Linguistic, paralinguistic and extralinguistic speech and silence

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The term 'silence' encompasses an assortment of concepts. This paper wishes to examine the mapping of the various silences (taking part in interaction) onto the communication scheme: extralinguistic, paralinguistic and linguistic.Scholars looking into the relation between speech and silence were trapped within socio-cultural paradigms which led them to treat silence as lack of speech, hence, present the two as mutually excluding each other. My aim is to extract the study of silence from this intricacy, by means of a pragmatic-linguistic approach.Studies that describe and sub-categorize 'nonverbal' communication exclude 'verbal' language from their description. This results, among other things, in non-exclusive criteria yielding a non-inclusive picture. In such models silence seems to be either an independent category or one among other paralinguistic phenomena. In the first part of this paper human communication is introduced as an inclusive scheme.In the second part silence is integrated into this scheme. For this purpose I first review the equivocal use of 'silence' by pragmatics and communication researchers and then propose a theoretical model categorizing and mapping the various silences onto a pragmatic-linguistic model. This will result in clear criteria for both speech and silence, shedding new light on their nature and the relations between them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2286-2307
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Language
  • Nonverbal
  • Paralanguage
  • Silence
  • Speech
  • Verbal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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