Language and Linguistics

Proxemics language features and examples

Proxemics language refers to non-verbal forms of communication related to the distance and location of people in a specific space. This type of language is used in social interactions. For example, when hugging, an intimate space is used and in work meetings, a remote space.

This concept was coined by Edward Hall. This anthropologist was interested in identifying how humans use space as a form of non-verbal communication.

Proximal language can be identified in everyday situations of a very different nature. In addition, it is often fundamental in human relationships, despite its silent and implicit nature.

personal space

Personal space refers to the distance that people establish in their daily relationships.

It is considered that there are four ranges of interpersonal distances, but they can vary according to different cultures and their socialization patterns. The main features of each track will be detailed below:

Main features of Proxemics language

1- Public space

Refers to the distance that is maintained in front of a public figure or speaker at a massive event.

In these cases, a distance of 4 meters is preserved and this space makes it possible for the speaker to communicate simultaneously with all the people occupying the room, but not personally.

2- Social space

It refers to the distances maintained in formal or professional socialization contexts. This is the case of commercial or commercial conversations, contexts in which there is no proximity or intimacy between the speakers.

In these cases, the separation can be between 1 and 2 meters. That way, you can have a personal conversation without getting into more trusting or intimate situations.

3- Personal space

It refers to situations in which there is even greater proximity and trust between the speakers.

This space is linked to personal and family relationships, and the distance can vary from 0.5 to 1 meter.

4- The intimate space

This refers to the distance that exists between two people who share intimacy, especially when it comes to couples or very close friends.

In this case, the distance varies from less than half a meter to being in direct physical contact with the other person.

Praxemic variations of language according to culture

These distance ranges are often variable by culture. There are societies more prone to proximity, as well as others whose social norm is to keep distance.

To understand the forms of proxemic language in different cultures, Edward Hall divided them into two basic categories: contact cultures and noncontact cultures.

However, other researchers later expanded this division into three categories: cold, warm, or non-conflicting reactive cultures. Details of each of these three categories will be detailed below:

1- Cold, logical and contactless cultures

These cultures include the United States and the Nordic countries.

They are characterized by the loudspeakers being direct and, at times, impatient. They are also reserved and are more interested in facts than emotions.

2- Multiactive, hot, impulsive and contact cultures

This classification refers to cultures in which speakers express themselves with enthusiasm and emotion.

They prefer personal stories to facts, tend to interrupt during conversation and show their emotions more openly.

This category includes cultures such as Arabic, Italian, French, Latin American and Turkish.

3- Reactive cultures without conflict and contact

These cultures value decorum and diplomacy over facts and emotions.

Its speakers are patient listeners who moderate their body language and the expression of their emotions. This set includes cultures such as Japan, Vietnam, China and other Southeast Asian cultures.


Territoriality refers to the ways that human beings use to delimit spaces that they consider their own. These milestones can be done in very different ways, from customary subtlety to explicit ways of tagging.

For example, in a family, a chair can be considered to belong to the parents, simply because he always uses it.

It is also possible to observe in a square that a group of young people mark the floor or walls of a place with their initials, demarcating their territory.

There are basically three types of territory:

1- Main territory

Refers to territories that are explicitly or implicitly recognized as the property of a person. A room, a bed within a room, a car or a specific chair within the room are an example of this.

For example, if a person meets his roommate in his room and sits on his bed when he gets home from work, this will be understood as a violation of space.

2- Secondary territory

The occupied seat in the classroom or the chosen table in a bar are their own territories for as long as they are used, but in reality they do not belong to anyone specifically.

For example, if a person has a favorite table at the bar they usually frequent, but when they find it busy, they can’t complain. However, while occupying it, it is implicitly understood that no one else can occupy that space.

3- public space

It is the space that belongs to everyone and to no one at the same time. For example, the streets, squares and subway stations. They are spaces through which anyone can move freely, without invading other people’s terrain.

layout in space

The arrangement of people in a given space often says a lot about them and their role within them.

For example, in a classroom, students know they must be at the back of the classroom if they don’t want to be seen. On the contrary, if they want active participation, they must be located in the frontal area.

exceptional situations

It is often observed that people experience anxiety situations when they face codes of proxemics different from those assumed.

This can occur when another person approaches the expected one, generating an automatic fight-or-flight response.

This situation has exceptions in which people consciously relinquish their personal space in specific cases. An example of this is when you get on a very crowded train or elevator.

According to investigations, there is still an intention to control the situation; This control is reflected, for example, by avoiding the gaze of those present on the train or in the elevator.

This evasive action allows controlling the feeling of intimacy with the other, despite being in close physical contact.

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