First Advisor

LaRay M. Barna

Term of Graduation

Winter 1976

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Nonverbal communication -- Thailand, Thais



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, vii, 97 pages)


Nonverbal communication is especially significant in the area of intercultural communication. Familiar signals often signify and convey different and unexpected messages, usually out-of-awareness, and then unfamiliar stimuli cause confusion and uneasiness. This is a report of Thai NVC, which intends (1) to describe selected Thai nonverbal behavior, (2) to relate these to appropriate time and context, (3) to explain a cultural component that makes the behaviors acceptable and/or mandatory, and (4) to report how Thai nonverbal behaviors may affect intercultural and cross-cultural communication.

Selected Thai nonverbal messages are described: (1) nonverbal signals: the sign language of wai, the kinesthetic behaviors of eye movement, and hand movements which include receiving, pointing, indicating farewell, rejection, negation, disagreement, beckoning, applause, counting, bad odor signal, insulting signal, and angry and friendly signals, (2) nonverbal action: the action of feet and khwan, postures which include sitting, walking and standing, (3) object language: four religious ceremonies of lod khrc kaaw pun, dam hua, wai khruu, and wi sa kha bu chaa; the use of artifacts: phra cee dii, phra phud tharubb, khryaŋ raaŋ ta krud, (dta gkroot) and jan, colors (clothing) which includes yellow, khaki, blue, red, daily color, black and white, the material orientation to directions such as staircase positions; cooking art which includes breakfast and eating, (4) paralanguage: the Thai linguistic parallel to paralanguage, especially vocal intensity (loudness and softness), (5) personal and social distance which includes proxemic behaviors of infancy, late childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, and male and female public positions, and male and female sleeping positions (6) olfaction: artificial scents and natural body odors, and finally (7) skin sensitivity: touch and temperature.

The method used to gather data was through participant observation. The descriptions of these illustrative Thai NVC behaviors are drawn from the writer's personal firsthand knowledge of Thai life, from Thai informants, his field work experiences as a research assistant to a Cornell University anthropologist in Thailand, from his experience as an interpreter-translator for the U.S. Army there, and his observations of Thai nonverbal behaviors among Thai migrants and student s in many natural settings in ·the United States of America. The approach of “Participant Observation” is a social and cultural anthropological technique best described by Bruyn.

The study shows that Thais are rigidly taught behaviors early in life, which portray nonverbal messages. These become a part of Thai cultural communication norms. Thus, Thais communicate through explicit and unquestioned sets of norms, using proper, desirable, and appropriate behavior for them. Since these cultural norms are taught early in life, they are out-of-awareness and deeply ingrained.

Evidence is given that Thai NVC behavior is culturally interpreted. In intercultural and cross-cultural communication, this should be taken into consideration to prevent erroneous interpretation.


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