught & learned between
groups & generations
14 Duality of Patterning minimal sound/move units m a y be
meaningless, but not in combination
15 Prevarication can be used to lie or talk/move
16 Reflectiveness can be used to communicate about
the two c o m m u n systems themselves
17 Learnability members of different lang can learn
each other's paralang & kinesics
18 INHERITABILITY innate ability to learn & code both
19 SHARED/DIOSYNCRATIC idios. sounds/move more difficult to
decode/adopt than shared ones
20 INTERACTIONALITY used in interact simultaneously to/
alternating with each other
21 GRAPHIC REPRESENTABILITY very poorly, by very limited &
ortho. & punctuat. | only in research
22 VERBALIZATION/NON- abstract/tangible things can be ref
VERBALIZATION to nonverbally by sound and/or m o v e
23 COSTRUCTURAΉON WITH semantically linked to prec./simult./
PREC./SIMULT./SUCC. SILENCE succ silence/still carried by
AND/OR STILLNESS succeeding silence/stillness
24 COSTRUCTURATION WITH semantically linked to prec./simult./
PREC./SIMULT.SUCC. VERBAL/ succ. personal extrapersonal
NONVERBAL ACTIVITIES physical/mental activities
25 INTRASPECIFIC ENCODING- sounds/move. are intraspecificall
DECODING ONE-WAY INTER­ encoded/dec, only a few interspecif
26 SUSCETIBILITY OF SINGLE/ can be encoded in single/dual/triple
DUAL/TRIPLE MESSAGE EN­ modality mess-conveying constructs

Figure 3.3 The basic triple structure within the language design-feature scheme

The ontogenetic and social development of language-paralanguage-kinesics

While the study of h o w language develops from childhood on has filled

m a n y volumes it has traditionally neglected the simple, basic and easily
observable fact that as the person's 'linguistic' repertoire matures so do
simultaneously the accompanying paralinguistic and kinesic behaviors,
which, through biological (mostly anatomical) and cognitive development,
gradually acquire their adult characteristics, and thus should warrant a joint
developmental study of language-paralanguage-kinesics (for kinesics, see,
e.g., Feurstein [1981], von Raffler-Engel [1981]).
Drawing from an earlier paper dealing with encoding and decoding
problems in intercultural interaction (Poyatos 1985b), in which the learning
process of the native speaker is contrasted with that of the foreign learner,
the following facts can be summarized following the table in Fig. 3.4, T h e
Development of the Basic Triple Structure'.
F r o m childhood to adulthood, the native learner progresses through
the phonemics of his language, with gradually less frequent misarticula-
tions, the morphological changes of words and the knowledgeofsyntactical
arrangements in his speech stream, both also with fewer misformations as
he interacts with others, and the use of a gradually wider and more appro-
priate vocabulary (which, w h e n it fails to provide the verbal message out of
verbal deficiency, results in zero encoding). But it is detrimental to any
study of language development not to acknowledge the fact that he is also
acquiring in a clearly progressive way a number of increasingly subtle and



mis- mis- mis- mis-

formations formations form. form.
mis- mis- mis- zero zero zero zero
formations formations formations encoding encoding encod. encod.
(defi- (defi- (defi- (defi-
ciency) ciency) ciency) ciency)

Figure 3.4 The development of the basic triple structure


sophisticated paralinguistic modifiers of those words, syntactical structures

and even morphological variations, such as message-conveying functions of
drawling and clipping, of nasality and of whispering; also the meaningful
variations of laughter, from a 'polite chuckle' to a contemptuous closed-
mouth sort of snorting laugh or a vexating guffaw, along with other positive
or negative forms of it; and, of course, a growing repertoire of independent
word-like paralinguistic utterances (Poyatos 1975) like various types of
clicks (e.g., hesitation, sympathy, contempt, impatience, disapproval),
whistling sounds of culture-specific meanings, narial egressions of amuse-
ment or contempt, or some typical conversational feedback signals (e.g.,
' U h - h u ' , ' M m ! ' ) ; naturally, paralanguage can also suffer from deficiency
and thus result in zero encoding. In addition, and after going through a
period of anatomical growth, the native speaker-interactor is learning the
kinesics of his language and culture (with diminishing deficiency) adding
n e w forms to each of the nonverbal categories (i.e. language markers, iden-
tifiers, emblems); for not only does he have the opportunity to imitate the
facial and hand gestures with which those w h o talk to him accompany or
replace sounds in recurrent patterns, but he gradually encounters situations
in which he displays some innate universal expressions (cf. Darwin 1872,
Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1979, E k m a n 1972, 1977) as well as his o w n idiosyncratic
ones, to all of which he learns to attach meaningful parakinesic modifiers of
intensity, range and velocity of m o v e m e n t whose exact semantic functions
he keeps experiencing and learning in the natural behavior-producing social
environment of everyday interaction. In other words, through the verbal-
nonverbal ontogenetic and social developmental stages the child, and then
the adolescent, has been acquiring simultaneously the three components of
the basic triple structure. T o this he keeps adding another lexicon-like
series of proxemic (interpersonal distancing) patterns typical of his culture,
which operate not only by themselves as he establishes — not without
errors — culture-specific personal or intimate distances, but in perfect
semantic costructuration with his other communicative behaviors, even
replacing them on occasion in a wordless meaningful act of touching or dis-
tancing not present in every culture.
Beyond these basic somatic systems the individual, from childhood to
more advanced periods of social interaction, develops the conceptualization
and varying degree of control of the other somatic systems, mainly: chemi-
cal (e.g., display rules regarding the forms and functions of tear-shedding
and its intentional or unintentional syntactical relationships with other ver-

bal and nonverbal contextual behaviors), and dermal (e.g., blushing as a

culture-determined reaction to certain situations or statements, often
accompanied by the blusher's expected verbal, paralinguistic, kinesic or
proxemic behaviors). But it would be a mistake not to associate the basic
triple structure with the extrasomatic components of a face-to-face interac-
tion, for w e also acquire the pancultural or culture-specific behavioral pat-
terns involving, for instance, body-adaptors like perfume, clothes and
jewelry, and h o w w e can vary the functions of language, paralanguage, ges-
tures, manners and postures according to setting (e.g., formal and informal
dress, language and paralanguage), the cointeractants (e.g., familiar,
unfamiliar, inhibiting), etc.; object-adaptors and their use (e.g., a couch and
the formal and informal postures and paralanguage associated with it); and
the behavior-conditioning systems of the environment (e.g., the intimidat-
ing one, which m a y determine a studied, forced or tense way of speaking
and moving). Naturally, the ontogenetic development involves the learning
of the communicative functions of sound-producing movements, that is, the
quasiparalinguistic messages carried by audible self-adaptors, alter-adap-
tors, body-adaptors, object-adaptors and artifactually-mediated sounds,
whose development has been referred to in Chapter 1.8.
It must be remembered that the ontogenetic development of language,
paralanguage and kinesics and their social development run parallel for a
while; then the musculo-skeletal configuration and facial features become
established for kinesic behaviors in adolescence, but the cognitive-social
process continues, during which the acquisition of vocabulary, of certain
paralinguistic features and alternants as well as of some gestural additions
continues throughout life, even though perhaps hardly noticeably for
paralanguage and kinesics. But social development must be linked to
socioeducational opportunities and status, for various types of social depri-
vation (in terms of lack of sufficient exposure to a variety of social situa-
tions) in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood result typically in
more limited and often inhibited verbal and nonverbal repertoires.
T o m y knowledge, no research has been done on the kinesiological
symbolic development of kinesic behavior, from rough, broad movements
— of the whole body, the head, the arm or the whole hand, to signify basic
situations of danger, aggression-affiliation, protection-rejection, hunger,
happiness, anger, etc. — to subtle and sophisticated articulations (akin to
the ones progressively achieved in the vocal tract, as has been seen in the
previous chapter) of the fingers of both hands, of various types of eyelid

closures and eye movements, and their mutual coarticulation. T h e fact that
cultural advancement and technology have enriched the repertoires of ges-
tures, manners and postures through the evolution of the dwellings, of fur-
niture, utensils, clothes etc. (which also betrays the progress of social and
intellectual life), can be attested today by systematically observing the
kinesic repertoires of the urban and/or more refined, educated groups with
those of the less educated peasants. T h e repertoire of the lowest classes is
clearly m u c h more limited in certain types of gestures, manners and post-
ures, as well as in paralinguistic expressive means (as it lacks the versatility
of subtly different types of laughter, of meaningful narial egressions, or
closed-lip vocalic sounds, etc.), and, of course, vocabulary. In fact, this
seems to emphasize the cohesiveness of the basic triple structure from a
functional, interactive and historical point of view, and the assumption that
not just verbal language, but the three cosystems, have evolved along with
the different cultures, since the more primitive the culture, the more
limited those repertoires seem to be.
Another c o m m e n t on the capabilities of sound and m o v e m e n t in
h u m a n interaction — which relates again to Hockett's design-feature
scheme — but without going into the nature of consciousness in humans as
compared to animals (cf. Thorpe 1974), is that w e must consider h o w in
humans visually perceived m o v e m e n t and auditorily perceived sound can
be said to travel through time, in spite of their also rapid fading. A derisive
smile, an intent static look or an anguished tone of voice can linger and
linger and truly regulate our subsequent behaviors and thoughts as the
stored visual and acoustic images are replayed over and over in our m e m -
ory. W e can also reconstruct the physical appearance of a person by gradu-
ally fitting together language, paralanguage and kinesics until that triple
structure brings the person to life in our minds and, with no mental effort
whatsoever, one m a y easily renew the physical presence of someone else by
carefully seeing and hearing with the eyes and ears of the m e m o r y , as has
been described in literature so m a n y times.
A s a brief closing c o m m e n t in this section (related to the formal and
semantic congruence discussed earlier), it should follow that if language,
paralanguage and kinesics under normal circumstances show such perfectly
costructured balance, abnormal circumstances should be betrayed by a
characteristic lack of equilibrium a m o n g the three cosystems, not only as
regards lack of congruence between the verbal and nonverbal behaviors
(which might respond to intentional or unintentional deceit), but as truly

symptomatic of pathological states (e.g., the animated display of language,

paralanguage and kinesics during the more elated and physically active
phase of the manic depressive, and then their very low-key behaviors dur-
ing the depressive phase). In fact, even in ordinary medical situations, as
between admission for major surgery and then discharge after a successful
outcome, the lay person usually notices h o w differently the patient talks
and moves as a well person again ('She's her o w n self again!).

3.8 Language markers and identifiers as the closest paralinguistic and

kinesic accompaniments to words

The coherence of the three cosystems that constitute the activity of speech
in a normal face-to-face encounter (and even, inevitably, w h e n people do
not necessarily see each other's visual behaviors, as on the phone) has been
sufficiently discussed. However, although acknowledging that mutual inter-
penetration can immediately allow us to see the reality of that triple verbal-
paralinguistic-kinesic event, w e m a y still miss what, in other words, would
be the least thought of, least conspicuous, most subtle and most difficult to
isolate, define and describe (and, therefore the hardest thing to learn in
order to become ideally and totally verbally-nonverballyfluentin a foreign
language that is, foreign culture), namely, the speaker's language markers
and identifiers. O f all the nonverbal categories (many of which have been
identified in the first two chapters) which people use in the course of face-
to-face interaction, those two are the most crucial ones and paralanguage
and kinesics, but even more the latter, are the communicative modalities
wittingly or unwittingly used for their encoding.

Language markers

Language markers have already been defined in Chapter 1 as conscious or

unconscious kinesic and paralinguistic behaviors which w e all use in greater
or lesser degree to emphasize and visually punctuate the acoustic and gram-
matical succession of words and phrases according to their location and
relevance in the speech stream, coinciding with written punctuation sym-
bols, which are grammatical and attitudinal themselves. While language
markers were originally observed and defined as kinesic only (Efron 1941,
E k m a n and Friesen 1969), close analysis of their occurrence reveals that

other bodily behaviors simultaneous with speech, truly mark language, par-
ticularly paralanguage. Kinesic language markers enhance the syntactical
functions of words, punctuate them m u c h as w e do in writing (thus giving
punctuation visual and audible form), and often coincide with paralinguistic
markers of identical function. Their function, then, is primarily grammati-
cal (i.e. syntactical and morphological), although the full semantic value of
a word or combination of words is given, of course, by their paralinguistic
and kinesic coactivities and any other cooccurrent behaviors — which only
proves the coherence of the verbal and nonverbal channels. Just to intro-
duce them briefly, the following forms of grammatical markers can be dif-
Pronominal markers, typically by pointing with the hand(s), with a
multiple head movement involving gaze (pointing even toward an absent
h u m a n or n o n h u m a n grammatical subject or object) and a tilt of the head,
with a head tilt alone, a head nod, or a trunk-and-head orientation shift
toward the referent, all c o m m o n in North-American English (while in
Spain, for instance, chin-pointing for 'he', 'she', 'them', etc., is more com-
m o n , though not regarded as refined by m a n y ) . Head-pointing is accom-
panied by gaze-pointing w h e n indicating our single cointeractant, but w h e n
two or more are present eye-contact m a y be (not necessarily but typically)
maintained with the main addressee while the head points at a third party
(cf. Jespersen's [1933] "pronouns of pointing"). Pronomical markers, h o w -
ever subtle (from gaze shift to a head-and-orientation pointer), are practi-
cally always present as part of the verbal-paralinguistic-kinesic structure. A
typical instance of kinesic pronominal marker in North-American English
would be (John, T o m and Mary are conversing, and T o m addresses John):
' Y o u should take her /slight tilt toward M a r y while looking at John/ to the
movies because I think she'll /head and gaze turned toward her/ love that /
very light head nod/ movie'. This example serves to illustrate another func-
tion of the same markers, that of stress markers, since 'her' (Mary) and
'that' (movie) can carry also the two primary stresses which would be
marked by the same object pronoun and demonstrative adjective. Other
pronominal markers w e use in conversation are, for instance: personal
(e.g., ' W e can all /sweeping inclusive hand movement/ contribute'), of iden-
tity ('Two years later I went there and met the same m a n /short up-and-
d o w n hand movement, joining thumb and first finger/' in m a n y cultures,
with also corresponding paralinguistic stress markers), reciprocal (e.g.,
T h e y did it to each /double pointing sweep/ other'), etc.

Paralinguistic-kinesic stress markers must also be acknowledged in the

study of speech as perhaps the least thought-of markers. In the sentence
' M y wife doesn't think he did it, but I do', there is a secondary stress on
'wife' and primary stresses on 'he' and T . Stresses are characterized by
higher pitch and volume, slightly tenser articulation and longer syllabic
length. B y themselves those paralinguistic features are truly markers
enhancing the fact that ' m y wife' (not everybody, nor the two of us) thinks
that way, that she doesn't think he (among other possible suspects) did it,
and that I myself (unlike her) think he did. O n e could speak the same
words in an unspirited, monotone voice, devoid of markers, or (e.g., in a
deep depressive state) strip them of any kinesic accompaniments; or use
paralinguistic markers but not conspicuous kinesic behaviors. Under nor-
mal circumstances, however, there are kinesic stress markers, discussed
first by Birdwhistell (1970), coinciding with phonetic stresses on the same
syllables, 'wife', 'he' and T , as an orientation head movement toward her
(if she is present) or a brow raise with T . A s for punctuation markers, both
paralinguistic and kinesic markers truly punctuate the verbal sentence as
clearly as w e punctuate a written one with punctuation symbols (after all
invented in an attempt to represent or evoke the reality of speech) and the
three types of punctuation elements are represented, that is: syntactical, for
instance, [,] in ' N o , it's not important, but it has to be done', with m o m e n -
tary lower-register + head m o v e m e n t arrest with the first c o m m a , lower
and sustained with the second; quantitative, for instance, [ — ] or [...] in
'But I thought...', with lower/higher-pitch juncture and breathing pause +
lower/higher brow raise + open mouth and eyes, all indicating suspension;
and qualitative, for instance, [" "], as in ' W e said "we would think it over",
you k n o w ? ' , with slightly-raised pitch and head, with/without marking quo-
tation marks in the air with the first and middle finger of both hands (an
English and American gesture not understood in most other countries), or
[?], as in 'Well? A r e you coming?', raising pitch, volume and brows toward
the second interrogation end.
Other language markers are, for instance, prepositional markers (e.g.,
brief face and hand gestures for 'until', 'in order to', 'without'), conjunc-
tional markers (e.g., also brief gestures for 'and', 'so', 'which', longer for
'however', 'therefore'); verbal markers, for both temporal and modal dif-
ferences (e.g., 'there was', 'there has been', 'there will be', 'if there were
any', symbolizing with varying emphasis something past and real,
immediately preceding, expected with certainty, or only possible).


Identifiers are more or less conspicuous kinesic behaviors or paralinguistic

utterances, in reality forming sometimes kineparalinguistic constructs,
slight as the m o v e m e n t might be, and even w h e n its paralinguistic part is
supposed to modify the verbal part. They are displayed mostly in interac-
tion, simultaneously to or immediately alternating with verbal language to
refer or, literally, give bodily form to and identify certain abstract concepts
(e.g., 'impossible', 'absurd'), moral and physical qualities of people, ani-
mals and things (e.g., 'unfriendly', 'absurd', 'boring', 'soft', 'hard', 'cauti-
ous') and qualities of objectual and environmental referents (e.g., 'dirty',
'hard', 'soft', 'murky', 'crystal clear'). Example: 'She is very mature for her
age, but a little withdrawn and mysterious, and there has always been sort
of a barrier between us, something, h o w would I say, too subtle, something
that makes her a little aloof', consciously or unconsciously accompanying
the key words with personal or cultural-specific hand and face gestures and
congruent paralinguistic qualifiers.
Language markers and identifiers, along with the so-called 'externaliz-
ers', m a k e up the bulk of the nonverbal behaviors in social interaction, but
since externalizers do not actually illustrate what is being said but at most
react to them, it is the first two that form the m o r e important parts of the
triple structure beyond words and certainly the ones that must be looked at
first w h e n seeking out the speech elements that characterize the speakers of
a language, which amounts to saying the speakers of a culture, as culture,
with its values, concepts and attitudes, is always betrayed in our conversa-
tional style.

3.9 T h e ten different realizations of language, paralanguage and kinesics in


Having discussed in this progressive acoustic-visual approach to speech h o w

words, due to their expressive limitations, must b e accompanied by
paralanguage and kinesics in different combinations, h o w these two cosys-
tems can play truly syntactical roles in the stream of speech, the additional
information they can provide, or h o w they m a y simply respond to verbal
deficiency; having also seen the reality of what is actually segmentable and
nonsegmentable in our utterances and movements and, further, the rele-

vance of silences and still positions with relation to sounds and movements
and in themselves; and finally, having given some attention to the main
facts about the development of our personal verbal and nonverbal reper-
toires, what remains is to see just h o w the basic triple structure 'happens',
for w e k n o w that w e can communicate through words with a mere
m i n i m u m of either paralanguage or kinesics, and that w e can also use a ges-
ture without any sound, or a meaningful throat clearing and nothing more.
It is, therefore, necessary to k n o w in h o w m a n y different ways each of them
can appear by itself as well as associated to the other two. It must be stres-
sed, however, that while kinesics can occur alone (e.g., a beckoning ges-
ture), paralanguage cannot occur without conscious or unconscious kinesic
elements for some part of the face or the body will show some changes,
though perhaps almost imperceptible, or a marked meaningful stillness,
and verbal language cannot possibly occur without some conscious or
unconscious paralinguistic and kinesic features. In other words, a visual
behavior can be an independent activity, but an audible one — whether
verbal, paralinguistic or both — always shows a visual qualifying element
(which, of course, would be missed if not seen), supporting or emphasizing,
apart from its possible contradicting function. W h a t follows is only a very
brief review of the ten possible ways in which w e can produce language,
paralanguage and kinesics, namely, in free (from each other) or bound (to
each other) occurrences.
1. Verbal language, in a rather neutral way (i.e. without any conspicu-
ous, meaningful paralanguage or kinesics) that would qualify it in some
way: a straightforward 'What time is it?', Guten Morgen, etc.
2. Verbal language-paralanguage, when the specific meaning is con-
veyed precisely by the verbal part: an unambiguous 'I hate you', even if it
is qualified by not-so clear paralinguistic features.
3. Verbal language + kinesics, verbal expressions which are always
accompanied by the corresponding kinesic equivalent either because there
is a verbal reference to the gesture or because the speaker of that culture
typically accompanies specific verbal expressions with fixed kinesic
cobehaviors, that is, as emblematic constructs or as language markers or
identifiers (those 'most native' speech-accompanying behaviors): Spanish
El metro estaba así ('The subway was like this', así simultaneously accom-
panied by a chest-high upward movement of the bunched fingers of one
hand which then open and close once or twice, meaning 'crowded'); the
North-American's ' H o w m u c h is that fridge, please?' pointing head nod
accompanying the verbal demonstrative.

4. Verbal language-Paralanguage-Kinesics, the most conspicuous con-

structs, as the three cosystems are behaviorally balanced and therefore con-
stitute the best examples of that 'nativeness' in speakers: the emphatic Eng-
lish ' O h , no!', drawling both words + half-closing eyes, dropping shoulders
and turning to one side as though avoiding seeing or thinking of the cause
of the failure, the French Oh, là, là\, with drawling + eyebrow raise,
rounded lips, wide-open eyes and shaking the horizontal hand up and d o w n
parallel to the shoulder.
5. Paralanguage alone includes all the segmental vocal or narial utter-
ances called alternants and the so-called differentiators (i.e. laughter, cry-
ing, yawning, which can cooccur with words and also by themselves), w h e n
they are not conspicuously and semantically accompanied by kinesics (for
total absence of it is very rare): beckoning 'Pss!', English emphatic negation
' U h - u h ! ' , a sardonic laugh, disconsolate weeping, etc.
6. Paralanguage-Verbal language, w h e n the paralinguistic component
of a certain expression is m u c h more conspicuous and meaningful than the
verbal part: a drawled, almost whispered, ironic ' O h , I seeee...!', with
rather sustained pitch, or the low-pitched 'Naaa!' of dismissal or negation.
7. Paralanguage-Kinesics, where the more important part is still the
kinesic one: the typical Italian slightly glottalized, drawled, central vowel
'Aaaa!' + slight eyebrow raise and slight shoulders-and-hands shrugging to
signify (as typically stereotyped in so m a n y films) 'I can't do it, anyway',
'What can I do?', 'That's life', 'I don't have a clue', etc., a so-called 'ideog-
raph' within the nonverbal categories.
8. Kinesics alone, constitutes the most conspicuous and popular occur-
rences of nonverbal communication, although m a n y kinesic behaviors
escape the usual cultural inventories for their subtlety and evasiveness, as
with all those visual behaviors that constitute the essence of what, for
instance, w e refer to as Spanish, Italian or Japanese style in conversation,
that almost intangible kinesic 'foreign accent'.
9. Kinesics-Paralanguage, constructs in which often the paralinguistic
part can be absent without detriment to its semantic content: one of the
most North-American emblematic gestures, an oblique sharp tilt of the
head (with or without thrusting the fist in front of the chest) w h e n accom-
panied by a lateral-palatal click + eye wink, meaning 'Well done!', ' Y o u
got it!', 'Thataboy!' ['That's a boy!']).
10. Kinesics-Verbal language, expressions in which the kinesic behavior
is semantically more important than the verbal itself: a slow, hateful head-
shaking of negation preceding, simultaneous to and lingering after 'no'.

Whether kinesics or paralanguage is m o r e important than the other in

a verbal-paralinguistic-kinesic expression can be easily determined by using
it over the telephone. If the kinesic component is not deemed indispensable
from a semantic point of view, it is mainly a verbal paralinguistic expres-
sion; if, on the other hand, missing its visual part would m a k e it ambiguous
or undecodable, it should be grouped with kinesic paralinguistic expres-
sions, since the verbal part seems to be dispensable.
It will be noted h o w this obvious classification — which suggests also
the hierarchization of language, paralanguage and kinesics — can be
extremely useful, not only for the systematic study of the basic triple struc-
ture, but for the elaboration of m o r e realistic cultural inventories, critical
for the observation of the abnormal imbalance referred to earlier, and,
a m o n g still other applications, for the systematic study and teaching of non-
verbal behaviors in foreign-language teaching, an area still in its most inci-
pient state (see Poyatos 1992).

3.10 Intrasystem, intersystem, and environmental/cultural interrelation-


Although the different categories of paralinguistic p h e n o m e n a have not

been discussed in detail yet, having identified the three main components of
speech, it would be convenience at this point to acknowledge the various
types of interrelationships that paralanguage shows, not only within itself as
a system, but between its components and other bodily systems besides
kinesics; and, beyond the body, with objectual and environmental cultural
systems in general, as indicated in Fig. 01.

Intrasystem self-regulatory interrelationships

In the following chapters it will be seen h o w specific paralinguistic features

are added to our paralinguistic behaviors as their qualifiers; or, put differ-
ently, h o w the different paralinguistic independent behaviors, such as
laughter or hissing, can be attitudinally and culturally colored by the non-
segmental features, that is, voice volume, pitch, etc. It could be s u m -
marized as follows: (a) primary qualities, for instance: high loudness (prim-
ary quality) is consciously attached to weeping (differentiator) by m e m b e r s
of certain cultures to show the degree of grief, while prolonged drawling

(primary quality) is attached to, and enhances, the meaning of enjoyment

in ' M m m m ' (alternant); (b) qualifiers, for instance, voice loudness (primary
quality) modifies the meaning of whispered speech significantly according
to the degree of intimacy, secrecy or forced quietness, while harshness
accompanies laughter (differentiator) w h e n it is meant to be scornful; (c)
differentiators, for instance, coughing (differentiator) can betray social
upbringing if excessively loud (primary quality) and followed by a long
forceful hoarse exhalation (qualifier), just as labialized laughter (qualifier)
and rather high-pitched (primary quality) can convey loving amusement
w h e n addressed to a child; (d) alternants', for instance, a low- pitched (prim-
ary quality) and laryngealized (qualifier) ' H ' m ! ' would be distinguished as
reproachful a m o n g all other ' H ' m ' s ' .

Somatic intersystem interrelationships

Beyond those immediate associations between parahnguistic categories, the

researcher, as well as the psychiatrist, medical practitioner, counsellor,
interviewer or, for that matter, any of us in social interaction, must be very
aware of h o w paralanguage is also intimately related to the other somatic
systems, namely: (a) first of all, within the basic triple structure, kinesics,
for instance: if coughing is betrayed as uncouth by its loudness and hoarse-
ness, so is it by the accompanying facial gestures and general body posture,
just as the prolonged drawling of a high-pitched ' U u u u u u h ! ' enhances the
degree of the surprise effect it m a y be meant to convey; (b) proxemics
affects not only the degree of voice loudness, but any other characteristics
of intimacy or secretiveness, as it does laughter (e.g., between a subtle,
chuckle perceptible only at close range, and loud guffawing), or the stage
parahnguistic and kinesic qualities of communication in general, given the
actor-audience spatial relationship; (c) chemical reactions: for instance,
tear-shedding can directly affect, and be affected by, crying in mourning or
sympathy, while the awareness of one's o w n heavy perspiration m a y lend to
language, paralanguage and kinesics a tone of discomfort and uneasiness
with which a sensitive counsellor or ordinary cointeractor could cope posi-
tively if he has become sensitive enough to such signals; (d) dermal reac-
tions are always, more or less conspicuously, related to the triple structure
too, as with the verbal and parahnguistic speech of a person w h o is blush-
ing, something also to be detected (perhaps aborted) if w e are sensitive
enough to h o w w e m a y trigger it, or at least to the verbal and nonverbal

behaviors that announce it in the other person; (e) thermal reactions m a y

also correlate finely with word choice, paralanguage and eye contact, for
instance, between a m a n and a w o m a n dancing closely together.

Interrelationships within cultural systems

Elsewhere (Poyatos 1983:29), I have presented in a table the objectual (ar-

tifactual) environmental and animal systems of a culture, perceived both
through the senses as 'sensible systems' and as 'intelligible systems', the lat-
ter, of course, being reflected in the former in one way or another. If w e
ignore the ways in which paralanguage and the basic triple structure can be
associated with those systems w e will again fail to understand w h y those
behaviors happen at times and h o w they happen, yet I have not seen any
systematic discussion of h o w language and its most immediate nonverbal
systems betray eloquently the influence of the rest of the systems of the cul-
ture to which they belong. Just to suggest what actually forms an incredible
mesh of interrelations that permeates all sort of interactive as well as nonin-
teractive situations within each culture, the following few examples could
be mentioned in passing, a m o n g quite a few other systems.
A . Within the sensible systems, w e find the ways in which body-adap-
tors and object-adaptors can be related to the audible and visual forms of
speech (as trying to mention only paralanguage would be quite unrealistic),
for instance: food and drink m a y elicit behaviors that will betray poor up-
bringing (e.g., slurping noisily or crunching); pseudonutritionals like chew-
ing g u m , betel, kola or tobacco, can also reveal, in the way the person chews
and even sits or walks at times, contempt, authority, haughtiness, bad m a n -
ners, etc.; clothes have historically determined posture, gait and m a n -
nerisms, but they can even affect language and paralanguage (e.g., in the
punk population), and even correlate with the general verbal and nonverbal
behaviors of certain church groups, such as the United Pentecostals; occu-
pational implements can condition specific paralinguistic behaviors (e.g.,
the conscious ' U m p h ! ' of the m a n working with a pick, or the cries of
fishermen drawing heavy nets). Within environmental artifactual systems,
anatomical furniture conditions the relaxed, sensual paralanguage and eye
contact between lovers sharing a comfortable couch or a park bench;
likewise, elegant decorative objects, nonanatomical furniture and books m a y
also correlate clearly with the refined speaker or with some sexual
deviances of those w h o create that personal environment; the built environ-

ment, that is, architecture itself, in terms of large or intimate spaces, aided
by color, lighting, music, etc., etc., elicits equal impersonal or intimate non-
verbal behaviors, while town layout and urban design allow pedestrians to
holler or hiss at each other in relatively narrow streets, but only yell or sig-
nal kinesically in wider ones; pleasant and unpleasant odors (a concept that
can also vary crossculturally) emanating from trades (e.g., a tannery, a bak-
ery, a winepress, the dyeing pits of Fez), animals, fertilizers, produce,
building materials, plants, etc., elicit typical paralinguistic utterances of ple-
asure or repugnance; even the natural environment triggers and conditions
paralanguage, as the expressions elicited by well-being, a w e , cold, heat,
fatigue, smell, etc.: finally, animals (as will be seen in Chapter 7), have gen-
erated whole culture-specific and pancultural paralinguistic calls.
B . Within intelligible systems (revealed, as was just said, by the sensi-
ble ones in different ways), religious attitudes and beliefs are reflected not
only in speech, but in its paralinguistic qualities, for instance, in c o m m u n a l
prayer and worship; most folklore festivals and celebrations around the
world, as well as games and sports, have their o w n typical yells, etc.:
etiquette m a y prescribe a light chuckle instead of open laughter, a polite
throat-clearing instead of a verbal statement; grief and bereavement are
expressed across cultures with m a n y forms of paralinguistic expressions;
child-rearing is also characterized by baby- and child-language and paralan-
guage, just as children's games include different cries and language qual-
ifiers; man-animal relationships are characterized by the h u m a n cruelty or
affection betrayed by the qualities of our language and paralinguistic calls,

3.11 T h e total conditioning background of paralanguage

Dealing elsewhere with the external somatic systems of interaction

(Poyatos 1983: 89-92), I outlined the various factors that m a y condition
them in different but clearly identifiable ways that must also be regarded as
relevant in the analysis of paralanguage. Fig. 3.5. shows them as follows:
A . Biophysico-psychological: race, sex, and age (and its abnormalities)
determine, for instance, voice timbre and pitch features, qualifiers such as
nasality and labial control, the characteristics of laughter and crying, and
the repertoire of paralinguistic alternants (e.g., a babyish coaxing m o a n ,
s o m e male homosexual's mouth-corner click or hiss, an elderly person's


Biological Configuration
Biophysico- Physiological State
Psychological Medical State
Nutritional Habits
Psychological Configuration
Emotiona States |
Natural Environment
Built/Modified Environment
Environmental Objectual Environment
Socioeconomic Environment
Performer-Spectator Borrowing
Sharing Nuclear Family/Extended Family
Social/Occupational Group
Geographic/Subcultural Variety
Religious and Moral Values
Cultural Patterns Relationships and Role Expectations
Etiquette N o r m s
Esthetic Values
Average Educated
Socioeducational Average Middle-Income Employee
Types Low-Income Worker

Figure 3.5 Total conditioning background of communicative behavior


creaky voice); the physiological state of cold, heat, pain or any momentary
malfunction elicits also different paralinguistic qualifiers and independent
sounds (alternants); the individual's medical state m a y m a k e us drop voice
volume and pitch, cry, utter shout, m o a n s , grunts, or speak with hoarse
voice; nutritional habits m a y be betrayed, for instance, by frequent belch-
ing; our psychological configuration, in terms of personality m a k e u p as well
as pathological states, is reflected (as would our medical state) in the
absence or presence of certain paralinguistic and kinesic behaviors (e.g.,
the monotone delivery of depression, the rapid rhythm of the manic state,
the general louder volume and pitch and use of lively alternants of the
extrovert type) ; temporary or momentary emotional states are immediately
reflected in our paralinguistic behaviors (e.g., whispering breathily in a pas-
sionate dialogue, speaking brokenly and with gasps and audible breathing
in fear).
B . Environmental, some of which have just been mentioned, that is,
natural, built and artifactual environments, to which w e should add here the
socioeconomic environment (which includes the built and artifactual envi-
ronments), as conditioning at times m a n y class-identifying verbal, paralin-
guistic and kinesic behaviors (e.g., uncouth laughter, and yelling, poor
articulatory control, twangy speech, belching loudly in front of company, or
refined types of laughter, softer speech, precise articulation and more oral
speech, checked belching, etc.).
C . Under sharing it is interesting to acknowledge, for instance: the
paralinguistic and kinesic mutual borrowings within a nuclear family, in
specific social groups like those of teenagers, m e m b e r s of associations or
occupations, deaf people; the c o m m o n characteristic behaviors of regional
or subcultural groups', the performer-to spectator borrowings, adopted by
certain persons or groups from movie actors or singers.
D . B y cultural patterns should be understood, in this instance, the
paralinguistic behaviors identifying, for instance: religious and moral values
or their absence, as with the voice characteristics that m a y identify the
indifference of the lukewarm Christian in church, the ironic tone of some
nonbelievers speaking of G o d and religion, or the unconcern and lack of
sympathy of the person without principles speaking of other people's mis-
fortunes; relationships and role expectations as revealed, for instance, in the
culturally dictated conversational voice qualities between lovers, superior
and subordinate, master and servant, etc.; norms of etiquette and good
manners which dictate voice pitch during formal introductions, the manag-

ing of reflex sounds like coughs, yawns, sneezes and hiccoughs crosscultur-
ally, the voice loudness according to setting and social context, etc.; esthetic
values, which, just as they tend to prescribe gestures, manners and post-
ures, also inspire a sense of what is or is not becoming as to speech rhythm,
pitch characteristics, laughter, emotional paralinguistic expressions, etc.
E . T h e different socioeducational types, despite obvious overlappings,
can still be thought of in the m o r e advanced societies by their lexical,
paralinguistic and kinesic behaviors, which tend to identify: the super-
refined or highly sophisticated speaker, often of even affected word choice,
intonation patterns, forms of laughter, undue self-control of otherwise nor-
mal voice qualifiers, and word-like paralinguistic utterances (alternants);
the average educated speaker, of quite standard verbal and nonverbal reper-
toires; the average middle-income, moderate-schooling speaker, often iden-
tifiable in m a n y western cultures by less controlled verbal, paralinguistic
and kinesic repertoires of a 'louder tone'; the low-income and poor-school-
ing worker, of m u c h more inarticulate verbal and nonverbal repertoires,
freer with behaviors such as shouting, rough forms of voice, etc.: the rustic
and totally uneducated person in m a n y cultures, diametrically opposed to
the superrefined and unaware of m a n y social rules, of very limited verbal,
paralinguistic and kinesic standard repertoires, thus being characterized,
not only by the presence of certain speech rhythm and pitch characteristics,
certain qualifiers, the features of some differentiators (laughter, sneezing,
shouting, etc.), and the use of certain alternants, but by the absence of
others; the pseudoeducated, a truly interesting subject of research and
observation in m a n y cultures, for they are astride the educated groups and
the noneducated ones, typically tend to display verbal and nonverbal
behaviors that are standard to higher-status people but obviously extrastan-
dard to them, but still they persevere in their rather affected bond-and-
status-seeking attitude in social interaction.

3.12 T h e basic triple structure in full interaction, reduced interaction,

noninteraction and environmental interaction

Language-paralanguage-kinesics in the total structuration of interaction

Knowing that the three components of the triple structure can be displayed
in ten different ways by the emitter (and perceived auditorily, visually and

auditorily-visually by the receiver), it seems convenient at this point to look

at it as it functions a m o n g and in costructuration with any other personal,
extrapersonal and environmental components of the interaction. It is, in
other words, a way to not limit one's study to the triple structure as if all the
semiotics of a conversation depended only on it, for once the triple reality
of discourse is established it is necessary to seek the deeper levels of
interaction and see h o w language, paralanguage or kinesics fit in that con-
text; which, naturally reveals immediately the tremendous complexity of
interaction. But this section will only mention very succintly some of the
facts about interaction pertaining to the basic triple structure, taken from a
previous study (Poyatos 1985).
Language, paralanguage and kinesics can be related to personal non-
behavioral activities, such as emotional sweat, tear-shedding, and blushing;
to personal sensible nonactivities like the characteristics of shape, consis-
tency, and color of the cointeractant's body and his or her facial features,
which can certainly affect our behaviors; to personal sensible body-related
components of the interaction, such as those which can condition our lan-
guage and kinesics, like food, drink and chewing g u m or eastern betel, or
the paralanguage and kinesics of others, like perfume; even to the coin-
teractant's intelligible (not even sensibly perceived) components, such as
age, sex, status, and his or her very o w n thoughts, whether they are real or
w e just imagine them; and, finally, they can be associated with a number of
external interaction components (precisely w h e n and if they become c o m -
ponents) like the coziness of a room during an intimate encounter, the
sound of rain against the window panes, which m a y enhance that intimacy
and s o m e h o w determine certain intimate features of language, paralan-
guage and kinesics. In other words, w h e n those interrelationships exist,
missing them in a critical analysis of face-to- face interaction would yield a
most mutilated and unrealistic picture of a given encounter. Just as w e
referred to free or bound gestures, w e should acknowledge free and bound
interaction components. A bound component is any behavioral or non-
behavioral activity, and any nonactivity or somatic or extrasomatic static
sign manifestation, which appears to be associated with at least one other
component. N o w , these two or more related components can be from
within the same person's verbal-nonverbal repertoires, from two or more
participants, or from one or more persons and the external environmental
elements, for instance: a typical verbal-paralinguistic-kinesic expression;
the blushing of a w o m a n and the silence of her male cointeractant; one par-

ticipant's verbal-paralinguistic delivery and what he believes his partner is

thinking, etc. Thus w e see that these interrelationships m a y occur at the
level of the basic triple structure, and it is essential that they be mentioned
in this chapter in order to fully appreciate its true significance, within the
strictly somatic systems (still including the triple structure), within the sensi­
ble somatic and extrasomatic systems (still including it), and a m o n g the sen­
sible and intelligible signs (the most elusive one, but still including lan­
guage, paralanguage and kinesics), as in the last example just given.
Further, even more conspicuously than with other systems, paralanguage
and kinesics can be qualified by their temporal location within the
encounter, by their duration (e.g., a slow, intent gesture, a meaningful
paralinguistic drawl). A n d , finally, the basic triple structure, each of its
components, is always, though variably, finely costructured (but such cos-
tructuration must be carefully sought most of the time) with simultaneous,
preceding and succeeding verbal and nonverbal components of the interac­
A s for the encoding and decoding situations and problems that m a y
affect one, two or all three components of the triple structure, they are sus­
ceptible of: involuntary encoding (not necessarily unconscious), such as
nervous fidgeting or audible anxious breathing by itself or while talking;
and faulty encoding, as w h e n w e lack the right words, apply the wrong
paralinguistic features to our words, or use a gesture incongruent with our
words or paralanguage (all typical in interlinguistic, intercultural c o m m u n i ­
cation); zero decoding, as w h e n the fingertip-to-nose tip Japanese gesture
for Τ or ' M e ' is not even noticed, or not understood, by a westerner or
w h e n words, paralanguage or kinesics are not perceived because of some
interference; zero-sign decoding, that is, if w e are aware of the absence of,
for instance, a handshake or a smile w h e n w e would expect them; and false
decoding, perhaps responding to faulty encoding, if the original meaning of
the encoded verbal or nonverbal signs is misinterpreted (i.e., lost) and
replaced by another never intended by the emitter.

Language, paralanguage and kinesics in conversation

It is only by fully appreciating h o w complex face-to-face interaction can be

in m a n y instances that w e can attempt to approach the mechanism of con­
versation itself, that is, the exchange between at least one speaker and at
least one listener (for multiple speakers and listeners can engage in the

same exchange at times), also in a realistic way. Again, the topic would
require a detailed identification of the m a n y rules and counterrules of turn-
change behaviors (i.e., the speaker's turn and the listener's turn), the
simultaneous behaviors, the listener's behaviors addressed to the speaker,
the behaviors a m o n g the listeners as well as a number of acoustic and visual
pauses (i.e., absence of language and/or paralanguage and absence of
kinesics). A s it is not possible to even summarize the functions of language,
paralanguage, kinesics, silences and stills in each of the seventy or so
behaviors I have dealt with in the past, I can refer the reader to a recent
summary that contains a rather complete table of the structure of
mechanism of conversation (Poyatos 1988b) and also to an earlier but less
complete (for most behaviors) more elaborate discussion (Poyatos 1983:
Chapter 7).
There are m a n y applications w e can derive from seeing the triple struc-
ture in the context of the whole mechanism of ordinary conversation. First
of all, by looking at the table referred to, w e could concentrate on paralan-
guage and observe, from a developmental point of view, the gradual
appearance of, for instance, turn-claiming paralinguistic utterances (e.g.,
the typical prespeech apicoalveolar click + audible pharyngeal friction),
turn preopening and opening (e.g., throat clearing, 'Eeer'), feedback (e.g.,
' U h - h u ' , ' M m m ! ' , audible narial egression of amusement, 'Tz-tz' of disap-
proval, various types of subtly different laughter), various types of pauses,
etc. W e can also observe sex differences in the use of certain paralinguistic
(or kinesic) behaviors, as well as differences across socio-economic groups,
or ethnic groups (e.g., the Afro-American blacks' more frequent use of
high pitches up to falsetto voice). In a specific situation like the theatrical
performance (which depends on the actor-spectator proxemic relationship
that goes from the first row to the balcony) w e would see certain conversa-
tional paralinguistic behaviors as utterly impossible (e.g., the prespeech
click), perhaps replaced by their kinesic (visual) counterparts, others as
having to be stepped up perhaps (e.g., certain types of laughter as feedback
sounds), thus being able to systematically study the use of language,
paralanguage and kinesics on the stage and the balance or imbalance that
can result according to the skills of the actors or the lack of them. T o m e n -
tion but one more application, certain types of psychiatric patients, and
even ordinary surgical patients (or the person at h o m e with a bout of flu),
show a marked difference in that intersystem balance between admission
for treatment and discharge, and often a distortion of c o m m o n paralinguis-
tic and kinesic behaviors.

Language, paralanguage and kinesics in reduced interaction

B y reduced interaction w e should understand the situation in which emis-

sion and/or perception of external body behaviors, whether or not face-to-
face, is impeded in one or more channels by a somatic malfunction, exter-
nal physical agents or mutual agreement between interactants. Elsewhere
(Poyatos 1983:85-89) I have summarized some of those situations: a linguis-
tic-cultural barrier, a sound-carrying opaque obstacle, a soundproof trans-
parent obstacle, excessive distance, excessive noise, darkness, social cir-
cumstances, agreed-upon silence, blindness, deafness, anosmia and ageusia
(lack of smell and taste), a telephone conversation, and certain clinical situ-
ations in doctor/nurse-patient interaction).4 T o which one could add some
more that would affect kinesic behaviors seriously (e.g., lack of fingers with
which to illustrate certain thoughts, lack of one or two arms with which to
greet verbally-paralinguistically-kinesically). F r o m the point of view of the
triple structure, however, the four situations that cause the most serious
communicatory consequences are obviously blindness, deafness, muteness
(or deafmuteness), and lack of one or two arms or one or two hands or sets
of fingers. For the sake of economy, the table in Fig. 3.6, 'Language-
Paralanguage-Kinesics in Reduced Interaction', illustrates at a glance the
interactive possibilities and limitations of persons with each of those dis-
Those interactive consequences are, of course, far from being just a
curiosity, as the curtailment of communication in any of the two modalities
(in this case, language-paralanguage and kinesics) can have a profound sig-
nificance, not just in terms of the encoding and decoding problems they
entail, but as regards the relationships between persons and the affective
content of their attitudes. Take, for instance, h o w the blind person m a y
miss the loving facial expression that can be even more eloquent than the
words and paralanguage being uttered, or the effect that the visual appear-
ance of the seeing person could have had on him; or h o w the deaf person
can never feel the emotional impact of the words and their paralinguistic
modifiers, nor the very sound of a voice he would have liked or disliked,
but feel, k n o w , remember, not even the sound of his o w n voice. A s for the
communication problems of the person w h o , for instance, lacks both arms,
while he can perceive and fully appreciate all the emotion contained in the
intensity and duration of a loving or compassionate embrace, he would
never be able to accompany his words and loving tone of voice with the love

As emitter As Receiver
uses cannot use perceives misses
BLIND Lg-Pg-K L-Pg-Audible Visual
DEAF Lg-Pg-K Lg-Pg
MUTE Lg-Pg Lg-Pg-K
ARMLESS 1/2 Lg-Pg-Facial Arm/Hand Lg-Pg-K Contactual
FOREARM Lg-Pg-Facial Forearm/ Lg-Pg-K Contactual
&arm K Hand on fore./hand
HANDLESS l/2Lg-Pg-Arm & Hand Lg-Pg-K Contactual
Forearm Hand
FINGERLESS 1/2 Lg-Pg-Arm Finger Lg-Pg-K Contactual
PARALYSIS reduced or absent reduced or absent
possibility possibility

Figure 3.6 Language-par'alanguage-kinesics in reduced physical interaction

he would put in his arms if he could use complete verbal-paralinguistic-

kinesic expressions of his feelings. Likewise, the lack of both hands (for,
after all, one can still perform m a n y of those usually bimanual gestures)
renders one incapable of transmitting all those emblems and illustrators of
words and externalizers, discussed as nonverbal categories; even the
traumatic loss of fingers would automatically result in the inability to c o m -
municate through m a n y of the hand gestures requiring the fingers for the
encoding of certain 'kinemorphs' and 'kinemorphemes' just as verbal lan-
guage requires morphs and morphemes.


Noninteraction, on the other hand, is a situation in which, despite the lack

of another interactant and of any external eliciting factors, bodily behaviors
(that is, externalizers) are developed which reflect the effect of one's o w n

mental and/or physical activities. Language and paralanguage m a y occur in

dreaming, delirium, imagined interaction, or soliloquium. Still within
acoustic behavior, intestinal sounds and bone sounds (the latter can be pro-
duced intentionally to communicate) happen in noninteraction too. Kinesic
activity can be triggered by one's thoughts and conscious or unconscious
feelings of restlessness, anxiety, fear, exhilaration, sexual arousal,
physiological malfunction, etc. T h e same feelings can produce various types
of secretions, as well as dermal changes, like papillary erection (goose
flesh) and blushing, all of them as 'externalizers' within the nonverbal cate-
gory scheme.
A more discriminating semiotic approach, however, clearly reveals
that those behaviors elicited by an absent fearful agent, or the sexual
arousal reactions triggered by a piece of erotic literature, for instance, dif-
fer quite definitely from the behaviors caused by a physiological malfunc-
tion, that they actually qualify as something between interaction and nonin-
teraction, as a sort of one-way interaction in which the sender cannot
become the recipient of any feedback or response, yet he has had his m e s -
sages encoded and decoded. In fact, some instances of what has been
defined as reduced interaction are characterized precisely by that absence
of true inter-action at times, such as blindness for visual feedback, and deaf-
ness for at least part of the cointeractant's language and virtually all
paralanguage (particularly in congenital deafness).

Environmental interaction

Finally, I call environmental interaction the one-way (not semiotically)

active relationship between us and our environment in terms of the
behaviors elicited in us by the mere presence and physical characteristics of
nature's elements, the exterior and interior spaces w e live in, the objects
around us, and, in general, by the total surrounding, whether man-shaped
or natural. It is a one-way dependence because, although w e do not elicit
any changes or behaviors with our behavior, our o w n behaviors or mental
activities can be affected by those seemingly passive elements. A landscape,
for instance, can induce us to utter paralinguistic exclamations of wonder,
or run in 'the great outdoors'.

3.13 O n the concept of usage

Inherent in this study of the Basic Triple Structure behaviors of a culture —

but necessary for the understanding of crosscultural differences — is the
concept of usage, which should be applied to nonverbal behaviors and not
only to verbal language; not in terms of 'standard', 'colloquial', 'slang' or
'vulgar' (although there are undoubtedly features that are characteristic of
specific socioeconomic strata), but bearing in mind: first, that groups next
to each other overlap as an ever-shifting and self-renovating part of their
m e m b e r s are socioeconomically and culturally stride the two; and secondly,
that there is in the more developed cultures today a constant borrowing of
verbal and nonverbal habits, mainly by the higher-up groups from the lower
ones. Therefore, rather than resorting to a vertical classification of linguis-
tic, paralinguistic and kinesic usage, I would briefly suggest the horizontal
one I have always proposed earlier in which the following categories or
'forms' are differentiated:
A . Standard, that is, the verbal repertoires, paralinguistic expressive
constructs and accompanying phenomena, kinesic activity and, in fact, any
social sensibly apprehensible attitudes c o m m o n to the refined and the rustic
or least educated, the educated and the pseudoeducated, as the national or
'cultural' standard used by everybody.
B . A t the same time, each socioeconomic group and each occupational
group possesses a portion of its standard communicative repertoire not
shared by the others, but of which those others are perfectly aware, and for
w h o m that portion is felt and judged as extrastandard. Each person, from
his o w n level or group, can easily identify that extrastandard and, according
to his capacity, adopt it under special circumstances as a functional variety
for the sake of adaptability to a particular group and/or situation. O n e
interesting fact about this capacity for adaptation to another group is that it
seems to decrease in direct proportion to the socioeconomic and educa-
tional status of the individual, while the tendency to criticize extrastandard
behaviors increases in direct proportion to it. Clearly enough, the average
uneducated person does not have the capacity to use the same words,
paralinguistic features and gestures, manners and postures used by the edu-
cated one. This is so because uneducated people lack the proper sensitive-
ness for judging the different ways in which other people speak and m o v e
(something acquired only through daily contact with the educated groups)
and a conscious and unconscious appreciation of the values related to the

dominant norms and tastes in other groups. But a person with a m u c h

larger cultural capacity, often in close contact with people in other strata, is
prepared to appreciate and judge those differences and, if necessary, to
adopt them if he so wishes. The rustic will typically not find as m a n y faults
with the behavior of the educated people as the latter will find with them,
even if they m o c k the 'fine manners' of the higher-up for fun, not for the
sake of criticism.
C . But below the standard and the extrastandard, and regardless of
social class, there is definitely an infrastandard, unacceptable for most
people under normal circumstances, as it happens with repeated blas-
phemy, habitual yelling, certain obscene gestures, physical contact in ways
that should be avoided, excessive unpunctuality, etc.
D . Naturally, an overdisplay of lexical and paralinguistic sophistication
and over-correct pronunciation, of gestural expressions, excessively refined
manners and affected postures, or a situationally improper excessive polite-
ness are also felt as outside the standard forms, whether w e traditionally
consider them good or bad, and they represent a typical ultracorrectness (or
hyperurbanism) that deserves special research.
E . W h a t I should subsume as technical or group usage, for lack of a
more adequate term, is an independent category which on occasion can be
shared by individuals of different socioeconomic levels, such as religious
and sport ritualistic behaviors, the verbal and nonverbal codes of certain
professions, certain sex-differentiated repertoires, etc.

3.14 The joint transcription of language-paralanguage-kinesics in their

total interactional context

W h e n I began to conceive of transcribing language, paralanguage and

kinesics on three parallel levels5 I had not gone too far beyond the triple
structure; w h e n , however, I progressed in m y study through the deeper
levels of face-to-face interaction a transcription containing only verbal lan-
guage, paralanguage and movement proved to be insufficient because other
things were happening during the encounter which seemed to have a defi-
nite bearing on the very choice of words used, the way in which they were
uttered and the gestures or postures that accompanied them. It was this fine
costructuration among all the possible components of the interaction that
revealed its deeper levels and, therefore, obliged one to register in a trans-

cription any of them which would be related to either language, paralan-

guage or kinesics. This resulted in a holistic type of transcription which can-
not just be shunned as 'too complicated', for settling for anything less than
that would prevent us from understanding, in the first place, the very
nature of discourse. Its characteristics are shown in Fig. 3.7, T h e Total
Transcription Speech and Interaction'.
1. Orthographic transcript that can be read quickly by turning the pages
of the transcription.
2. Paralinguistic transcription, comprising the four types of speech
phenomena discussed in the next three chapters: (a) primary qualities, or
overriding person-identifying features with three degrees above and below
a base line: timbre, volume, resonance, pitch level, intonation range, syl-
labic length, etc., plus any of the qualifiers listed as the next paralinguistic
category which might also be part of the person's permanent voice set (e.g.,
poor articulatory control or permanent creaky voice due to age); (b) qual-
ifiers, as nonpermanent features: breathing control, laryngeal control, vel-
opharyngeal control, labial control, mandibular control, etc.; and, within
the same band of the transcription, (c) differentiators, w h e n they are
superimposed to words (otherwise included within segmental alternants
below): laughter, crying, sighing, extremes of whispering and loud voice,
etc.; and (d) independent segmental alternants, such as clicks, hesitation
vowels, narial sounds, etc., including pauses.
For the paralinguistic part of the transcription the researcher m a y
resort to what symbols m a y seem best a m o n g the International Phonetic
Alphabet, those used by Trager (1958), Pittinger et al (1960), Crystal and
Quirk (1964), Austin (1965), M c Q u o w n et. al. (1971), or the ones
suggested in this book (some from Poyatos 1975).
3. Phonetic transcription, including basic intonational features, using
the I P A (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols and any others for
specific languages not acknowledged in it.
4. Kinegraphic and parakinegraphic transcription, completing the Basic
Triple Structure, using either Birdwhistell's (1970) kinegraphs or the
abbreviated system suggested by K e n d o n (1969), consisting of: eyes, brows
and forehead, mouth, head, hands and arms, shoulders and trunk, and
direction of gaze. Based on these two systems, one could simplify the
recording of body movements and positions by differentiating three princi-
pal areas: face (eyes and gaze direction, brows, forehead, nose, cheeks,
mouth, mandible); head, trunk, legs, feet; and shoulders, arms, forearms,

1 Orthographic Transcript
A. Speaker/Listener
B. Listener/Speaker
Primary Qualities


2 Differentiators


3 Phonetic Transcription

Face: eyes, brows, A

Parakinesic Qualities

Forehead, Nose, Cheeks,

A. Speaker/Listener
B. Listener/Speaker

Mouth, Mandible
Head, Trunk A
Legs, Feet
Shoulders, A r m s , A
Forearms, Wrists,
Hands, Fingers
5 Audible Movements

6 Chemical and Dermal Reactions

7 Proxemic Notation

δ Other Speakers/Listeners

Contextual/Interfering A
10 Chronemic Notation

11 Contextual Description

Figure 3.7 The total transcription of speech and interaction


wrists, whole hand, fingers. Parakinesia nonsegmental features, that is,

intensity, range, and velocity of movements, are recorded for specific
activities but they can also appear as the permanent person-identifying fea-
tures of an individual's body set, indicated, like voice set, at the beginning
of the kinesic transcription (e.g., T K for tense kinesics, R K for rapid
5. Audible movements. This level must include conspicuously together
any of those quasiparalinguistic sounds generated by self-adaptors, alter-
adaptors, body-adaptors, object-adaptors and artifactually-mediated
sounds. Other movements in those categories are shown on level 4.
6. Chemical and dermal reactions. Activities such as tear-shedding,
blushing and goose flesh are indicated at this level.
7. Proxemic notation, for spatial features and shifts that are intimately
built in the interaction and associated with language, paralanguage and
kinesics, following Hall's (1974) technique, or one's own according to the
aims of the study, to show the roles played in the interaction by interper-
sonal intimate or personal distance.
8. Other speakers and listeners can be acknowledged on this level for
whatever interactive components they may contribute (e.g., feedback,
interruptions, distractions, affecting personal appearance).
9. Contextual or interfering activities and nonactivities. A s discussed
earlier, the basic activities of speech can be significantly related to certain
extrapersonal, contextual elements. These sensible objectual and environ-
mental components (when they become such components, not by their
mere presence) are: contextual or interfering activities that are conditioned
by behavior (e.g., door-knocking/doorbell, door-slamming, phone,
footsteps, a radio, cooking smells), that are produced mechanically (e.g., a
ticking clock, machinery), or by the environment (e.g., the sound of rain,
the howling wind, a storm), and contextual or interfering nonactivities pre-
sent in the objectual environment (e.g., rugs, furniture, books) or the built
and natural environments (e.g., architectural spaces, textures, lighting,
music, smells).
10. Chronemic notation,6 added to each of the other sections of the tri-
ple and proxemic notations, indicates the significant temporal features of
the activities registered in all the other sections after primary qualities, that
is: the duration of qualifiers (e.g., labial control, whispering), differen-
tiators (e.g., laughter) and alternants (e.g., independent laughter, moans,
pauses); then the length of certain gestures, manners and postures (man-

ners constituting the 'formative' and 'releasing' phases of postures) and of

the various parts of the speaker's turn, of the turn itself and of the whole
speaker-listener exchange.
11. The contextual description implies that, regardless of the aims of
the research, the transcription cannot be limited to a symbolization of phys-
ical events in a rather 'desocialized' or 'deculturized' w a y , and so w e must
also indicate a m o n g other conditioning factors, the cultural environment as
well as the cultural background of the participants, the nature of the
encounter, the personal characteristics of the participants, both physically
(appearance, dress and grooming, etc.) and (at least impressionistically, if
not backed by formal data) psychologically, their socioeconomic and
socioeducational status and, of course, the type of relationship that deter-
mines the encounter.
It will be noted that both the speaker's and the listener's behaviors are
recorded simultaneously, since the interaction is at all m o m e n t s a two-way
affair, hence the two lines, A and B , on each level (e.g., the listener's feed-
back and the speaker's simultaneous behaviors, for instance, need to be
recorded close to each other). This w a y w e can see the behaviors of one in
relation to the behaviors of the other and find certain synchronizations that
would be missed otherwise.

3.15 Conclusion

In this third chapter the true reality of discourse in interaction has been
established, I hope, beyond any doubt. It has been done, however, only
after acknowledging all the communicative possibilities of sound and m o v e -
ment (and of movements that generate sound, beyond paralanguage) and
the mutual inherence of both in the production of language and paralan-
guage (e.g., facial speech gestures) and kinesics. Besides that basic triple
nature of speech, it has been established also that w h e n two or more people
speak to each other the characteristics of those two or more basic triple
structures are, in greater or lesser degree, influenced, perhaps even deter-
mined, by any of the components of that particular encounter, whether per-
sonal or extrapersonal; and further, that the mechanism of ordinary conver-
sation in full, unhindered interaction reveals itself m u c h more complex
under certain circumstances than it m a y appear to a rather naive
researcher, for one is confronted with a veritable mesh of potentially effec-

tive components. Finally, it has been suggested — apart from the many
applications that become so obvious as one progresses through this realistic
approach to interaction (e.g., in developmental studies, intercultural c o m -
munication, foreign-language teaching) — that the lack of one or m o r e of
the three cosystems in situations of reduced interaction can greatly affect,
not only the perceptual capability of the partially-equipped person but his
expressive capability as well, in ways that truly mutilate the exteriorization
of feelings and attitudes directed to others. This and any situations in
unhindered interaction can be realistically accounted for (as m u c h as a
graphic record would allow) in a holistic transcription of all verbal and non-
verbal activities and nonactivities, whose degree of refinement will obvi-
ously depend our objective.
Perhaps the autobiographical words of Saint Augustine about h o w he
began to communicate would appropriately close this chapter:
I myself, with that mind which you, m y G o d , gave m e , wished by means of
various cries and sounds and movements of m y limbs express m y heart's
feelings, so that m y will would be obeyed [...] w h e n they named a certain
thing, and, at that n a m e , m a d e a gesture towards the object, I observed
that object and inferred that it was called by the n a m e they uttered [...]
That they meant this was apparent by their bodily gestures, as it were by
words natural to all m e n , which are m a d e by change of countenance, nods,
movements of the eyes and other bodily m e m b e r s , and sounds of the
voice, which indicate the affections of the mind in seeking, possessing,
rejecting, or avoiding things [...] to those among w h o m I was I c o m m u n i -
cated the signs of what I wished to express. I entered more deeply into the
stormy society of h u m a n life [...] (Saint Augustine, Confessions, B o o k 1,
8, pp. 50-51). 7


1. Lecturing recently for the Tourism and Hotel Program of Bogazici University (Is-
tanbul) I pointed out, after looking at this example, that, depending on paralin-
guistic features added to it (and, if visually perceived, also kinesic), 'well' could
m e a n , without pretending to be exhaustive: 'It's over now' (with sadness), hesita-
tion, 'Actually — ,' ' N o , never mind,' 'In that case, yes!,' 'If there's no other
choice, what can I do?,' 'I'm shocked,' reaction to the unexpected, 'Better not
talk about it,' 'Okay, let's go!' (snappy), 'What do you have to say for yourself?',
'Answer m e ! , ' ' W h o cares!,' ' W h o could have thought that?' 'Look at him', as a
speaker's turn-opening in conversation, etc.

O n e of the m a n y applications of the carrying function of silence is, for instance, in

story-telling and story-reading to children (or for that matter, reading or narrating
orally). It is a very important for the imagined development of the story in the
child's mind to allow him sensitively timed silences after significant events so that
he m a y recreate them and give them shape even beyond the narrator's descrip-
tion. It is important to emphasize that the carrying effect of silence is intensified
w h e n simultaneously accompanied by stillness, and that of stillness w h e n accom-
panied by silence. This is a situation, on the other hand, that occurs quite often,
since they are two basic physical activities which w e tend to cease at the same time
— thus causing a double non activity — for the same reason gesticulation usually
accompanies speech, one m o r e proof of the internal cohesion of the Basic Triple

Although this is not the occasion to analyze Hockett's scheme it is useful to

r e m e m b e r that, as Thorpe puts it (1972:34), "each feature seems to be set forth in
an all-or-none manner whereas, in fact, they are surely matters of degree" (e.g.,
the learnability of certain rather unconscious behaviors), and that those sixteen
features "tie into communicative behaviour in different ways. They have to do
with the channel, with the repertoire of messages, with the mechanisms by means
of which the system is passed from generation to generation and group to group,
and so on." In fact, Thorpe also points out that Hockett suggests further things to
be looked for in the behavior of each species.

I have suggested before that, apart from the interesting semiotic aspect of the
encoding and decoding by both the well person and the traumatized one in such
situations, there is a deep dimension in that relationship in which the person is
unable to cerebrate and yet "it is possible for the medical team to implant nega-
tives into the subconscious mind and conceivably into the spiritual being of the
patient at the time of anesthesia or unconsciousness [...] affected by those things
which occur while he is not conscious" (Reed 1979:99), 'things' which include, of
course, not just the inappropriate topics and at times foul language, but certainly
the meaningful paralanguage in the ongoing interaction.

I first discussed and practiced the transcription of the Basic Triple Structure in
1976 with a joint team from the Universities of Birmingham and Nancy working
on the interrelationships between the linguistic, paralinguistic and kinesic c o m p o -
nents of speech (under the auspices of the Centre National de la Recherche Scien-
tifique), which included the elaboration of a triple-structure transcription as I had
already discussed it at meetings. I was inspired in the late sixties by the classic in
the field, The First Five Minutes, the pioneering work of the psychiatrists Pittinger
and D a n e h y and the linguistic-anthropologist Hockett (1960) on a five-minute seg-
ment of a psychiatric interview, where, mainly by means of arbitrary graphic sym-
bols, they represented the linguistic and paralinguistic behaviors of the patient,
adding to it a minute analysis of what goes on during the interview. T o that I woul
add the third element of the triple structure, kinesics, for a realistic depiction of
the speech-and-movement occurrence.

I coined the much-needed term 'chronemics'(Poyatos 1972), as analogous to pro-

xemics, as the study of the conceptualization, structuration and handling of time,
including from speech drawling and clipping to the duration of any other interac-
tive behavior, or even the whole encounter (Poyatos 1976a: 152-154, 1983:

Permission by Doubleday and C o m p a n y , Inc., N e w York.

Chapter 4
Primary Qualities:
The Speaker-Identifying Paralinguistic Features

Her voice had a beautiful low timbre, soft and

modulated, and yet with ringing overtones
(Steinbeck GW, XIII, 118)

4.1 T h e conditioning factors and classification of primary qualities

T h e first set of paralinguistic features to be considered is the one which

includes the voice characteristics that are always present in speech and indi-
viduate speakers, allowing us to identify a person w h o m a y not even be
seen or understood. W e might say that they are truly linguistic — since
spoken language is not possible without them (e.g., w e can speak without
using creaky voice or nasalization, but not without pitch or loudness) —
and that they become paralinguistic w h e n they deviate above or below a
m e d i u m line.
I have classified within primary qualities: timbre, resonance, loudness,
tempo, pitch (including pitch level, range, registers and intervals), intona-
tion range, syllabic duration, and rhythm, generally the order in which they
are perceived, except w h e n one element or another stands out very con-
spicuously. Timbre, resonance, loudness and tempo are invariably per-
ceived independently of words and their meaning, through obstacles and
noise, and betray not only a specific person's voice, but h u m a n voice itself,
as differentiated from mechanical, natural or animal sounds. Pitch
phenomena, intonation, range, syllabic duration and rhythm are also deci-
sive as impressionistic identifying elements of h u m a n voice. But, interest-
ingly, there are n o n h u m a n sounds, such as musical instruments, 'rhythmi-
cally repetitive sounds' of natural or mechanical elements (e.g., flowing

water, the wind, door-squeaks and other frictions, clock mechanisms,

crumbling materials, and some of the quasiparalinguistic sounds discussed
in Chapter 1) which can evoke the characteristics of pitch, intonation fea-
tures and speech rhythm, acquiring h u m a n qualities in certain situations.
There are four main determining factors for the characteristics of a
person's primary qualities or 'voice set', as they have been called also:
biological, that is, purely somatic, such as sex and age (e.g., for timbre),
physiological, w h e n certain malfunctions or traumatized states are long-
term problems (e.g., pitch disorders due to abnormal vocal-fold growth or
hormonal therapy), psychological, mostly due to personality or long-term
causes (e.g., the loudness of extroversion or the manic phase of the manic-
depressive), sociocultural, that is learned from generation to generation or
according to period tendencies (e.g., the drawling of United States souther-
ners) and occupational (e.g., the use of higher pitch by m a n y nurses w h e n
talking to patients, but not to other nurses). In other words, some can also
be based on nonpermanent factors which produce in a person a sort of con-
veniently adopted secondary or temporary voice set, just as some qualifiers,
discussed next, can become basic characteristics, either as a permanent pro-
file or recurrently in certain situations, such as the pitch level consistently
used by a given speaker in a specific type of situation or to convey a specific
meaning. Thus, there seem to be two ways of classifying primary qualities:
by their sharing of c o m m o n elements or by the order in which they are usu-
ally perceived, as done here, although that order is not clearly defined. A s
indicated in Fig. 0.1, primary production and perception (i.e. tempo, into-
nation range and rhythm), always modify in some degree the other paralin-
guistic categories, particularly differentiators and alternants and, of course,
constitute nonsegmental speech components, as they can be superimposed
on the segmental (words, paralinguistic alternants, and kinesic acts).
Each primary quality is discussed in terms of: (a) anatomical factors
(e.g., size of vocal bands), but mostly (b) its muscular physiology (e.g.,
velic closure), (c) grammatical or phonological functions (e.g., higher vol-
u m e with stressed syllables), (d) paralinguistic functions (e.g., slow tempo
for warning), (e) possible cultural differences (e.g., higher informal conver-
sational loudness in Latins), (f) social perception (e.g., a male's high pitch
as effeminate), (g) abnormal occurrences as speech disorders (e.g., 'morn-
ing voice'), (h) scalar degrees of each parameter, and (i) transcription or
notation for recording each feature.

4.2 Timbre

Timbre is the organically-determined permanent voice register or pitch that

(as in musical instruments) sets an individual apart from the others, even as
when w e hear someone speaking in the next room and w e can say, That's
him/her' by that characteristic pitch, although w e cannot understand the
verbal content of the speech. It is determined by the length and thickness of
our vocal bands: the longer and thicker they are, the slower their vibrations
and, therefore, the lower voice timbre is, as happens in general with males;
the shorter and thinner they are, the greater their vibrations or frequency
and, therefore, the higher the timbre is, as with females and children.
Although the mass of the vocal bands correlates with overall body
mass during the years of growth, adult male voice is always lower because
of his larger A d a m ' s apple (i.e. the thyroid cartilage, to which the vocal
folds are attached), decreasing at puberty and in general increasing again
slightly with advanced age. There are also some geographic differences, for
instance, in males: the lower timbre of Americans as compared to
Spaniards, w h o in turn tend to have a lower timbre than Latin-Americans,
as do Spanish Castilian males as compared to Andalusians (in southern
Spain); it is reported as very high in the Fulani tribe of northern Nigeria
and lower in the southern tribes. W e believe the m a n with a deep voice
over the telephone to be large and strong because "there seems to be gen­
eral correlation between a person's size and physique and the size of the
larynx and vocal tract" (Laver 1972: 196); but it often proves to be an
ambiguous cue as to size, and even sex and age.
Social perception of timbre, however, can assign negative connotations
to a permanent register that contradicts our expectations, and although it
can certainly be due to abnormal social development, in other cases it has
no abnormal correlates, yet it can become a true stigma nevertheless. H o w ­
ever, w h e n accompanied by positive qualities, such as soft loudness and a
balanced variation in pitches, a low timbre can be perceived as definitely
A s Ά pitch disorder, a 'juvenile voice', as is called the chronically high
pitch in late adolescent and adult males, is the worst psychosocially as it
suggests lack of masculinity, due to organic causes like insufficient growth
of the vocal folds or their abnormal approximation. O n the other hand,
abnormally masculine low pitch in females can be caused by organic factors
but also by male hormone therapy (see on both, M o o r e 1971: 539-540).

Four conspicuous scalar perceptual degrees of timbre are normally per-

ceived: very low — low — medium-high — very high.

4.3 Resonance

Resonance — not the controlled feature discussed in Chapter 2 with regard

to the raised or lowered velum or the changes in the pharynx — is the sec-
ond organically determined permanent basic quality of the voice that w e
usually perceive in a person. A s a long-term individuating voice feature, it
can be pharyngeal, oral or nasal, as it depends on where the vibrations from
the vocal bands find their greatest resonator according to the size and shape
of the pharyngeal cavity, oral cavity or nasal cavity. W e speak, in general,
with either oral or nasal dominant resonance, but " m a n y people when
speaking extend and enlarge the pharyngeal cavity, which acts as a resonance
chamber for the voice and gives it a 'throaty' quality" (Vetter
Social perception of resonance covers actually a wide range of assumed
characteristics for which it can be also a very ambiguous cue. Very oral
resonance produces what w e call resounding or orotund voice (from Lat.
'round mouth'), called by m a n y resonant, strong and rich, which, if the
speaker is not seen, can be associated to rather large body size; but above
all orotundity suggests positive personal characteristics in m e n , like mascu-
linity, energy, good health, resourcefulness, etc., and some similar ones in
w o m e n (cf. Addington 1968), the opposite being referred to as thin voice:
' " W h e r e have you come from?'/ 'From the country,' replied Possum, in a
very low, yet fully resonant voice" (Lawrence W L , V I , 69, 75). Pharyngeal
resonance, if interpreted as 'throatiness', suggests also positive traits in m e n
(e.g., maturity, mature age), but some negative ones in w o m e n (e.g., m a n -
nish, more unemotional). O n the other hand, permanent nasal resonance
does not seem to suggest any positive physical or personality features, but
rather the negative attitudes of controlled nasality.
The two organic voice disorders associated with resonance have been
seen in the previous chapter w h e n discussing nasality and its physiological
opposite, denasality.
W e can refer to three resonance scales: thin — oral — very oral
(orotund, resonant), oral — pharyngeal — very pharyngeal (throaty), and
oral — nasal — very nasal (not to be confused with the nasal twang iden-
tified earlier).

4.4 Loudness

Loudness of voice volume, due to respiratory and articulatory muscular

effort, is, along with pitch, one of the most obvious ways of lending words
(or paralinguistic word-like alternants) special meaningful effects. Over
stretches of speech (syllables, words, whole sentences, or more) w e vary
the degree of softness or loudness, and pass from one to the other in a sud-
den (crescendo) or gradual (diminuendo) glide. But the variety of aspects
of loudness, of which only some are found scattered in the literature of dif-
ferent fields (e.g., phonetics, oratory, speech pathology) has not yet been
studied in its totality in a single publication. Although only the most rele-
vant paralinguistic functions of loudness are discussed here, Fig. 4.1, ' A s -
pects and Functions of Loudness', suggests those and other aspects just to
show the potential complexity of any given paralinguistic feature w h e n w e
try to investigate it in depth, and h o w the researcher would do well to
approach other communicative phenomena within a similar parameter.

Figure 4.1 Aspects and functions of loudness


Each person, besides a biophysiologically conditioned level of loudness

has an habitual personal conversational level (e.g., 'loud', 'soft', or 'quiet',
or inconspicuous), very m u c h related to personality and, according to it, to
status (e.g., some superiors m a y consciously speak in a low voice volume to
force their subordinates to pay close attention to them), occupation (some
evangelists in certain churches erroneously feel they must keep a continu-
ous high level of loudness to teach the Gospel with power), situational con-
text (e.g., out of social inhibition, some students m a y speak very softly in
class, but not outside it), etc.; beyond which there can be a pathological
level due to physical or mental illness, or the excessive loudness typical of
the deaf and elderly 'hard-of-hearing'). Besides the habitual conversational
level of a person, however, there is also a cultural standard level which, for
instance, is higher in public places in Hispanic countries, France, Italy and
Arab cultures than in England or North America. In Kenya and G h a n a ,
shouting in the street and talking too loudly indoors is considered unaccept-
able, although Ghanaians refer critically to the loudness of Nigerians; but
'loudness' is for m a n y the first noticeable cultural characteristic in, for
instance, Spain or Italy. A young Canadian w o m a n visiting with us in Spain
w h o did not k n o w the language asked timidly, 'Anything wrong?', because
w e were 'just talking' in an animated tone. K e y (1975:49) mentions h o w
children in an American Indian school told her that the (white) teachers
talked too loudly, which in some cases would be interpreted as anger or
meanness. Hall (1966:142), w h o has discussed loudness in relation to space
in different cultures, has commented on the higher and lower level of
British and Americans, respectively. Perhaps Austin (1965:38) was right
w h e n , after commenting on the American middle-class view that lower-
class black speech is 'loud', said that "the myth of loudness should be exor-
cised at once. A n y minority or 'out-group' is characterized as 'loud' —
Americans in Europe, Englishmen in America, and so on". A t any rate,
within those cultural levels, social situational norms are what truly prescribe
a standard level of loudness appropriate for each place and occasion, either
above or below the standard conversational level: it is usually below w h e n
w e are not supposed to invade someone else's privacy by talking louder, as
w e enter a large office where people work quietly at their desks, in an ex-
clusive lounge (with whose low light level w e seem to keep congruent), or in
a hospital's quieter areas; it is usually above at a rather noisy party (and will
keep increasing in direct proportion to that interference) until there is a
sudden lull and w e adjust our voice volume immediately, in public speaking

(for which the literature recommends louder volume for emphasis, author-
ity, etc., low for somber words, and warns against the monotony of continu-
ous high level), w h e n trying to speak with authority and dominate the situ-
ation, or w h e n performing on the stage and one must reach every location
in the house (as taught in training, 'projecting' but not 'shouting',).
Another aspect of loudness is its grammatical functions (hardly dif-
ferentiated from its attitudinal ones), namely: (a) it is higher with stressed
syllables (e.g., 'He's an excellent student, I'm telling you'), therefore also
with higher pitch (e.g., 'I1 know 3 !'), so it is an inherent part of intonation
patterns (see a clear basic discussion of grammatical and attitudinal intona-
tional features in O ' C o n n o r 1973:264-267) and usually of direct quotations
in speech (e.g., 'Well 2 , he 3 just said, "he 3 ne4ver knew about it", but1 of
course I2 don't believe it', where w e can roughly see the attitudinal varia-
tions, even on the most stressed syllable ne); (b) it drops with interpola-
tions, which are usually uttered in a quicker tempo (e.g., 'Tomorrow, if it
doesn't rain, we'll go'), and coincides with pitch differences at final
junctures (e.g., 'He's coming tomorrow', as a statement of fact; 'He's c o m -
ing tomorrow?', as one of the forms of questions; and ' W h y ' s he coming
tomorrow?', meaning ' W h y tomorrow?').
Attitudinally, however, softness and loudness of voice (apart from
whispering, discussed later on) need hardly any illustration, and it links
with the situational aspects just mentioned. It refers both to interactive sit-
uations (conversation and its topic, relationship with the other conversants,
m o o d , in oratory, in an occupational type of encounter and according to
status relationship, etc.) and to noninteractive situations (e.g., talking to
oneself in a volume improper w h e n in the presence of others). According to
Davitz's (1964) test of emotional sensitivity, softness + slow rate (tempo)
are used to express affection and sadness, loud voice 4- fast rate for anger
and joy, moderate-to-low + moderately slow for boredom, moderately
high 4- moderately fast for cheerfulness, normal + moderately fast for
impatience, and normal loudness and normal tempo for satisfaction; but, of
course, one must allow for affect-blends and for variables such as socioedu-
cational level, personality, or sensitivity toward others. Scherer (1979c)
links loud voice 4- fast tempo to happiness/joy and to confidence and anger,
low-slow to boredom and grief/sadness, and loud 4- slow to contempt; and,
like some others, he (Scherer 1978) correlates it with extraversion.
It is important to recognize the intimate relationship between loudness
and the other nonverbal behaviors (e.g., rasp, loud and high-pitched voice

of annoyance), particularly its correlation with kinesic behavior. It can be

said that cultures with predominantly loud speakers are also predominantly
'loud' in gestures, and w e perceive both together as important identifying
'culturemes' (Poyatos 1983: Chapter 2) w h e n first exposed to those cul-
tures. B y kinesically loud is meant, of course, that gestures are more fre-
quent and more conspicuously qualified by their intensity and range of
A s for disorders of vocal loudness, they consist mainly of functional
problems (except overloud voice due to hearing loss, mentioned above),
and the most c o m m o n is weak voice (typically accompanied by breathi-
ness), not loud enough under most circumstances because a respiratory-
muscle defect impedes enough vocal fold activation, a real problem in
social interaction, since one just cannot hear the speaker except at intimate
distance. It can be due to either psychological or anatomical-physiological
causes. In general, "Speech which is inappropriately soft or loud [according
to circumstances and setting] results in a variety of communication prob-
lems which often are a source of irritation to both speakers and listeners"
(Brackett 1971:444).
A scale of loudness (excluding shouting without speech, discussed later
as a specific paralinguistic differentiator) can be: very low (pianissimo) —
low (piano) — m e d i u m — high (forte) — very high (fortissimo), at both
sides of the m e d i u m line, either rising (crescendo) or falling (diminuendo).

4.5 Tempo

Although tempo or rate includes also the duration of syllables, here it is

understood as the relative speed or slowness in the sequential delivery of
words, sentences and the whole of a person's speech, including, of course,
paralinguistic alternants and pauses and silent breaks. It can be recognized
immediately as part of a person's basic style and voice set. A s with loud-
ness, it can be sudden (accelerando) or gradual (rallentando).
Also like loudness, tempo can perform certain grammatical functions.
T h e parenthetical c o m m e n t mentioned above is said generally with acceler-
ated speed (to then continue as before); w e also use faster rate for correct-
ing a morphological or syntactical mistake w e have just m a d e (typically,
even in experienced speakers, with a quickened headshake and blinking).

W h e n adult speakers have developed a full repertoire of paralinguistic

effects (except for some possible limitations due to the limited development
that affects language, paralanguage and kinesics, as discussed in the previ-
ous chapter), they master a whole array of often subtly differentiated
attitudinal functions. Apart from the ones coinciding with loudness, m e n -
tioned above, slow tempo — in a voluntary or involuntary way — can sig-
nify, for instance: if slow, the emphasis w e put on certain words or sen-
tences to m a k e them stand out, hesitation, uncertainty, warning about
something that might happen in the future, threatening (typically with
almost unblinking fixed gaze and slow movements, if any), self assurance,
dominance, higher status (the latter three typically with overclear articula-
tion), etc.; if fast (fast-paced), willingness, a care-free attitude, gaiety, m a s -
tering of the situation, warning about something about to happen (e.g.,
'Watch out, you gonna fall!'), anger, annoyance, impatience, haste,
urgency, dismissal of something said as unimportant, unpleasant, etc. ('No,
he didn't want to help us, c o m e on, let's do it'), etc. But, of course,
attitudes in either group could be conveyed with a different tempo (e.g.,
anger can be expressed with very slow, low and tense speech, self-assurance
with quickened tempo and movements) and, again, more than one feeling
or even attitude can appear in a blend. Other functions m a y be purely
interactive, as w h e n w e suddenly speak faster and louder in order to be
heard in a group, w h e n w e wish to squeeze in a few words rapidly without
interrupting the speaker with a longer unacceptable intervention (maybe
only as our feedback c o m m e n t ) , w h e n w e want to be heard in a multiple-
turn situation (with more than one speaker), w h e n one knows he is going to
be interrupted, or w h e n taking the speaker's turn abruptly. O n the other
hand, tempo can indicate abnormal states, from a strong neuralgia or the
depressive phase of manic depressive psychosis, betrayed by very slow
tempo, to the manic phase, characterized by extreme elation and hyperex-
citability with louder and faster speech. A s for cultural or subcultural differ-
ences, one could think of the generally slower tempo of United States
southerners, the faster tempo of (also kinesically more animated) souther-
ners of Spain, etc. But a slow tempo can also be regarded as a positive qual-
ity in the speaker: "Walk slowly; speak calmly; yet not as if you were listen-
ing to yourself; for any affectation is bad" (Cervantes D Q , 2, XIII, 843,
translation mine). 1
T e m p o shows a five-degree scale: very slow (lentissimo) — slow
(lento) — m e d i u m — fast (allegro) — very fast (allegrissimo), both sides of

the medium line either increasing (accelerando) or decreasing (rallen-


4.6 Pitch

The most versatile message-conveying feature of voice, the one which

accompanies all verbal and nonverbal communicative sounds with the sub-
tlest possible symbolic variations, is pitch, the acuteness (highness) or grav-
ity (lowness) of tone caused by the faster or slower frequency of vocal band
vibrations. Apart from its contribution to intonation contours — together
with stresses and junctures (inter-word transitions and end-of-sentence
boundaries) — pitch phenomena in languages like English, Spanish or Ger-
m a n can give the same word (e.g., 'Well') different meanings (surprise,
contempt, anger, disappointment, etc.), but that word remains the same
because its shape is not affected by pitch; however, in tone languages like
Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese, pitch does change the word completely to a
word that denotes something else (cf. O ' C o n n o r 1973:18, 190-194, 165-
266). But both in intonation languages and in tone languages pitch is
attached also to all segmental and nonsegmental paralinguistic features
other than primary qualities (e.g., creaky voice with low or high pitch, high-
or low-pitched laughter, high- or low-pitched moaning, throat-clearing, his-
sing, ' U h - h u ! ' ) , and correlates with facial and other bodily expressions
(e.g., a high-pitched, raised-brows and raised-arms ' O h ! ' of happy surprise
vs. a low-pitched and sort of droopy face-and-body ' O h ! ' of disappoint-
ment). T o avoid further repetitions, these associations of high and low pitch
with kinesics should be considered valid also for the other aspects of pitch
discussed below. T o better understand the interactive functions of pitch, it
should be studied in its four different aspects as outlined in the following

Pitch level

Pitch range (termed 'pitch range' by Laver [1972], 'raised' and 'lowered' by
Pittinger and Smith [1957]), or dominant tone in which a portion of speech
of whatever length is conducted — as differentiated from the permanently
superimposed timbre that individuates each of us — is the most significant

aspect of pitch, as it covers in meaningfully different ways different portions

of our speech in social interaction beyond the semantic limitations of
words. First of all, there is a personal style of pitch levels, or habitual pitch,
in such a way that w e can anticipate that a given speaker will use a higher
or lower level, not only w h e n w e k n o w the person already but even after
being exposed to him or her for a very brief time, because of the other non­
verbal behaviors that, in our experience, would seem to correlate with high
or low pitch level (e.g., very animated facial and bodily kinesics, or a very
static general and quietly-speaking general style).
Culturally and subculturally there are also differences in pitch level.
The majority of male and female North-American speakers of English show
very typical pitch contours in which, for a whole sentence or for its key
word or words, pitch rises considerably, often reaching falsetto. It can be,
for instance, a simple expression of utter disbelief or surprise like 'What?!',
but it can also cover one or more key parts of a sentence, as in 'Well, I will
do it if he does it too!', rising to almost falsetto for Τ and 'he'; and it can
qualify the whole sentence, as in 'What do you want to go there for?!', said
with irritation, or meaning something like 'Are you crazy, going there?'.
Afro-American blacks tend to speak with a higher level; the typical females
of Madrid, w h o show other local speech characteristics, exhibit a typical
low pitch, even with creaky voice, in emphatically affirmative statements.
But w e also find specific attitudinal functions within groups (e.g., for sur­
prise, emphatic questioning or affirmation a m o n g those same black Ameri­
cans, the high-pitched feminine or effeminate Spanish exclamation
Inherent in that cultural aspect of pitch level is its social perception,
about which Austin (1965:37) referred to the American "approved 'upper
class' way [...] clear, low and oral, in m e n , clear, oral with a choice of high
or low for w o m e n " . H e added then that " L o w pitch has lately become fash-
ionable for w o m e n , but fifty years ago all 'ladies' spoke with a high pitch",
and that "In G e r m a n y today the approved paralanguage for upper class
males is high pitch nasality". H e also commented on the sing-song manner
as "a hallmark of the old-fashioned East European Jewish merchant" and
to the loud and low male speech in the Japanese Samurai movies, "almost
a bark", and the Japanese female's soft and high one, "almost a squeak" (as
anyone learns w h e n first hearing the taped w o m a n ' s voice calling the differ-
ent stops on a Tokyo city bus).

A m o n g its occupational functions, there is the typical high-pitch used

by too m a n y female nurses w h e n talking not only to children (as most of us
do, although w e would not be able to explain w h y ) , but to elderly patients,
particularly if they are senile (or just might be), psychiatric patients (who
can be sensitive enough to be negatively affected by it), and even the ordi-
nary patients, curiously enough in direct proportion to the seriousness of
their condition, but rarely w h e n speaking to (much less 'with') the alert,
attractive male patient. I cannot recall any student nurses w h o did not
reject that behavior w h e n admitting in class h o w they constantly shift pitch
levels w h e n coming and going between the nurses' station and their
patients' rooms. Another obvious example is that of the typical airline
stewardess' smiling and higher-than-normal pitched voice while offering
something. But there are also social situational settings to which w e adapt
our pitch level even unconsciously, as w h e n requesting information on the
telephone, asking someone during a performance to lean a little to one side
to let us see better, asking for something at a store, showing deference, etc.
A s for the attitudinal functions of pitch level, w e see in the literature
(including, for instance, Davitz 1964, Scherer and Oshinsky 1977, Scherer
1982), that low pitch level is associated with affection, boredom, fear,
incredulity or disappointment often coupled to creaky voice, as in ' O h ,
no!', etc., and high level with cheerfulness, joy, alarm, surprise,
annoyance, anger, etc. But the label 'attitude' cannot be used in such a
clear-cut w a y , for w e refer, for instance, to the little girl's voice of inno-
cence or helplessness, but that can be either an adult female's attitude used
for coaxing, seducing, etc., or an attitude of innocence in a truly young girl
whose voice pitch is in that stage. Austin (1965:37) also refers to "the
paralanguage of courtship" as "low and nasal with the male; high, oral and
giggling with the female". H e also refers to the male's derogatory imitation
of the female's voice in a high-pitched and rapid w a y , and the female's
imitation of the male's in an overly slow and overly low-pitched voice.
Finally, two pitch level disorders should be mentioned. O n e is pitch
break, a "Sudden abnormal shift of pitch during speech, usually related to
an individual's speaking at an inappropriate pitch level" (Nicolosi et al.
1983), either one octave higher or lower than normal pitch. The other, the
deviation from optimal (natural) pitch. S o m e persons w h o by occupation
must use their voices a great deal m a y abuse their vocal folds, and in speech
pathology they refer to 'screamer's nodes', 'preacher's nodes' (i.e.
nodules), speaking of pitches above optimum, which are "generally

associated with strident, shrill, tense voices"; other pitches are below
optimum also from vocal abuse and they are referred to as 'husky', 'harsh',
'hoarse' and 'rough'. "Executives seem to be more inclined to this disorder
than, say, truck drivers, suggesting that the laryngeal mechanics for ulcera-
tion are more effective in those persons emotionally predisposed to gastric
ulcers" (Perkins 1971:509).
A workable five-point scale of pitch level is: Very low — low —
m e d i u m — high — very high.

Pitch range

Besides a characteristic pitch level, each individual possesses a lowest and a

highest pitch register, the distance between which is called pitch range,
which varies very widely a m o n g persons, from a narrow-ranging voice in
some to a wide-ranging voice in others; and, naturally, it is higher in w o m e n
and children than in m e n for the anatomical reasons mentioned earlier.
However, w e should differentiate two aspects of pitch range, one being the
person's habitual range, which can be socially perceived as being very var-
ied, typically in lively types (whether young or youthful) corresponding to
equally lively bodily and mainly facial expression in such a way that features
like brows, eyelids, cheeks and lips also show a wide range (i.e. a
parakinesic quality). Thus, it acts as a congruent marker of words and
paralanguage, as the voice swoops up and d o w n from one pitch to another;
but it can be perceived as quite monotonous, with also narrow-ranged facial
and bodily kinesics. W e are all familiar with both types of conversants,
k n o w our preferences and first impressions and the effect on us of a per-
sonal style.
The other aspect of pitch range is, of course, utterance range. The same
verbal expression can be delivered in high, m e d i u m or low range, convey-
ing different feelings with those intonational changes at three different
levels of emissions, for instance: the sentence 'Of course I want to go' can
be said with very high pitch (and wide-open eyes and raised brows) on
'course' as part of an overall high range, denoting enthusiastic confirma-
tion; with 'polite' sustained m e d i u m pitch range and loudness and at most a
faint smile; or with very 'unenthusiastically' low range and virtually no
facial expression.
This utterance range is, of course, what provides the situational or
attitudinal functions of pitch range. It is clear, then, that speakers, indepen-

dently of their individual ranges, can also choose the range of what they
want to express. Which links again with what was discussed in Chapter 3
with respect to the limitation of words. There is a great verbal economy in
delivering that same sentence with one intonation range or another, for
without them, the speaker would have to verbalize further his exact inten-
tion or feeling (the reader m a y try to do just that and will find it very dif-
ficult). T h e most typical pitch-range disorder is the so-called morning voice
(or 'postsleep voice'), due to the relaxation of the laryngeal muscles upon
awakening, which produces a pitch level which is only one segment of the
speaking voice and too narrowed, without "theflexibilityand melody, c o m -
fort and carrying power necessary for daily conversational activities"
(Cooper 1971:589), voice being heavy and throaty, with a hoarse quality to
it, although it is said to be the most physiologically relaxed and effortless
voice range and level.
T h e scale of pitch range includes: Overnarrow — narrow — m e d i u m
— wide— overwide (either in an abrupt manner or gradually).

Pitch registers

Each language and each speaker favors the use of lower or higher registers
within a given level and range. Their paralinguistic use is quite noticeable,
and, as discussed above, very high pitches (which again will correlate with
kinesic markers) tend to be used with expressions of surprise, terror, happi-
ness, while overlow ones punctuate incredulity, a somber warning, or a pas-
sionate intimate statement, covering either words or paralinguistic alter-
nants like a shout, a m o a n , or an expression of repugnance. But North-
Americans, for instance, depart from the usual range observed in Spanish,
French or Italian, in abrupt ways that characterize those expressions of sur-
prise or confirmation. It is quite typical to see an Anglo-American or
Anglophone Canadian apply to Spanish (which usually uses three linguistic
pitches) his four, even five registers as part of his lack of paralinguistic
fluency in the foreign language, in a sentence like ¡¿De verdad que viene?!
¡Qué bien! ('¡¿Is he really coming?! !Good!') giving verdad, viene and bien
an overhigh pitch that nears falsetto, so c o m m o n in such expressions in his
o w n speech. In fact, "falsetto is not u n c o m m o n in reaching higher than nor-
mal pitches for expressive purposes, so an extra wide fall on Wonderful·.
m a y drop from high falsetto to a very low creaky voice" (O'Connor
1973:267), to use also a quotation from a British speaker.

T h e scale for pitch registers is: Overlow (chest register) — low —

m e d i u m — high — very high-falsetto.

Pitch intervals

A s w e speak from one syllable to another and the voice passes also from
one pitch to another there are intervals between them, which w e can spread
or squeeze d o w n with a monotone effect. Spread interval, or spread regis-
ter, is accompanied by drawling and used typically w h e n w e call someone
from a distance and in other vocative uses of people's names. It must be
noted that the interval that is spread the most is the one following the prim-
ary-stress (and louder) syllable, but that both the one before and the one
following (and the last one in longer utterances) pertain also of the drawl-
ing, for instance: '¡Mo—ther!' (or '¡Moootheer!'), '¡Mister-Wi—lliam-son!'
(or '¡Misteer Wiiilliaam-son!'). It also must be noted that monosyllablcs are
split and dealt with as longer words, as in '¡Pe—et!' (just as in '¡Pe—ter!'),
and that interrogatives are drawled only on the last syllable, as in
'¡¿Mother—?!', '¡¿Mister Williamson—?!' T h e above applies, of course, to
English, but the reader can observe the characteristics of pitch-interval
spreading in his o w n language (e.g., Sp. ¡Mamá—/). Spread interval occurs
also in expressions of boredom, approval, excitement, etc. (e.g., 'But that's
— wonn—derful!', 'Oh—no—t again—!'). Squeezed interval is used, for
instance, "with rasp, particularly with the vocative said with the intonation
pattern 2-2-2, signals lack of interest or weariness" (Pittinger and Smith
1957:73). "their customary morning farewell, she singing, 'Good-bye John,
don't stay long,' he singing back, 'I'll be back in a week or two'" (Agee DF,
II, 36).
T h e scale is: oversqueezed — squeezed — m e d i u m — overspread.

4.7 Intonation range

Although the discussion of the various aspects of pitch — particularly regis-

ters, range and interval — has shown the nature of intonation and h o w its
various components function as paralinguistic message-conveying elements,
it is convenient to consider it also as one of the primary qualities and iden-
tify it, within the speaker's permanent (or at least habitual) voice set, as 'in-
tonation range', that is, between melodious and monotonous, based on the
overall impression of that combination of pitches, stresses and junctures.

In the scale between overmelodious voice and overmonotonous,

suggested below, there are various impressionistic labels, referring mostly
to monotonous effects — besides monotonous, toneless, dull — which
should be identified. O n e is singsong (or singsong voice), a high- or low-
pitched, melody-less voice with a monotonous cadence. Another is droning
(or droning voice), a low-pitched, slow dull and monotonous way of speak-
ing — certainly never accompanied by lively kinesic behavior — corres-
ponding to its etymological associations with a bee and its h u m m i n g . W e
perceive it as the general effect of a conversational group at, for instance, a
western funeral, or w h e n confidentiality and low volume are appropriate,
or as attitudinal for specific effects: "'Nothing succeeds like success,' Larry
is saying in a deep droning voice" (Dos Passos M T , 2, VIII, 209). A tone-
less voice is typically used in an atmosphere of secrecy or intimacy, or just
to mask one's true feelings: "she asked, in a toneless voice, persisting in
appearing casual and unaffected" (Lawrence W L , X X I X , 489).
A few more thoughts on intonation should be added. First, that the
intonation style of an individual does not always correspond to a similar
kinesic style; in other words, a very articulate kinesic repertoire m a y coin-
cide with an equally articulate, melodious intonation, but there are persons
w h o display very articulate intonation patterns and yet they can be very
limited in their kinesic repertoire of language markers, illustrators, etc. Sec-
ondly, this imbalance or incongruence within their basic triple structure
m a y surely have stemmed from developmental problems or later psycholog-
ical problems (i.e., there m a y be m u c h verbal-paralinguistic fluency, but
m u c h bodily inhibition); but, of course, it can happen only in certain situa-
tions and settings where w e must restrain visual behaviors or where very
close interpersonal proxemics tend to keep kinesics at a low key. H o w e v e r ,
intonation range m a y betray biological, psychological or socioeconomic
characteristics, such as the melodious range of some male homosexuals, the
monotone of the depressive person, or the less varied and semantically ver-
satile (therefore less subtle) intonative style of the least educated.
Thirdly, it is frustratingly clear that, despite all the attempts to teach
what w e might call cultural intonemes with the most advanced methods in
foreign-language teaching, it is only by becoming fully acculturated — and
only if one has a great 'musical ear' and power of observation — that one
can pretend to attain sufficient nonverbal fluency to not only discriminate
a m o n g the m a n y patterns of pitch, stress and juncture in the flow of speech,
but to be able to produce those intonation contours without making a single

error. For those intonemes which, as has been discussed earlier, are gradu-
ally acquired as part of the verbal-nonverbal developmental process (e.g.,
for irony, contempt, sarcasm, innuendo, m o c k nervousness, sassiness, self-
assurance, and so m a n y more), are far from being universal, and constitute
a sort of 'unspoken vocabulary' that just defies systematic learning. O n e
example (in which pitch interval predominates) will suffice: while an
American daughter says in English to her mother: 'Mo—ther—!', meaning
exactly, ' W h y , mother, h o w can you say that in front of these people/this
person?!', her Spanish counterpart will say: '¡Pero, m a m á ! ' , and each of
them would try to apply her o w n intoneme to express the same feeling in
the other language.
Finally, there is a very interesting, albeit misunderstood, aspect of
intonation, and that is the seemingly isolated use of it. W e k n o w that into-
nation, even if viewed as m a d e up of stresses, pitches and junctures, cannot
be broken into discrete units because it is a continuum formed,, at any rate
by gradual elements (even if w e acknowledge 'alotones') whose meaning is
given by the whole contour and not by individual stresses or junctures, as it
is not given by single phonemes either. The fact that a number of non-
vocalic, nonconsonantal, closed-lip or open-lip utterances are regarded by
m a n y as intonation ('intonation without words') leads some to the equivo-
cation that intonation can be isolated, separated from a segmental stretch
of speech and uttered alone, w h e n in reality w e are again producing the two
levels referred to above, the segmental one (in this case a paralinguistic
construct) and the nonsegmental or intonational one. Such is the case of a
paralinguistic alternant like a glottalized gliding mid-to-higher-back vowel
(segmental), with open or closed lips, overridden by a pitch contour 4-2,
two stresses and a falling terminal juncture (nonsegmental), meaning,
according to context and pitch variations, '¡Oh, I see!', '¡Good!', '¡Deli-
cious!', etc.
The fact that intonation can be both grammatical and attitudinal (Crys-
tal 1971:200) does not m e a n that it can carry any more meaning than nas-
ality or whispering would by themselves, unless they occur with words or
with paralinguistic alternants (considered segmental) like '¡Eeugh!',
' ¡ H m m ! ' . O n e cannot speak with intonation alone. W e can modulate a long
stretch like ' M m m m m m m m m ' , attaching to it the intonation contour which
would correspond to ' ¿ M a y I go with you?', for instance, or 'I don't k n o w
where she went' — and in face to face it would be doubly expressed by
facial and other kinesic activities — but w h e n w e do that w e are evoking an

established and perfectly coded verbal or paralinguistic utterance, to both

of which either a person or a domesticated animal will easily react. A n d if
that person (a child, for instance) or that dog have only heard our
' M r a m m m m ' , that paralinguistic construct is a perfectly lexical item of that
established repertoire.
T h e five-point scale for intonation range would be: overmelodious —
melodious — m e d i u m — monotone — overmonotone.

4.8 Syllabic duration

Besides the speech characteristics that depend mainly on pitch and volume
w e consciously or unconsciously control the speed or tempo of each of the
syllables that m a k e up our speech. Syllabic duration, or tempo of individual
syllables — as differentiated from the linguistic length of vowels and conso-
nants, and from speech tempo, seen below — is conspicuously paralinguis-
tic in drawling and clipping, which, as primary qualities, can also be perma-
nent characteristics of a person's voice norm, whether continuously present
— the person w h o 'speaks with a drawl' — or consistently appearing in
given situation with attitudinal functions, always expressing that feeling
with a drawl. They can modify not only words, but those word-like paralin-
guistic alternants which do not consist only of a quick contact-and-release
articulation (i.e., one can drawl or clip a m o a n , a hiss, but not a click).
M a n y semantic subtleties would never be expressed with words alone were
it not for these two qualities, prolongation and shortening of generally only
one syllable in longer words (e.g., 'Mooother!', 'Perf't!') or the only sylla-
ble (e.g., ' O o o o h ! ' , ' O h ! ' ) .
Drawling and clipping characterizes dialectal speech in some regions,
such as the typical drawl of southerners in the United States, or various
areas of Hispanic America (Argentina, Mexico), or Galicia (in Spain), all
as part of their intonation patterns, to which other attitudinal functions can
be added. Similarly, the speech of the less educated speakers of m a n y areas
in the United States and England is typically sprinkled with apocopated
('an' for 'and', ' m o s ' for 'most', 'foun' for 'found') and syncopated forms
( ' m a ' a m ' , 'bott'l', 'catt'l'), which actually can more legitimately be called
clipping than the quickening or shortening in a fast spoken 'Right!', or
'Yes!'. 2 N o w , ' Y e a h ' and ' Y e p ' , and ' N o p e ' are always given in the litera-
ture as examples of what w e do with 'Yes' and ' N o ' in English and it has

become (particularly for foreigners) a sort of small linguistic myth. H o w -

ever, more than drawling and clipping of 'Yes' and ' N o ' , they are different
semantic versions of 'yes' and ' no' in their o w n right (as is the incorrect
'ain't' for 'are not' or 'aren't'), and they can be said at normal speed,
'Yeah', ' N o p e ' , lengthened as 'Yeaah' and ' N o o p e ' , or shortened as 'Yeah'
and ' N o p e ' (not necessarily said and represented with high volume [!]; in
fact, they can be whispered too). A s for ' Y e p ! ' , it is simply an affirmation
which can also be clipped or drawled by those w h o prefer it to 'yes' or
attach specific speeds to different meanings. 3 A drawled 'Yeep!' can m e a n
'Let m e see, I'm not sure, yes!', while a very clipped one would m e a n abso-
lute certainty with perhaps (in the educated speaker) a tinge of humor in
the clipping itself.
Thus, drawling or clipping can be personal, habitual behaviors, but
without necessarily any attitudinal content or specific meaning, as in 'Well,
' m gonna go righ' n o w , see what's keepin' h ' m ' ; or 'Weell, I ' m m going to
goo right n o o w to see what's keeping him', said by someone w h o 'drawls his
words' and m a y also want to give overdrawling a connotation of suspicion.
Finally — apart from the way a situation like far distance can deter-
mine drawling w h e n calling someone (the typical American '¡Co-me and ge
— t it!' calling outdoors to a meal) — drawling and clipping can naturally
perform attitudinal functions. Drawling, however, seems to perform m a n y
more expressive functions, perhaps because it is physically possible to pro-
duce at least four different lengths of drawling for different feeling or m o d -
ification of a feeling, which w e m a y call single drawl, double drawl, over-
drawl and long overdrawl. For instance, the interjection ' O h ! ' in English
can be finely tuned to our feelings and signify: ' O h ! ' , unawareness (as in
' O h , I didn't k n o w ' , even without the accompanying sentence; clipped and
with/without 'I'm sorry', would m e a n 'I didn't k n o w you were busy/resting/
leaving', etc., always reacting to the unexpected); ' O h ! ' , unawareness and
realization (as in ' O h , I see!'); ' O h ! ' , realization and in a more emphatic
way (as in ' O h , but I didn't k n o w he had died!'); and ' O h ! ' as emphatic
realization and understanding of things not understood before (as in ' O h , I
see, n o w I understand why she always went around with that sad face!').
N o w , in all these instances the drawled interjection m a y go alone and yet be
perfectly decoded in its exact meaning each time, but also because it is
uttered with a higher pitch. With a low pitch it would signify increasing
degrees of sadness, disappointment, frustration, typically a negative feel-
ing. M u c h could be said of the subtle semantic variations of drawling in

English (even more in combination with different pitch levels), as well as in

other languages, but I can only invite the speakers of other languages to
apply drawling (with high, then with low pitch) to interjections and any
other words and observe changes in meaning.
Drawling, in general, is used in hesitation ('Weeell3'), comforting
others ('Nooow 2 , n o o o w 2 ' ) , conceding or admitting responsibility
('Weeell2'), negating or dismissing emphatically ('Nooo 1 !'), strongly
approving with children ('Goood! 1 ') or adults ('Goood! 2 '), etc., but also
w h e n dwelling on the negative feelings expressed by the stretched words:
"'Na-a-y.' said old Martin, with an elongation of the word meant to m a k e it
bitter as well as negative" (Eliot AB, X X X I , 331). Clipping, in general, is
used for addressing someone in a harsh or impatient tone ( ' C o m ' n , get out'f
here!'), to hurry someone ('You bett'r'), warning against impending danger
('Watch out!'), remembering suddenly ('Wait!'), in irritated negation
('course not!'), etc. Needless to say that kinesics is also drawled or clipped
accordingly, not only with facial gestures (e.g., slow eyebrow raise and
smile with a pleased, relieving 'Weeell!'), but with other bodily movements
too (e.g., the jerky shoulder shrug and unilateral downward mouth disten-
sion with an irritated 'course not!').
Orthographically, vowels and consonants can be prolonged (e.g.,
'Grrrreat!', 'Eeeeexcellent!') or deleted as in apocopation ('an' for 'and')
and syncopation ('bott'l' for 'bottle'). It is useful to put together a seven-
point scale from m i n i m u m to m a x i m u m duration: overclipped — clipped —
m e d i u m — single drawl — double drawl — overdrawl — long overdrawl.

4.9 Rhythm

The combination of different patterns of pitches, loudness, syllabic dura-

tion and speech tempo produce as w e speak variations in the rhythm of that
verbal-nonverbal flow (apart, that is, from the norm of any given lan-
guage), "as w h e n a sentence is spoken with a more marked metrical beat
than normal to suggest irritation" (Crystal 1975:172). But, as Crystal
(1971:201) also says, "There are numerous possible contrasts here, and of
course the physical correlates of each would have to be carefully defined in
any description". Drawling and clipping, for instance, influence rhythm
greatly, from the staccato effect produced by the clipping of certain sylla-
bles (e.g., 'Well, I ' m gonna go righ' n o w 'n see what's keepin' h ' m ! ' ) to the

glissando effect produced by drawling (e.g., 'Weeell, I ' m going to go rrigh

— t n n o w 'n see what is keeping him!'). Heffner (1960:227) explains that
"rhythm designates an experience [...] is the perception, the recognition of
groups of patterns of successive events [...] of a regularity [that] relates usu-
ally to differences in the relative intensity and the relative duration of the
sensations which are correlated with the several components of the pat-
terns", in other words, mostly stresses and syllable duration, but, of course,
also pauses between words, conspicuous deviations from a m e d i u m pitch
register, and last but not least, possible along-the-way abrupt variations of
If smooth is normal in rhythm, w e can distinguish one degree below
and two above in a four-point scale: very smooth — smooth — jerky —
very jerky.

4.10 Conclusion

T h e relevance of primary qualities, not only in interaction but for the iden-
tification and social perception of the speaker, justifies their being grouped
together as the basic paralinguistic category. But it would be rather
shortsighted if w e tried to isolate that cluster of voice features from the
inherent visual features of the face and body, particularly the former. For
instance, the image a m a n has of an attractive w o m a n , not only as he faces
her but w h e n he thinks of her, m a y be composed of the following dual vis-
ual-acoustic portrait: the timbre of her voice, its habitual pitch range, or the
pitch she uses to express specific ideas or reactions, as well as her generally
lively loudness, the characteristic slightly nasal resonance, her melodious
intonation contours, h o w she sometimes drawls certain syllables to give
them an especial emphasis, and the smooth rhythm of her delivery, all
become alive again in his imagination, that is, they travel most vividly
through time. But he would not be able to reconstruct that voice without
the dynamic part of her speech any more than he would think of her with-
out imagining her face, for those rather lively pitch and intonation features
are always translated into equally lively facial and manual language mar-
kers; likewise, as the drawling of her syllables coincides sometimes with her
long gazing, the smooth rhythm of her face, hands and body as she speaks
is precisely what evokes the rhythm of her voice. Then those acoustic and
visual aspects of hers are judged by him according to his o w n personal and

cultural esthetic values, which he applies to those basic qualities of both her
voice and her kinesic behaviors. A n d just as these audible and visual qual-
ities are so important in the imaginative reconstruction of the person — to
the point that w e m a y even act on them later on — so are they on a first
encounter for forming in us that first impression that will condition further


1. "Anda despacio; habla con reposo; pero no de manera que parezca que te
escuchas a ti mismo; que toda afectación es mala."
2. This meaning of 'clipping' is not to be confused with 'clipping or back formation',
"a sort of instinctive search for short roots in long words" (Mencken 1963:203),
such as 'fridge', 'perm', for 'refrigerator', (hair) 'permanent', to which 'instinct'
nevertheless all forms of shortening are related.
3. I recall a radio interview with the late actor Gary Cooper in which he answered
"Yep" and "Nope" in a very relaxed manner to the comments, "They say you are
a m a n of few words" and "You don't talk too much", respectively.

very low (2|)] high[(|l)]
low[(l|)] very high[(|2)]
thin voice [( | o)] very pharyngeal [( |++)]
oral[(|o)] nasal[|~
very oral [( 0)] very nasal [( | ~)]
pharyngeal [(|+)]
very low/soft [(= | ] higMoud [( | +)]
low/soft [-| ] very high/loud [ | + + ) ]
The above can be placed before/above transcription, with crescendo [—>] or diminuendo
[<—] above the five basic loudness symbols
very slow [(« | )] very fast [( | »)]
slow[<| )] fast [(|>)]

The above can be placed before/above transcription, with increasing [- | or decreasing

[<r-] above them
Level Range
very low [(I | )] overnarrow [(<-»)]
low [(I)] narrow [(-*«-)] [(-»)]
high[(t)] wide [(<—>)]
very high [( î Î )] overwide [(<— | -»)]
Registers Intervals
overlow [l] (placed between syllables)
low [2] oversqueezed [A]
highp] squeezed [-]
very high [4] spread [=]
falsetto [5] overspread [=]
Intonation range
overmelodious [(J J>)] monotone [(-^)]
melodious [( J> )] overmonotone [(=J0]
Syllabic duration
overclipped ["] double drawl [::]
clipped ['] overdrawl [:::]
single drawl [:] long overdrawl [::::]
very smooth [(//)] jerky [(V)]
smooth [(/)] very jerky [(VV)]
Chapter 5
The Many Voices of Interactiom

he was not only red in the face, but hoarse as a

crow, and his voice shook too, like a taut rope
(Stevenson 77, X I V , 96)

5.1 Nature, classification and problems of voice types

It has been seen that a person possesses a series of fundamental voice

characteristics, primary qualities, that are always present, differentiating
speakers by their habitual voice volume, the pitch consistently manifested
in specific situations, the rhythm of their delivery, etc. It is true that m a n y
nuances of meaning can be displayed by variations in any of those primary
qualities, and yet interpersonal communication would be m u c h more
limited than it actually is were it not for another group of voice modifiers
that actually m a k e our repertoire of speech devices exceedingly complex.
Those voice modifiers are grouped together here as qualifiers. Their normal
or abnormal determining factors can be biological, mainly due to perma-
nent anatomical normal or abnormal configuration of the larynx, the lips,
the tongue, etc., but above all physiological, that is, the direction of
respiratory air, the type of vocal-band opening, vibration, muscular ten-
sion, and amount of air escaping through them, and the changes in the
pharynx cavity, the velopharyngeal mechanism and the articulation
mechanism in the mouth. These varying components can be affected by
psychological and emotional variables which will affect those physiological
mechanisms. But above all, the communicational importance of both the
anatomical and physiological aspects of paralinguistic qualifiers resides in
their sociocultural functions, as they constitute an extremely complex series

of uncontrollable or controllable voice effects which, in either case, are

socially perceived and judged according to established values, not only uni-
versally (e.g., whispering of intimacy) but culturally as well (e.g.,
laryngealization followed by falsetto in a very British 'What?!' of surprise
and unbelief). Further, they are intimately related to facial and even bodily
expression as they very often actually appear in combination with con-
gruent kinesic behaviors (e.g., the voice and gesture of intimate whispering,
harsh voice, or whining, becoming an inseparable part of the 'speaking
face' discussed in Chapter 2. Qualifiers can modify from syllables to longer
speech segments or a whole talk. In fact, they can appear also as permanent
traits in the person's speech, in which case they must be acknowledged as
distinguishing primary qualities (e.g., someone's permanent husky voice).
In either case, they qualify words and paralinguistic differentiators (e.g., a
strident laughter, muffled crying) and alternants (e.g., a laryngealized
m o a n ) . A s will be seen in the following sections, qualifiers confront the
researcher with the following problems: (a) the ambiguity of m a n y of the
phonetic definitory labels used (e.g., harsh, hoarse, shrill), not only
because of insufficient knowledge of speech anatomy and physiology, but
precisely because of the inaccurately learned association between the word
used (i.e., the sign) and the sound one believes it represents (i.e., its refe-
rent), through neglect of its etymology (often being of onomatopoeic ori-
gin) ; (b) the ambiguity in the usage of m a n y of the impressionistic labels by
ordinary speakers, w h o use s o m e of them indistinctively; (c) the very lack
of labels for certain effects; (d) the lack of accurate physiological descrip-
tions that would truly differentiate these effects, instead of the confusing
discrepancies one finds sometimes, or, what is worse, the application of two
or m o r e linguistic labels to the same p h e n o m e n o n , a problem that typically
plagues literary references to voice qualities as well as everyday conversa-
tion (e.g., ' H e said in a rough voice', leaving it up to the reader or listener
to figure out what exactly it means); (e) even w h e n the vocal effect has
been successfully identified, the lack of a transcription symbol to be used on
paper w h e n the presence of that feature is relevant enough to have it
recorded; and (f) the complete absence of any attempts to represent them
in a written text with qualifying symbols no different from punctuation sym-
bols (e.g., for falsetto of surprise, just as w e use the very ambiguous mark
[!], which, without a clear context, would never suggest the correct loud-
ness or pitch). But, again, the most serious hindrance in the study of voice
qualifiers is the lack of accurate phonetic and physiological descriptions.

W h a t follows, then, is an attempt to suggest a comprehensive system

(as part of the general model for paralanguage) for further and m o r e
refined studies of voice qualifiers with a view to a deeper understanding of
colloquial references and a more accurate use of the terms involved in
everyday conversation and in literature. Although here the discussion is
based mostly on the English language alone, it ought to be pursued in other
languages as well in order to define the different cultural repertoires. In
order to fully investigate the significance of qualifiers, each one should be
analyzed (although not always done here) in terms of: (a) normal or abnor-
mal anatomical configuration of the organ involved, (b) muscular physiol-
ogy (e.g., velic closure), (c) phonetic label (e.g., glottal stop, harsh), (d)
auditory effect (e.g., twang), (e) voice type or quality (e.g., husky), (f)
social label (e.g., authoritative), (g) phonological function, if any (e.g.,
whispered voice in Hindi), (h) paralinguistic function (e.g., to express
anger), (i) abnormal occurrence (e.g., harshness), (j) scalar degrees or lack
of them, (k) cooccurrent verbal, paralinguistic or kinesic behaviors and (1)
transcription or notation symbols for recording voice qualities. I have dif-
ferentiated ten parameters of paralinguistic qualifiers: breathing control,
laryngeal control, esophageal control, pharyngeal control, velopharyngeal
control, lingual control, labial control, mandibular control, articulatory
control, and articulatory-tension control. B y control is meant, not only vol-
untary control (which is not the case in m a n y disorders), but the fact that a
speech-producing or a speech-modifying element, such as the tongue or the
mandible, determines the specific quality.
Fig. 5.1, 'Paralinguistic Voice Qualifiers', at the end of the chapter,
attempts to show at a glance only the basic forms, functions and abnormal
occurrences of the voice qualities determined by the larynx, pharynx, vel-
opharyngeal changes, tongue, lips, mandible, tenseness or laxness,
articulatory control and articulatory-tension control; it shows both phonetic
and impressionistic labels, showing precisely that a clear-cut differentiation
has as yet not been established and that impressionistic references to voice
qualities that m a y be pancultural m a y respond at times to the particular
evocation contained in the linguistic expression of a given language.1

5.2 Breathing control

Whatever verbal or paralinguistic utterances w e emit are influenced, first of

all, by h o w w e are breathing as w e emit them. It can be a m u c h neglected
aspect in the study of speech, and yet of great importance from a c o m m u n i -
cation point of view, for our audible messages can be conspicuously influ-
enced by the direction of respiratory air, the channel through which it
travels, h o w it flows, the muscular pressure used in its two phases and the
duration of each one, all of which will bear significantly on the voluntary or
involuntary communicative functions of breathing during speech (apart
from audible breathing by itself, not discussed here).
While the direction of speech air is almost always egressive, that is,
during the exhalation phase of respiration, use of ingressive air is possible
only in short utterances, first, linguistically: in reflex-like uncontrolled ver-
bal reactions (i.e., externalizers), as in fearful surprise, expectancy or sheer
terror ('¡Oh!', '¡Oh, m y G o d ! ' ) , in emotional questioning (e.g., clipped or
drawled '¿¡What!?'), but also in normal conversation in the feminine
Swedish, Danish and Finnish affirmation 'Ja!' and, most typically, in both
the 'Yeah!' and ' N o ! ' heard constantly in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada,
particularly as a second affirmation or negation (e.g., 'Winters aren't as
cold as they used to be, ¡No!'; or in a dialog: ' A r e you open until late
today?' - ' O h , yes w e are! ¡Yeah!'). T h e ingressive air is used to utter m a n y
paralinguistic alternants, inhaled through either the mouth or the nares
(e.g., a reflex hiss of physical hurt, a contemptuous sniff, a single-pulse
laugh). T h e channel is mostly the mouth, but, as has been seen, also the
nasal cavity, or both combined. T h e flow (directly related to rate or speed)
can be regular or spasmodic and out of phase with speech (e.g., in spas-
modic laughter, in distressed breathing, while emotionally speaking, while
sobbing, in states of anxiety, after physical exertion, during asthmatic brea-
thing). B y duration is meant the length of the inhalation and exhalation
phases, between fast (e.g., in a gasp, a panic-stricken '¡Help!', a quick
'¡Ugh!') and prolonged or slow (e.g., a long, anguished 'Aaaaaah', an over-
drawled 'Weeeell' after drawing air in). Respiratory pressure or force can
eloquently qualify sounds, either because of its lightness, as in a relaxed
conversation, or its marked strength, as in the interjectional expressions
just mentioned. T h e functions, therefore, are illustrated by the various situ-
ations suggested here, but each of the various features of respiration just
mentioned m a y have a clearly attitudinal function in itself (as w h e n a very

long inhalation lets us anticipates an important statement). There are, of

course, a series of abnormal sounds produced by breathing which must be
included under differentiators in the next chapter, under 'breathing
The two most important features to be acknowledged are, of course,
ingressive speech and spasmodic speech.

5.3 Laryngeal control

Modal voice is the neutral m o d e or setting of phonation that uses moderate,

regular vibration of the vocal folds, within which Laver (1980:109-111) dif-
ferentiates the subtypes of 'chest voice' and 'head voice', taking the former
as the standard or neutral m o d e , although others, such as Perkins
(1971:494), prefer the term 'heavy voice' to 'chest voice'. But there are
other basic phonatory settings (whose muscular physiology has been
described already in Chapter 2.4) which depend on the degree of vocal fold
opening (e.g., whispering, murmuring, voice, breathy voice and glottal
stop) and some on h o w the vocal folds vibrate (e.g., laryngealization,
harshness, stridence, 'roughness'). Then, besides some normal or abnormal
additional settings that must be identified (e.g., murmured voice, hoarse
voice), these basic qualifiers of voice m a y appear in different combinations
as compound types, which here will be included under the setting which
seems to be in each case the more conspicuous or meaningful component.

Whispery voice

The physiology of whispering was described in Chapter 2.4 showing the var-
ious ways in which, with more muscular effort than for breathing but still
without the vibration of the vocal folds, there is a hissing sound. If to this
w e add articulated speech w e can produce, depending on the amount of
glottis friction and air pressure, three main degrees of whispered speech
(and even five, rather than the two traditionally mentioned) which can be
considered the conspicuous points in a scalar continuum. O n e is soft whis-
pered voice, which m a y be thought of as 'mouth-to-ear whispering', used
for utmost secrecy or w h e n speaking is utterly improper, and which can be
also 'oversoft'. Next would be normal whispered voice, which typically
m a n y speakers cannot produce continuously, intermittently applying exces-

sive pressure and producing normal voice, the sort of whispering others will
surely complain about during a performance, at the movies or in class.
Forced whispered voice (and even 'overforced'), is the so-called 'stage
whisper', which, depending like the others on a proxemic relationship, is
used to span nonconversational distances (as from an actual stage to the
farthest parts of the house), to repress anger, indignation, etc., in close-
range face-to-face interaction when normal voice is not allowed or the
speaker does not want to be overheard, or in some uncontrollable outbursts
of emotion.
Normal whispering, though, is the most widely used form. It would be
interesting, first of all, to investigate the functions of whispering crosscul-
turally. Phonologically, it is a feature of Oklahoman C o m a n c h e , and
Ladefoged (1971:12-14, cited in Laver 1980:139-140) refers to the
phonological opposition of whispered voice, which he calls 'murmur', in
Indo-Aryan languages (e.g., Hindi, Urdu, Sindhi, Marathi, Bengali,
Assamese, Gujarati, Bihari and Marwari), and to some murmured conso-
nants in Southern Bantu languages (e.g., Zulu). Paralinguistically, K e y
(1975: 47-48) mentions h o w in embarrassment "the voice m a y dwindle to a
whisper", something I have observed in m a n y cultures as a typical feminine
behavior of embarrassment and coyness; she also mentions that in one of
the Naga tribes of India "where the ceremonial marriage is very formal, all
the talking must be in a whisper when the bride and procession enter the
bridegroom's house", and that Sir James Frazer reported in 1919 instances
of a newly-widowed w o m a n in both British East Africa and among the
Californian Indians w h o "if she could speak at all, was permitted only to
whisper [...] for several months in some cases".
Typically, normal whispering is used to express intimacy, but also to
establish a secrecy or confidentiality which m a y be conveyed more by the
whispering itself than by the topic discussed, thus being used sometimes for
manipulative purposes, as it is to gossip and propagate slander and negative
information about others. Hence the negative connotation of 'murmuring',
which for some phoneticians is a synonym of whispering. It is used also to
m a k e short statements, or typically to end longer ones, w h e n one wishes to
express sincerity, concern or friendly advice, or for affiliative purposes,
since it seems to presuppose a closer bond between speaker and listener.
But whispered language can be used also in admiration: "All were silent for
a m o m e n t , and then Jane spoke./ ' A n d he [Tarzan] is out there,' she said in
an awe-hushed whisper" (Rice Burroughs TA, X X I V , 202). It must be

added that the ingressive O h ! ' , 'What?!' or 'Yeah!' are usually uttered in a
whisper, and that breathy voice, m u c h more than whispering (but perhaps
added to it), conveys intimacy, particularly sexual.
In sum, whispering, since very often it implies concealment, can be
said to correspond to attitudes which in the final analysis are negative
rather than positive. Both in the Old and N e w Testament whispering
appears as a negative behavior, for instance: " A perverse m a n sows strife,/
A n d a whisperer separates the best of friends" (Proverbs 16:28), "whisper-
ers, backbiters, haters of G o d " (Romans 21:29-30). Even the instinctive
attraction w e m a y feel toward the whisperer out of curiosity m a y not neces-
sarily respond to positive motives. But it is true that, as a magazine adver-
tisement for perfume (always supposedly subtle) says, "If you want to cap-
ture someone's attention, whisper", for, it adds, "a whisper is almost
impossible to resist". O n the other hand, as will be seen, whispering, as
with other qualifiers, can be combined with various other voice qualities,
thus being a voice of, for instance, secrecy and passion.
A s for the kinesic correlates of whispering, one could generalize saying
that soft whispered speech shows very little kinesics because the 'speaking
face' is not visible to the listener and because the very low loudness would
not elicit any conspicuous facial muscular activity or bodily movements.
With normal whispering, however, w e typically see frowning, eye-squint-
ing, light smiling; sometimes one hand shielding speech from possible
others or looking back or sideways to enhance the secrecy before starting
and then at intervals (as stereotyped in acting); often stretching the mouth
toward the listener if not frontally oriented toward him, while looking 'out'
quite theatrically: "the hideous old m a n [...] pointing at him, and whisper-
ing to another m a n , with his face averted, w h o sat beside him" (Dickens
, X X X I V , 255). Children often whisper a confession or request looking
d o w n in shyness, and casting their eyes d o w n , and whispering is a well-
k n o w n feminine attitude of embarrassment or shyness. In contrast, the loud
or overloud whispered speech necessary to span a distance unsuitable for
intimate conversation, or the truly 'theatrical' stage whisper, elicit tense
facial expression.
Phonatory disorders that cause involuntary whispery voice are deter-
mined by anomalous vocal fold movements and are called aphonias, c o m -
monly referred to as aphonic voice. Apart, however, from complete
aphonia, or loss of the voice (during which whisper speechflowssmoothly),
or the partial loss of it, both caused typically by physical factors, such as

abuse of the vocal folds (e.g., after m u c h raucous shouting in different situ-
ations) or by hysterical conversion, there is an intermittent aphonia, in
which voice and whisper alternate during speech. F r o m a psychological and
a communicational point of view, there is a form of paralinguistic intermit-
tent aphonia called spastic aphonia or hysterical disphonia, during which
whispering and voicing alternate with each other spasmodically up to sev-
eral times within a single word, usually with some breathiness or hoarseness
(see M o o r e 1971:537). This is a manifestation of 'conversion hysteria', that
is, w h e n a mental conflict is converted into this physical symptom, which I
have observed sometimes, for instance, during or in the aftermath of an
emotional conflict.
A five-point scale would acknowledge all the meaningful forms of
whispered voice: oversoft whisper — soft whisper — normal whisper —
loud whisper — overloud whisper.

Murmured voice

For practical reasons, w e could try to identify the type of voice that in terms
of loudness is neither whisper nor full voice, but is uttered in an undertone
that makes it less than distinctive to the ear, perceived as 'a stream' (when
heard at a certain distance, often referred to as 'murmuring'), yet with
almost complete vocal fold vibration and without the sighing quality of
whisper (but with some breathiness) and with more tension, air pressure
and friction. W e would then find that murmuring (from the echoic Lat.
murmurare), also called sotto voce, is the most appropriate term for just
that voice quality. S o m e phoneticians use it as synonymous with whispering
and some dictionaries even refer to 'incomplete articulation' (equating m u r -
muring with mumbling). This seems to negate the status that 'murmuring'
— from the m u c h evoking murmurare — should have, and actually has,
both in literature and to one's ear, as differentiated from whispering (that
is, not having its peculiar hissing, nor its characteristic tension), since both
terms are very well differentiated for the sensitive speaker/listener. ' M u r -
muring', however, seems to be associated with lower registers, also with
complaint or dissatisfaction, but, in literature, m u c h more with satisfaction
and expressions of love: "'Yes, — m y love, yes — , m y love [...]'/ 'Yes', she
murmured, nestling very sweet and close to him" (Lawrence W L , XIII,

Breathy voice

Closer to full voice, but still letting too m u c h air through for lack of suffi-
cient muscular effort, the vocal folds produce "a sigh-like mixture of breath
and voice" (Catford 1977:101), that is, giving modal voice the hissing or
sighing quality of breathy voice ( c o m m o n also to whispery voice) which can
appear also in combinations with other laryngeal features, as defined later.
This "combination of vocal fold sound and whisper noise produced by tur-
bulent air" (Moore 1971:537) adds also a powerful paralinguistic element to
Breathiness itself is associated, first of all, with uncontrollable nonver-
bal expression of sexual arousal, thus obscene telephone callers ('telephone
breathers', as they are called sometimes), the stereotyped film sex symbols
and anyone trying to seduce someone else display breathy voice, as do male
and female models in television commercials advertising perfume, shaving
and body lotions, smooth fabrics or any other products that m a y suggest
sensual intrapersonal or interpersonal intimacy. It can be said, in fact, that
breathy voice is one of the main tools of advertising today, with manipula-
tive consequences far beyond the actual purchase a product. But it is in gen-
eral a quality of emotional reactions ('¡I love you!'), often preceded
immediately by the inhaling phase of a sigh, its egressive phase qualifying
the verbal expression as in ' A h , I just don't know!'. Breathiness is also the
sound of weariness, of facing difficult decisions, of answering difficult ques-
tions under tension or giving serious advice (often practiced in a m u c h
stereotyped manner by 'masculine-type' male actors, typically using the
prespeech inhalation), of shock ('Oh, m y G o d ! ' ) , confusion ('I just don't
k n o w ' ) , anxiety, and dismissal ('Oh, of course not!'). It must be noted that
whisperiness and breathiness can serve to give speech the same attitudinal
functions at times, as in weariness, during sexual advances, shock, etc. and,
of course, in an intimate or passionate conversation, in which both breathi-
ness and whisperiness m a y alternate.
A s a speech disorder, breathiness shows organic similarities and differ-
ences with whisperiness or aphonia (cf. M o o r e 1971:541-543) and it is
caused basically by lack of enough infraglottal air pressure either because
there is a very short vocal-fold closed phase in vibration or because they do
not close completely. But, apart from the organic problems, breathiness
can also be caused by fatigue and illness.
A two-point scale of breathiness is sufficient to identify this qualifier:
breathy — very breathy.

Λ note on glottal stop and glottal catch

If w e think of these increasing degrees of vocal fold closure, from whisper

through breathiness to full voice, it is convenient to acknowledge at this
point again the single-pulse phonatory p h e n o m e n o n of glottal stop, discus­
sed in Chapter 2.4, as the briefest instance of voice sound. Catford
(1977:104), distinguishes between "full glottal stop" (for which he asks the
reader to m a k e a series of "gentle, minimal, glottal stops, that is, with very
little subglottal pressure" letting them "explode mildly into a very brief h-
like sound: [ h h h ]" and "anterior glottal stop" (for which he instructs to
"constrict the larynx as for anterior voice," and thus produce "a slightly
sharper, slightly m o r e high-pitched release sound"). H e then adds that glot­
tal stop can be released into voicelessness, into whisper, or into voice.
There is a special form of glottal voice stop produced as a momentary,
minimal qualifier peculiar enough to be set apart and identified by the term
glottal catch corresponding to the conversational reference to one's voice
'catching', that is, being suddenly and uncontrollably interrupted by the
extreme glottal closure caused by emotion, often as one feels that 'lump' in
the throat, or simply out of nervousness or embarrassment.
But as glottal stop cannot be a superimposed continuous voice qual­
ifier, but rather an isolated p h e n o m e n o n in the speech stream and part of
certain paralinguistic alternants, occurrences of it will be discussed under
that category. A repeated intermittent production of such similar glottal
contacts, however, gives rise to glottalization, discussed below as creaky

Laryngealized (creaky) voice

Laryngealized voice, or pulsated voice (also called creaky voice, glottal fry
because of its frying-like or bubbling-like quality, etc.) was described ear­
lier (Chapter 2.4), thus, what remains to be discussed is its communica-
tional status, perception and functions. Laryngealization of certain
phonemes and short utterances is phonological (as acknowledged, for
instance, in Laver 1980:126) in Arabic, Chadic and Nilotic languages, as
well as in some instances in Danish. O n e of the characteristics of tone lan­
guages like Chinese (to whose sounds w e are becoming accustomed in so
m a n y areas of North America) is precisely their easily identifiable creaky
quality of syllables with low or falling tones (mentioned also by Laver).

Paralinguistically, this grating or squeaking effect — evoking in

extreme occurrences the sound of door hinges (from echoic M E . Creken, to
m a k e a sound like geese, crows, etc.) — besides being involuntarily caused
by physical exertion, as w h e n lifting something heavy (particularly if w e
continue to speak), it is caused by physical pain (not only with verbal
speech, but in an alternant like a 'laryngealized m o a n ' ) , and by old age (or
imitating the elderly). W e find laryngealization as an important attitudinal
paralinguistic behavior in m a n y languages, for instance: in Spanish, as m e n -
tioned earlier, educated (in fact, more the sophisticated type) female speak-
ers descend to a very low laryngealized pitch in emphatic statements like
Bueno, naturalmente que sí ('Well, of course!'), the very Madridian ¡Desde
luego! ( ' W h y . . . ! ' , T h e idea!', That was an awful thing to say/do!') and
even in longer stretches w h e n affirming, contradicting or correcting. In
French, for instance, the also low-pitched 'Mais naturellement!' Mais oui!,
Ooooh!, with the voice of Maurice Chevalier. In English, besides the very
British higher-pitched, drawled greeting 'Aaaah!', w e also laryngealize low-
tone stretches of speech in expressions like ' W h y , of course not', said with
vehemence or indignation. But creaky or laryngealized quality throughout
whole stretches of very low- pitched speech characterize boredom, reluc-
tance ('Oh, not n o w ! ' ) , suppressed rage ('¡How dare you!'), unwilling con-
cession ('Well, uh...'), "stalling or lazines, as one talks w h e n one hates to
get up in the morning" (Key 1975:47); and, on the positive side, it also
qualifies comforting words ( ' N o w , n o w . . . ' ) , or typical feminine or mas-
culine words admiring a baby or a small pet ('Oh, just look at him!'), or a
w o m a n talking lovingly to a m a n in a babyish voice, often referred to as
purring (another old echoic English word to refer originally to the cat's
sound of satisfaction), used also addressing someone, or a pet, affection-
ately and babyishly. Children typically laryngealize their voice for coaxing
adults. K e y (1975:47) mentions also the sensuous effect of creaky voice:
"Molly's famous soliloquy (Joyce's Ulysses) was pungently recited recently
by actress A n n a M a n a h a n , with frequent laryngealization over whole utter-
ances". Often there is also laryngealization before the end of a speaker's
turn in conversation, a preclosing behavior that a potential speaker m a y
perceive as a cue for him to become the speaker. Vocal fold trillization or
laryngealization by itself is, of course, a possible paralinguistic alternant, as
will be seen (e.g., the low-pitched and drawled hesitation ' U u u u h ' , a child
imitating a machine gun).

Creaky voice can be modified in turn by whisperiness and harshness

(seen below) in what should be called whispery creaky voice (Catford
1964:32) (as when a w o m a n admires a baby in a whisper), harsh creaky
voice (possibly in the example of suppressed rage seen above), harsh whis-
pery creaky voice (applicable to the example of reluctance if w e intensify
that ' O h , not now!' with added roughness, in a muttering tone and some-
times rejecting something or someone in low tones), and in other combina-
tions mentioned later.
T w o degrees of laryngealization, laryngealized — forcefully laryn-
gealized, would be sufficient to distinguish meaningful variations of this

Falsetto voice

The voice m o d e at the high end of the pitch scale was identified already as
falsetto voice, also called 'light voice'. It does not seem to have phonologi-
cal value in any language, but it definitely performs important functions as
a paralinguistic qualifier of both verbal language and paralanguage itself.
Besides Pike's reference to 'yodelling', mentioned in the previous chapter
as an illustration of falsetto, Laver (1980:120) notes that in one of the
Mayan languages of Mexico they use falsetto as a sign of respect in greet-
ing, even throughout an entire formal exchange. Key (1975:111) refers to
the female speech in the Gbeya people of the Central African Republic,
often modified by falsetto, apparently in the expression of "emotions and
attitudes". Falsetto is definitely a feature of black American speech, both in
males and females, but with functions not dissimilar to those played among
white North-American speakers, only a little higher in pitch and typically
spreading over longer utterances, but in general in the same situations, that
is, surprise or indignation (e.g., '¡¿What?!'), emphatic affirmation
('¡Yeah!', and the typical '¡Yeah, m a n ! ' of the black young male), in several
forms of laughter (where blacks may differ from whites in their kinesic
cobehaviors, such as loosely clapping hands and twisting body), c o m m o n to
African black speakers, in enthusiastic approval (e.g., '¡Wonderful!',
'¡Ooooh!'), or the typical television host's or comedian's drawled and
falsetto '¡Ooh!' confirming the success of a joke or someone else's funny
intervention, and, of course, in various forms of screaming, singing and
laughing. Falsetto is also associated with a young girl's innocence, or
feigned innocence.

Because of the very nature of falsetto, one would need to distinguish

just one degree of high voice.
Three different voice qualities can be identified at this point: whispery
falsetto, observed in w o m e n and children sometimes w h e n they cry, creaky
falsetto, as in sudden very high-pitched expression of repugnance
('¡Eeugh!'), and whispery creaky falsetto, with very similar functions, again
typical of w o m e n and children, the former perhaps affecting exaggerated
There is, however, an even higher falsetto that seems to involve the
ventricular folds and which Laver (1980:139) refers to as ventricular falsetto,
"(sometimes referred to as 'seal voice'), by very severe compressive effort
of the whole larynx, and extreme pulmonic effort". Another very high-
pitched type that can be classified in this section is one mentioned by Hol-
lien (1974:127) as the one "usually referred to as the 'flute', 'whistle' or
'pipe' register [...] exhibited by a few w o m e n and children" (also quoted by
Laver); and, very close or perhaps equal to it, is piping voice, a "high,
falsetto voice" (Laver 1972:195).
A s for the abnormal occurrence of falsetto voice, it was discussed w h e n
dealing with pitch within primary qualities, and with the larynx in Chapter
2.4, at which time eunuchoid voice was defined as a high-pitched falsetto.

Harsh voice

Harsh voice, characterized by laryngeal strain and tension, extreme vocal-

fold adduction and low pitch, is caused basically by irregularity of vocal-
fold vibration (i.e., brief openings followed by long closures w h e n they vib-
rate) and seems to add roughness to the voice. According to M o o r e
(1971:538), it is recognized "by a popping or ticking component that is
determined by the glottal pulse release". But harshness can be seen loosely
referred to with quite a few different labels that can confuse the student of
paralanguage w h o tries in vain to call things by just one n a m e and k n o w
exactly what the other terms m e a n : intense, grating, metallic, raucous,
rasp, rough, shrill, strident, throaty, and even creaking (cf. Perkins
1971:496, for an account of the disagreement a m o n g textbooks in speech
pathology). In fact, the speech of people in everyday conversation as well
as in novels can be seen to be plagued by this indistinctive usage, 'harsh-
ness', however, appearing more frequently than the others, although at
times a sensitive reader m a y wonder what type of voice exactly the writer

was imagining w h e n he described it as 'harsh': " M r . Sikes spoke in the very

harshest key of a very harsh voice" (Dickens , X V , 104). W a s it harsh
falsetto, harsh creaky falsetto?
While the terms just mentioned are taken from English, one can very
well imagine h o w fascinating and useful it would be (hopefully suggested by
this chapter) to investigate the etymological origins (so often onomato-
poeic) and use of m a n y of these words in different languages and compare
the linguistic-cultural repertoires and h o w exactly they evoke the sounds
they designate for the native speaker-listener of each language. Take
'harsh', for instance: its M E . and O N . form, harsh, could it not have been
also originally echoic, and, given its meaning, could it not have been
accompanied by a 'harsh'-evoking' facial gesture? Thus, is its present use in
accordance with its true meaning and form?
At any rate, harshness is always a disagreeable voice quality, as suggest
the various terms with which w e m a y refer to it. It can be used functionally
to add to verbal language (and often to paralinguistic alternants) the m e a n -
ing of negative attitudes and feelings like anger, ridicule, scorn, contempt,
cruelty and violent emotions. However, it is a quality that m a y appear in
combinations of voice qualities, some of which might be the different ways
in which, for instance, O'Neill in Desire Under the Elms imagined E b e n
speaking, that is: harsh creaky voice ("fiercely"), harsh whispery voice
("vengefully" or "scornfully"), ("with vengeful passion"). The others are:
harsh falsetto (e.g., in a harshly expressed indignant surprise), harsh whis-
pery falsetto (e.g., the same reaction if it must be whispered), harsh creaky
falsetto (e.g., the indignant surprise uttered by an elderly person), and
harsh whispery creaky falsetto (e.g., the same one uttered in a whisper).
Laver and Hanson (1981:69) exclude harsh whisper and harsh creak "be-
cause their components are acoustically mutually redundant. Harshness
shares a necessary irregularity [of vibration] with both whisper and creak",
and yet Laver refers to 'whisky voice', 'ginny voice' and ' r u m m y voice' as
"popular labels for the deep, harsh whispery voices that tend to signal one
result of excessive habitual consumption of alcohol" (Laver 1972:197).
There are more types of harsh voice, in fact, subcategories of it, that
should be mentioned, one of which, groaning, is included within nasalized
effects under velopharyngeal control in section 6. T h e other is produced
w h e n harshness reaches its extreme point of high muscular tension and
involves the ventricular folds, which press d o w n on the true vocal folds;
here it will be identified as extreme ventricular voice or severe harshness.

Laver (1980:131), quoting others, refers to the "characteristic deep, hoarse

voice, alike in male and female" and to 'ventricular dysphonia' as a total,
tight, spastic constriction of the larynx "giving the voice a groaning, animal
quality and suggesting to the listener exertion of extreme effort. The words
sound as if they are being chopped off'. But, as Laver clarifies, not all
forms of ventricular phonation are that extreme.
Three degrees of harshness should be differentiated: slightly harsh —
harsh — extremely harsh.

Strident voice and shrill voices

There are two qualities which w e see referred to in conversation as well as

in literature as strident and shrill voice, both characterized by high pitch.
"Stridency has few characteristics to call its o w n , having been described as
harshness, harshness with high pitch, harshness with high intensity, and
hoarseness with high pitch" (Perkins 1971:497). A s for more impressionistic
labels, WTNID and FWNSD,2 after giving its Latin etymology, stridere
('stridulation' being the term to refer to the high-pitched creaking sound of
crickets and some other insects) define it as meaning to m a k e a grating,
rasp noise, and describe it as harsh-sounding, shrill, grating, creaking, 'stri-
dent' referred to as the noise m a d e , for instance, by hinges; but w e find
other associations as well: "cried G u d r u n , in a high, strident voice, some-
thing like the scream of a seagull" (Lawrence W L , X I V , 190).
O n the other hand, m a n y of us tend to think of shrillness as different
from ordinary voice in its high pitch and a disagreeable quality which
evokes a more piercing and penetrating sound than 'strident'. It comes
from shrille, a M E . echoism, related probably to 'shriek', to refer to a
sharp, high-pitch piercing sound, as the first part of the rooster's cry.
'Shrillness' is used to refer to certain n o n h u m a n sounds, such as the pierc-
ing, high-pitched noise m a d e by cicadas, or by a loudspeaker. Five m o r e
voice labels that can be identified as voice types partaking of shrillness are
'squeaking', 'squealing', 'screeching', 'squawking' and 'cackling'.
Squeaking (an M E . echoism evoking a high-pitched thin sound by ani-
mal or person) is defined by WTNID as sharp, shrill, usually short and not
very loud cry or sound (which, of course, can be superimposed to speech),
and by FWNSD as high-pitched, thin, sharp and penetrating. Squeaking is
one of the evoking, quasiparalinguistic or language-like sounds that sur-
round us in everyday life (not all of them, of course, in each culture), as

with the squeaking of oars in the oarlocks, of shoes on a wooden floor, of

boots on powdery snow, the squeaking of hinges, the squeaking with which
an old ship is said to ' m o a n ' loudly or softly according to the calmness or
roughness of the sea, etc.
Squealing (another M E . echoism squelen) is defined by W T N I D as
shrill, sharp and prolonged sound and by FWNSD as more prolonged than
squeaking and expressing anger, fear or pain. Pigs squeal, and so does
chalk on a blackboard sometimes (WYNID), although the latter is referred
to more often as 'screeching'.
Screeching (also from a M E . echoism scrichen) is defined by WTNID
as high, shrill, piercing cry as in terror or pain, and by FWMSD as strident
and shrieking, "The w o m a n ' s voice shrilled in Harkand's ears like the
screech of chalk on a blackboard [...]" (Dos Passos M T , 2, III, 142). T h e
brakes of a car screech too, and so does the night owl.
Squawking (since 19th c , echoism evoking a loud, harsh cry, as of a
parrot or chicken) is defined by WTNID as a loud harsh abrupt raucous
outcry, giving the squawking of frightened hens as an example. It is, there-
fore, different from the previous four voice types by virtue of its abruptness
and, although it is also harsh, it is not however as piercing as screeching,
nor as long as squealing. " ' N o w wait a minute,' Doris says, a high hurt
squawking, like an unwilling hen the rooster treads" (Laurence SA, I, 36).
A s for cackling, another echoism ( M E . ckelen, related to Lat. cacillare and
G . gackern, it refers mostly to speaking or laughing brokenly and noisily
and rather shrilly.

Metallic voice

Metallic voice is another very ambiguous concept described with m a n y

labels, some of which are also applied to some of the voice qualities just dis-
cussed: 'sharp', 'harsh', 'grating', 'brassy', 'bright', 'clear', 'clean', 'keen',
'piercing', 'penetrating', 'ringing', even strident (the latter three more
evocative metaphorically). Perkins mentions it along with stridency, as
another term for harshness; which, he says, can be either a phonatory prob-
lem or perhaps a resonance problem. At any rate, both 'strident' and
'metallic' will continue to be thought of as two types of harshness: 'strident'
w h e n the voice type and the term seem to evoke each other (e.g., English
strident and metallic, French strident and métallique, Spanish estridente and
metálica, G e r m a n scharf and metallisch) but, as with other qualities, will

defy a true consensus simply because the extremely unclear borderline

between the terms that seem to partake of harshness depend on physiolog-
ical and acoustic nuances m u c h too difficult to identify, as the literature

Forms of voice 'roughness'

T h e impressionistic term 'rough' has been adopted by m a n y specialists in

voice disorders as an all-inclusive label to refer to various forms of laryngeal
noise, whereas others — just as w e do in conversation, or writers in litera-
ture — speak of 'hoarse', 'husky', 'rasp', 'rough' or 'coarse'. Here the two
main types identified will be huskiness and hoarseness, but the latter c o m -
prising subtypes such as 'croaking', 'raucous', and other 'throaty' qualities
like 'gruff and 'growling' effects.

Husky voice

Husky (since 19th denoting a dry throat and its resulting voice) is defined
by WINID as 'dry' or 'rough' and 'hoarse' (as with emotion), and by
FWNSD as 'rough', 'dry' and 'hoarse'. For m a n y years the American stage
and film actress Lauren Bacall has been identified by the sensual attractive-
ness of her husky voice. Thus, it seems — not only from dictionary defini-
tions but as referred to in real life and in literature — that huskiness can be
regarded as a rather positive quality w h e n judged as seductively sensual in
w o m e n because of the other meanings of the word (and some specialists
have equated it even to breathiness, certainly a quality in Bacall's voice), or
reflecting a husky body. But it can be regarded also as a negative quality if,
for instance, it is judged masculine in a w o m a n , or w h e n w e associate it
with a rather harsh attitude. Thus, for practical purposes and responding to
social perception, it could be associated with the more 'normal' "deep, soft,
whispery voice" (Laver 1972:195), while hoarse voice, seen below, could be
applied to the pathological forms of rough voice. A n d yet, huskiness can be
referred to also as a deterioration of normal voice: ' " O h — I'm so sick. I
feel so awful. M y voice is husky and muffled, a retching of words'" (Laur-
ence SA, VIII, 246).
Three degrees of huskiness can be differentiated: slightly husky —
husky — extremely husky.

Hoarse voice types

Hoarse, on the other hand, seems to imply a quality acquired through some
negative activities and even give a poor image of the speaker's personality.
Yet few would be able to define its physiology, nor distinguish it from hus-
kiness or any other type of rough voice. In fact, it has been reported (Per-
kins 1971:497) that six speech pathologists could not agree, w h e n asked to
judge the voices of cheerleaders suffering from vocal strain, on the distinc-
tion a m o n g hoarseness, breathiness and harshness because of a " c o m m o n
process basic to the production of these different qualities". A n d while a
speech specialist defines hoarseness as the combination of a low-pitched
phonatory sound from the vocal folds and a noise that is similar to the rela-
tively constant static noise from a radio (Moore 1971:538), Laver
(1972:195) identifies it as "deep, (loud), harsh/ventricular whispery voice".
WYNID assigns to 'hoarse' the following characteristics: 'low', 'harsh',
'husky', 'often muffled', 'with little or no resonance (as w h e n being with a
cold, from too m u c h talking, or speaking with emotion)', while FWNSD
describes it as 'harsh', 'rough' and 'with grating effect (as w h e n having a
cold, or speaking with fatigue)'. S O E D links it to the voice of a raven or
frog, and offers quotations which apply it to the h u m a n voice (16th c.), the
raven and the storm. Hoarseness, considered a typical dysphonia (i.e.,
laryngeal dysfunction that interferes with optimum vocal fold adduction),
can vary greatly: "scarcely distinguishable from breathiness [...] some per-
sons will exhibit hoarseness at one m o m e n t and breathiness at another [...]
Hoarseness m a y contain so m u c h noise that there is little evidence of vocal
sound as such" (Moore 1971:543). For some 'hoarseness' is different from
'huskiness' in that "the vocal folds vibrate in an aperiodic, irregular or
haphazard manner" (Brackett 1971:452). It shows definitely low pitch
which is also restricted in range, sometimes falling and rising suddenly, and
sometimes with moments of aphonia. It can be caused, not just by cancer of
the vocal folds, but by a cold, by laryngitis, or simply by m u c h strain, as
after shouting or singing (the typical voice of 'the morning after'), because
a ruptured blood vessel produces swelling (polyps). The hoarse effect can
also be produced by interference of one of the ventricular folds, by removal
of part or all of a vocal fold, and by interfering mucus (sometimes one has
to cough or clear one's throat), which vibrates.
Three types of hoarse voice are usually differentiated: dry hoarseness,
of increased intensity and breathiness, wet hoarseness, characterized by

breathiness, low pitch and often creakiness, and rough hoarseness, with
additional low-pitched sounds because the vocal folds vibrate at two loca-
tions and voice is perceived as a two-tone one. Hoarseness, of course, can
be also momentary if it marks periods of m u c h strain or emotion, or while
choking — although literary references usually describe what is actually a
voice disorder — and, like m a n y other qualities, it can be coupled to other
voice types (e.g., whisperiness).
However, there are still other synonymous labels used both in litera-
ture and in conversation which, while describing the quality of hoarseness,
would be very difficult to identify as the dry, wet or rough type. O n e is
croaking (echoic origin, from M E . croken, of persons since 15th c , m e a n -
ing a voice which is harsh, throaty and raucous, similar to the cry of a frog
and a raven, both of which croak), associated also with qualities like 'tartly'
or sour.
Another label for hoarse voice is raucous voice (Lat. raucous, hoarse),
described by WYNID as "disagreeably harsh and strident", and by FWNSD
as "rough, hoarse, harsh", and as "the raucous voice of a frog".
Again, w e find that harshness, huskiness and hoarseness seem to be
simultaneously present in voice sometimes, in fact, in some throaty voices
(defined by dictionaries as 'guttural', 'hoarse') and in some gruffVoices (de-
fined as 'harsh', 'throaty', 'hoarse') (from Early M o d . D . grof, akin to G .
grob, coarse, of voice since 17th c.), identified by Laver (1972:195) as
"deep, harsh, whispery, creaky voice" that m a y voluntarily express anger
and other negative interpersonal attitudes: '"Start what?' M y voice is gruff
with suspicion" (Laurence S A , I, 30).
Another form of hoarse voice is growling (which describes also the
facial gesture of the growling beast) ( M E . groule, of the bowels' rumbling;
since 18th of a person's voice, m a y b e echoism).
Three-degree scales can conveniently serve to broadly measure volun-
tary or involuntary hoarseness: slightly hoarse — hoarse — extremely
hoarse. For the other four qualities (which are difficult to identify at times,
but should be acknowledged because they are used in conversation and in
literature and, therefore, differentiated) one degree of identification should
be sufficient.

Tremulous voice

T h e last voice quality caused by the form of vibration is tremulousness, or

breaking tremulous (from Lat. tremulus tremere, to tremble, of no recog-
nized echoic origin, but sounding m u c h like an imitation) or quavering
(from M E . quaveren, to shake, of the voice since 18th c ; in singing, 16th
c.) 3 is caused by muscular tremor which produces an irregular or pulsating
quality because of the uneven vibrato (the rise and fall of pitch and vol-
u m e ) . Quavering (i.e., trembling) speech is almost functional, typical of a
nervous speaker, or w h e n overwhelmed by emotion ('There was a quaver
in his voice'), and w e find it often in literary descriptions of voice.

A note on tense voice and lax voice

T h e researcher, or simply the observer of voice, would need to acknow-

ledge in this system of laryngeal voice quality settings two more characteris-
tics which, in fact, are noticeable w h e n they are superimposed on any
other, namely, the tenseness or laxness of the person's delivery. Tense voice
(often called 'metallic') has been identified, in general, as rather harsh
(even ventricular), louder and higher-pitched and with higher air pressure,
with raised larynx and constricted upper larynx and lower pharynx; and, of
course, the muscular tension can clearly show on the face and in the general
kinesic accompaniment of voice as characteristic of tenseness and e m o -
tional states. Lax voice (often called 'muffled') has been defined as some-
what breathy or whispery, softer and lower-pitched, with lower larynx and
unconstricted pharynx, and moderate nasality, therefore typical of relaxa-
tion, self-control, etc. A review of the physiology of the larynx and the
pharynx in Chapter 2 would illustrate h o w these two qualities c o m e about.
A five-degree scale covers the more characteristic aspects: extremely
lax — slightly lax — m e d i u m — slightly tense — extremely tense.

5.4 Esophageal control

If the functions of the larynx and the voice qualities it can lend speech are
systematically identified, esophageal voice must at least be included under
paralinguistic qualifiers. Its muscular physiology, auditory characteristics
and functions have been described in Chapter 2.3. Besides the esophageal

speech caused by surgical removal of the larynx, esophageal air, not pul-
monic air, is used, as was said, to eructate (about one word can be uttered
in a long eructation), otherwise it can be said to occur (from a communica-
tional point of view) only paralinguistically as a belch, which should then be
treated as an alternant. A s for esophageal speech, with which laryngec-
tomees are obliged to speak, it is always somewhat hoarse. T o learn to pro-
duce it the patient m a y be asked to belch voluntarily and then gradually say
words like 'yes' and ' n o ' and later produce whole sentences, realizing "that
his larynx was only a sound producer, and that the tongue, soft palate, lips
and related structures formed the sound into speech" (Moore 1971:566).

5.5 Pharyngeal control

A s discussed in Chapter 2.5, the pharynx acts, like the oral and nasal
cavities, as a resonating chamber for vocal band vibrations w h e n it changes
its shape during speech, becoming longer, shorter, wider or narrower,
which produces various pharyngeal voice qualifiers with important func-

Pharyngealized voice (pharyngealization)

The most obvious voice quality produced in the pharynx is, of course,
the secondary articulation discussed before as pharyngealization, produced
w h e n the root of the tongue approximates the back wall of the pharynx. A s
a paralinguistic qualifier this pharyngeal resonance m a y be used, for
instance, w h e n speaking with mocking contempt, scorn or aggressiveness,
and in some forms of ventriloquism, which, as with other paralinguistic or
kinesic features, cannot be taken as a pancultural behavior.
T w o degrees of pharyngealization are enough to differentiate occur-
rences of it: pharyngealized — extremely pharyngealized.

Pharyngeal huskiness

The retraction of the tongue constricts the pharynge, sometimes causing

nasality, which is usually produced by excessive vocal effort. It is, in fact, a
sort of huskiness of varying pitch which m a y appear w h e n speaking under
emotional stress or in m a n y forms of laughter, and it is differentiated from

laryngeal huskiness by the tense narrowing and friction one feels in the
throat. In fact, passing from one type to another is easy and can be used for
especial voluntary voice effects. Again, the popular use of the terms
'husky', 'hoarse', 'throaty' and 'rasp' can often refer to either pharyngeal or
laryngeal huskiness. The term 'throaty' (i.e., 'coming from the throat') is
actually the more colloquial one for 'guttural' (i.e., 'coming from the
throat', from Lat. guttur throat), identified by WTNID as "heavy, thick,
deep as if from low in the throat", and as "a rich voice", thus it is quite
ambiguous and the listener or reader can imagine different qualities.
T w o degrees of pharyngeal huskiness can be identified: pharyngeal
huskiness — extreme pharyngeal huskiness.

Muffled voice

If, unlike for pharyngealization, w e push the body of the tongue forward
and away from the relaxed pharynx walls and faucal arches (which damps
high frequency and produces mellow tone, lower pitch and relaxed tension
of the voice) the voice then sounds muffled. Other labels are used both in
everyday life and in literature, most of which are listed by Laver (1980:141)
as opposed to metallic voice: 'mellow' (thought of as the opposite to harsh-
ness, stridency, metallicness), 'soft', 'dull' and 'obscure' (with a possible
and unnecessary negative connotation), 'guttural', 'thick', 'rich', 'full', etc.
These terms, particularly 'mellow', 'rich', 'full' and 'thick', are used to refer
to maturity, full w o m a n h o o d and masculinity, etc., and other positive
traits. The label 'muffled', however, has but negative connotations, either
regarding the speaker's personality or attitude or the voice itself, but it is
used most commonly to refer to a sound, including voice, which is
deadened by something, particularly cloth (the word's original meaning):
"she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds" (Fitzgerald G G , V , 70).

Hollow voice

'Hollow' is defined by WTNID, referring to sound, as "sounding or rever-

berating like a sound m a d e in a cave or large empty enclosure: muffled and
sepulchral" and by W N W D C E as "deep-toned, dull, and muffled, as
though resounding from something hollow". Referred to voice, it is a c o m -
m o n impressionistic label, a synonym of which is sepulchral, produced by a
m a x i m u m lengthening of the pharynx as a resonating chamber, and even

the oral cavity, along with lower pitch and some breathy effect, thus sound-
ing resounding and orotund (as indicated earlier, from Lat. ore rotundo,
with round mouth, suggesting the accompanying facial gesture), terms
often used also for hollow voice. S o m e famous traditional-type orators have
had that kind of voice and it is a stereotyped quality for mysterious charac-
ters and somber situations.
T w o degrees of hollowness can be conveniently distinguished: hollow
— extremely hollow.


The last type of pharyngeal voice control that could be mentioned is the one
which, by drawing the faucal pillars toward each other (as w h e n beginning
to retch), produces faucalized speech (in contrast to the relaxed, mellow
voice characteristic of relaxed faucal arches), used just for fun or, for
instance, to imitate the twanginess of the American hillbilly's speech.
T w o degrees of faucalization are: faucalized (or twangy) — extremely
faucalized (or twangy).


Gulping is another qualifier of not more than one or two sounds or just of
breathing which occurs mostly in the pharyngeal area, caused by emotional
tension, but also produced at will (e.g., in m o c k fear). The root of the ton-
gue touches the lower and upper pharynx in a sort of strangulated articula-
tion that lends speech a tense postalveolar velic quality, the posterior faucal
pillars, which normally help in swallowing, produce the effect of an Arabic
faucal approximant, and the velum is pulled up closing the velopharyngeal
passage, all causing also the typical sudden jerk of the neck.

5.6 Velopharyngeal control

The physiology of nasal sounds and of normal and abnormal nasalization

(as a secondary articulation of voice quality) has been discussed in sufficient
detail in Chapter 2.8, as has the difference between oral and nasal reso-
nance as primary qualities. Also, nasal sounds independent of language
(e.g., a m o a n ) will be identified as alternants. Thus, only nasalization of

language and paralanguage (i.e., accompanying other qualifiers, such as

harshness, and alternants) will be briefly discussed as velopharyngeal con-
trol. This p h e n o m e n o n generates a number of basically nasalized voice
types which, however, carry significant semantic differences based on sex,
attitude and emotions, besides, naturally, their abnormal occurrences as
voice disorders in some instances. Besides nasalized voice proper, and some
of its combinations with other laryngeal and pharyngeal qualifiers, nine
more types are identified: whining, whimpering, twanginess, moaning,
groaning, grunting, head-cold voice, adenoidal voice, and nasopharyngeal

Nasal voice (nasalization)

The secondary articulation that constitutes nasalization, or nasal voice, has

quite a few functions in interaction as a paralinguistic voice modifier in
every culture; although, as with any other voice quality, no crosscultural
study (nor hardly cultural, in a systematic way) has ever been carried out
which would reveal semantic similarities and differences as well as possible
universals. It is always easier to investigate visual signs than audible ones.
With nasal voice there seem to be no particularly positive interactive func-
tions. Verbal nasal voice is characteristic of passionate speech, intoxication,
a lazy attitude (e.g., ' O h , not n o w ! ' ) , a desire to appear tough, w h e n chil-
dren or adults (the latter conscious of their childish voice) coax others,
sometimes in courtship, or w h e n w o m e n imitate m e n , etc., but it can m o d -
ify m a n y paralinguistic differentiators (discussed in the next chapter) and
alternants; for instance, nasalizing laughter or crying (voluntarily or not),
or emphasizing the repugnance felt w h e n uttering '¡Eeungh!', the sensual
emission of a sigh, or the contemptuousness of a ' U h - u h ! ' .
Nasal voice can be, of course, added to some of the single or c o m -
pound laryngeal and pharyngeal voice qualifiers, for instance: deep harsh
creaky nasopharyngeal voice, or groaning, discussed below; hoarse
nasalized voice, as a m a n in severe physical pain or speaking in a sort of ani-
mal-like voice in a deep emotional state; husky nasal voice, actually the one
that characterizes American actress Lauren Bacall and m a n y feminine sen-
sual characters in films, or as voluntarily portrayed in real life; or low/high-
pitched nasalized voice, with tense nasolabial constriction, as in an expres-
sion of rejection.
A three-point scale can be distinguished which will signal the degree of
voluntary or involuntary nasality: slightly nasal — nasal — extremely nasal.

A s a voice disorder, hypernasality (excessive nasal resonance) is due to

insufficient nasopharyngeal closure (e.g., in cleft palate), while denasality
or hyponasality is insufficient nasal resonance for [m], [n] and [n]) and
appears in rhinitis, adenoidal voice, etc., both identified in Chapter 2.

Whining voice

The characteristic nasality of whininess is accompanied by a higher or

(more typically) lower-than-usual pitch and tenser musculature of velum
and pharynx and nasopharynx, as one can notice by changing from regular
nasality to whining voice. Dictionary definitions m a y identify whininess as
peevish and low, as indicating contempt, distress, fear, coaxing, and as chil-
dish and undignified. It seems to have an IE. echoic base meaning whizz,
hiss, etc., through an A S . whinan, referring to the whizzing of an arrow, as
in O N ; later to persons and animals, mainly a dog.
Rousey (1971:828-829) explains whining as an aspect of aggression (to-
gether with nasality and harshness) and as going with "the more immature,
demanding, and childish aspects of a person, whereas nasality is a more
characteriological manner of discharging aggression", and harshness as "an
open display of aggression". Children coax adults with their well controlled
whining voice (e.g., ' O o o o o o h , buy m e some candy, M o m ! ' ) , but it can be
used by w o m e n to achieve the effect of sensual innocence. Uncontrollable
whininess is, of course, a quality disorder, as is excessive or insufficient nas-
A subtype of whining voice is bleating voice. 'Bleating', because of its
whining quality and its similar communicative functions (otherwise it could
be classified under laryngealized voice types), should be regarded as a sub-
type of it. Its etymology is echoic, from A S . blaetan, referred to the cry of
a lamb, sheep, goat or calf, but recorded since the mid-16th c. as applied
contemptuously to the h u m a n voice. A s with the animals' bleating, it is
high- or low-pitched, nasalized and with a quavery laryngealized quality. It
is associated with complaining, fear, pleading etc., in an undignified way.
"Lennie [the half-wit, w h e n they beat him] bleated with terror. H e cried,
' M a k e 'urn stop George'" (Steinbeck O M M , III, 187).
T w o degrees of whininess are enough for recording this quality: whin-
ing — extremely whining.

Whimpering voice

Whimpering — in a way, a form of whining — is a low, intermittently

creaky (i.e., laryngealized), whining and broken cry; SOED assigns an
unidentified echoic origin to the verb form, recorded since the 16th for
both people and animals, especially a dog. T h e reader can try switching
from whining to whimpering by taking away its creakiness and letting words
flow more regularly. While whining appears more in w o m e n and children,
whimpering can be shown also by m e n , typical of a complaining m o o d or
grief, while w o m e n and children m a y whimper also from fear, and both in
m o c k fear, coaxing, etc.

Twangy voice

Twangy voice is "the type of voice that anyone can produce by pinching the
nostrils and 'talking into the nose'", and it can be caused by "the combina-
tion of an anterior blockage in the nose and an open velopharyngeal chan-
nel or by a small velopharyngeal orifice and normal nasal passage" (Moore
1971:538-539). It is the anterior blockage that makes the nose act as a
resonator and emphasize nasal sounds while the oral cavity and the pharynx
have normal resonance.
T w a n g ' is an echoic formation to imitate "a quick sharp, vibrating
sound, as of a taut string suddenly plucked or released" and to "a sharp,
vibrant, speech sound" and "nasal intonation" ( W N W D C E ) , recorded for
speech since the early 17th Twangy voice is "a piercing sound often used
intentionally by news vendors and others to hawk their wares" (Moore
1971:539). It is, therefore, a twanginess different from the tenser one pro-
duced with the faucalization of the American hillbilly, seen before, and
WYNID gives a quotation saying "his voice was a high, twangy, unmusical
N e w England drawl". W h e n uncontrollable, twangy voice is, of course,
considered a disorder of resonance, that is, one of nasality.
T w o degrees of twanginess can be identified: twangy — extremely

Moaning voice

Moaning, which, as with whining, can be also a paralinguistic alternant, is

identified here as a voice quality, precisely differentiated from whining by a

definitely low pitch, a prolonged overriding emission of the nasal quality as

one speaks in grief, distress or out of physical or psychological pain, and
without the muscular tension of whining, but as a sort of soft, feeble,
mournful groaning. T h e term is used also poetically to refer to the mysteri-
ous language-like quality of the wind, as in 'the wind moaning in the trees'.
It can alternate between moaned speech and moaning alone. Its probable
etymology (from A S . maenen, to complain or mourn) suggests also some
sort of echoism in its more nasal part, as it refers to behaviors that carry
precisely an important nasal element; since the late 17th it is recorded as
a noun "indicative of physical or mental suffering" and as a verb, "to c o m p -
lain of, lament; to bewail" (SOED) since the mid-16th Sometimes it m a y
be combined with crying.
T w o degrees could be distinguished: slightly moaning — deep moaning
(i.e., with m u c h more nasopharyngeal nasality).

Groaning voice

If moaning can be thought of as a soft groaning, voice with superimposed

groaning should be added here as groaning voice, which is actually a tense,
deeper (than moaning) nasopharyngeal harsh creaky voice, whose groaning
effect m a y appear intermittently, beginning and ending abruptly and often
impeding proper voice articulation. Groaning is another one of those terms
for voice types which, without a proven onomatopoeic origin (from A S .
granian, akin to G . greinen, to weep), m a k e us suspect a sound imitation.
Moreover, O H G . grinan means 'to distort the face', a gesture that m a y
often correspond to the internal distortion of the speech organs. Besides
occurring w h e n straining oneself while speaking, as w h e n lifting a heavy
weight (when the groaning quality can be added to the laryngealized voice
characteristic of that situation), groaning, which appears sometimes in
strong disapproval or annoyance, is mostly the voice of someone speaking
in physical or intense psychological pain, expressing grief, or strong desire
or longing. It is interesting that m a n y of the examples w e could glean from
literature represent actually an uncontrollable, often unconscious (or unre-
cognized) and quite often frequent crying up to G o d in any language, refer-
red to with the term 'groaning' and its equivalents, of which the most
genuine instances appear in the Bible: "The children of Israel groaned [...]
and their cry came up to G o d [...] So G o d heard their groaning" (Exodus,

Grunting voice

Grunting can become, like groaning, a voice quality w h e n it is added to

voice. A grunt, an echoic formation ( A S . grunían, of persons, recorded
since early 17th c.) imitates the deep, gruff sound in the throat m a d e by a
hog. It is short, not long like a groan, but its intermittent occurrence along
the speech stream with very short intervals qualifies the whole delivery and
its acoustic effect gains continuity, particularly because the grunting usually
correlates with the sour facial expression. This quality can modify voice
while speaking in strong disapproval, with contempt, while making a physi-
cal effort to speak due to different causes, etc.

Head-cold voice

Head-cold, identified also as 'denasalized voice' (see Chapter 2.8), can be

voluntarily produced for paralinguistic effect by speaking with a lowered
velum, open mouth and, naturally, not forming articulations fully.

Adenoidal voice

A s discussed in Chapter 2.8 (where the Liverpool accent was given as an

example of it), adenoidal voice — which is not necessarily due to adenoids
and here is identified also as a voluntary behavior — is characterized pre-
cisely by the 'adenoidal-gape' posture (an elaboration of which expression
is " W e can't park here in the driveway like a couple of adenoidal tourists",
quoted by WTNID from Ellery Q u e e n ) , is caused by mouth breathing due
to velic closure, to which is added velarization and the typical nasal effect.
Naturally, one can breath displaying that same facial behavior, but without
speaking: "She breathes noisily and adenoidally w h e n agitated" (Laurence
SA, II, 55).

Nasopharyngeal voice

Nasopharyngeal voice is understood here as a double quality consisting of a

clearly audible oropharyngeal friction, caused by constriction, and also
nasalization. It is, therefore, a kind of pharyngeal harshness whose unpleas-
ant quality is enhanced by nasality, used paralinguistically only w h e n
expressing precisely harshness as an attitude, or w h e n negating scornfully,
usually accompanied by an equally harsh facial expression.

T w o degrees should be differentiated: nasopharyngeal — extremely


5.7 Lingual control

A s a modifier of voice quality, the tongue can produce as many abnormal

voice qualifiers as it does normal ones, all of them affecting language and
paralanguage. S o m e are actually very short-term qualifiers, and thus can
barely appear as such, but their effect on the listener is longer than their
actual duration, and that is w h y they are mentioned here.

Retroflex voice

Retroflex voice, seen in Chapter 2.6.4, although not continuous over longer
speech segments, by being added, or 'coloring' (i.e., 'r-coloring') t, d, n , 1,
s and ζ in general American English makes us perceive speech as retroflex
because its effect, as that of American nasality, seems to pervade it.

Velarized voice, palatalized voice, alveolarized voice

If w e raise the back of the tongue toward the soft palate our velarized voice
will sound as if w e colored it with a sort of tense, back 'gya-gya-gya-, easier,
of course, to actually superimpose on certain articulations than others. If
the tongue-front tends continually to approximate the hard palate in
palatalized voice, the overall effect would be more like the rather babyish
'dya-dya' one: "Martha (a snarl of disimissal and contempt)
N Y Y Y Y A A A A H H H H ! " (Albee W A V W , I, 28). A n d if the tongue blade
goes further front toward the upper teeth ridge, then the resulting
alveolarized voice will be a little lispy. W e can practice all three passing
from velarization to palatalization and then to alveolarization, any of which
would be used paralinguistically, only, probably for fun, to mock some
speakers of other languages, to adopt a tone of jocular innocence, etc.

Quality disorders of lingual voice

Three different causes of voice quality disorders should be mentioned in

order to complete the paralinguistic possibilities of the tongue and because
a skillful speaker can imitate them for various paralinguistic effects.

Tongue-thrusting voice, w h e n the tongue front protrudes between the

teeth or presses against them, produces interdental lisping; macroglossia
voice, congenital in mongolism, cretinism, or because of too small a mandi­
ble, affects mainly apical consonants t, d, n, and sibilants, but gives also a
peculiar audible and visual characteristic to speech in general; and microg­
lossia voice, w h e n the tongue is too small, prevents one from making cor­
rect contact for m a n y articulations.

5.8 Labial control

T h e discussion of the lips and cheeks in Chapter 2 focused on both their

speech-producing and speech-conditioning characteristics and their proper­
ties as visual qualifiers of speech (see Fig. 2.3). T o discuss at this point h o w
the lips can act as qualifiers of voice would amount to listing once more
m a n y of the settings already identified. All those postures which modify
voice quality in any w a y , that is, each time a change in shape causes the
voice to change conspicuously, should be considered as an instance of
labialization. Within those, however, it is necessary to distinguish the fol­
lowing basic types of voice qualifiers, excluding those which would fall bet­
ter under mandibular settings (when vertical expansion is due to open-jaw
Close-lip-rounding voice, that is, lip protrusion, which best qualifies as
labialization proper, as w h e n using 'baby talk' speaking to children or pets,
or between lovers, producing a typical tendency to articulate toward the
front of the mouth and, due to the approximation of the tongue-back to the
palate, with nasalization.
Horizontal lip-expansion voice, as w h e n expressing irritation by speak­
ing with overriding mouth distension on both sides, generally with higher
pitch (Ί told you I didn't want to go, and you didn't pay any attention!'), or
w h e n females combine crying and speech (crying speech).
Horizontal lip-constriction voice (including the so-called 'lip-round­
ing'), as in another form of irritated or angry speech, typically with harsh or
slightly pharyngealized quality ( ' O h , n o , you couldn't do it because you
were too proud to do such a thing, weren't you?').
Vertical lip-constriction voice, as one w a y of speaking with contempt or
repressed anger, producing accompanying nasalization ('Ί don't want to
have anything to do with that').

Diagonal-upward lip-expansion voice, as in the typical bashful type of

country folk in several cultures, with resonance in both mouth and nasal
cavities (e.g., in Spain and the United States) or imitating such speech.
Diagonal-downward lip-expansion voice, as in the stereotyped speech
of villains and thugs in films, which can also produce sufficient muscular
tension to intermittently cause nasal resonance (and which of course can be
either bilateral or just on one side).
T h e last type of labial control to be mentioned is trembling lips, as from
cold or emotion, which affects first of all all labial articulations.

5.9 Mandibular control

Wide-open jaw voice, half-closed jaw voice

It was discussed in Chapter 2 h o w the visual changes of the mandible as w e

speak will, as with the lips, influence our perception of the speaker. T h e
basic possible postures of the mandible can also affect internal speech
movements, thus giving language certain paralinguistic qualities during
short or long-term segments, enough therefore to speak of 'mandibular
The vertical opening offers the two conspicuous ends of the scale, that
is, wide-open-jaw voice, in which position articulations are totally distorted
(but which can be used for comicality and especial effects) and half-closed-
jaw voice (or clenched-teeth voice), another paralinguistic qualifier used
voluntarily to express anger or fear, mainly.
This almost closed mouth is actually the posture for muttered voice. T o
mutter (from the M E . echoic formation materen (akin to G . muttern) and
mumbling (also from a M E . echoism, momelen, like related echoisms in G .
and D . and given by dictionaries as synonymous with 'muttering') are both
defined as speaking in a low voice, indistinctively and with partly closed
mouth; but, while 'mumbling' is defined solely in terms of voice type, 'mut-
tering' is assigned the functions of complaining, 'grumbling', speaking in an
angry tone, 'murmuring': "growled M r . Grimwig, speaking by some ven-
triloquial power, without moving a muscle of his face" (Dickens , XLI,
308), where w e see the muttering, almost closed-mouth posture. A person
mutters in a low pitch, typically talking to himself, 'muttering curses',
expressing anger, complaining, etc. (thus very close in function to 'grumbl-

ing'), the term hardly ever used in a positive sense. But muttering can
denote also the poorly articulated voice of, for instance, fatigue and sleepi-
ness: "an indistinct muttering, as of a m a n between sleep and awake" (Dic-
kens , XII, 158).
T h e costructuration of sound and kinesic behavior is then quite appar-
ent, not only as regards the mouth, but the general expression of the face
(e.g., rather squinted eyes and typically lowered or knitted brows).

Protracted-jaw voice, retracted-jaw voice, rotating-jaw voice

Apart from those two normal voluntary positions, two others can also
appear as permanent abnormalities and be used paralinguistically as well.
T h e first one is protracted-jaw voice, thrusting the lower jaw forward and
causing the voice to resonate nasally m o r e than orally w h e n the
nasopharynx is pulled against the velum, done typically with very narrowly
opened mouth, as in m o c k threatening, or portraying the villain type,
gangsters, thugs, etc.
T h e opposite, retracted-jaw voice is caused by a recession of the lower
jaw in imitation of the abnormal retraction which again determines nasality
and improper articulation, used also to portray types such as the mentally
retarded, the somber or abnormally shy, etc.
T h e last paralinguistic mandibular type of voice qualifier can be refer-
red to as rotating-jaw voice — actually a combination of side-to-side gesture
with protraction and retraction in between, all in a half-closed posture —
already identified as the stereotyped growling or muttering villain's speech
gesture, sometimes also the mentally abnormal character, coupled typically
to the nasality just mentioned and to strained voice.
Besides the five basic postures of the mandible w e must acknowledge
the effect on voice quality of a trembling jaw, which, as has been pointed
out, modifies also labial articulations, as from cold, emotional tension, etc.

5.10 Articulatory control: Overarticulated voice, oral inaccuracy, lisping,

tailing, lambdacism

Although articulation is also affected by the lips, cheeks and mandible,

here it is understood only as affected by the internal articulatory organs,
mainly the tongue. If normal articulation is understood as the correct place-

ment of the articulators, that is, tongue, velum, lips and mandible, and
proper timing, direction of movements, pressure and speed, then articulat-
ory disorders result in incorrect speech sound production due to "faulty
placement, timing, direction, pressure, speed, or integration of these m o v e -
ments" (Powers 1971:837). T h e qualifier defined here as articulatory con-
trol should refer mostly to functional articulatory disorders, with no
anatomical, physiological or neurological basis, although, as Powers adds,
"it can be accounted for by normal variations or by environmental or
psychological factors".
At one end of the articulatory control scale w e find the meticulously
articulated speech, an overly clear, overarticulated voice, generally per-
ceived as affected, since consonantal lingual contacts are m a d e with more
muscular force and longer than usual duration, while lingual and labial
postures for both consonants and vowels are formed with individual preci-
sion, — which, of course, can be visually perceived (also as affected speech
articulation) on the tongue-tip, labiofacial area and mandible. It can be a
very conscious voluntary paralinguistic voice qualifier w h e n , for instance,
w e speak to someone in a sort of irritated 'is-that-clear?' tone of voice or
wish to emphasize the formation of every p h o n e m e speaking to a child, a
foreigner, a patient, etc., or in a declamatory fashion.
Polly pronounced the words in a sonorous monotone, as though she were
reciting to an audience. She lingered lovingly over them, rolling the r's,
hissing on the s's, humming like a bee on the m's, drawing out the long
vowels and making them round and pure. "Ghost rattle of ghost rifles, in-
fin-it-es-imal ghost canonade." (Huxley PCP, X I , 150)
But, as was mentioned above, it can be a permanent or quasiperma-
nent primary-quality type of qualifier developed as a habit which is socially
perceived as affectation. O n e degree of overarticulation is sufficient for
acknowledging this feature in a person's voice.
At the other end of the articulatory control parameter stand various
articulatory disorders which typically speakers can also m o c k voluntarily to
imitate either affectation or immaturity and childishness. O n e is the sort of
general misarticulation in several degrees which in speech therapy is called
general oral inaccuracy, caused by any or all of the factors mentioned above
with respect to articulation. Sometimes articulations are correct, but are
slow, weak and with little energy, and w e perceive that speech as 'careless',
'confused', 'distorted', 'unintelligible'. Other times speech is rapid, slur-
ring, with a jerky tempo, phonemes are dropped, condensed or distorted as

a result of overly rapid, agitated utterance (WTNID), and the term clutter­
ing is generally used. Although both m a y show different degrees, w e can
identify only their basic characteristics as two paralinguistic qualifiers
(which, of course, can be permanent or voluntarily produced) and refer just
to: cluttered speech articulation, as with the well-known slurry voice of the
late film actor H u m p h r e y Bogart, w h o seemed to glide from one syllable to
another obscuring sounds by running them together, and on which Austin
(1965:34) reported over twenty years ago: "It is an affectation a m o n g some
teen-agers and 'method actors'", and which is typical, of course, of intoxi­
cation; and sluggish or slow articulation (see Powers 1971).
There are, besides, two other well-known articulatory disorders which
should be identified. O n e is lisping, that is, the defective articulation of one
or more of the sibilants [s], [z], [t∫], [dz] (typically [s] and [z]). In speech
pathology they distinguish: frontal (interdental) lisp, w h e n sibilants are
replaced by [Θ] or [o], with the tongue-tip against or between the teeth; lat­
eral lisp, w h e n , by too m u c h air and saliva escaping over or around the sides
of the tongue, sibilants sound like sh, a very frequent type, which produces
not only a 'slushy' acoustic effect, but sometimes a visual impression as
well, w h e n the mouth corners are intermittently pushed forward by the
escaping air; and nasal lisp, during which, due to a relaxed velum, retracted
tongue and lax lips, air escapes through the nose and often a snorted
unvoiced [n] replaces sibilants. A s Powers (1971:844) says, "sibilant distor­
tion [in all forms of lisping] can be produced or accompanied by atypical lip
movements [...] labial habits unattractive visually as well as acoustically",
thus w e find again what should be seen as a kinesic component of speech,
perceived as such by the listener.
T h e other articulatory disorder is tailing, a distortion consisting in
articulating with the tip of the tongue too low in the mouth (and its body
flat and lax) sounds for which it is supposed to be placed high, mainly [r]
and [1] or both, or other apical consonants, such as [t] and [d]. A s with gen­
eral oral inaccuracy, the tongue's movements are weak and sluggish, the
result being a sort of [w] or a central vowel sound. 4 W h e n the affected
sound is [1], the disorder is k n o w n as lambdacism (from the G r . letter
lambda). It should be noted that general spasmodic articulation has been
identified already as part of breathing control, the first of the qualifiers.

5.11 Articulatory tension control

Independently of the tenseness and laxness of voice associated with raised

and constricted larynx and lowered and unconstricted larynx, respectively,
and with higher and lower pitch in each case, there is another type of gen-
eral tension or laxness of the articulatory organs (without excluding the
state of the larynx), whether active or passive, and it does not have to be
directly related to volume. It is due actually to the combined action of
larynx muscles, pharynx muscles, tongue muscles and labiofacial muscles. It
is, then, the sort of tension or laxness which involves both internal and
external muscles of the face, neck, diaphragm and pectoral muscles that
will reflect a very tense voice. In turn, this will be perfectly correlated with
tense kinesics, except w h e n the speaker is trying to control himself and only
the strictly articulatory muscles and the facial muscles will show his tension,
the opposite being a relaxed voice and relaxed musculature. Articulatory
tension is generally a basic qualifier of traditional persuasive oratory, w h e n
scolding someone, showing self-assurance and dominance, etc., while lax or
relaxed articulation and general muscular activity is shown in m o m e n t s of
great relaxation and peace. But, of course, tenseness or laxness can also be
a person's habitual characteristic under normal circumstances, part of his or
her basic set of primary qualities, as can other qualifiers.
There is a four-degree scale: very lax — lax — tense — very tense.

5.12 Objectual control

W h e n w e try to identify the different categories of voice qualifiers there is

still one that would easily be neglected because it does not depend on truly
physiological modifications, as laryngeal, pharyngeal or labial changes d o .
In fact, in m y earlier work on qualifiers of speech, I would not recognize
the potentially significant voice variations with which w e can consciously or
unconsciously, voluntarily or not, affect our speech and the interpretation
of it w h e n w e talk with our mouths full, while smoking a pipe or while
chewing g u m . Later, however, I became convinced that linguists should try
to identify all those 'things', whether 'objects' or 'substances', that can pro-
duce specific voice qualities, and that w e must learn to understand those
sounds as word-like paralinguistic (e.g., the smacks uttered while chewing)
or as circumstantial and at times truly attitudinal modifiers of verbal

speech. Without attempting to elaborate on this topic in any depth, it would

seem convenient to at least include objectual control within voice qualifiers,
distinguishing its most conspicuous forms.
Food and masticatories. W e k n o w that speaking while eating or just
chewing affects language paralinguistically, but perhaps w e do not acknow-
ledge all its communicative consequences, namely: (a) from an articulator}/
point of view, adding to words the purely paralinguistic sounds (alternants)
chewing produces: a series of labial smacks, dorsal clicks and other suc-
tional sounds, audible mouth inhaling and narial exhaling from having to
breathe while talking and eating, all alternating with words; modification of
consonantal articulations, mainly stops (which tend to become affricates,
interdentals and labiodentals), retrpflex sounds and velar sounds; vowel
changes typically centralizing the higher ones (e.g., [i] o [e] becoming
roughly [e] and [ ]) and confusing them in general; and intermittent nasali-
zation from having to breathe mostly through the nose; (b) from a paralin-
guistic-communicative point of view, it is possible that the speaker adds to
his poor articulation certain paralinguistic primary qualities, qualifiers, dif-
ferentiators, and even alternants precisely to voluntarily or involuntarily
express what he feels, for instance: superimposing shouting, low pitch
(easier than high), harshness, laryngealization, half-closed-jaw voice, sob-
bing, laughter, or additional lax articulation, therefore identifying any of
the m a n y possible psychological or physiological causes (e.g., impatience,
social anxiety, anger, hurry, fear, hunger, pain), while a proper or impro-
per way of simultaneously eating and talking can be just as revealing for
either its social or clinical meaning (e.g., betraying poor upbringing, lack of
self-respect, depression); (c) from an esthetic point of view, w e must
remember h o w these speech qualifiers can be, in addition, evaluated by our
cointeractants for their unesthetic audible and visual qualities put together
(as discussed in Chapter 1), besides the possible social incongruity of, for
instance, the seemingly educated person or the good-looking one w h o
shows rather unbecoming behaviors. "'You'll be wasting your m o n e y ,
Frank,' said Mannie through a chickenbone he was gnawing" (Dos Passos
BM, 177).
A s for masticatories, the possible audible way in which a person m a y
chew them can, of course, express all the emotional states and attitudes that
chewing food can (e.g., the tough guy's slant stare while 'talking-chewing'
in a contemptuous tone); but in addition they identify cultures and culture
groups, as with the western chewing g u m or chewing tobacco, the betel of
India, the kola of some African cultures, etc.

Objectual obstructions. W e could use this term to identify a group of

interfering objectual qualifiers which would include what has been already
defined as body-adaptors (besides food) and certain object-adaptors. But
here a necessary identification should be m a d e : (a) conversational props, as
w h e n someone very consciously keeps a pipe in his mouth while talking
(not unlike a 'security blanket' at times), a leg of his eyeglasses or a pen or
pencil, all causing rather poor articulation, but m a n y times precisely the
desired interactive effect (positive or negative, according to circumstances)
of authority, superiority, self-assurance, casualness, toughness, manliness;
(b) task-performing object-adaptors, as w h e n one has to talk while holding
between the teeth or lips a string, nails, pins, etc.: "She had hairpins in her
mouth and spoke through them" (Dos Passos 42ndP, 'J. W a r d Morehouse',
213); and (c) emotional object-adaptors, as w h e n holding a handkerchief or
tissue against the mouth or the nose while talking or crying, or sobbing
against the arm of a sofa or a pillow, the muffled, dampened sound enhanc-
ing the emotional situation and its general anxiety-creating quality.

5.13 Conclusion

If paralinguistic 'alternants' (Chapter 7) m a y seem to offer the greatest dif-

ficulties for an ethnolinguist w h o would set out to establish an exhaustive
repertoire of his culture, voice qualifiers certainly constitute the riskiest
area in paralanguage because, first of all, it involves, as has been seen, the
identification of m a n y more qualities than one is likely to suspect at first,
from the point of view of their anatomical basis, muscular physiology and
phonetic characteristics. O n the other hand, an exhaustive presentation of
the voice qualifiers of a given language-culture (e.g., English-Britain, E n g -
lish-North America, English-India, Spanish-Spain, etc.) would, of course,
acknowledge combinations of qualities not included in this chapter, from an
acoustic and kinesic point of view, which would characterize the various lin-
guistic-cultural repertoires. But those characteristics can be so similar
between two or more voice types that one is bound to, (a) ignore any seem-
ingly trivial differences and treat as one what are, in reality, independent
voice qualities with (if sought carefully enough) specific communicative
functions; or (b) try to see separate types of voice where there is really just
one with different existing labels that lead us to confusion. T h e problem of
labels has been, I feel, amply illustrated, and it includes both phonetic

labels (e.g., harsh, whispery, falsetto) and everyday impressionistic ones

(e.g., squealing, gruff, piercing); but the fact remains that speakers, even
m a n y educated ones, will always refer to certain effects incorrectly by force
of habit, not having learned the proper correspondence between the long
list of voice effects they recognize and the m a n y terms at their disposal.
O n e cannot help wondering h o w m a n y speakers of their o w n language (let
alone a very well k n o w n , but second language) truly use correctly those
labels that seem to exist in rather ambiguous clusters, such as squeak —
squeal — screech — squawk, without recognizing longer emissions in sque-
aling as compared to squeaking, higher pitch in screeching, and lower in
squawking. It would seem that, at least educated speakers, particularly
those whose written interpretations (perhaps literary) of voice qualities are
to be read by m a n y others, ought to be responsible for their use of the
O n e thing suggested in this chapter, which applies to speaker, writer,
linguist or phonetician, is the fact that knowledge of the term's etymology
can help greatly in alleviating the traditional confusion of terms. But the
implications of a tentative, nonexhaustive treatment of paralinguistic qual-
ifiers like this one go m u c h further. First, on the more practical side, there
should be a cross-language inventory of voice types in the main Latin lan-
guages (i.e. French, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish), in the Germanic lan-
guages (i.e. English, G e r m a n and Dutch), in the main Slavic languages (i.e.
Russian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian), in Hindi, in Arabic, in Japanese, in M a n -
darin and Cantonese Chinese, etc. In this w a y , w e would have a solid
etymological basis for judging the true meaning of each type according to
its original use — evaluating the faithfulness of present-day usage of
onomatopoeic constructions according to their referents — and then for
ascertaining that to each of the physiological phonetic performances iden-
tified corresponds only one voice-type label (whether phonetic or impre-
ssionistic) or more than one. This would reveal the m a n y inconsistencies in
usage as well as the m a n y inaccurate ways in which w e refer to voice qual-
ities in conversation as well as in research and in creative literature.
O n a different, perhaps deeper level, voice qualifiers offer m u c h to
ponder over their o w n esthetic content. There is undoubtedly an esthetic
judgement of m a n y of those terms on our part, according to our o w n per-
sonal sensitiveness, toward their o w n sound, which actually means a sound-
and facial m o v e m e n t compound. For instance, w h e n w e say with some
emphasis 'squawk', 'croak', 'screech' or 'growl', w e 'feel' that roughness of

our o w n sound as well as our o w n facial muscular movements that illus-

trate, (not only as 'language markers' but as 'identifiers') the evoked sound
and its iconicity, that is, the h u m a n qualities (models) with which w e have
c o m e to associate those sounds (replicas); often a mistaken iconicity, for
they might not really represent any particular personality traits.
A t any rate, this chapter is intended only as a systematic approxima-
tion to paralinguistic qualifiers (see a shorter but useful version in Poyatos
1991) that hopefully should incite others to pursue a m o r e exhaustive cul-
tural and crosscultural study in this area following the parameters suggest-
ed, without neglecting the fact that qualifiers, like other audible parts of
speech, are always bound to their visual manifestations. In addition, the
student of literature would find a reliable source and a w a y to gauge the
writer's power of character individualization and ability to convey psycho-
logical realism, coupled to the possible technical functions of those voice
identification label alternative labels sample functions voice disorder

ingressive inhaling fea,, surprise, emotional.question
spasmodic jerky anxiety, sobbing, exertion distressed breathing
soft whispered soft whispering secrecy, speaking improper
normal whispered whispering, murmuring intimacy, concealment, emotion intermittent aphonia
forced whispered stage whisper to span distance, emotional hysterical aphonia
murmured sotto voice complaint, disatisfaction
breathy breathy voice sexual, emotions, weariness breathi ness
laryngealized (creaky) creaky voice, glottalization age, pain, effort, vehemence gravel voice, glottal fry
whispery creaky purry, whispery woman-to-baby, boredom, negation
harsh creaky repressed anger
harsh whispery creaky rejection, reluctance
falsetto light voice, high-pitched voice surprise, laugh, innocence
whispery falsetto women and children crying
creaky falsetto repugnance

whispery creaky falsetto repugnance, women and children

ventricular falsetto seal voice
high falsetto piping voice women and children eunuchoid voice
harsh harsh, grating, rasp, rough, cracked neg. attitudes (scorn, anger, etc.) harshness
harsh creaky neg. attitudes (anger, contempt)
harsh whispery neg. attitudes (scorn, ridicule)
harsh whispery creaky neg. attitudes (repres.rage, scorn)
harsh falsetto indignation, angered negation
harsh whispery falsetto when the above must be whispered
harsh creaky falsetto indignation by an elderly person
harsh whispery creaky falsetto the above uttered in a whisper

Figure 5.1 Paralinguistic Voice Qualifiers (1) continued

identification label alternative labels sample functions voice disorder
deep harsh whispery whisky-, ginny-, rummy voice from habit, drinking, imit. sound
ventricular harshness hoarse, deep while making a great effort ventricular dysphonia
strident grating voice, rasp voice, harsh, cracked high-strung speaker, irritation stridency
shrill shrill voice, piercing voice anger, indignation, excitement shrillness
squeaky squeaky, reedy, thin, sharp, penetrating disagreeable attitude
squealing squealing voice, shrill, anger, fear, pain
screechy shrill voice, piercing voice, shrieking fear, pain,
squawky squawking, harsh voice speaking with a harsh attitude
metallic metallic-, brassy-, keen-, ringing voice speaking excitedly, tensely metallicness
husky husky voice, rough voice sensual, affecting maturity huskiness
hoarse hoarse voice, rough, grating, cracking emotion, strain, abused voice hoarseness
croaky croaky voice, throaty voice, choking speaking roughly
gruff gruff voice, coarse voice, harsh voice negative attitudes
growling growling voice anger, complaint, threat
tremulous trembling voice, quavering voice, breaking nervousness, emotion, oratory tremulous speech

tense tense voice, metallic voice tenseness, emotion

lax muffled voice calmness, self-control
esophageal belched voice eructating, when laryngectomized esophageal speech
pharyngealized throaty scorn, contempt, aggressiveness
pharyngeal husky throaty (guttural), husky, rasp for tense huskiness
muffled obscure, dull, mellow, rich, thick negative connotations,
hollow hollow, sepulchral, resounding, orotund oratory, mystery, somberness
faucalized twangy mocking, imitating twangy speech
nasalized nasal passionate, laziness, toughness hypernasality

Figure 5.1 Paralinguistic Voice Qualifiers (2) continued

identification label alternative labels sample functions voice disorder

hoarse nasalized hoarse in pain, emotional denasality

husky nasalized husky feminine sensual
whiny whiny coaxing, fear, distress, contempt whininess
bleating bleating complaining, distress
whimpering whimpering complaining, grief, fear, coaxing
twangy twangy as used geographically, mocking
moaning moaning pain grief, distress
groaning groaning pain, grief, longing, disapproval
grunting grunting strong disapproval, contempt
head-cold head-cold voice
adenoidal adenoidal voice possible voluntary behavior
nasopharyngeal harshness, scornful negation
retroflex r-coloring in American English
velarized adenoidal denasalized
palatalized for babyish effect

tongue-thrusting to produce interdental lisping tongue thrusting
close-lip-rounding baby talk talking to children, pets, lovers
horizontal lip-expanison in anger, irritation, while crying
horizontal lip-constriction open-lip rounding in irritation, mockery, proud talk
vertical lip-constriction contempt, repressed anger
diagonal-upward lip-expansion as in bashful country folk
lip-expansion as in stereotyped villains, thugs
trembling lips emotion, cold

Figure 5.1 Paralinguistic Voice Qualifiers (3) continued

identification label alternative labels sample functions voice disorder
wide-open-jaw mocking, comicality
muttered (half-closed jaw) muttering complaint, anger, sleepiness
protracted-jaw stereotyped villain, threat protraction
retracted-jaw imitating the shy, the retarded retraction
rotating-jaw growling, muttering stereotyped villain
trembling-jaw emotions, cold, tremor
overarticulated affected voice emphasis, declamatory, affectation
cluttered cluttered, slurry certain actors, carelessness cluttering
sluggish sluggish, slow, lazy slow, careless speech sluggish, slow
oral inaccuracy poor-, weak-, careless articulation in slow, weak, distorted speech general oral inaccuracy
lisping lisping mocking a lisping speaker frontal lisp
lateral lisp

nasal lisp, lalling

lax relaxed voice speaking
tense tense voice speaking tensely, oratory
speaking with food/gum/tobacco/ poor
betel/pipe/cigarette/pen/pins/ articulation
nails, etc., in the mouth, adding
paralinguistic effects

Figure 5.1 Paralinguistic Voice Qualifiers (4)



1. The criterion for identification of voice types in these tables has been (in order to
m a k e it more useful as a reference for the reader) to use the terms by which
speakers usually refer to them, that is, listing the phonetic or more technical labels
when they are also the colloquial ones (e.g., harsh, creaky) and the more impre­
ssionistic ones (e.g., squawking). It has been seen (cf. Laver 1972) that some
phonetic labels are also quite impressionistic in that they evoke the sounds in
question, thus the line between 'phonetic' and 'impressionistic', from the point of
view of usage, is not a clear-cut one at all. This is followed by one or more exam­
ples of possible functions of the voice type, which m a y apply to any language but
are based on North-American and British English from a linguistic-cultural point
of view. Finally, when applicable, the voice type (with the same or different term)
is identified as a recognized voice disorder in speech pathology.

2. Dictionaries consulted and etymologies are indicated as follows throughout the

book: FWNSD, Funk & Wagnail's New Standard Dictionary of the American Lan­
guage; SOED, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles',
WTNID, Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language; A S . ,
Anglo Saxon; D . , Dutch; G . , G e r m a n ; G M C . , Germanic; IE., Indo-European;
Lat., Latin; M E . , Middle English; O F r . , Old French O H G . , Old High G e r m a n ;
Ο Ν . , Old Norse.

3. Curious for the student of paralanguage is the quote from 1684 in SOED: "In
Singing also the Italians Bleat, the Spaniards Whine, the Germans H o w l , and the
French Quaver"; also the one from Drayton about the lark: " T h e
Larke...Quaver'd her cleare Notes in the quiet Ayre" (1606).

4. Given the standard description of lalling offered by speech pathologists, the fol­
lowing literary example could an instance of the sort of inaccuracy with which w e
m a y often refer to voice quality, since the lisping quality cannot be present in what
the writer describes: "She [Miss Darrington] spoke her r's like w ' s , lisping with a
slightly babyish pronunciation which was at once affected and true to her charac­
ter. Her voice was dull and toneless" (Lawrence WL, V I , 70); unless, of course,
Lawrence meant to say that his character both lalled and lisped, an unlikely com­

5. Symbols (again selected among computer symbols) representing the type of voice
used can be placed only at the start of the speech segment affected or also at the

Breathing control
ingressive speech [(>Θ)] spasmodic speech [("Θ")] whizzing [(z)]
Laryngeal control
oversoft whispered [(±±)] harsh whispery creaky falsetto[(Γ+^f)]
soft whispered [(±)j deep harsh whispery [(,Γ+)]
normal whispered [(+)] strident [(I')]
loud whispered [(¡ + !)] shrill [(| |')]
overloud whispered [(¡ ¡ + ! !)] squeaking [(<)]
murmured [(<0>)] squealing [(<:)]
breathy [(Φ)] screeching [(/!)]
very breathy [(Φ+)] squawking [(*!)]
laryngealized [(^)] cackling [(*>)]
forcefully laryngealized [(^+)] metallic [(><)]
whispery creaky [(4-)] slightly husky [(·τ)]
harsh creaky [( ^)] husky [(τ)]
harsh whispery creaky [( +)] extremely husky [(ττ)]
falsetto [(f)] slightly hoarse [(.Ω)]
whispery falsetto [(+ f)] hoarse [(Ω)]
creaky falsetto[(^f)] extremely hoarse [(ΩΩ)]
whispery creaky falsetto [(+ f)] dry hoarsenes [(Ώ)]
ventricular falsetto [(= ¡)] wet hoarseness [(Ω')]
high falsetto [(f)] rough hoarseness [(Ω>)]
slightly harsh [(- )] croaking [('*)]
harsh [( )] gruff[(*')]
extremely harsh [( )] growling[(Γ*)]
ventricular [(=)] tremulous [( f J )]
harsh creaky [( ^)] very tremulous [( \ \\ )]
harsh whispery [( +)] extremely lax [( )]
harsh whispery creaky [( + )] slightly lax [( )]
harsh falsetto [( f)] slightly tense [( )]
harsh whispery falsetto [( + f)] extremely tense [( )]
harsh creaky falsetto [( f)]
Esophageal control
esophageal [({0})]
Pharyngeal control
pharyngealized [(+)] hollow [«»]
extremely pharyngealized [(++)] extremely hollow [(«·»)]
pharyngeal huskiness [(τ+)] faucalized [(<>)]
extreme pharyngeal huskiness [(+τ+)] extremely faucalized [<<
muffled [(<·>)] gulping [(< | >)]

Velopharyngeal control
slightly nasal [(~)][(~)] slightly moaning [(A )]
nasal [(~)] deep moaning [(\)]
extremely nasal [(~)] groaning [(F)]
whining [(/)] granting [("J)]
extremely whining [(/)] head-cold[(|I)]
bleating [(>)] adenoidal [( | | )]
whimpering [(7)] nasopharyngeal [( | )]
twangy[()] extremely nasopharyngeal [( | )]
extremely twangy [( f )]
Lingual control
retroflex [(>)] alveolarized [(>)]
velarized [(»)] tongue-thrusting [(<—)]
palatalized [(»)]
Labial control
close-lip-rounding [(W)] diagonal-upward lip-expansion [(\W/)]
horizontal lip-expansion [(-W-)] diagonal-downward lip-expansion [(AV\)]
horizontal lip-constriction [ ( > W < ) ] trembling lips [(:W:)]
vertical lip-constriction [('W')]
Mandibular control
wide-open jaw [(/=\)] retracted-jaw [(J)]
half-closed jaw (muttering) [(\ =/)] rotating-jaw [(+)]
protracted-jaw [(L)] trembling jaw [(:00:)]
Articulatory control
overarticulated [(++)] frontal lisp [(·|)]
general oral inaccuracy [(-)] lateral lisp [(·/)]
cluttered [(#)] nasal lisp [(·")]
sluggish [(§)] lalling [(<w>)]
Articulatory tension control
very lax [(::)] tense [(X)]
lax[(:)] very tense [(XX)]
Objectual Control
N a m e of object indicated within brackets [ ] at opening and closing of speech segment
Chapter 6
The Eloquence of Emotional and Physiological Reactions

The mourner sat with bowed head, rocking her

body to and fro, and crying out in a high, strained
voice that sounded like a dirge on some forlorn
pipe (Crane MGS, X I X , 103-104)

6.0 Introduction: T h e status of differentiators as a paralinguistic category

and as components of interaction

Between those paralinguistic p h e n o m e n a that occur only as modifications

of verbal utterances, that is, primary qualities (e.g., pitch) and qualifiers
(e.g., harshness), and those which stand by themselves with as m u c h lexical
value as words within each linguistic and cultural community, that is, alter-
nants (e.g., clicks) — discussed later on — w e find another very important
group of sound constructs which partake of the qualities of the other two:
differentiators. A n d yet, differentiators should be considered as a category
in themselves for, while m a n y of them can act as qualifiers of language
(e.g., yawning while speaking), all of them occur also by themselves as
alternants do (e.g., laughter), thus as truly quasilexical messages. They
characterize and differentiate (hence the label chosen) physiological reac-
tions (many of a reflex nature) as well as psychological states and emotional
T h e differentiators discussed in this chapter are: laughter, crying and
shouting, as the most interactional of all as well as the most variable, both
phonetically and in their kinesic cobehaviors; sighing, gasping, panting and
yawning, as similar p h e n o m e n a involving breathing; coughing, throat-clear-
ing and spitting (with hawking), as the three which involve the throat in a
special w a y ; belching and hiccuping, as the two reflexes causing spasmodic

abdominal contractions, and also expulsion and ingression, respectively;

and sneezing, as the only truly nasal differentiator which is also controlled
in different ways and kinesically modified according, as with the others, to
display rules varying across cultures. This chapter is based, in fact, on the
assumption that, apart from laughter and crying, universally recognized as
emotional reactions, "all normal physiological acts have their communica-
tive counterparts in some place in the world, at some time, or in some
relationship", as put by Key (1986:26). The characteristics that warrant
their being grouped together are: (a) they can be produced either naturally,
that is, mostly uncontrollably, or voluntarily; (b) they all can communicate
without cooccurring verbal language, but (except for laughter and crying)
only in short speech elements, not in a sustained way as do primary qual-
ities and qualifiers in many instances; (c) they can all be modified by some
primary qualities (e.g., a high-pitched yawn) and qualifiers (e.g., harsh
laughter); (d) they all alter normal breathing and the audible and visual
characteristics of speech, influencing kinesics and affecting the whole triple
structure language-paralanguage-kinesics (e.g., a scornful guffaw); (e) they
particularly trigger specific, albeit culturally and personally modified,
kinesic behaviors, more significantly so than other paralinguistic behaviors;
(f) except gasping and panting, they are all subject to cultural display rules
in a very ritualized way (e.g., crying in mourning) or responding to norms
of good conduct that serve as class and personality identifiers; (g) unlike
primary qualities and qualifiers, however, they seem to defy individual
paralinguistic descriptions in terms of scalar degrees, for each one has vari-
ants with peculiar primary qualities and qualifiers, although it is possible to
describe their phonetic characteristics and the basic physiological activities
involved; (h) for most neither a phonetic transcription nor a written rep-
resentation have ever been attempted; and (i) they all have been used as lit-
erary material by being referred to, or accurately described, as part of the
repertoires of the characters.
A n attempt is made here to present a systematic, though not exhaus-
tive, classification and discussion that m a y suggest a basic theoretical and
methodological model. A complete treatment should include: (a)
physiological activities involved in their production (e.g., the mechanism of
coughing); (b) their phonetic components; (c) their kinesic (i.e., visual)
components; (d) other possible cobehaviors; (e) voluntary (and thus
phonological, i.e., intentionally communicative) realizations; (f) social
labels for the various realizations; (g) motivational variants and interactive

functions; (h) social and crosscultural differences in their prescribed display

rules; (i) possible written representation within the sound system of each
language, and possible forms c o m m o n to different languages; and (j) their
status in literature.

Differentiators among the other components of interaction

Having identified this paralinguistic category as worthy of a separate discus-
sion and of m u c h future research, it must be emphasized also that, as c o m -
ponents of interaction, any verbal or nonverbal behaviors can precede,
cooccur with or follow laughter, crying, coughing or any other differen-
tiator, conditioning it or being conditioned by them. It is not only the
specific characteristics of a guffaw, a chuckle, a shout or a meaningful
throat-clearing that one must analyze to determine the message contained
in it, but those qualifying preceding signs that have modified it, the ones
that occur precisely at the same time, and the succeeding signs that can be
modified by it, as diagramatically illustrated in Fig. 6.1, 'Costructuration of
Differentiators and Interaction Components'. This mutual costructuration

Figure 6.1 Costructuration of differentiators and interaction components


of interaction components is one of the most intriguing (and most of the

times less obvious) dimensions of an encounter, which I dicussed in a previ-
ous paper as 'the deeper levels of interaction' (Poyatos 1985), and to which
I would refer the reader once more as a needed perspective without which
m u c h of the true nature of speech and interaction would simply be missed.

6.1 Laughter

6.1.1 The needed research perspectives on laughter

Laughter, despite some important studies, has not yet been given
enough attention with respect to very significant aspects within the realm of
communication. Although only some of those aspects will be discussed
here, the following could be just pointed out merely to suggest the great
amount of potential research which scholars in various fields could pursue:
a. biological foundation, in terms of age (from childhood to adulthood and
old age) and sex, as well as its well-defined forms and functions in certain
sex deviances;
b . influence of the general psychological configuration and personality on
frequency of occurrence, duration and audible and visual characteristics;
forms and functions in temporary emotional states according to sex,
socioeconomic status and culture;
d. pathological varieties;
e. forms of laughter, that is, the m a n y phonetic (paralinguistic) and visual
(kinesic) configurations as an unquestionable part of speech, or put simply,
the m a n y different ways in which one can laugh, obviously the main aspect
of this behavior and the most difficult to research;
f. their distribution and display rules across cultures; and
g. their distribution according to sex, age and socioeducational status
within each culture (i.e., as social identifiers) in given situations;
h. the 'differentiated' forms which w e refer to by means of established
definitory labels (e.g., giggling, chuckling, tittering); and
i. social interactive functions of those differentiated forms; and
j. crosscultural comparison of the presence or absence of those forms and
of their verbal identification (possibly of a c o m m o n etymological and/or
echoic base), and the similarities and differences of the situational functions
ascribed to them;

. explicit or implicit social norms that regulate laughter as status- or sensi-

tiveness-identifying behaviors (e.g., refined, the polite chuckle);
1. positive and negative social forms and functions of laughter;
m . its simultaneous or alternating costructuration with verbal language and
kinesics (e.g., while gesturing) and the basic crosscultural differences;
n. simultaneous or alternating costructuration with proxemics and chemical
or dermal reactions (e.g., touching, tear-shedding, blushing);
o. definitory social labels and descriptions in the narrative literatures and
the theater of different cultures and periods, a neglected yet rich source
(often the only one) of interdisciplinary documentation of forms and func-
tions in past historical periods; and
p. as documented also by literary sources, a crosscultural study of the sim-
ilarities and differences in the interpretation of those social labels, a m u c h
needed knowledge for both correct reading and, what can be m o r e crucial,
correct professional translation (e.g., h o w should cynical laughter, or con-
temptuous laughter be understood w h e n so defined in another culture?).
It will be apparent that virtually each of these suggested research pos-
sibilities contains in turn additional derived topics, and that the applications
within the social sciences, social and clinical psychology, medicine, c o m -
munication studies, linguistics and literature, theater and cinema, are m a n y
and very concrete.

6.1.2 The morphology of laughter as a paralinguistic-kinesic component of


Unable to adopt any limited single definition a m o n g those available in

m a n y medical textbooks (e.g., it "involves taking a breath and releasing it
in a series of short expirations"), laughter can be said to be: a series of reg-
ular, but mostly irregular, vocal or narial audible air movements, mainly
egressive, of varying muscular tension, rhythm and paralinguistic phonic
characteristics, accompanied by varying facial and bodily behaviors, simul-
taneous to, alternating with or independently of verbal language, and
expressing either positive or negative feelings with regard to oneself,
others, events or the environment. This definition acknowledges its c o m -
plex configuration and important interactive roles and suggests the need for
systematic study.
It would not be possible to try to review in this chapter the literature
on laughter, whether addressed to its philosophical implications (e.g.,

Bergson 1900), cultural differences (e.g., Darwin 1872: Chapt. 8), social
aspects (e.g., Simmel 1924: 370-375), pathological manifestations (e.g.,
also in Darwin 1872; Ostwald 1964, Z u k 1966, Wolfenstein 1955, Izard
1979, Morreal 1983), as child behavior (e.g., Blurton Jones 1972a, 1972b),
its relations to smiling (e.g., Darwin 1872, Haas 1970, van H o o f 1972), or
its phylogenetic development (e.g., van Hoof 1972). Instead, I would like
to offer, within the framework established for this study of paralanguage, a
few thoughts as to its morphological and functional characteristics, which
m a y at the same time serve as a contribution to a model for m u c h needed
research in the various areas just mentioned and others (e.g., literature,
theater, semiotics, speech communication).
O n e can easily see beyond the narrow limits of m a n y of the comments
on laughter w e can glean from the research. For instance, Ostwald
(1964:19) refers to laughter as "repetitive, uncontrolled, spasmodic chains
of sounds that accompany the release of accumulated tension", but close
observation soon reveals a whole gamut of variations that defy any single
definition relying on assumptions such as 'repetitive' (for it m a y be just a
single sound release), 'uncontrolled' (since w e can feign it or control it).
Haas (1970, citing Eibl-Eibesfeldt) refers to mouth opening and rhythmic
emission of sounds, but laughter, as will be discussed below, shows m a n y
forms of closed-mouth narial emissions some of which happen to perform
the more subtle functions of sardonic laughter, sarcasm, contempt, or w h e n
laughter must be repressed or muffled by social rules of etiquette. O n the
other hand, w e see no scientific references — but the astute researcher can
certainly find it in literary narrative or dramatic texts — to the various
forms of silent laughter, which sometimes could be compared to the view-
ing of a film with the sound off. A s for the findings of animal ethology, the
phylogenetic homologies of laughter have been hypothesized upon by
studying the behavior of the lower primates, which has led some like van
H o o f (1972) to see the smile as a development of the nonaggressive pri-
mate's 'silent bared-teeth' attitude, and the laugh as derived from the voc-
alized 'relaxed open mouth' of m o c k , aggression and play (cf. van Lawick-
Goodall 1973). Then w e find that in modern culturally complex behavior
(not in primitive societies, which would merit a systematic study in this
respect) laughter adopts an incredibly high number of forms that can per-
form a great variety of social functions, as will be discussed.

The laughter configuration chart: The anatomy of a laugh

T h e systematic study of laughter, or rather, of a laugh — whether in
crosscultural anthropological comparisons of display rules, clinical work, its
costructuration with the rest of a speaker's delivery, or the appreciation of
the narrative writer's or playwright's ability to describe it as part of his
character's repertoires — requires first of all that w e establish just what that
laugh is m a d e of. This entails a comprehensive analysis of that laugh in
terms of its paralinguistic (acoustic) components, its kinesic (visual) accom-
paniments, mainly, and then certain possible bodily coactivities and the
general background of the laugher. Only with such a frame of reference can
w e attempt to take an in-depth approach. This model, presented in table
form in Fig. 6.2, 'Laughter Configuration Chart', can be applied to one
laugh by one individual, or for defining the characteristics of a person's
most frequent w a y of laughing, perhapas in certain situations. It can be
used in crosscultural fieldwork by entering n a m e , sex, age, ethnic group,
and country of the person, as part of a clinical study, or simply as a tool in
nonverbal communication analysis of interaction or speech.
Verbal-nonverbal transcript of the portion of speech containing the
laugh in question, as laughter and verbal speech typically condition each
other, as in '¡Ho, h o , big talk, I bet you wouldn't dare!'. T h e problem, of
course, is that the written representation of a laugh would be limited to the
cardinal vowels e, a, o,u and double and oo, preceded by h to symbolize
the velar sound [x] (other vowels existing in laughter not being easily
evoked by this simple combination): 'Ha-ha', 'He-he', Ή ο - h o ' , ' H u - h u ' ,
'Hee-hee', 'Hoo-hoo'. Perhaps a fricative laughter sound like [s] would be
written '¡Ss-ss!', but most of the m a n y other forms would have no represen-
tation, and in literature they would continue to inspire more or less accu-
rate verbal descriptions.
T h e phonetic transcription, however, should provide m a n y forms by
using the available I P A symbols and those suggested in Chapter 2, or simi-
lar ones, for example: the single-pulse velic nasal plosive [K'] of a light
chuckle, the forceful vibratory velic trill [ V V ] of uncouth snorting laughter.
T h e auditory and social labels, w h e n they exist, both in its acoustic
characteristics (e.g., tittering, giggling, chortling) and the social perception
of its intentionality (e.g., cynical, ironic, forced,sardonic).




verbal - nonverbal transcript

phonetic transcription

auditory and social labels

vowel type / silent laughter / laughing speech i|i|e|a|^|œ|a|o|o|w|U|silent
paralinguistic leader
paralinguistic onset: long/short/explosive
loudness: high/mid
pitch level: high/mid/low
pitch intervals: spread/squeezed

resonance: oral/nasal/pharyngeal
tempo: slow/medium/fast & rhythm: regular/irreg.
glottal stop
other qualifiers/other differentiators
bidental fricative/dentiexolabial fricative
exo/endolabiodental fric/exobilabial fricative

endobilabial trill
endobilabial approximant
tongue position
interlabial vibratory fricative trill
laminodental hissing
ingressive velic stop/vibratory velic trill
velic nasal plosive/velic nasal affricate
spasmodic/explosive narial fricative
paralinguistic offset: long/short
paralinguistic aftermath
kinesic leader(s)

kinesic onset: long/short/abrupt

mouth: closed/half-open/wide-open/jaw posture
lips: puckered/Distended - inflated cheeks
bared teeth
nasolabial furrows
eyelid opening/closing & brow raising/knitting
kinesic offset: long/short
kinesic aftermath
facial features & body anatomy

other contextual activities


concomitant activities
cultural background & socioeducational status

situational context
clinical configuration
cointeractants' behaviors

Figure 6.2 Laughter configuration chart


Paralinguistic features
Normally, a single-pulse laugh or a peal of laughter are characterized, even
before beginning, by their paralinguistic leader and onset, the first two
signs of a laugh in a chronological order. T h e leader is typically an altera­
tion of the preceding words (e.g., a quaver in the voice, acceleration), or,
for instance, an audible inhalation, both of which announce, together with
the kinesic leader, the onset of a laugh. T h e onset itself, its actual audible
beginning, should be identified as: short and abrupt from a state of rest, as
some individuals start laughing suddenly (sometimes also with a sudden
offset, both of them typical of nervous laughter); prolonged, as others do it
in a crescendo of volume and acceleration; or explosive, against one whose
muscular tension, loudness and speed are but average.
A n y type of laughter is also characterized by the vowel type (i.e., in
speechless laughter) — either a single one or with changes occurring
throughout a peal of laughter — appearing in open-mouth laughter, while
the articulation of some basic vowels can be roughly heard in closed-mouth
laughter as well. Simple vowel differentiation is a characteristic feature of,
for instance, sex (e.g., front high [i] in feminine giggling), age (e.g., high-
front forms in a child), culture (e.g., the Japanese feminine [i], as well as a
number of personal differences, meanings and situations, such as the mid-
to-low back [o] in Ή ο - h o , very funny' (i.e., not funny at all), Santa Claus'
Christmassy Ή ο - h o - h o î ' , or an [i] of uncontrollable merry laughter. " ' H o -
ho-ho!' laughed dark Car./ 'Hee-hee-hee!' laughed the tippling bride [...]
'Heu-heu-heu' laughed dark Car's mother" (Hardy TD, X , 81),
T h e primary qualities affecting laughter are: loudness, within the scale
very high-to-whispered, attending to its attitudinal characteristics (i.e., the
'loud' individual, the confidential laughter whispered to someone's ear);
pitch level of the whole laugh (e.g., low w h e n intentionally masculine or
incredulous); pitch intervals used throughout the laugh (i.e., spread or
squeezed); resonance, whether very oral (i.e., 'resonant', 'strong'),
pharyngeal (i.e., 'throaty'), or nasal; rhythm (i.e., smooth or jerky); and
tempo (e.g., slow with sarcasm, rapid and staccato as a reaction to a joke).
Qualifiers. Although virtually all of them (see Fig. 5.1) can affect
laughter, it is m o r e practical to include only a few basic ones in the chart,
indicating as needed any of the possible combinations that m a y occur (e.g.,
harsh-creaky). Chronologically w e tend to perceive first whether the emis-
sion of a laugh is egressive or ingressive (the latter generally during each
breath intake, which does not interrupt laughter) and whether its flow is

continuous, or spasmodic or alternates between the two (e.g., correspond-

ing to one's train of thought, during horseplay). O f the laryngeal qualifiers,
the following can characterize specific types of laughter: whizziness, whis-
periness, laryngealization (creakiness), falsetto, harshness, shrillness, throat-
iness, twanginess, and tenseness or laxness, laughter thus acquiring the qual-
ities discussed earlier, for instance: gross hoarse laughter, the w e a k laugh-
ter of of a w e a k patient, the harshness of a hateful guffawing, etc. " D o n o -
van [a fat young m a n ] placed a plump woolen gloved hand on his breast,
from which muttered wheezing laughter at once broke forth" (Joyce
PAYM,V, 211).
Speech and differentiators. T w o important p h e n o m e n a must be iden-
tified: one is that, as with other differentiators, laughter can also act as a
qualifier of verbal language, a fact which should be clearly identified as
laughing speech, that is, w h e n one speaks and laughs at the same time. T h e
other, that certain other differentiators can act as qualifiers of laughter and
simultaneously to it, such as crying, screaming, gasping, sobbing and sneez-
ing, thus identified as qualifying differentiators. "She actually laughed;
rather sobbingly, it is true, but still, it was a laugh" (Huxley PCP, V I , 83).
T h e presence of those qualifiers — particularly coughing with choking, loud
yawning, etc. — provide additional information about the sensitiveness of
the laugher, as w h e n they occur by themselves, for they are subject to cer-
tain norms of good behavior which, again, vary culturally.
Consonantal sounds. Apart from the vocalic modifications caused by
tongue movements within the mouth with lip opening, the following few
basic consonantal articulations formed while laughing by the teeth, lips,
tongue and velic and narial areas should be identified (see Appendix on
transcription symbols at the end of Chapter 2). Besides the very frequent
glottal stop, w e can laugh 'through our teeth' w h e n w e articulate a bidental
fricative while blowing through the teeth in laughter, with or without actual
voice (the former an intermediate realization between silent and voiced),
that is, a hissing laughter accompanied by various degrees of horizontal lip
expansion. With the lips, an exoendolabiodental fricative (i.e., upper front
teeth against outer/inner side of lower lip) is also another form of hissing
laughter, but can also be accompanied by a forceful narial emission. A s for
the lips (apart from their various postures, included below as kinesics), five
sound-modifying articulations can be included: an exobilabial fricative, an
endobilabial trill, as w h e n shivering from cold, an endobilabial approximant
(both inner parts, also a form of labialization), and labialization proper.

T h e tongue position in laughter shows, in the first place, the eight basic
dimensions of m o v e m e n t (see Chapter 2, 6.4), that is, fronting, raising,
fronting-raising, retracting, retracting-raising, raising-retracting, lowering,
and lowering-retracting, each characterizing different sounds of laughter as
well as typical facial gestures and even postures, which shows again the
mutual inherence of sound and m o v e m e n t (e.g., lowering-retracting pro-
duces a sort of strangulated-like laughter usually accompanied by retraction
and sinking of the head and sometimes closed eyes and even a backward
posture, whether sounding or only silent). Although these eight positions
should be enough to identify the most typical types of laughter, a few others
can be distinguished, however, such as an interlabial vibratory fricative trill,
which was already described as a variety of the scornful 'Bronx cheer', also
a rather vulgar or perhaps only clownish laughter; a lamino dental form of
hissing; and a laminosublamino-interdental (actually a type of laughter
dentalization), the latter two quite typical of children, of the stereotyped
type of prudish orflatteredolder w o m a n , and also observed in some male
homosexuals of plump features. Naturally, tongue position is responsible
for palatalization and velarization (forceful), velarization being what gener-
ally is virtually the only acknowledged type of laughter and the only one
that, corresponding to velar, is orthographically transcribed as 'Ha-ha',
'He-he', etc. In the velic and narial areas w e recognize — besides the sec-
ondary articulation of nasalization — the most typical series of laughter
types, for instance: the Ingressiv e velic stop that causes embarrassment
w h e n it comes out involuntarily while laughing for its momentary snoring
sound; the open- or closed-mouth velic nasal plosive of a light chuckle; the
velic nasal affricate of contemptuous laughter; the snoring sound of the
open- or closed-mouth Ingressive vibratory velic trill which some people,
mainly males, display as the inspiration phase of a peal of laughter; the
ingressive and egressive (in succession) spasmodic narial fricative, the nos-
tril friction being the only sound produced, for which reason it could be
sobbing, or it could be mistaken for it if there is no eye contact or the
kinesic and postural behaviors are ambiguous; the explosive narial fricative
as an explosive onset of nasal laughter with open or closed mouth. " M r .
Power sent a long laugh d o w n his shaded nostrils" (Joyce U, 259).
Chronologically, the last audible signs of a laugh are its paralinguistic
offset and aftermath, the end-point equivalents to onset and leader. T h e
offset can be abrupt, as some people stop laughing suddenly and resume
their static countenance in a very peculiar w a y which is remembered by

others, or gradually diminishing until it tails away followed by the actual

aftermath, which can be a true paralinguistic alternant consisting of sighing
followed by a still breathy and very drawled low-back vowel.
Closed-mouth laughter is identified below with kinesic characteristics,
but it must be remembered that it is necessarily nasal and that it can still
contain articulatory features like palatalization, velic affricates, narial frica-
tives, etc., besides primary qualities and qualifiers (e.g., whispering).
It is important not to isolate these audible (or silent) manifestations
from the visual ones, for together they constitute a paralinguistic-kinesic
expression in such a way that, for instance, round labialization is the post-
ure of puckered lips as m u c h as the resonance it causes, just as wide-open
mouth, a backward posture and closed eyes evokes the strong velarization
it corresponds to w h e n one cannot hear its sound.

Kinesic features
A s with the paralinguistic leader and onset, their visual counterparts,
kinesic leader and kinesic onset, are the first observable parts of a laugh,
slight as they m a y be sometimes and according to the individual's style. T h e
kinesic leader appears as an alteration of the existing kinesic activity or still-
ness; usually a quickening-up of m o v e m e n t followed by the jerky m o v e -
ment of laughter or the beginning of a postural shift, facial expression open-
ing-up with brow raising and smiling. But this leading smile is the clearest
kinesic leader, as it is later its kinesic aftermath or tail. Other times the
smile blends with the person's inflated (and even reddened) cheeks or tight-
ened mouth in an effort not to burst out laughing, which usually happens
right afterward. " D o n Quixote looked at Sancho too, and saw that his
cheeks were puffed up and his mouth was full of laughter, with evident
signs of wanting to burst with it..." (Cervantes Q, 1, X X , 188; translation
mine). 1 a T h e kinesic onset immediately after is the visible start of the actual
laugh and, as with paralanguage, can be short and abrupt (e.g., w h e n one
suddenly begins to shake uncontrollably) or slow and longer (e.g., with
slowl rising and lowering of the trunk, as w h e n sympathetically laughing
and gently looking d o w n and shaking the head).
Next, the main kinesic characteristic of a laugh is whether the mouth is
open or closed, thus closed mouth should be indicated, as should wide-open
mouth, followed by the laughter posture of the lips, either puckered or dis-
tended up or d o w n ; the cheeks can be inflated; conspicuously bared teeth,
horizontally or vertically, are also very characteristic in a laugh, as are the

nasolabial furrows (observable a m o n g the less educated Spanish speakers

as a prolonged kinesic leader); lastly on the face, the degrees of eyelid open-
ing or closure and brow raising are almost always present — brows can be
also knit — and for brevity's sake should be indicated as open/closed eyes/
A s for other body components that can also identify differences in cul-
tural and subcultural background, socioeducational status, personality and
emotional situation, hands/arms and body behaviors would complete the
configuration of a single-pulse laugh and above all of a good peal of laugh-
ter (e.g., doubling up and turning around), "the laughter rang louder; they
[the other girls] clung to the gate, to the posts, rested on the staves, in the
weakness engendered by their convulsions at the spectacle" (Hardy TD, X ,
Artifactually-mediated sounds can also blend with the acoustic features
of a laugh (e.g., someone throwing an object at someone else in a fit of
laughter). But the nonparaUnguistic sound can still be produced by one of
the audible gestures discussed in Chapter 1, while the accompanying hand
or body behaviors m a y add m u c h information on the person's thoughts and
Finally, the last two visible signs of a laugh are its kinesic offset and
aftermath, the equivalent of kinesic onset and leader. A s with paralan-
guage, the offset can be quite abrupt, stopping all movement, as w h e n a
laugh is cut short by a startling event; or gradual, as is usually the case, the
distended lips, the furrows in the infraorbital area and the nasolabial fur-
rows slowly returning to their original position, as do the other parts of the
body that were moving, sometimes the head still shaking or nodding. A s for
the aftermath, coinciding with the paralinguistic one (e.g., sigh + drawled
vowel), it is like a behavioral tail, the last sign of the person having been
laughing, such as crossing of legs or arms (perhaps uncrossed before as a
leader), preening of clothes, wiping away tears of laughter., etc.

Smiling speech
But the truly effective aftermath, the one behavior that can act as a prolon-
gation of a laugh superimposed to any subsequent behaviors, such as
resumed speech or kinesics, is the smile which very often remains after
laughter, or rather, which laughter turns into. It can be also a silent smile of
feedback, perhaps coupled to direct eye contact. T h e male interactant, for
instance, w h o just m a d e a w o m a n laugh knows that that smile of hers, fad-

ing away very slowly but reflected also in her eyes, are betraying very posi­
tive thoughts about him. In other instances, of course, it can be just the
residual behavior of any of the laughter types identified in the following
sections, such as the laughter of contempt or embarrassment. Naturally,
smiling can precede as its kinesic leader, continue as a cooccurrent behavior
throughout laughter, and then remain, not as an aftermath proper, but as
the smile that might not have led to laughter at all, in that case not forming
part of the indivisible paralinguistic-kinesic construct of laughter proper.

Λ note on the kinesic transcription for differentiators

Kinegraphs should be used whenever a transcription or verbal transcript
(for which one symbol m a y often avoid m a n y words) can gain by their use
and avoid cumbersomness. T h e researcher m a y invent his o w n conven­
tional symbols, or select them from Birdwhistell's (1970) and Kendon's

Silent laughter
It will be seen that the absence of any vowel or consonantal sound does not
preclude the production of laughter, thus silent laughter should be acknow­
ledged as the type which can be expressed only kinesically by as little as
nasolabial furrows and as m u c h as inflated cheeks (a sign of suppressed
laughter), manual gestures, doubling up as with audible laughter, etc., or
showing one's teeth in a silent, jerky smile. Sometimes silent laughter can
be like the kinesic leader for sound laughter in, for instance, the typical
slight jerk of the chest or chest and abdomen.

Facial and body anatomy

Although the aftermath would complete the configuration of a laugh, it is
an easily observable fact that a given set of specific facial features and, for
instance, a conspicuously obese body will determine specific ways of laugh­
ing, of distorting that face and making those jowls shake and that whole
body m o v e . Reviewing the comments m a d e in Chapter 2.3 regarding the
anatomy and visual features of the labial areas and the cheeks (com­
plemented by Fig. 2.6, showing the kinesic possibilities of the lips, cheeks
and mandible), those about the tongue in section 2.6, and about the mandi­
ble in section 2.7 (without excluding the anomalies of each area), w e can be
better prepared to indicate h o w the dynamic signs of the face determined in

turn by its static signs (i.e., shape, location, size) are producing that laugh-
ter, and even to predict h o w a certain face (i.e., set of features) will laugh
before it does, as w e predict 'how a certain face would speak'.

Contextual activities and concomitant activities in the laughter configuration

It m a y seem that if a person laughs and at the same time cries, blushes or
coughs, w e can sometimes consider all those cooccurring activities as con-
stituting laughter in that particular manifestation. H o w e v e r , it m a y be m o r e
accurate to differentiate in the chart between those activities that are truly
contextual, that is, belonging to the laughter complex, and those which are
merely cooccurring in an incidental and distinguishable as concomitant
activities. The basic contextual activities are dermal and chemical reactions
perceived as intensifiers of that laughter and, therefore, part of it.
Although laughter is basically a paralinguistic-kinesic p h e n o m e n o n it is typ-
ically accompanied in its more violent occurrences by reddening of the face
due to congestion. After a paroxysm of too m u c h convulsive laughter, it
ends in tear-shedding (which, of course, should not be called crying), "and
the orbicular muscles are spasmodically contracted to protect the eyes"
(Darwin, 1872:206), with long continuous single paralinguistic emissions
and tense contraction of the abdominal muscles, the whole body losing its
muscular control in a true state of cateplexy. These features, therefore,
characterize sometimes the aftermath of laughter. Other times excessive
laughter causes choking with one's o w n saliva or irritation and produces
coughing. It m a y also cause panting and sweating. " A h , panting, sighing
[...] choking in tea and laughter, coughing with choking, crying [...] they
urged each other to peal after peal [...] shrilldeep [...] Exhausted, breath-
less [...] All flushed (O!), panting, sweating (O!), all breathless" (Joyce U,
O n the other hand, certain other activities are truly part of the volun-
tary or involuntary laughter triggered by laughter-eliciting stimuli, for
instance: "she, laughing, blushing, and crying, surrendered herself willingly
to his embrace" ( M a u g h a m H B , L X V I , 393), in which laughter, blushing
and tear-shedding are certainly parts of a complex emotional blend.

Duration of laughter components

The duration in seconds of the m o r e relevant paralinguistic and kinesic fea-
tures of a laugh (e.g., whizziness, interlabial vibration, inflated cheeks) or

of some important contextual or concomitant activities (e.g., coughing,

tear-shedding) should be indicated, either in the transcription or in accom-
panying notes (that is, avoiding cumbersomeness whenever possible).

Contextual elements
Having identified all the audible and visual components of a laugh, its total
configuration is completed, further confirmed perhaps by the person's
anatomical features; yet a laugh, as any other behavior, does not occur in a
vacuum, but in a specific set of contextual elements, beginning with the cul-
tural background, often persisting in the nonverbal behaviors of first-gen-
eration immigrants and other foreigners in a culture, such as Chinese
female students and female black Africans, both of which laugh with eyes
cast down and one hand vertically covering mouth and nose, as do Japanese
w o m e n ; then the socioeducational status, often betrayed by the way the per-
son laughs, as will be seen (e.g., the uncouth guffaw, the more refined sub-
tle chuckle); the situational context, which includes: motivation (e.g., con-
tempt), the interactive or noninteractive specific situation (e.g., a tense
one, telling a joke), the setting (e.g., a bar, a theater), the person's
socioeconomic or socioeducational status (e.g., the uneducated, the very
refined). Last, but not least at all, the cointeractanf s verball nonverbal
behaviors (perhaps laughter too), which perhaps triggered that laughter and
may show a perfect costructuration with the laugh's own verbal and nonver-
bal behaviors. Finally, the clinical configuration should identify the prob-
lem when appropriate (e.g., D o w n ' s Syndrome, schizophrenia, manic-
depressive psychosis) and, in turn, the specific forms of laughter that may
characterize it.

Laughter as a qualifier of verbal language

Once the components of laughter have been identified it is easier to
imagine in which ways it can qualify what is being said verbally, whether
simultaneously to it, immediately preceding or following. A s with paralin-
guistic 't of voice' and facial expression, but even more, since laughter
contains both, the person w h o laughs may:
a. confirm the verbal message, which, when accompanied by laughter
(perhaps even 'laughed out') becomes even more unambiguous, as when an
expression like That's funny' is said laughingly or followed by laughter;
b. emphasize what is being expressed verbally, as when a comment on the

ludicrousness of a situation is followed by a loud laugh, or a softer but pro-

longed one ('Did he say it was absurd?', ' O h , yes, and he laughed!');
c. deemphasize what is being said verbally and intentionally or unintention-
ally lessen its impact on others and often on oneself too; trying to hide one's
o w n feelings, truly 'laughing it off'; or w h e n the laughter which punctuates
what w e say diminishes our pretended concern;
d. contradict the verbal statement, as w h e n words try to express something
seriously but a hardly suppressed chuckle shows otherwise, or w h e n , in try-
ing to laugh something off, the verbal message is unambiguously supported
by a 'no-laughing-matter' facial expression, that is, by the kinesic c o m p o -
nent of that speech section, while the contiguous (and even simultaneous)
laughter tries unsuccessfully to conceal it; but a very frequent form of
deemphasis occurs w h e n w e dare not openly admit that w e ourselves are
quite serious about something (e.g., 'Well, I don't really enjoy cold show-
e. disguise the true meaning of the verbal message, that is, not precisely
laughing it off to conceal one's true feelings about the situation or protect
someone else's feelings, but using laughter as a sort of camouflage over the
actual motive of what is being said (e.g., w h e n someone wants to hide a
selfish ulterior motive, making his words sound simply as what they express
verbally, even emphasized by the laughter, yet concealing something else);
f. conceal truly the verbal message in an intentional w a y precisely by omit-
ting it, thus avoiding it altogether, whether successfully or not;
g replace, but not conceal, a possible verbal message, mainly either as a
response to a question (i.e., giving laughter as an affirmation or negation)
or as a nonverbal statement, the meaning almost always quite unambigu-
These seven functions of laughter as a qualifier of verbal language
suggest its great versatility in interaction, particularly because it can also
express by itself totally independently of language. In fact, it will be seen
w h e n discussing crying that its semantic content cannot be modified with
vowel changes and different paralinguistic features as m u c h as that of

6.1.3 Toward a correct labelling and understanding of laughter types

Even a cursory review of the paralinguistic and kinesic features just out-
lined and the suggested laughter configuration chart as a visual research

tool shows without doubt that this type of model m a y well prove indispens-
able for the systematic study of laughter as a component of discourse, of
conversation, in clinical work, in a crosscultural comparison of its display
rules according to different stimuli and situational contexts, for the appreci-
ation of novelists' and playwrights' use of laughter in their work and h o w
they describe it, etc. But simply to sensitize oneself to the m a n y forms of
laughter and its m a n y nuances of meaning, at times beyond the conscious-
ness of those w h o laugh, justifies our becoming aware of its audible (or
silent) and visual characteristics, so often inexpressible in words. In addi-
tion, w h e n w e establish all the potential components of a laugh the obvious
challenge emerges immediately to not just refer to this or that type of
laughter, whether orally or in writing, but to k n o w exactly what w e m e a n
w h e n w e liberally use labels such as 'snicker', 'titter', 'chortle', etc., and
even more w h e n w e say that so-and-so laughed 'cynically', 'bitterly',
'charmingly'; or what exactly is meant w h e n a novelist or playwright (more
the latter for the actor) says that the character laughs with 'a sardonic
chuckle', 'contemptuously', 'histrionically', etc. (some of which refer to cul-
ture-specific forms). W e can at best produce those types if given the label,
depending on our past experience of such utterances and on h o w w e would
express those feelings, but would most probably be unable to describe them
even in accurate impressionistic terms, let alone phonetic ones.
A s with m a n y of the qualifiers discussed in Chapter 5, one should be
familiar with both the etymological origins and the basic physiological-
phonetic characteristics of at least the established references to laughter,
whether for paralinguistic research, literary translation or simply for its cor-
rect evocation w h e n speaking or in writing. Chuckling, for instance (proba-
bly an imitation of the hen's 'chuck' or clucking noise), denotes a low-
pitched, usually closed mouth (and often single-pulse) nasalized creaky
realization of a glottal stop that m a y end in a narial fricative accompanied
at most by a brief jerk of the head (or head and trunk) and perhaps intent
stare through squinting eyes, associated with polite laughter, condescen-
dence, self satisfaction, etc. Giggling (related to D . giggelen, from M E .
gigge, whirligig, and probably an IE. base meaning yelp) denotes a high-
pitched falsetto, rapid intermittent velarized utterance, associated with gir-
lishness or silliness, femininity, and feminine anxiety or embarrassment.
Guffawing (apparently echoic) refers to a loud, coarse, explosive and short
or prolonged and tense utterance variously modified by orality, nasality or
labialization, accompanied by equally 'loud' kinesics, associated with a

'loud' personality, vulgarity, aggression, merriment, or unexpected and

sudden amusement or comicality. But is tittering (of G m c . echoic origin)
well differentiated from giggling in the speaker's or reader's mind in terms
of not-so-high pitch, palatalization rather than velarization and not so m u c h
loudness, though it is also associated with (perhaps affected) politeness and
half-suppressed laughter?: "the gentlemen interposed with earnest petitions
[...] but they got only blushes, ejaculations, tremors, and titters" (C. Brontë
JE, XVIII, 224). A n d what about snickering (or 'sniggering', apparently of
u n k n o w n origin), cackling (from an echoic M E . cakelen), or chortling (a
blend of chortling and snorting)?. " ' Y o u should see her naked,' General
Dreedle chortled with croupy relish" (Heller C22, X X I , 221).

6.1.4 Direction, control and eliciting situations

The aim and control of laughter

A s a multiple-stimulus and multiple-purpose system of nonverbal c o m -
munication in itself — partaking of both paralinguistic and kinesics and cos-
tructured with verbal language and other systems such as chemical (e.g.,
tears), dermal (e.g., blushing) and thermal (temperature rises and falls)
reactions — laughter deserves extensive investigation as regards its func-
tions in social interaction, both universally and culture-specifically. Given
the great importance of this paralinguistic-kinesic p h e n o m e n o n in h u m a n
communication and the obvious complex sophistication it has reached
beyond the affiliative or agonistic 'laughing' sounds of other species, I shall
try to survey its basic social functions and the stimuli that motivate them.
F r o m the point of view of its encoding and decoding, laughter serves
first of all, at the beginning of its phylogenetic development, to convey mes-
sages of affiliation and aggression (with semantic and morphological varia-
tions in their emission) and that both through affiliative and aggressive
laughter two or m o r e people can seek the establishment of a personal bond,
as will be seen. This bond-seeking attitude in the use of laughter is related
to another characteristic of laughter, its property to disguise feelings other
than the ones seemingly being conveyed by it; something observed by dif-
ferent investigators (e.g., Darwin 1872, Z u k 1966) and which is related to
its frequent metacommunicative quality. Because of its highly lexical value
and potential grammatical and syntactical roles, laughter can contain feel-
ings and intentions not spoken of. It can qualify, in fact, as to what Hass
(1970:128) has called 'displacement laughter', referring to Spencer's

thought about laughter as an outlet for pent-up energy, perhaps directly

linked to the mentally ill's seemingly incongruent behavior by a tendency to
laugh (e.g., mastering anxiety), or as an indirect release of aggression (both
observed in the schizophrenic). This facility to disguise feelings is in turn
semantically, semiotically and morphologically associated with its use as a
manipulative tool of deception, a hidden motivation which can be also dis-
guised by kinesic alter-adaptors, that is, touching the other person, which in
fact m a y accompany laughter, thus resulting in a perfect instance of idiosyn-
cratic (or false) decoding since the target person interprets it as what is not,
exactly as it m a y happen through deceptive crying.
Another important aspect of laughter between two or more interac-
tants, or when there is no cointeractant present, is its aim or direction, that
is, the essential differentiation between: first, laughing at, in other words,
reacting to an internal or external stimulus, as when w e find someone amus-
ing or are presented with a birthday cake, or laugh at a dog's antics; sec-
ondly, laughing with, that is, at something or someone, but consciously
sharing that reaction, as when w e both enjoy watching the dog; thirdly,
laughing for, is voluntarily or involuntarily, with an aim in mind, as when
one laughs out of embarrassment or to provide adulatory feedback during a
Naturally, one m a y laugh at something with someone and at the same
time laugh at that person's way of laughing, or at his naivete, or the faces he
makes: "But one laughed with as well as at her: for the set of her lips was
humorous and the expression of her round astonished eyes was mocking
and mischievously inquisitive" (Huxley PCP, X I , 133). O n e would include
the actor's laughter as an example of 'laughing for', an ably feigned display
of a nonexisting feeling (the degree of its 'authenticity' depending on the
performer's sensitiveness to identify with the character) in imitation of a
make-believe reality done for the purpose of performing realistically. The
semiotic process between actor and spectator is an interesting one because
the audience's perception of the performance is twofold: the character's
behavior as conveyed and made 'real' in his as well as the spectator's willing
imagination, and the actor's ability to portray such activities, that is, our
appreciation of his theatrical competence (Poyatos 1983: Chapter 10).
Finally, the following distinctions should be made as to whether or not
it is an act of the will and whether or not it can be controlled. Voluntary
laughter, controlled at will, can be natural, and spontaneous, that is, sincere
in its motivation and aim, whether positive or negative toward another and

triggered directly by a social stimulus or generated in us by imagining it,

whether it is real or not; however, even this voluntary reaction can develop
into a sort of 'runaway laughter', something quite close to an uncontrollable
and disproportionate fit, involuntary laughter which w e m a y try to suppress
by unsuccessfully adopting a serious countenance, repressing a betraying
smile, etc. But it can be also forced laughter, as w h e n one feels obliged to
join someone else in his laugh, w h o might even openly urge us to laugh by
nudging us while staring intently and nodding as if saying ' G o ahead, you
too laugh'. A n d , as a second form of unnatural but voluntary laughter,
there is affected laughter, feigning what is not truly felt, as w h e n one 'laughs
something off', its most complex occurrence, for one m a y sometimes try to
protect oneself — quite precariously so — behind the shield of laughter,
even in noninteractive situations with no one present, even deceiving one-
self (at least for a while) with that attitude. Also affected, and typically as
successful as the spontaneously triggered one, is the one that happens in a
good 'performance', whether on stage or just social, "he added after a
pause [thinking of the critics' negative comments about his paintings] and
with a sudden explosion of voluntary laughter, 'after all, everything I do is
good; d a m n ' good even'" (Huxley PCP, I V , 52).
Involuntary laughter, on the other hand, is always an uncontrollable
act, which can be a form of anxious laughter, out of social discomfort in
some situations, whether w e call it embarrassment or confusion. Involun-
tary inappropriate social laughter can be triggered (as a true externalizer) by
a self-generated stimulus (e.g., thinking of something amusing at the wrong
time) or a social one (e.g., the way someone is scolding us) or it can result
also from the effect of someone else's laughter, that is, what is called infec-
tious laughter, whether or not w e are aware of that person's stimulus (which
can be a true fit of laughter not too far removed from pathological laughter
in some instances). But involuntary laughter can also develop, in the first
place, simply as the reflex reaction to being tickled by another person,
which Darwin already commented on as typical not only of h u m a n beings,
but chimpanzees as well. Laughter by tickling, however, and the pathologi-
cal laughter amply documented in the clinical literature (see e.g., Izard
1979) as 'paroxysmal', a total loss of control w h e n the patient shows no dis-
crimination of stimuli and goes into a veritable fit, are not discussed here.

The four basic eliciting situations for laughter

Like crying or smiling, laughter, an externalizer, responds to positive or
negative motives and is elicited directly by external stimuli or, in some
instances, internally, without the direct mediation of agents. Thus, laughter
seems to occur in four basic types of situations according to whether or not
one is engaged in interaction and whether it is triggered from outside our­
selves or from within: external interactive situations, conversational (e.g., in
a verbal exchange at a gathering) or nonconversational (e.g., as m e m b e r s
of a theater or television audience, catching a bus on the run, after someone
points at something w e dropped); external noninterative situations, that is,
w h e n it is triggered by other people or situations or by any components of
the environment without mediating exchange (e.g., discovering our o w n
clumsiness while trying to open a door the wrong way); internal interaction
situations, existing only in our minds (e.g., in an imagined conversation
with others), but including also the recreation of a written interaction, not
just between the fictional characters but between ourselves and them, as w e
live their situation as our o w n , quite basic to the experience of a sensitive
reader; and internal noninteractive situations, as w h e n w e read a ludicrous
statement by a public figure, see a good cartoon, etc., which could include
various instances of pathological laughter.

6.1.5 Categories of social laughter: Λ functional classification

Although Simmel (1924:370) said that "the world is composed of two kinds
of people: those w h o m a k e one laugh and those w h o are m a d e to laugh", I
cannot help adding: and those w h o are laughed at and those w h o laugh at
themselves. But even limiting these comments on laughter to the first three
they should serve as rather practical parameters for a classification. O f the
four fundamental situations identified above, what w e could term external
social laughter would be included within the first, external interaction. T h e
proposed practical classification — obviously susceptible of m a n y refine­
ments — would consider only the motives that elicit in us our laughing with,
at, and for others while engaged in any sort of direct interaction with them.
There are six parameters that include the types of motives that elicit
interactive laughter: the two basic opposite attitudes of affiliation and
aggression, with nuances and feelings whose variety suggests their gradual
appearance throughout the ontogenetic development, or simply the lack of
s o m e due to insufficient socialization (i.e., the difference between a sensi­
tive, highly social person and the least educated and sensitive one); social

anxiety, not always betrayed as such for its m a n y forms, but certainly typi-
cal in m a n y social situations, both a m o n g the inexperienced interactors as
well as a m o n g the seemingly sophisticated and self-controlled ones; fear,
which can be triggered by interactive or noninteractive situations, very
close to the laughter of anxiety; joy or mirth, another wide parameter which
includes any of the manifestations of high spirits or happiness through dif-
ferently motivated forms of laughter; comicality and ludicrousness can
develop in a situation of mirth and could be included in the preceding cate-
gory, yet possess specific characteristics like possible unexpectedness and
spontaneity of what is comical or ludicrous; amusement, then, constitutes a
separate category referred to a lighter stimulus and response; random
interactive laughter comprises an elusive series of conversational and non-
conversational displays (in fact, occurring in minimal interaction situations)
not very easy to define, but amazingly frequent a m o n g people; and, still
within social interaction, the self-directedness of various ways of laughing at

A. Affiliation
If by affiliation w e understand in a broad sense, any attitudes toward, or
attempts at, establishing certain bonds with selfish or unselfish aims and
through genuine or feigned displays of feelings, the following basic stimuli
could be mentioned:
- Agreement with what someone says or does, expressed usually by inter-
mittent laughter and other kinesic affirmative or negative (supporting a
negation) behaviors, or by different combinations of laughter, eye contact,
and touch. Such forms of agreement, which are but forms of conversational
feedback — and on which m u c h could be elaborated as regards their verbal-
nonverbal structure — range from mere conformity or consent to, for
instance, the one bordering on the bond-seeking attitude discussed below,
or the pact or agreement signified by firm handshaking, prolonged eye con-
tact and laughter. A s conversational feedback it can take various forms
according to the situation, the personality of the laugher and, of course, the
object of the laughter, for instance: an intermittent, 'discreet' or 'polite'
chuckle + head nodding + smile, perhaps closing the eyes and slight jerks
of the head.
- T h e laughter of deference and politeness can be included in this cate-
gory because, independently of the laugher's feelings toward the person, it
implies an affiliative intention, whether out of respect or courtesy.

- Solidarity laughter is very c o m m o n — although I would not go as far as

agreeing with Simmel (1924:371) that " H u m a n solidarity never appears
more clearly than in the case of laughter" — and spans the whole scale afili-
ation-aggression, as can be observed in public places and in crowds w h e n
the object is of a positive or negative nature; whether it is triggered by a
passenger's remark during an elevator's ride or at a cashier's line. There is,
of course, in this laughter at times m u c h of the bond-seeking attitude: each
of those persons in that elevator or supermarket line will not always give
away his or her need for togetherness and support, yet w e could observe
h o w their paralinguistic-kinesic constructs of laughter are intimately
associated to their more betraying smiling gaze and behavior, directed to
those around.
- B y affiliate-support-seeking laughter I would like to identify the painful
attitude shown by m a n y underprivileged and lonely inhabitants of the large
cities w h o live alienated from the rest of society: the b u m s , the vagrants,
the winos, those w h o populate the jails and institutions for the mentally
deranged, the rehabilitation centers, the reformatories, the foster h o m e s . I
have felt deeply their ready laughter whether it was a deprived 'shackwife'
by Calcutta's H o w r a Bridge, a family of Portuguese gypsies camped by
Salamanca's ancient bridge, a b u m sheltered in the warmth of Detroit's
Greyhound depot on a wintry night, or the w o m a n w h o had stolen all m y
photographic equipment and could hardly understand m y affection and
support. Their eye contact and their also easy touch (more than in the rest
of society in basically low-touching cultures, such as North America) are,
like those usually prolonged, bright-eyed and smiling laughs, cries for the
affection which, like riches, is also so unequally distributed in humankind.
- Status-seeking laughter is another type of bond-seeking, the one with
which the child or teenager attempts to ingratiate himself with other peers,
or the socially inferior with cointeractants of higher status. Laughter and
continuous eye contact either overrides speech in a mature-sounding fash-
ion or, according to the culture, is accompanied with backpatting or, in
w o m e n , with touching of the m a n ' s or w o m a n ' s forearm, etc.
- Adulatory laughter is a selfish, calculated behavior, also close to the
bond-seeking type on m a n y occasions on which the laugher puts himself at
a level lower than that of the person he isflatteringwith insincere excessive
praise, regardless of his o w n status. It is the feedback laughter given gener-
ously to the powerful (the politician, the boss, the job-giver, etc.) by those
seeking his favor or wanting to show their admiration, the guffawing with

which the servants in some societies still respond to their master's condes-
cendence, the subordinate to the corporation manager, some students to
their professors or some professors to their top administrators at an
academic gathering or party. It is a petty attitude to which one can yield
quite unawares and in which laughter plays an important role, matching the
also adulatory tone of one's verbal language and paralanguage, although
touching is in general controlled, though reluctantly.
- Flirtatious laughter m a y be adulatory at times .and, whether flirtation
m a y anticipate true love, conceal more selfish intentions or simply serve as
a pastime or self-gratifying vanity, always punctuates the flirting witty male
or female's remarks, flattering words and charming conversation, often
underlining a sincere tone and deep gaze. Being a borderline type of laugh-
ter — since it can be used in a rather natural way, but also with positive or
negative ulterior motives in mind — it constitutes however a clear-cut form
of bond-seeking behavior and a powerful tool in m a n - w o m a n interaction,
sometimes a calculated means of deception for concealing motives that can
be quite far from the other person's mind. A t any rate, fit is often mutually
directed, and m a y represent the attempt to escalate the other person's
affection. O n e always tries to have his or her laughter reciprocated, k n o w -
ing that shared laughter means progressing, but it can also fail if, for
instance, the m a n makes an error of appreciation and she does not consider
a certain remark or attitude in good taste; besides, joking can be part of the
strategy only for the less subtle flirt, the more effective one consisting
rather of affectionately witty play o n words, charming small talk
interspersed with deeply felt yet caressing and unusual compliments m a d e
even more disarming by occasional sensitive touch and by long gazing. In
western cultures while the m a n m a y be more given to reaching for the
w o m a n ' s body by touching her hand, arm or shoulder, the w o m a n m a y also
quickly touch his wrist, and often his knee, while laughingly talking and
giggling; but w h e n she takes a more passive role head-tilting and smiling are
quite c o m m o n , along with laughter, hair- or forearm-preening, fidgeting
with a necklace or taking it to her parted lips while listening or talking
through a smile and laughing without breaking eye contact, or covering her
face with both hands (the Japanese w o m a n with one while giggling, a well-
k n o w n culture specific behavior) and, as a seemingly passive attitude, clos-
ing her eyes while adopting suggestive postures.
The bond-confirming laughter of intimacy or very close relationship is
the one shared mainly by only two people, whether they are acquaintances

rapidly escalating the friendship scale toward a m u c h closer relationship or

two colleagues suddenly deepening their professional and personal bond.
T h e situation m a y be aided by their mutual sharing of memories, the dis-
covery of c o m m o n inclinations, etc., done perhaps over an equally bond-
creating meal or drink. It is a laughter that — consciously on the part of
both partners — is measuring without words the degree of that developing
intimacy. Naturally, it m a y contain at times an element of the affiliate-sup-
port-seeking, adulation orflirtationor seduction, but at best it is simply a
shared laughter that establishes and confirms a w a r m relationship.
- T h e laughter of play can also take m a n y forms, depending on age (chil-
dren and young people are more given to yelling and uncontrollable laugh-
ter than the more mature), sex ( w o m e n usually laugh more gigglingly and
spasmodically), socioeconomic status (the less educated m a y indulge in
coarser laughter and more violent bodily movements) and, of course, the
type of g a m e (the hilarity elicited by a fast g a m e like table tennis triggers
more sudden outbursts, loud guffawing and longer paralinguistic aftermaths
than do games like pool or chess). Studies of two- to five-year-olds have
confirmed, as reported by Blurton Jones (1972), the association of laughter
and motor activities, such as wrestling, jumping, chasing, tickling, situa-
tions which w e observe in young people as well, to the extent that some
prolonged 'horsing around' of girls, for instance, brings them to a state of
cataplexy or uncontrolled laughter. But then, a serious study of play laugh-
ter would have to include, for instance, the expectant or tense laughter of
adult games, with variables such as the amount of m o n e y involved.
- T h e compassionate laughter of support is — or rather, should be — the
subtly timed laughter displayed, for instance, by the m o r e sensitive doctors,
nurses and visitors in the hospitals w h e n dealing with more seriously ill
patients. It is a laughter that could be verbalized in soothing words of
understanding. Medical personnel, w h o should be sensitized more formally
to the relevance of nonverbal communication in their daily interaction with
patients of different personalities, social and cultural backgrounds (the lat-
ter being the usual in a Canadian hospital, for instance) can gain m u c h from
their o w n sensitization to their nonverbal messages as well as to the
therapeutic functions of their o w n nonverbal behaviors. Often their support
m a y consist simply in laughing with their patients — either on their o w n
initiative, w h e n a frank, from-the-heart (hardly a feigned one) laugh would
provide the needed confidence and calmness — or in echoing their laughter
in an also sincere and compassionate support even w h e n he is laughing

about the unlaughable. Simultaneous eye contact and smiling, a personal or

intimate proxemic behavior, contactual kinesics (e.g., an affectionate
squeeze of the hand) and perhaps the kinesthetic link established between
the two by the mediating bed on which sits the doctor or nurse, can all be
as therapeutic or more than remedies that perhaps at that point would be
quite redundant. T h e medical practitioner, however, should be aware of
that other patient's laughter that precisely rejects support and is based only
on self-pity, w h e n echoing it would only worsen the situation and abort the
possible rapport.
- The laughter of affection and love, which m a y at times exceed the m a g -
nitude of its stimulus out of sheer satisfaction in the presence and well-
being of the loved person, is the easy laughter that can take m a n y forms:
loud and exuberant, of explosive onset, sharp pitch variations, joyful facial
expression and long aftermath, in a loving atmosphere of playful joyfulness;
or in lower tones and with baby-talk labialization and intimate distance and
unblinking eye contact, as between between lovers. But there is also the
loving, soft laughter during a w a r m embrace which, according to culture, is
used as an affectionate greeting between different-sex or same-sex friends;
yet the simultaneous laughter does not usually happen within the family, or
between close relatives, but between those friends w h o acknowledge the
affection and warmth of their embrace through that laughter. In cultures
where hugging each other is m u c h less c o m m o n the laughter tends to
acquire another meaning: ' W e are hugging, although w e are m e n , but of
course w e like each other', thus there is an element of justification, not too
far from the laughter of embarrassment. Recently, in fact, I hugged a Cana-
dian friend for w h o m I feel m u c h affection, while his wife provided the
laughter, which he echoed almost simultaneously; but a French, Italian or
Hungarian wife would have laughed just from happines during a happy
greeting in a reunion.

B. Aggression
Aggression is understood here, in a broad sense, as any negative attitudes
displayed verbally and nonverbally which explicitly or implicitly carry
harmful intentions and ill will and are in some way damaging to others.
They can be expressed by laughter of very specific parahnguistic and kinesic
characteristics. I would call attention, a m o n g other types, to seduction,
intrusion, mockery, contempt, scorn, challenge, threat, and cruelty.

- Seduction is achieved in part through laughter almost up to the last

stages. It is quite close to the romantic lover's laughter, of rather low vol-
u m e and pitch, often with lips closed and at times distended horizontally in
a simultaneous knowingly, seductive smile coupled to prolonged intent gaz-
ing until a close intimate distance prevents comfortable eye contact; the
eyes of the m a n , for instance, are perhaps set on her body, or eyes, or hers
on his, but hardly distracted by the environment. In other words, there is a
true visual invasion of the other person and an equally aggressive probing
of his or her very thoughts. Naturally, laughter is only one a m o n g the grid
of interaction components of such a situation, where verbal language is
assisted by kinesics (including gaze behavior), paralanguage, chemical, der-
mal and thermal reactions, perfume and cosmetics, the fitting, color and
texture of clothes, furniture, and sometimes alcohol consumption, music,
and the built or natural environment (see Poyatos 1985, on interaction c o m -
ponents). Especial mention should be m a d e of silences (at times also still-
ness), for they can be m a d e seductive in themselves by their costructuration
with, and the intensity of, the surrounding activities as well as nonactivities,
from words, eye contact or touch to music or hairdo.
- Satirical laughter, clearly a product of pride, can be almost a habitual
attitude, accompanied by more or less subtle and complex gesture of con-
tempt, irony or sarcasm, "her laugh was satirical, and so was the habitual
expression of her arched and haughty lip" (C. Brontë JE, X V I I , 198).
- T h e laughter of contempt is the sneering laughter addressed to some-
one disdainfully, typically stereotyped by actors, with half-closed eyes, lat-
erally-expanded lips and nasolabial fold, rather lower pitch and loudness
and often with a long sneering kinesic leader and with chuckling as its
T h e laughter of scorn, understood here as extreme contempt or dis-
dain, is a similar type, but with harsher paralinguistic and kinesic behaviors
(e.g., low, hateful pitch, laryngealization, tenseness, alternating velic nasal
plosives and narial fricatives and a sardonic sneer as kinesic leader and
aftermath) which express visually the strong feeling.
- T h e laughter of mockery and ridicule (often of scorn at the same time),
also vividly portrayed by actors in rather stereotyped (though real) forms,
can be most offensively displayed with open mouth, low-pitched mid-
vowel, loud orality rather than nasality, or, even worse, nasopharyngeal
guffawing and even a pointing gesture toward its victim; while milder, more
subtle forms disguise the mocking and ridiculing with not so harsh tones, or

truly lack ill will and only serves to m a k e fun without malice or hostility.
- The laughter of skepticism or incredulity can also be blended with that
of scorn or disdain, very often expressed with a sneer, at times with a tone
of sad or bitter disbelief, or in what is called sardonic laughter.
- A s for sardonic laughter, which can be of the guffawing, open-mouth
harsh type or the closed-mouth chuckle type, it is the offensive laughter of
derisive mockery blended with disdainful or skeptical humor.
- T h e laughter of challenge is another stereotyped behavior: low pitch,
not loud, of either prolonged emissions or repeated short ones, with typical
intent gazing and sometimes a sneer in more showing forms, as with the
tough-guy's come-on gesture m a d e n o w rather universal by American
movies: bending fingers with palm upward and not downward as in m a n y
other cultures.
- T h e laughter of threat, perhaps also challenging, is described in chil-
dren's books and shown in movies: the loud, raucous guffaw as the ogre,
witch, pirate or kidnapper advances toward the terrified victim.
- O n e should mention also the laughter of cruelty, a feeling that can be
already present in scornful or threatening laughter, depending on the
degree of perversity. Without trying to review the philosophical literature
on laughter, but only to point out its m a n y forms and motives, I would refer
again to the brief but pithy comments m a d e by Simmel (1924:372-372). I
would like to emphasize h o w the feelings represented in the aggressive
types of laughter identified so far follow an ontogenetic development rarely
altered by precocious manifestations, and yet the 'cruelty' of children
laughing while torturing a poor defenceless animal, or laughing meanly at a
schoolmate's deformity or social lowliness is a fact w e have all witnessed.
Simmel says that that laughter is "cruel in fact but not in intention" and that
it does not express "a perverse, satanic joy but a heartlessness" (because
"sympathy has not been born in the individual"); however, such a categori-
cal assertion cannot be m a d e so easily in all instances, for that kind of
laughter can certainly respond to an obvious evil motivation.
- Finally, although it is a function w e rarely think of, the invasion of pri-
vacy through laughter cannot be neglected, as it is certainly a form of
aggression w e have all experienced at one time or another, either as victims
or, less consciously so, as aggressors. It is not only the privacy of the h o m e
in an apartment building — whose walls and doors m a y provide visual and
olfactory protection, but are not perhaps 'expensive' enough to free us from
the evening-long guffaws and laughing fits of others — but also the

expected (perhaps even 'paid-for') privacy attained in otherwise public

places, such as a quiet lounge, an hotel lobby, a subway car, or a park; one
could see it as 'laughing without', as differentiated from the 'laughing with'
identified earlier. In any of these situations laughter can become offensively
intrusive because, to begin with, it is not shared, w e do not even know
'what's so funny', but perceive only its disruptive qualities, just noise. If
asked to join the laughers, things change immediately and, without know-
ing it, w e m a y then be the invaders. It is an acoustic form of mild aggres-
sion, but no less annoying than walking through a group, having to suffer
the neighbor's cooking smells, etc. and typically the loud outbursts of a
boisterous group in closed public places when w e do not partake of their
merrymaking, or the loud guffawing of carousers walking by in the stillness
of night.

A note on bond-formation, deception, and privacy invasion through laugh-

The above reference to childhood insensibility and what has been said ear-
lier regarding bond-seeking and affiliative-support seeking through laugh-
ter, and the element of deceit contained in some of the functions discussed,
such as seduction and adulation, suggest some additional thoughts on these
two aspects of laughter. Bond-formation between two or more people
through laughter does not occur, however, by affiliation alone, but by their
c o m m o n derision of others, observed by Lorenz as a behavior of aggression
in animals toward a c o m m o n enemy (Hass 1972:126). Likewise humans,
and very typically children, m a y establish long-lasting bonds by jointly m a k -
ing fun of a peer, whether initiating an aggressive attitude toward him or
strengthening an already existing one with someone else's support. This is
the laughter of cruel mockery, so often mingled with or replaced by sneer-
ing, so c o m m o n in schools, jails and other institutions where the need for
affiliates is so strong. A shared derisive or mocking 'good laugh' can be a
heartless and wordless form of ritualized bonding behavior that certainly
stands at the worst end of the love-hatred scale, although its definition and
labeling is not that simple, for hidden emotional blends would have to be
sought in the combination of paralinguistic, kinesic, proxemic and
chronemic components of each round of laughter, of each peal, and thus
analyze its true motives.
A s for deception, it has been seen h o w laughter can be manipulated
and masked to feign unfelt sentiments and find favor with someone. The

behavior of deception, after all one of the principal negative functions of

nonverbal communication, can be performed through bodily activities or
nonactivities that are perceived visually (e.g., gestures, manners, postures,
tear-shedding, proxemics, m a k e u p , hairdo, clothing, one's personal envi-
ronment), auditorily (language and paralanguage), tactually (physical per-
sonal contact in intimate proxemic attitudes), and olfactorily (perfumes and
lotions). Laughter can be combined with any of them, either simultaneously
to speech or alternating with it, and produce the subtlest forms of deception
by means of facial expression and eye contact, timed smiles, voice loudness
and pitch changes, etc.

A s with anxiety, fear can elicit a sort of laughter which seems totally incon-
gruent with the situation being experienced, mostly as a reflex-like exter-
nalizer of that emotion and to which one can be forced by the presence of
others, laughing off the fearful object since w e recognize it as perhaps not
threatening enough to, for instance, just cry in unequivocal terror. H o w -
ever, there is no reason for laughter of any kind if w e are alone. It is, in
other words, a clear instance of "concealment of affect or the substitution
of an unfelt emotion for a felt emotion" ( E k m a n 1981: 273), and that is w h y
its configuration resembles m u c h more that of anxiety than the spontaneous
and sincere laughter of amusement. " ' N o ! she cried half laughing in terror
— 'no!'" (Lawrence SL, V , 153).

D. Social-Anxiety
Social-anxiety laughter is meant to include here any voluntary or involun-
tary display in social interaction situations in which it responds to a wel-
c o m e and seemingly appropriate stimulus, serving mostly as a convenient
supporting behavior willingly offered in response to our cointeractant (the
laugh itself not being necessarily anxious) or consciously or unconsciously
to our o w n anxiety (the laugh then being anxious). In fact, this kind of
laughter often qualifies as what I have studied as random behaviors
(Poyatos 1983:135-136, 173-174), admitting that any of those paralinguistic
or kinesic acts can be unconscious and random, conscious and random,
unconscious and habitual, or conscious and habitual. Just to establish this
category, which includes so m a n y and less thought-of interesting instances
of laughter, the following few can be mentioned, omitting however any

specific references to what some call 'nervous laughter' for the simple
reason that they all contain an element of 'nervousness', and no single type
could be correctly n a m e d 'nervous' without referring to its other defining
- The opening laughter is a mostly unconscious expression of the anxiety
caused w h e n a gathering of people whose mutual relationship is formal (at
least on that occasion) is being initiated, that is, w h e n its configuration is
taking shape (taking places, etc.), as in a critical business meeting, a hotel-
lobby encounter between two or more business relations, where short
laughs are easily elicited by any trivial stimulus to fill the initial m o m e n t s
and dispel an unavoidable degree of anxiety, or an employment interview,
at which a kind interviewer would purposely offer a humorous remark in
order to break the ice and m a k e the interviewee feel more at ease. T h e
other c o m m o n opening laughter is the one elicited in himself and his audi-
ence by the humorous remark of the public speaker, which acts as a rap-
port-seeking device, used by a comedian as an important part of his or her
repertoire, and typically in North-American oratory. This type is also easily
offered by m e m b e r s of an audience w h o feel the tension of the opening
m o m e n t s a m o n g themselves and in relation to the speaker. A n d at the
other end of the encounter w e are all familiar with a speaker's closing
humorous remark and then the laughter that acts as a dissolving device.
- T h e social event laughter is the one elicited at weddings, receptions,
banquets, etc., caused by different and often simultaneous reasons, such as
fighting off feelings of social isolation, awkwardness, etc. Gigglers giggle,
and other m a y burst out into short laughs at the slightest opportunity,
unless they manage to busy themselves with something (a drink, unfolding
a napkin, listening with pretended attention to someone else, etc.).
- The social performer's laughter is the one observed in those m e n and
w o m e n of the world (politicians, m e m b e r s of royal families, heads of state,
actors, etc.) w h o , despite the obvious easiness with which they negotiate
any social and public situation, also betray anxiety at times through certain
random behaviors (hair- or clothes-preening, smiling, etc.) and laughing at
trivial remarks, things or happenings, with a broad grin.
- T h e embarrassment laughter appears, depending on the situation,
w h e n one tries to conceal consciously or unconsciously the anxiety created
by one's or even someone else's awkwardness, social blunder, inappro-
priate language, etc. It can be accompanied by blushing in both sexes
(though more in w o m e n and youngsters), such as the little boy w h o also

shifts his weight from one foot to another, or the girl w h o laughs and
blushes at the man's compliment — exhibiting also other behaviors
observed by Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1980) as a universal attitude of coyness — and
it tends to be of the closed-mouth type and accompanied by gaze aversion.
But often the embarrassment is camouflaged by the deceitful manifestation
of another feeling which is not felt, and it m a y be only through kinesic clues
(gaze behavior, tenser muscle tonus, etc.) that w e can interpret it as embar-
rassment: "She laughed slightly with shame [when she can hardly m o v e the
swing herself]" (Lawrence SL, VII, 150).
- T h e expectancy laughter is one of the typical 'nervous' laughters caused
by worry, fear, hope, or happiness, as w h e n watching a perilous race or
waiting at an airport gate for a loved one to appear. It takes various forms,
for instance, the 'still laughter' during the highwire act, hardly blinking or
just waiting with eyes closed, hands clasped or wringing ( w o m e n typically
with hands clasped against the chest or pressing the sides of the nose as if
repressing tears with the fingertips).
- T h e crowded laughter is a form of tension-relieving laughter while
being crowded by strangers, as in the proverbial elevator or in a rush-hour
subway car, w h e n the unwanted intimate proxemic situation turns any
humorous remark (often out of anxiety too) into the most welcome cause
for shared laughter, or while waiting in a line too close to persons with
w h o m any form of interaction is better than mutual disregard.
- The foreigner's laughter is the one displayed by people of different lan-
guages w h o are trying to communicate verbally and nonverbally impaired
by lexical and grammatical deficiency and frequent incorrect decoding. T h e
more difficulty they encounter, the more they use hand gestures (mainly
grammatical markers and as m a n y emblems, identifiers and pictographs as
they can resort to) with frequent eyebrow flashes, smiles, nods (head-tilting
in India) and, in the more touching cultures, alter-adaptors.
- T h e relief laughter — of irregular rhythm and with rather static facial
expression — should be mentioned as the one provoked by the actual relief
of the anxiety, preceded and followed by smiling and, in w o m e n , often
accompanied by pressing the palms against the sides of the nose. There is,
of course, the laughter of the intense relief felt after a very critical situation,
such as the "spontaneous", "wild" laughter of the passengers of a crippled
airplane after a safe landing (Zuk 1966:100).
- Finally here — perhaps for lack of a better categorization — an other-
wise important and complex type, the laugh-off laughter, since it actually

seeks relief from various forms of interactive or noninteractive anxiety,

triggered by a threatening concern or responsibility which w e refuse to face
and want to openly deny. W e laugh off something that is happening (e.g.,
our offensive or improper attitude toward something or someone, the
threat of personal adversity) or will happen, and it can be boisterous or
intentionally subtle.

E . Joy
First, the laughter of elation must be set apart as the manifestation of a state
that can be a blend of exultant joy and pride, often blended with surprise at
what seems unbelievable and yet is a reality. It is, in fact, the first ever
referred to in a text: " A b r a h a m fell on his face and laughed [when G o d tells
him that his elderly wife would give him a son]" (Genesis 17:17).
Given the elusive meaning of happiness and h o w it is often applied by
some to situations and feelings which others would hardly consider happi-
ness, it seems m o r e appropriate to group under 'joy' or 'mirth' certain
instances of laughter characterizing situations in which w e react verbally
and nonverbally with obvious gladness by clearly differentiated forms of
laughter and congruent facial expression or just by lending speech a typical
laughing quality (present in other types of laughter).
- Good-luck laughter, as someone learns of his good fortune, bursting
into a high-pitched spasmodic or continuous laugh, sometimes with an ini-
tial ingressive burst which m a y be totally voluntary and self-gratifying, with
brow raising and smiling face. It is, for instance, the culturally differen-
tiated laughter w e see on television g a m e shows, in which most of the
American w o m e n I have observed in videotaped sequences display the
palms-holding-nose gesture, gaping mouth, jumping with joy at their 'in-
credible' fortune or remaining static for a m o m e n t and speechless with dis-
belief, grasping their hair, clasping their hands, a frozen smile on their faces
or frowning with incredulity, and then bursting into laughter and sometimes
- T h e surprise laughter can be very similar, in fact, the result of it too,
often with an ingressive onset and a sudden postural shift with erect trunk,
grabbing the arms of the chair, removing reading glasses, etc.
- Next would be the greeting laughter, a controlled 'laughing greeting'
(unless caused by anxiety) as part of a w a r m salutation, preceding and dur-
ing energetic handshaking. In m o r e expressive cultures like Spain or France
two m e n often grab each other's forearm, in a Turkish campus male stu-

dents embrace or kiss each other's cheeks, while so m a n y of their American

or Canadian counterparts would just shake hands or use only a verbal
laughing greeting.
- T h e congratulatory laughter, often also within a greeting situation,
seems to be quite universal, with culture-specific alter-adaptor behaviors,
with or without verbal accompaniment and typical of laughing speech, thus
rather spasmodic, coinciding m o r e with linguistic stresses and m a d e even
more irregular by simultaneous handshaking or back-slapping.
- A similar type which m a y be said to contain the latter is the reunion
laughter which, depending on the intensity of the occasion, m a y often be
accompanied by tear shedding, sometimes making the situation unrecogniz-
able if laughter has not occurred yet (as illustrated later w h e n discussing
Under merrymaking one could group together various situations in
which two or more persons display a mutually engaging exuberant mirth
and — reflecting personalities, socioeducational backgrounds and sensitive-
ness — laugh boisterously in unrestrained and noisy hilarity with loud out-
bursts of jollity, continuous or spasmodic and rather high-pitched guffaw-
ing, reaching sometimes a grotesque falsetto, and passing from shrill cries
to bilabial explosions or vibrations, or from strong velarization to tense
narial fricatives, followed by long offsets and equally long aftermaths or
moaning out of sheer fatigue and not infrequently with teary eyes. T h e
kinesics of merrymaking (identifiable in the configuration chart) corre-
sponds naturally to the intensity of its paralinguistic manifestations.
- There is also the laughter of satisfaction, actually comprising a rather
interesting variety of forms according to the pleasurable stimulus. It can be
triggered by real or imagined sensual pleasure, for instance, or pride, or be
a self-gratifying kind of expressive behavior — the person enjoys hearing
his or her o w n laughter ('I'm experiencing pleasure') — while satisfying the
senses by eating, drinking, bathing in one's o w n pool, enjoying success,
admiring a large property, etc., or out of a milder or half-concealed satis-
faction. It can also express the pleasure of good company, of the enjoyment
of an event, such as a wedding or a 'great party', or the expectant state that
precedes an aproaching pleasure. It is a laughter of lower-pitched chuckl-
ing, of feigned uncontrollable giggling, or of boisterous guffawing, or
nasalized spasmodic outbursts in its less refined manifestations. But the
feeling of satisfaction m a y respond also to altruistic delight at someone
else's enjoyment, whether or not that person laughs as well. In both

instances the laugher may engage in alter-adaptor behaviors, more so in

highly touching cultures, but also in the more moderate ones: back-slap-
ping, shoulder-grabbing, hugging, and even kissing between m e n who are
close friends — as I have experienced among Turks in their more exuberant
outbursts of merrymaking and togetherness — or vigorous handshaking
when not so closely acquainted.
- Another kind of satisfaction is that of self-confidence, which m a y
respond simply to an egocentric tendency or at times to an attitude of mali-
cious challenge. " A B B I E [when her stepson, Eben, tells her that the farm
was his mother's and is now his] (with a cool laugh of confidence) Yewr'n?
We'll see 'bout that!" (O'Neill D U E , I, iv).
- But the most boisterous laughter of satisfaction is that of triumph
(beyond mere good luck), a single loud cry or a chain of prolonged or spas-
modic bursts with congruent facial and manual expressions and posture.
- There is yet another kind of satisfaction not precisely responding to the
great elation experienced in inoffensive merrymaking, but only to a mali-
cious delight over someone else's misfortune. It is actually a form of the
cruel laughter discussed earlier, displayed in a sort of ill will glee.

F. Sadness
A s opposed to joyful laughter w e must acknowledge the sometimes self-
imposed sort of bittersweet laughter which betrays sad feelings, mixed with
an element of joy or gladness, and which therefore is shown on one's
countenance through the emotional blend of facial signs of happiness and
sadness. Such is, for instance, the laughter elicited by some recollections of
times past, sometimes contrasting with a not very fortunate present.
But the laughter which, as a h u m a n reaction, is in its motivation
diametrically opposite to that of joy, is that of grief, the sorrowful, sad
laughter of those who grief for a dead person, remembering this or that
humorous attitude or amusing event in his life in an effort to comfort the
relatives — and the relatives themselves' at times — fighting the reality of
their loss and bringing back the moments shared with the deceased. It is a
laughter that those less close to the dead person may sometimes force, but
it can also respond to very sincere feelings, and it is always subdued, of
rather low pitch, m a d e sometimes nasal by the almost simultaneous weep-
ing, without a very animated facial expression and often alternating with
the single apicoalveolar click 'Tz' and with occasional sighing; in fact, sigh-
ing is used very loudly by mourning w o m e n in European Mediterranean

cultures as an open voluntary expression of grief, the lower the status, the
louder the sighs, as I have witnessed on m a n y occasions. There is, however,
the truly joyful laughter (yet relaxed, of m e d i u m pitch, never loud or exces-
sive, and accompanied by moderate kinesics) a m o n g those Christians w h o ,
rather than giving themselves to mournful recollections and disconsolate
grief, celebrate with 'peaceful' faces the parting of a beloved w h o , as I had
occasion to witness, has also carried a fearful illness with the same faith and
hope: "I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those w h o
have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others w h o have no hope" (1 Thes-
salonians. 4:13).
- Another type of sad laughter is the rueful or sorrowful chuckle or
open-mouth but rather soft laugh w h e n witnessing or remembering some-
thing (or someone) that inspires pity. This one, however, can also contain
an element of dejection at times, as in: "{She thinks, gives a muffled laugh
in rueful contemplation of the incident) It was awful! [telling others h o w 'in
jest' she had knocked d o w n her husband] (Albee W A O V W , I, 56-57).
O n e should remember that sometimes sadness m a y have to compete
with a sudden reaction to the comical or ludicrous to the point where the
less perceptive witness m a y misjudge the sincerity of expressed sadness.
- A n d there is also the bitter laughter of impotence, sometimes mixed
with resignation, in the face of an unhappy state of affairs. " ' D o you — 'I
hesitate. ' D o you ever get used to such a place [an institution for the
elderly]. She laughs then, a short bitter laugh" (Laurence SA, III, 104).

G. Comicality and ludicrousness

The topics of comicality and ludicrousness, or absurdity, can be discussed
together. While the former is associated with joking, professional clowning
and other performer-audience relationships or amusing situations, ludi-
crousness suggests the absurd, ridiculous or grotesque. F r o m the verbal-
paralinguistic-kinesic humorous behaviors that elicit verbal paralinguistic-
kinesic reactions in interactions, through descriptions in literature or visual
depictions in comic books, to the repertoire of a talk-show host or the funny
anecdotes indulged in by a public orator, there are a vast number of situa-
tions and contextual circumstances with specific types of laughter constructs
m a d e up, as has been seen, of vowel types, onsets and offsets, paralinguistic
voice modifications and kinesic accompaniments.
It is in the reactions to comic or funny remarks and situations, to the
incongruity that surprises us, or to the grotesque appearance of someone or

something that w e hear and see the closed-mouth explosions of laughter,

the stentorian guffawing of the less compassionate people, the contagious
belly laughs during which people bend forward and double up 'in hysterics',
flop into a couch with legs spread, close their eyes, shed uncontrollable
tears, choke, grab each other in convulsions, knock down objects, stamp
their feet and pound on a table, until they sometimes are left in a state of
paroxysm, which often they seek. Unwanted but irresistible laughter at the
comical or ludicrous may occur, however, together while expressing physi­
cal pain, as with patients in their post-operative state or someone who has
just been injured.

H. Amusement laughter and social interaction laughter

The laughter of amusement (from O F . amuser, to muse), while responding
sometimes precisely to the comicality of a situation, a remark or personal
appearance, can stand as a category in itself, for its stimuli can be much
more subdued and subtle and can consist not exactly of unexpected displays
of wit, clownishness or ridicule, but rather of a light ongoing pleasant
effect, as when a man and a w o m a n are charming each other by interspers­
ing their talk with humorous comments, lively remarks and engaging refer­
ences to people, places and events. It is also the very frequent reaction of
many to their own or someone else's witty, humorous or timely remarks
and comments in the course of a conversation, a sort of punctuation laugh­
ter which, if analyzed, w e would see as a rather independent category of
anything but clear-cut boundaries.

R a n d o m interactive laughter
This truly independent category could be called random interactive laugh­
ter, for it is unpredictable — except in someone we know well — and does
not respond to the expected stimuli, yet we observe it in ourselves when we
would be unable to identify any of the motives discussed in the previous
sections: a coincidence (e.g., two persons who unexpectedly say the same
thing at the same time), an agreement (e.g., Ί don't like the cold', 'Neither
do I!'), a brief mini-conflict (e.g., sidestepping once or twice when two
people walk into each other's path), a slight inconvenience (e.g., the slip-
periness of afloorwhen in the presence of others), asking someone to come
into one's home, thanking someone who tells us w e dropped something,
and so many more instances in which laughter, as we understand it, seems
entirely absurd and uncalled for. It is true that many times it is simply a

polite laughter, as part, for instance, of the professional repertoire of recep­

tionists, salespersons, etc., w h e n interacting with those they must attend to
(not unrelated to their desk- or counter-tapping); but others, as with medi­
cal people interacting with patients, w e cannot even see that type of con­
text. T h e fact remains that, although w e hardly hear that laughter at h o m e ,
w e display it elsewhere all the time. It is interesting to note that precisely
that very real type of laughter is virtually missing in realistic novels, yet the
more natural actors m a y display it in their successful make-believe.

I. Self-directed laughter
Although only interactive laughter was discussed here, the one which is not
triggered by a truly external stimulus but by our attitude or feelings toward
it, that is, laughing at oneself, m a y also occur in interaction, out of self-
directed annoyance, concealed embarrassment, self-pity, etc.

6.1.6 Λ final note on laughter: Historical and cultural perspectives

N o attempt has been m a d e to, for instance, approach laughter from a

crosscultural perspective, which would constitute a topic in itself employing
the basic classification of laughter types and forms offered here. Historical
changes in the ways people of different periods have perceived loud laugh­
ter, for instance, would complement the synchronic dimension of such a
research. There are numerous sources which document h o w loud spontane­
ous laughter in medieval times and up to the 18th century was looked d o w n
upon by the higher class, as those collected by J. Wildeblood (1965): it
"was thought ill-bred by courtly standards. T h e countenance, it was said in
the sixteenth century, should express mirth in such a way that the mouth
was not disfigured", thus making the laugher appear as "light-minded"
(125); and in the 18th century, "Frequent and loud laughter is the charac­
teristic of folly and ill manners: it is the manner in which the m o b expresses
their silly joy at silly things; and they call it being merry" (216). W e should,
therefore, link these attitudes toward laughter with the lack of conspicuous
gesticulation reflected in persons of status in Renaissance painting precisely
because of the low opinion in which very animated gesticulation was held,
and consider h o w in some later periods of painting laughter is still depicted
only in country folk (e.g., by Brueghel the Elder, 16th c ) . A s for crosscul­
tural differences, even today certain forms of loud laughter (e.g., truly sten­
torian guffawing with m u c h violent gesticulation) are considered improper

in m a n y social situations. O n the other hand, laughing m a y hide at times

other feelings in certain cultures, as happens in Japan, where as a reaction
to an act of rudeness people "are more apt to smile, giggle or laugh nerv-
ously" (Morsbach 1973:269) — without the occasional foreign interactant
being able to distinguish that laughter from a 'natural' one — and where
typically w o m e n laugh (or rather, giggle) hiding their laughter with a verti-
cal hand over mouth and nose.
M u c h more, then, could be said about laughter, normal and pathologi-
cal (the latter abundantly documented in the literature, although with not
very accurate descriptions). This was only a starting point for the study of
its various morphological and functional aspects as a powerful communica-
tive phenomena to which one ought to be more sensitive as concerns the
points summarized in the first section.

6.2 Crying

6.2.1 Crying as a research topic

Crying, like laughter, deserves a detailed multidisciplinary attention which

has not yet been given it, although Darwin offered detailed observations on
its muscular (consequently kinesic) activities and some of its functions in
infants and in normal and disturbed adults. H e also hypothesized about the
adult male's control of weeping out of a sense of manliness, but reported on
the copious weeping of m e n in N e w Zealand and Tierra del Fuego, compar-
ing then his countrymen's self control with the lack of it in some other
European cultures, thus suggesting very valuable crosscultural research.
Even the references provided by Blurton Jones (1972:278-279) attest to the
fact that "crying has not attracted m u c h attention [...] after the newborn
period" and that "the available information is almost incidental to studies
of other aspects of behavior". Ostwald (1963: Chapter 4) devoted a whole
chapter to a detailed analysis of the infant's cry as the most basic inborn
h u m a n sound for getting attention, noting h o w machines such as sirens,
fire-trucks, police cars and ambulances have been given some of the acous-
tic characteristics of the baby's cry. In fact, a great part of the scientific lit-
erature on crying deals with developmental aspects of it, while the rest
mostly studies psychopathological occurrences. However, very little has
been written about its anthropological and sociological aspects, except for

references to some crosscultural examples incidental to the study of certain

states or situations (e.g., psychopathological behaviors, bereavement), or
in discussions of the nurse-patient relationship (e.g., the exemplary paper
by van Heukelen, 1979).
Although the functional and interactive significance of crying is not as
great as that of laughter in terms of the extremely wide range of motives,
interactive consequences, morphological characteristics and semantic
nuances in social interaction — as laughter can occur in so m a n y controlled
ways — the following aspects needing research could be suggested:
a. biological foundation, in terms of age (from childhood to adult age and
old age) and sex, as well as in certain sex deviances;
b. the morphology of crying, that is, its different phonetic (paralinguistic)
and visual (kinesic) configurations, either with speech (i.e., 'crying speech')
or by itself, and either with or without tear-shedding (i.e., a chemical reac-
tion), in other words, the crying syndrome;
c. influence of the general psychological configuration and personality on
its frequency of occurrence, duration and audible and visual features;
e. pathological varieties;
d. forms and functions in temporary emotional states according to sex,
socioeducational status and culture;
f. distribution and crosscultural display of crying behaviors;
g. distribution according to sex, age and socioeducational status within
each culture in given situations (i.e., as social identifiers);
h. the differentiated forms w e refer to by means of established definitory
labels (e.g., sobbing, blubbering);
i. social interactive functions of those differentiated forms;
j. crosscultural comparison of the presence or absence of those forms,
the presence or absence of their verbal definitions (possibly of a c o m m o n
etymology and/or echoic base), and similarities and differences of the situa-
tional functions ascribed to them;
k. the explicit or implicit social norms that m a y regulate crying and also
serve as status- or sensitiveness-identifying behaviors;
1. positive and negative social forms and functions of crying;
m . simultaneous or alternating costructuration with verbal language and
kinesics (i.e., while gesturing) and basic crosscultural differences;
n. simultaneous or alternating costructuration with tear-shedding and its
social perception according to culture, particularly with regard to masculine

o. definitory social labels and descriptions of crying behaviors in the nar-

rative literature and theater of different cultures; and
p. as documented also by literary sources, a crosscultural study of the
similarities and differences in the interpretation and descriptions (e.g.,
despair, grief, repentance) of those social labels by readers of different lan-
guages and cultures, and their rendering in translation.
A s with laughter, the above research possibilities suggest a number of
applications, some of which would result in a greater sensitiveness toward
the various manifestations of crying in situations in which w e m a y be able to
help the crying person in various ways.

6.2.2 The morphology of crying as a paralinguistic-kinesic or paralinguistic-

kinesic-chemical component of interaction

If w e consider the definition of laughter offered earlier as a valid one, the

one for crying would be: a series of regular or sometimes irregular vocal
and/or narial audible air movements, mainly egressive, of varying muscular
tension, rhythm and paralinguistic phonic characteristics, accompanied by
varying facial and bodily behaviors and almost always by tear-shedding,
simultaneous to, alternating with or independently of verbal language, and
expressing mostly negative, but sometimes positive feelings.
Perusing the literature of different fields from which a number of
observations could be gleaned — although the objective here is only to
suggest some needed complements to studies that look at crying from
diverse points of view — w e immediately discover a number of easy
assumptions and generalizations (e.g., that the lips are distended downward
in sad weeping and distended upward in laughter, w h e n anyone can observe
that the lips are distended downward in weeping laughter, or laughter, just
as crying in frustration or sad crying can be displayed by the opposite ges-

The crying configuration chart

T h e initial mistaken notion that w e laugh in far m o r e paralinguistically and
kinesically differentiated ways than w e cry stems from the fact that there
are certainly fewer functional forms of crying in social interaction. Yet a
careful component-by-component review of the laughter configuration
chart soon reveals that, considering all the occurrences of crying — and
observing the differences a m o n g ordinary weeping, tearless crying, wailing,

blubbering, etc. — in adults and children, males and females and normal or
pathological occurrences, virtually all the audible components of laughter
and certainly all of its visible ones can be present in crying, with the addi-
tion of tear-shedding. Fig. 6.3, 'Crying Configuration Chart', contains all
the possible components of a sob, a whimper, a blubber, etc., or the
habitual characteristic w a y in which an individual cries. It contains, there-
fore, a checklist for the identification of a specific crying syndrome. It
should be mentioned that literary descriptions are far less specific about the
crying of the characters than they are about their laughter, first of all
because there appear in literature m a n y more instances of laughter because
of its wider gamut of interactive functions. Besides the basic identifying
data, (i.e., n a m e , sex, age, ethnic group, country and zone) the chart con-
- T h e Verbal-nonverbal transcript of the portion of speech that contains
the crying alternating with verbal language or modifying it as 'crying
speech' (e.g., speaking 'brokenly' because of weeping) and even w h e n it is
silent crying, but always betrayed by at least facial and hand behaviors. T h e
written representations of crying have been m u c h more scarce than those of
laughter, almost limited only to a form like 'Eeeeeeee!', although w e could
easily identify at least basic types of crying, sobbing, weeping, etc., by using
the other vowels too. Failing this, literary writers resort to their personal
description (e.g., "silently sobbed in little jerks").
T h e phonetic transcription, however, should be able to offer, as for
laughter, the needed variety of representations by using I P A symbols and
above all those suggested in Chapter 2, or similar ones, say, for the ingres-
sive glottal catch (stop) 4- spasmodic, nasalized short ingressive-egressive
breath pulse which would represent a 'dry' sob or sobbing.
- T h e auditory and social labels complete the basic identification of a
crying type, referring to sobbing, weeping, sniveling, blubbering and so on,
or to qualifying attitudinal features, as in 'She cried in anguish', '-for joy',
'-hopelessly', '-in a childish way', etc.

Paralinguistic features
A s with laughter, crying is always announced by a paralinguistic leader and
initiated by a paralinguistic onset. T h e paralinguistic leaders — not neces-
sarily present in a sudden outburst — are m u c h m o r e varied than for laugh-
ter because there are m o r e instances in crying in which the stimulus is a
m u c h more gradual element that builds up the emotional reaction, while




verbal - nonverbal transcript

phonetic transcription
auditory and social labels
vowel type / silent crying / crying speech i | l | e | a | ^ | œ | a | o | o ] w | U | silent |
paralinguistic leader
paralinguistic onset: long/short/explosive
loudness: high/mid
pitch level: high/mid/low
pitch intervals: spread/squeezed
resonance: oral/nasal/pharyngeal
tempo: slow/medium/fast & rhythm: regular/irreg.
glottal stop
harsh/shril 1/throat y/twangy/husky

other qualifiers/other differentiators
bidental fricative/dentiexo labial fricative
exo/endolabiodental fric/exobilabial fricative
endobilabial trill
endobilabial approximant
tongue position
interlabial vibratory fricative trill
laminodental hissing
ingressive velic stop/vibratory velic trill
velic nasal plosive/velic nasal affricate
spasmodic/explosive narial fricative
paralinguistic offset: long/short
paralinguistic aftermath
kinesic leaders)
kinesic onset: long/short/abrupt

m o u t h : closed/half-open/wide-open/jaw posture
lips: puckered/Distended - inflated cheeks
bared teeth
nasolabial furrows
eyelid opening/closing & brow raising/knitting
kinesic offset: long/short
kinesic aftermath
facial features & body anatomy

other contextual activities


concomitant activities
cultural background & socioeducational status

situational context
clinical configuration
cointeractants' behaviors

Figure 6.3 Crying configuration chart


laughter can be elicited by the unexpectedness or suddenness of a remark,

a sight, etc. T w o groups of leaders become clearly distinguishable:
a. vocal qualifiers, from a m o n g those discussed in Chapter 5, starting with
emotional irregular breathing, that is, spasmodic, that m a y override a por-
tion of speech before the actual onset. Closely related to it is the muscular
tremor that causes tremulous or quavery voice (also referred to as 'break-
ing', 'catching', etc.), which m a y persist during quite a portion of speech.
' " O h , no,' Her voice broke and her eyes filled with tears" (Dos Passos M T ,
2, VIII, 208). Sometimes, if breathing does not betray the upcoming crying
reaction, various degrees of nasalization of the voice and a quivering lip
m a y ; and, as a form of nasal voice, whimpering can be a very conspicuous
leader. The emotional muscular tension of the larynx can also produce husk-
iness, followed often by quavering and then actual crying. Whispering can
be also an important qualifier, caused by the muscular tension that pro-
duces 'catching' and impedes normal loudness: "he could not find his full
voice. Only a whisper came out. T h e tears were in his eyes" (Bellow H ,
b. some alternants act also as paralinguistic leaders, in particular sighing
(visible as heaving) and sniffling (a sniffle occurring one or more times
before starting to cry).
After the paralinguistic leader, which m a y be absent or virtually
absent, comes the paralinguistic onset, the actual beginning of the cry, very
abrupt and even explosive, as w h e n suddenly faced with heart-breaking
news, or slow, whether in a sustained tone or in a crescendo, independently
of whether the person is speaking or not at the same time. But sometimes
the onset, even w h e n preceded by a leader, m a y be voluntarily (or, for
instance, by a startle reflex) interrupted if it is repressed paralinguistically
and kinesically.
T h e first audible element of crying proper is its vowel type, which can
be any of those adopted for laughter, between [i] and [u] (in speechless cry-
ing, of course), as shown in the chart. Front vowels are more typical of chil-
dren, but appear also in the elderly and senile and in pathological regressive
states (e.g., with bilateral closed-mouth lip distension); mid and back types
are typical, for instance, of children while tearfully coaxing adults, and the
most commonly heard in weeping m e n , but w o m e n m a y also use prolonged
wailing sounds of pain or grief. Naturally, w h e n weeping overrides speech
in 'crying speech' it takes the shape of the spoken vowels, lengthening
weeping m u c h more noticeably than consonantal constructs and producing

the characteristic vocalic quality, passing from one drawled vowel to

another. Sometimes what may be taken as a crying vowel is the vowel of a
cooccurrent emotional interjection (e.g., a Spanish w o m a n ' s crying ¡Ay! in
The primary qualities affecting crying are the same as for laughter;
loudness, from very soft weeping (including voluntary whispering) to the
very loud wailing, heard as a grieving ritualized behavior in m a n y southern
European cultures, in Arab cultures and as documented about the jews of
Old Testament and N e w Testament times, but also out of joy: " A n d he
[Joseph, w h e n he m a d e himself k n o w n to his brothers] wept aloud"
{Genesis 45:2), " H e [Jesus] came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue,
saw a tumult and those w h o wept and wailed loudly" {Mark 5:38), Pitch
level in crying can be as eloquent as in laughter, not only because of age or
sex — a high register in a m a n would in m a n y cultures be perceived as
effeminate or childish and immature — but because of its attitudinal value,
that is, high, for instance, in a w o m a n crying with anger, very low in a m a n ;
pitch intervals used throughout a crying fit (e.g., spread in calm or weary
and disconsolate weeping, or squeezed in jerky crying); resonance tends to
be nasal because the strained musculature of the neck and nasopharynx
causes the velum to rise; tempo and rhythm also reflect the intensity of the
emotion and the attitude toward the motive (e.g., very slow in quiet word-
less weeping, but jerky in a w o m a n overcome by rage).

A s with laughter, practically all the voice qualifiers identified in Fig. 5.1 can
modify crying (some of which are indicated in the suggested chart in Fig.
6.2). Crying can be whispered w h e n it is repressed, very laryngealized
{creaky) w h e n uttered in a complaining, whining attitude, falsetto in chil-
dren or in w o m e n 'screeching' violently, husky or hoarse in both m e n and
w o m e n w h e n crying n u m b with grief, in low tones and slow tempo, very
nasal and moaning or 'adenoidal' in w o m e n w h o weep disconsolately or
with a childish attitude, perhaps in a pathological way. Mostly w o m e n and
children, but also m e n sometimes, m a y cry in a whimpery or whiny tone.
All these qualifiers, and crying in general, can occur in a tense or lax way.
But crying can be also modified typically by labial control and mainly
through lip rounding and outward expansion (which causes the mouth to
produce a noticeable resonance), the bilateral downward distension of chil-
dish crying and, in young children, the pouting posture of the lower lip; and

by mandibular control, like the wide-open jaw typical of children and of

some forms of pathological (regressive) forms; or, at the other extreme of
a scale, a muttering half- closed jaw setting that produces vocal or nasal
resonance in spasmodic sobbing or in a succession of long crying segments,
as in a depressive patient w h o will not pay any attention to anyone and con-
tinues to cry with hardly any pitch changes and with eyes averted from

Paralinguistic differentiators
The most interesting modification of crying by another differentiator is, of
course, by laughter, crying and laughing at the same time, simultaneously
combining the more characteristic components of both, that is, the tearful
spasmodic nasalized sobbing and the strongly laryngealized vocal pulses of
laughter, but maintaining the downward lip distension of sadness, which is
not obliterated by the secondary stimulus of laughter, as the one for crying
is most of the time the primary one. T h e next differentiator to be acknow-
ledged is shouting or screaming (and varieties like howling), understood
here as a usually uncontrollable emotional reaction that produces strongly
laryngealized (and eventually hoarse) voice, distorting language and laugh-
ter and crying. Other simultaneous differentiators are mainly: panting,
w h e n crying starts while the person is panting out of emotional violent
irregular breathing or because of cooccurrent physical exertion, making
crying even more broken and spasmodic; gulping, in the sense of choking
back as if swallowing, has a similar effect on speech w h e n w e try to talk
while repressing sobs; sighing, at different intervals and in two or three vis-
ible inbreath movements — momentarily interrupting the sound of weeping
— and then blending with crying in its exhaling phase, m u c h more c o m m o n
in w o m e n than in m e n and characteristic of bereavement; yawning, a reflex
whose emotional stimulus in the context of crying m a