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On Communicative Functions and Cultural Differences of Body Language

Autor:   •  September 21, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  5,953 Words (24 Pages)  •  1,835 Views

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On Communicative Functions and Cultural Differences of Body Language

Mi Jie


As we become likely to contact with people from cultures very different from our own, there is a need for more awareness of understanding the sources and differences of different nonverbal behaviors in cross-cultural contacts.

Culture is the framework within which man maneuvers his nonverbal behavior. This can be understood in two ways. First, culture tends to determine the specific nonverbal behavior that represents or symbolizes specific thoughts, feelings, or states of the communicator. In expressing the same idea, different cultures may have different nonverbal behaviors. Thus, a sign of greeting in one culture could very well be an indecent gesture in another, or a symbol of affirmation in one culture could be meaningless or even signify negation in another. Second, culture determines when, where and how it is appropriate to display or communicate various thoughts, feelings, or internal states.

This is particularly evident in the display of emotions. On the surface, there seems to be little cross-cultural difference in the forms of nonverbal behaviors (especially facial expressions) that represent such emotional states as anger, disgust, fear, happiness and surprise. There are cultural differences in which they suggest where, when and how they may display. Therefore, it is culture that teaches people from their cradle how to behave nonverbally. The importance of studying nonverbal communication from culture is self-evident. Because each culture develops its own system of nonverbal communication, nobody can understand a stranger's (especially a foreigner's) nonverbal behaviors correctly and completely without having any knowledge about his or her cultural background. Non-verbal communication is one of the most important parts of the human communication. In human communication, it plays a great role, but when we discuss the human communication, people will say it refers to the words the verbal communication without any hesitation. Almost most people will neglect the significant functions of the nonverbal communication.

All the human beings on the earth, despite differences in their background and culture, engage in common events every minute to share the realities with others. When we discuss the human communication, we will think of the verbal communication immediately. Verbal communication is a very important process in communicating but not the single means. We can never neglect the other part in communication nonverbal communication. In fact, the whole process of the human communication consists of two parts, that is to say, nonverbal communication and verbal communication. Sometimes nonverbal communication is more important than verbal communication.


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