Difference Between Body Language and Paralanguage

Main Difference – Body Language vs Paralanguage

Nonverbal communication is the exchange of information without words. Body language and paralanguage are two important categories of nonverbal communication. Body language refers to gestures, facial expressions, and postures of a person. Paralanguage refers to nonlexical components of speech such as pitch, tone, intonation, volume, pauses, etc. The main difference between body language and paralanguage is that body language analyses the movements and poses of the whole body whereas paralanguage observes the nonverbal components of speech.

What is Body Language

Body language is a type of nonverbal communication. In body language, the feelings and intentions are consciously or unconsciously expressed by physical behavior as gestures, body posture, eye movement, and facial expressions.

Facial expressions are an important aspect when expressing emotions through the body. The movements of the eye, eyebrows, lips, cheeks help to determine different moods of the person. Body postures and gestures also help us in this. For example, the raising of eyebrows indicates surprise or disbelief whereas shrugging of shoulders indicates indifference.

But it is also important to notice that interpretation of body language is different across different countries and cultures. For examples, making direct eye contact may be considered to be rude in some countries, but in some other countries, direct eye contact may be considered as a feature of honesty and sincerity. Difference Between Body Language and Paralanguage

What is Paralanguage

Paralanguage is also a feature of nonverbal communication where meaning is derived from an individual’s tone, pitch, volume, intonation, etc. Paralanguage may be expressed either consciously or unconsciously. In paralanguage, nonverbal components of speech such as speech speed, pitch of voice, tone, volume, modulation, inflection, accent, and accentuation are observed to understand the emotions conveyed through them. For example, a person talking in a uniform pitch and firm tone conveys a sense of authority. A person speaking in a high pitch and bitter, accusatory tone usually conveys anger.

Silences, pauses, and breaks in speech, as well as respiratory aspects of speech like gasps and sighs, are also studied under paralanguage. These features also help us to determine the feelings and emotions of a person. For example, gasps may be an indication of shock, disgust or disbelief.Main Difference - Body Language vs Paralanguage

Difference Between Body Language and Paralanguage


Body Language refers to gestures, facial expressions, and postures of a person.

Paralanguage refers to non-lexical components of speech such as pitch, tone, intonation, volume, pauses, etc.

Parts of the Body

Body Language is conveyed through the whole body.

Paralanguage is conveyed through the mouth.


Body Language can be expressed through gestures, body posture, eye movement and facial expressions.

Paralanguage can be expressed through nonverbal components of speech such as speech speed, pitch of voice, tone, volume, modulation, inflection, accent and accentuation.

Vision and Hearing

Body Language can be understood through vision or sight.

Paralanguage is understood through hearing.Difference Between Body Language and Paralanguage- infographic

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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