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Paralanguage refers to the non-verbal elements of communication used to modify meaning and convey emotion. Paralanguage may be expressed consciously or unconsciously, and it includes pitch, volume, and intonation of speech. Sometimes the definition is restricted to vocally-produced sounds. The study of paralanguage is known as paralinguistics.
In text-only communication such as e-mail, chatrooms and instant messaging, paralinguistic elements can be displayed by emoticons, font and color choices, capitalization and the use of non-alphabetic or abstract characters. Nonetheless, paralanguage in written communication is limited in comparison with face-to-face conversation, sometimes leading to misunderstandings.
The Greek prefix para means beside, near, or alongside. Paralanguage describes the nonverbal communication that accompanies verbal communication. For example, if someone shouts 'get off that' as opposed to softly speaking it, it will change the way you are likely to react to them.
- Robbins, S. and Langton, N. (2001) Organizational Behaviour: Concepts, Controversies, Applications (2nd Canadian ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-H