Is there a hypernym for phrase and gesture — that is, a word for an abstract action of communication performed by a person?

For context, I am looking for a term to use in a computer program, rather than in prose, so a precise but obscure term from linguistics is perfectly acceptable.

  • ‘Expression’, perhaps? Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 8:30
  • 3
    I really wish you haven't added the second paragraph. The first one was perfectly fine, but naming a programming variable, class, or what have you, is expressly off-topic here, precisely because as far as English is concerned, you can call it "PhraseGesture", or "gp6193", or "Susan".
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 8:37
  • I concede with @RegDwighт: CommunicationAction will do just as fine as IPhraseGesture.
    – Mykola
    Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 9:30
  • Sorry, I didn't know that was off-topic, and only included it to specify that a precise term is preferable. Please ignore that bit.
    – sarnesjo
    Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 11:05
  • You might want to consider using Signal. Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 13:32

2 Answers 2


Symbol or signal might be what you're looking for. Symbols being "sounds or gestures that stand for meanings among a group of people". Whereas a signal is a "sound or gesture that has a natural or self-evident meaning".

Definitions are from: Haviland, William A., Shirley A. Fedorak, and Richard B. Lee. Cultural Anthropology. 3rd Canadian ed. Toronto: Nelson Education, 2005. Print.


Is merely "language" not good enough ? It can be oral, written, ideographic, pictographic, symbolic, and they is a body-language, either unconscious or voluntary. Even the road-signs are a convention expression of concepts. The word covers any way of communication.

  • Well, language certainly covers written or spoken language (which contain phrases), as well as body language (which contains gestures), but what I am looking for is a word that covers phrase and gesture.
    – sarnesjo
    Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 13:14

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