4.7 Conclusion

Reflection Activity

image of a woman with short curly hair and a pencil above her ear


Returning to Abe’s desire to learn more about an informal conversation with colleagues in a Canadian context, what have you learned about language and communication that might help you be good support for Abe’s learning?

image of a man with a moustache


After reading this chapter, and returning to Dhavit’s challenge related to nonverbal communication, how might Dhavit adapt his body language and facial expressions to ensure that workshop participants believe he is open to hearing their questions and concerns?

Quick Quiz


  1. Watch a television program without the sound. Can you understand the program? Write a description of the program and include what you found easy to understand, and what presented a challenge, and present it to the class.
  2. Interview someone from a different culture than your own (explaining your purpose clearly) and ask them to share a specific cultural difference in nonverbal communication—for example, a nonverbal gesture that is not used in polite company.


Adaptors – displays of nonverbal communication that help you adapt to your environment and each context, helping you feel comfortable and secure.

Affect displays– nonverbal communication that express emotions or feelings, for example smiling and waiving to coworkers to welcome them to an event.

Artifacts – forms of decorative ornamentation that are chosen to represent self-concept.

Chronemics – cultural views of time.

Cliché – a common saying that may make no sense to other cultures.

Connotative – The connotative meaning is often not found in the dictionary but in the community of users itself.

Context – Contextual rules govern meaning and word choice according to context and social custom.

Denotative – The denotative meaning is the common meaning, often found in the dictionary.

Doublespeak – Doublespeak is the deliberate use of words to disguise, obscure, or change meaning.

Emblems – gestures that have a specific agreed-on meaning, like when someone raises their thumb to indicate agreement.

Euphemism – A euphemism involves substituting an acceptable word for an offensive, controversial, or unacceptable one that conveys the same or similar meaning.

Eye contact – refers to the speaker’s gaze that engages the audience members. It can vary in degree and length, and in many cases, is culturally influenced.

Facial gestures – involve using your face to display feelings and attitudes nonverbally.

Gestures – involve using your arms and hands while communicating.

Haptics – communication by touch.

Illustrator – a nonverbal gesture, such as a hand motion to emphasize or illustrate a point you’re making.

Jargon – Jargon is an occupation-specific language used by people in a given profession.

Kinesics – the study of body movements.

Language – A system of symbols, words, and/or gestures used to communicate meaning.

Offensive Language – Some language is offensive and has no place in the workplace.

Nonverbal communication – the process of conveying a message without the use of words. It can include gestures and facial expressions, tone of voice, timing, posture and where you stand as you communicate.

Object-adaptor – involves the use of an object in a way for which it was not designed.

Oculesics – eye contact.

Paralanguage – involves tone and nonverbal aspects of speech that influence meaning, including how loudly or softly you are speaking, intensity, pausing, and even silence.

Proxemics – the space between people and the space between people and objects.

Space – in a nonverbal context, this means the space between objects and people.

Semantics – Semantic rules govern the meaning of words and how to interpret them (Martinich, 1996)

Slang – The use of existing or newly invented words to take the place of standard or traditional words with the intent of adding an unconventional, nonstandard, humorous, or rebellious effect.

Symbol – Something  that suggests or represents something else.

Syntax – Syntactic rules govern the order of words in a sentence.

Triangle of Meaning – A model of communication that indicates the relationship among a thought, symbol, and referent and highlights the indirect relationship between the symbol and referent.

Vocalics – another term for paralanguage.

Word – a single distinct meaningful element in speech or writing

Additional Resources

Toastmasters International – Public speaking tips

Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker is one of today’s most innovative authorities on language. Explore reviews of books about language Pinker has published. Steven Pinker Research

The “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most famous speeches of all time. View it on video and read the text. “I Have a Dream” Martin Luther King Jr.

Visit Goodreads and learn about one of the most widely used style manuals, The Chicago Manual of Style.

Visit this site for a library of University of California videotapes on nonverbal communication produced by Dane Archer of the University of California at Santa Cruz. Exploring Nonverbal Communication

Read “Six Ways to Improve Your Nonverbal Communications” by Vicki Ritts, St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley and James R. Stein, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. Six Ways to Improve Your Nonverbal Communications

Is “how you say it” really more important than what you say? Read an article by communications expert Dana Bristol-Smith that debunks a popular myth. How You Say It Is NOT More Important Than What You Say

Chapter References

Andersen, P. A. (1999). Nonverbal Communication: Forms and Functions. Mayfield.

Canadian Medical Association. (2023). Quick facts on Canada’s physicians. https://www.cma.ca/quick-facts-canadas-physicians

Latha, M. (2014). First impressions: A study of non–verbal communication. Frontiers of Language and Teaching, 5. https://www.academia.edu/8833418/First_Impressions_A_Study_of_Non_Verbal_Communication

Martinich, A. P. (Ed.). (1996). The philosophy of language (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.

McLean, S. (2003). The basics of speech communication. Allyn Bacon.

Mehrabian, A. (1972). Nonverbal communication. Aldine Atherton.

Odgen, C. & Richards, I. (1932). The meaning of meaning: A study of the influence of language upon thought and of the science of symbolism. Harcourt Brace World.

Pearson, J. & Nelson, P. (2000). An introduction to human communication: Understanding and sharing. McGraw-Hill.

Washburn, S. (2008, February). The miscommunication gap. ESI Horizons, 9(2). http://www.esi-intl.com/public/Library/html/200802HorizonsArticle1.asp?UnityID=8522516.1290

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