Macquarie University
01front.pdf (858.37 kB)

Salience of nonverbal communication in Mandarin Chinese interactions

Download (858.37 kB)
posted on 2022-03-28, 12:13 authored by Ping Yang
This project studies the nonverbal aspects of Mandarin Chinese interaction with focus on the communicative and pragmatic functions of nonverbal actions used in interaction. Their functions are examined through an emic approach of analysis, drawing on theories and findings from nonverbal communication (NVC) and conversation analysis (CA), pragmatics and social psychology. -- Natural occurring audio-video data were collected from eighteen adult dyads who were studying and working at three universities in Beijing, P. R. China and one dyad studying at Macquarie University in Sydney. A typology of Mandarin Chinese NVC is proposed and nonverbal actions are examined with reference to the cultural context in which they are executed. Mandarin words and phrases relevant to those nonverbal actions are used to retain their cultural meanings. Some of them are diǎntóu "head nods", wēixiào "gentle smile", zhùshì "gaze", shoǔchù "touching", shǒushì "hand gesture". Their nonverbal forms and functions in Mandarin context are also discussed with reference to established categorization of emblems, illustrators, regulators, adaptors and emotional expressions. Nonverbal actions zhùshì "gaze", diǎntóu "head nod", wēixiào "gentle smile" and shǒuchù "hand touch" can be used as nonverbal affiliative devices. Gaze-away/down, weixiao "gentle smiling" and some shoushi "hand gestures" are executed for the purpose of nonverbal miànzi "face" including self-face saving and Other-face saving strategies and lǐmào "politeness" in interpersonal communication. Finally, participants' status can also impose impact on the nonverbal cues displayed. Low-status use more forward lean, zhùshì "gaze", and diǎntóu "head nod" due to listening-centeredness while high-status employ more spacious hand gestures and backward lean while speaking. Studies of natural audio-video data indicate that nonverbal cues displayed in Mandarin Chinese conversational context conform to the Chinese cultural values and norms. -- The knowledge and understanding of the nonverbal cues displayed in Mandarin Chinese conversation and their communicative and pragmatic functions dealt with in this thesis are essential to those engaged in communication with Chinese speakers.


Table of Contents

Introductory remarks -- A review of nonverbal communication research -- Research methodology -- Typology & functions of Mandarin NVC -- Nonverbal aspects of turn taking -- Affiliation and NVC -- Nonverbal Miànzi and Lǐmào strategies -- Cultural aspects of nonverbal asymmetries -- Culture and nonverbal communication.


"Feb 2003". Bibliography: leaves 325-348

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Division of Linguistics & Psychology, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Dept. of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Verna Rieschild


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Ping Yang 2004. Complete version suppressed due to copyright restrictions. However, on receipt of a Document Supply Request, placed with Macquarie University Library by another library, we will consider supplying a copy of this thesis. For more information on Macquarie University’s Document Supply, please contact






xvi, 348 leaves ill., ports (some col.)

Former Identifiers

mq:13785 1451922