Nonverbal Affiliative Phenomena in Mandarin Chinese Conversation

Ping Yang (1)
(1) Department of International Communication , Macquarie University Australia , Australia


Based on naturally occurring audio-video data collected from university campus settings, this study has identified four nonverbal actions ¾ zhùshì "gaze", diantóu "head nods", wexiao "gentle smile" and shouchù " hand touch" employed by Mandarin Chinese speakers in their interpersonal communication. Detailed data analysis and discussion reveal how Mandarin Chinese speakers manage their affiliation and attachment nonverbally with the co-participants in conversations. Finally, the significance of the study is discussed.
Key Words: affiliation, Chinese communication, conversation analysis, nonverbal communication

Full text article

Generated from XML file


Anderson, C. M., Martin, M. M., & Zhong, M. (1998). Motives for communicating with family and friends: A Chinese study. The Howard Journal of Communication, 9, 109-123. DOI:

Argyle, M. (1972). Non-verbal communication in human social interaction. In R. A. Hinde (Ed.), Non-verbal communication (pp. 243-269). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Argyle, M., & Dean, J. (1972). Eye contact, distance and affiliation. In J. Layer & S. Hutcheson (Eds.), Communication in face to face interaction: Selected readings (pp. 301-316). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd.

Atkinson, J. M., & Heritage, J. (Eds.). (1984). Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bjorkman, I., & Lu, Y. (1999). The management of human resources in Chinese-Western joint ventures. Journal of World Business, 34(3), 306-324. DOI:

Brosnahan, L., & Okada, T. (1990). Japanese and English gesture: Contrastive nonverbal communication. Tokyo: Taishukan Publishing Company.

Chen, P. (1996). Pragmatic interpretations of structural topics and relativization in Chinese. Journal of Pragmatics, 26, 389-406. DOI:

Cheng, J. (2003, 14/11/2003). Cong luoye guigen dao luoye zhagen. Renmin Ribao (Overseas edition), pp. 8.

Clancy, P. M., Thompson, S. A., Suzuki, R., & Tao, H. (1996). The conversational use of reactive tokens in English, Japanese, and Mandarin. Journal of Pragmatics, 26, 355-387. DOI:

Confucius. (1994). Analects of Confucius (B. Lai & Y. Xia, Trans.). Beijing: Sinolingua.

Ekman, P. (1992). Telling lies: Clues to deceit in the marketplace, politics, and marriage. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Gabrenya, W. K. J., & Hwang, K. (1996). Chinese social interaction: Harmony and hierarchy on the good earth. In M. H. Bond (Ed.), The handbook of Chinese psychology (pp. 309-321). New York: Oxford University Press.

Gao, G., Ting-Toomey, S., & Gudykunst, W. B. (1996). Chinese communication processes. In M. H. Bond (Ed.), The handbook of Chinese psychology (pp. 280-293). New York: Oxford University Press.

Goffman, E. (1963). Behavior in public places. New York: The Free Press.

Goodwin, C. (1981). Conversational organization: Interaction between speakers and hearers. New York: Academic Press.

Gudykunst, W. B., & Lee, C. M. (2001). An agenda for studying ethnicity and family communication. The Journal of Family Communication, 1(1), 75-85. DOI:

Guffin, K., & Patton, B. (1974). Personal communication in human relations. Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill.

Hall, E. T. (1976). Beyond culture. Garden, New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday.

Hall, J. A. (1984). Nonverbal sex differences: Communication accurancy and expressive style. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. DOI:

Have, P. t. (1986). Methodological issues in conversation analysis. Retrieved 23/04/2001, from the World Wide Web:

Haviland, J. J., & Malatesta, C. Z. (1981). The development of sex differences in nonverbal signals: Fallacies, facts, and fantasies. In C. Mayo & N. M. Henley (Eds.), Gender and nonverbal behavior (pp. 183-208). New York: Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. DOI:

Hornsey, M., & Gallois, C. (1998). The impact of interpersonal and intergroup communication accomodation on perceptions of Chinese students in Australia. Jounral of Language and Social Psychology, 17(3), 323-347. DOI:

Hutchby, I., & Wooffitt, R. (1998). Conversation analysis: Principles, practices and applications. Malden, Mass.: Polity Press.

Jefferson, G. (1984). On the organization of laughter in talk about troubles. In J. M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.), Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 346-369). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Kendon, A. (1990). Conducting interaction: Patterns of behavior in focused encounters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Leathers, D. G. (1997). Successful nonverbal communication: Principles and applications. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Li, C. N., & Thompson, S. A. (1981). Mandarin Chinese: A functional reference grammar. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

Li, W., Zhu, H., & Li, Y. (2001). Conversational management and involvement in Chinese-English business talk. Language and Intercultural Communication, 1(2), 135-150. DOI:

Mayo, C., & Henley, N. M. (1981). Nonverbal behavior: Barrier or agent for sex role change? In N. M. Henley (Ed.), Gender and nonverbal behavior (pp. 3-13): Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. DOI:

McDaniel, E., & Anderson, P. A. (1998). International patterns of interpersonal tactile communication: A field study. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 22(1), 59-75. DOI:

McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and mind: What gestures reveal about thought. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Potter, J. (1997). Discourse analysis as a way of analysing naturally occurring talk. In D. Silverman (Ed.), Qualitative research: Theory, method and practice (pp. 144-160). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Poyatos, F. (1988). New research perspectives in crosscultural psychology through nonverbal communication studies. In F. Poyatos (Ed.), Cross-cultural perspectives in nonverbal communication (pp. 35-69). Lewiston, New York: C. J. Hogrefe Inc.

Richmond, V. P., McCroskey, J. C., & Payne, S. K. (1987). Nonverbal behavior in interpersonal relations. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall Inc.

Rieschild, V. R. (1996). Lebanese-Arabic discourse: Adult interaction with young children. Unpublished Ph.D, Australia National University.

Schiffrin, D. (1994). Approaches to discourse. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Inc.

Triandis, H. C. (1990). Cross-cultural studies of individualism and collectivism. In J. J. Berman (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation 1989: Cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 41-133). Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.

Wright, D. E. (1999). Personal relationships: An interdisciplinary approach. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

Wu, D. Y. H. (1996). Chinese childhood socialization. In M. H. Bond (Ed.), The handbook of Chinese psychology (pp. 143-154). New York: Oxford University Press.

Yang, P. (1996). Kuawenhua jiaoji zhong de jiazhiguan duibi fenxi (A comparative study of values in cross-cultural communication). Waiyu jiaoxue (Foreign Languages Education), 17(4), 1-7.

Yang, P. (2003). Salience of nonverbal communication in Mandarin Chinese interactions. Unpublished Ph D thesis, Macquarie University.

Zhu, H., Li, W., & Qian, Y. (2000). The sequential organization of gift offering and acceptance in Chinese. Journal of Pragmatics, 32, 81-103. DOI:

Zimmerman, D. H., & West, C. (1975). Sex roles, interruptions and silences in conversation. In B. Thorne & N. Henley (Eds.), Language and sex: Difference and dominance (pp. 105-129). Rowley, Massachusetts: Newbury House Publishers Inc.


Ping Yang (Primary Contact)
Author Biography

Ping Yang, Department of International Communication , Macquarie University Australia

Dr Ping Yang holds a Ph D in linguistics from Macquarie University. He was formerly an associate professor at the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. He is currently teaching at Macquarie University Department of International Communication. His research interests are nonverbal communication, intercultural communication, intercultural pragmatics, gesture and emotion.

Yang, P. (2007). Nonverbal Affiliative Phenomena in Mandarin Chinese Conversation. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 7(3), 1–36.

Article Details

Smart Citations via scite_
  • Abstract 90
  • Download PDF 52