Many speculative fiction works have languages that depend to a great deal on the postures of the people communicating. Some examples are the language of the Adem in Patrick Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fears and the language of the Khai in Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet.

Are there any such languages in the real world?

EDIT:To be clear, the common thread in both the languages is that the gestures are a formal part of the language. The words have lesser amounts of tone in them, and each sentence is supposed to be accompanied by a gesture. There are gestures which are very subtle, like 'polite but adamant refusal'. Also, it's expected for people to reply with gestures instead of small sentences etc.

  • Postures as in whole body? Because facial expressions are important for language comprehension in pretty much ALL languages May 9, 2011 at 19:01
  • Body postures. (Not facial). They impart tone etc. to spoken words (like apology, acceptance, amazement, horror).
    – apoorv020
    May 9, 2011 at 19:17
  • 1
    I think you draw too strong a line between body posture and facial expression. If I apologize to you while jutting out my chin and holding my head high, you would not believe it as I would appear to be arrogant, not repentant. In Japan, a true apology or true respect would be accompanied by bowing. Body language, like crossing my arms when you are speaking, is important as well. Body Language can diverge from what is spoken and probably validates/invalidates it rather than changing its meaning, though.
    – Wayne
    May 9, 2011 at 20:14
  • I continue to be amazed and baffled that this hasn't gotten any close-votes for being off-topic. LOL.
    – user1027
    May 14, 2011 at 1:23

5 Answers 5


As a deaf person that was raised orally and is now learning ASL (American Sign Language), I can say that Xantec is correct in that sign languages fit the bill. It's not until you've studied any particular sign language used by Deaf people that you realize just how much meaning comes from body positions and such. For example, the shape of the lips and the mouth is often required to be a certain way for the sign to be correct, there's what's known as a "poof-face" (puffing out the cheeks with air) and it's often used for emphasis, body leans can indicate a change of focus or a change of character (like from a narrator to a character), and the list goes on and on.

So...yes, there are most definitely real-world languages that use postures for communication. :D

  • 3
    As a hearing person learning ASL and with several deaf acquaintances, I, too, can attest to this fact that body language -- the entire body, not just facial expressions -- are essential to the language.
    – Kromey
    May 10, 2011 at 17:47
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    My Brother-in-law and his wife are both deaf. Yes, indeed, posture is very much a part of ASL.
    – aramis
    May 12, 2011 at 5:00

Sign language maybe, since there is no tone to convey meaning, emotion or intent. I don't know any sign language, so if there are ways to indicate stress on a word or idea, then this answer is null.


It is safe to say that body posture plays a big role in all languages. My words may tell you I'm patient but my tapping foot tells you something else. Crossed arms may signal anger in one culture and resignation in another. As a poster above put it, bowing is sign of apology in some cultures. Even subtle postures like a wave or a head nod convey a persons meaning without a single word being uttered.

Here's a short list of the different types body language: http://changingminds.org/techniques/body/body_language.htm

  • But those body postures are not formally considered part of the language. They are (probably) culture-dependent. A person learning English would not be taught body posture, as would the case with the languages above.
    – apoorv020
    May 10, 2011 at 4:18
  • I would agree with you there, they are not necessary to "get by" in the language.
    – Ryan
    May 10, 2011 at 13:09

Not exactly an answer to your question, but...

There are some languages which treat things as substantive which English speakers typically would not. For example, in some Asian languages (e.g. Japanese), the duration of a syllable is important, and two words might be otherwise identical except that one of them has a syllable held for two 'beats.'


In Star Trek Voyager there was a species called the Tak Tak, where posture and hand gestures were very much part of the language, so much so that when Captain Janeway put her hands on her hips she caused great offence as that is one of their greatest insults, also in the same episode Season 3 Episode 12 "Macrocosm" she mentioned the "gestural idioms of the Leyron"

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