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Rhetoric, Nonverbal

Mark L. Knapp

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


The word “nonverbal” is used to describe the many ways human beings communicate without overtly using words. Typically, this encompasses body movements (gestures, facial expressions, eye behavior, touching); body positioning (posture, distance from and alignment to others); and vocal behavior (rate, pitch, intensity). Sometimes physical (appearance) and environmental (architecture, design) features are also included. The modern study of nonverbal communication has its roots in the second half of the twentieth century, but Greek rhetoricians discussed the use of body movements in persuasive speaking as far back as the fifth century bce (→  Nonverbal Signals, Effects of ; Rhetoric, Greek ; Rhetoric, Pre-Socratic ). These ideas were refined and expanded in the writings of Roman rhetorical theorists and practitioners (→  Rhetoric, Roman ). This interest in the appropriateness and effectiveness of bodily behavior in the speech-making process waned during the Middle Ages and Renaissance (→  Rhetoric, European Renaissance ; Rhetoric, Medieval ), but re-emerged as the heart of the elocution movement. From the middle of the eighteenth century to the early twentieth century, elocutionists emphasized what they considered to be the proper use of the body in delivering speeches. They had little concern for studying naturally occurring behavior. Instead, they offered prescriptions for successful ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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