LINGUIST List 13.1417

Tue May 21 2002

Review: Anthropological Ling: Di Luzio et al. (2001)

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  1. Suzhen Zhuang, Di Luzio et al. (2001) Culture in Communication

Message 1: Di Luzio et al. (2001) Culture in Communication

Date: Mon, 20 May 2002 18:55:55 +0000
From: Suzhen Zhuang <>
Subject: Di Luzio et al. (2001) Culture in Communication

Di Luzio, Aldo, Susanne Guenthner and Franca Orletti, ed. (2001)
Culture in Communication: Analyses of Intercultural situations.
John Benjamins Publishing Company, xvi+341pp,
hardback ISBN 90-272-5100-2 (Eur.), 1-55619-990-2 (US), EUR 94.84,
Pragmatics and Beyond New Series 81.
Book Announcement on Linguist:

Suzhen Zhuang, Unaffiliated scholar


The present volume brings together papers presented and discussed at a
workshop on Intercultural Communication held in October 1994 at the
Villa Vigoni in Menaggio (Como, Italy). As clearly stated at the very
beginning of the Introduction by the three editors, this collection of
papers "is dedicated to questions arising in linguistic, sociological
and anthropological analyses of intercultural encounters"
(vii). Consisting of three sections with a combination of both
theoretical issues and empirical analyses, the methodological approach
of which is "influenced by the phenomenological and hermeneutic
tradition of the Sociology of Knowledge, Ethnography of Communication
and Ethnomethodological Conversation Analysis" (vii), this volume has
at least three objectives to achieve. First, it tries to explore new
theoretical and methodological aspects of intercultural communication
through elaborating topics less researched previously. Second, it aims
to highlight the role of culture in intercultural
communication. Third, it seeks to expound how ideology exerts an
influence on participants of diverse cultural backgrounds in
interactions (cf. vii-viii). This volume has certainly opened new
avenues of future research on intercultural communication.

This volume is divided into three sections. Section 1 is devoted to
"theoretical issues in intercultural communication". In
"Communication, contexts and culture" (3-33), Hubert Knoblauch adopts
a "communicative constructivist approach to intercultural
communication". Knoblauch first reviews Habermas' (1981) theory of
communicative action and systems theory's notion of communication
(5-9), arguing that reflexivity, or reciprocity as Schuetz calls it,
"enables communicative action to achieve common understanding by both
acting and indicating understanding of the act" (9). Then, taking as
his basis the theory of Alfred Schuetz, who "asserted that the
life-world is a thoroughly 'communicative environment'"(5), Knoblauch
attempts to develop a notion of communicative action and thereby to
set up a theory of communicative culture providing a foundation for
future research into intercultural communication. As Knoblauch
suggests, a notion of contextualization by communicative action can
be developed by drawing on three elements of Schuetz's theory: action,
transcendence and, objectivation. Accordingly, constructed by
communicative actions, cultural contexts can be distinguished on three
levels: immediate contexts, contexts of mediated communication and the
societal context (15-24). In the last section, Knoblauch delves into
the relationship among contexts, culture and intercultural
communication, rightly arguing for a refined notion of communicative
culture and a sophisticated rationale for the problem of intercultural
communication necessary for a better understanding of the complexity
and differentiation of modern intercultural communications.

In "Contextualization and ideology in intercultural communication"
(35-53), John J. Gumperz tries to expound the question of how culture,
through language and interaction, exercises an influence on our way of
thinking and communicating with other people of different
backgrounds. Through a detailed but not lengthy presentation of a
criminal law case involving intercultural communication brought
against a member of an Indian minority culture in a North American
town, Gumperz demonstrates that "only by considering ideology in
relation to subconsciously internalized background knowledge and
linguistic signaling processes can we account for the basic issues of
hegemony or symbolic domination, that are so important in
intercultural communication" (37). As a pace-setter in intercultural
communication research, Gumperz is always insightful in raising new
research questions.

The next paper, contributed by Susanne Guenthner and Thomas Luckmann,
is entitled "Asymmetries of knowledge in intercultural communication:
The relevance of cultural repertoires of communicative genres"
(55-86). Starting with a small episode concerning table manners
between the Chinese and the German, the authors show that social
interaction and communication require a certain amount of shared
knowledge and more importantly, "a minimum amount of what is
significantly the same and what is significant different among the
participants" (59), the lack of which can account for, to a large
extent, many an embarrassing problem in intercultural
communication. The authors compellingly demonstrate that communicative
genres are historically and culturally specific, fixed solutions to
recurrent communicative problems and vary from culture to culture, and
that knowledge of genres and of their proper use is central to the
knowledge required for competent communicative interaction.

Section 2 of this volume is devoted to case studies of intercultural
encounters. In "Three ways of analyzing communication between East and
West Germans as intercultural communication" (89-116), Peter Auer and
Friederike Kern investigates the possibilities of applying the
concepts of interculturality and intercultural communication to the
situation in Germany after unification. In particular, the authors
consider three different notions of interculturality and investigate
their usability in/for the analysis of authentic job interviews with
West German interviewers and East- and West German applicants
(89). The authors argue as follows. First, cultural categorization is
discursively produced via the participants' specific intercultural or
monocultural recipient design; second, cultural differences due to
diverging frame knowledge lead to communicative difficulties and;
third, interculturality is located with a participant.

Jenny Cook-Gumperz's "Cooperation, collaboration and pleasure in work:
Issues for intercultural communication at work" (117-139) explores how
cultural variation becomes a part of the changing definitions of work
enterprise and how this is made possible by the new computer
production conditions of the late modern age. As this paper points
out, there are several ways that service encounters enable service
personnel and customers to perform this act for each other. First, the
designed work environment provides an interactional situation
channeling the action into certain paths; first, the creation of a
more or less tight script for many service exchange provides an
interactional space for successful communication; and third, the idea
of emotional labor evokes more than a mutual arrangement of damage
control for self- image. All in all, this paper has shown that the
apparent positive image and lack of conflict needs a great deal of
work on the part of participants.

The next paper, "The making of a witness: On the beheading of rabbits"
(141-171), Macro Jacquemet, drawing on data from a controversial
criminal trial taking place in Naples, Italy, between 1983 and 1986,
examines narrative performances in a cross- cultural, institutional
environment. Jacquemet first discusses the nature and dynamics of the
courtroom communication within the Italian legal system and the
cross-cultural role played by government witnesses in its
proceedings. After that, the author introduces a particular courtroom
event in which a government witness's testimony and participants'
responses were contextualized through strikingly out-of-place
narrative details (142). This paper concludes with a discussion of the
role explicit contextualization strategies play in constructing an
authoritative discourse in a cross- cultural environment.

In "Intercultural negotiation", the last paper of Section 2, Jochen
Rehbein deals with verbal and non-verbal elements in business
communication, "a type of cooperative opposition based on an
institutional type of communication" (173-207). For Rehbein,
negotiation is "an 'auxiliary device' for processing the pattern in a
way which is successful for participants" (175). After listing the
characteristics of an auxiliary device (175-177), Rehbein presents an
excerpt from discussions between a buyer and seller of two different
nationalities: an American professor and a German representative of a
Swiss publishing house. Rehbein shows, among others, that different
languages employ different communicative apparatuses, both verbal and
non-verbal; these apparatuses, different in character, may influence
the intercultural interaction.

Section 3 includes papers analyzing native/non-native interactions and
focusing on both situative asymmetries and cooperation strategies. In
"Constructing misunderstanding as a cultural event" (211-243), Volker
Hinnenkamp concentrates on the conflicting effects of miscommunication
and misunderstandings. Hinnenkamp criticizes in this paper " the
uncritical blending of misunderstanding and intercultural
communication" (225) in current relevant researches. For Hinnenkamp, a
misunderstanding "may well be an interpretive accomplishment, but it
may also be simply an unilateral interpretive matter and even just a
felt matter" (214). Drawing upon video analyses of several kinds of
misunderstanding occurring in intercultural interactions, Hinnenkamp
shows that "the bringing about of interculturality solely by virtue of
connecting cultural different background of interlocutors with a
misunderstanding cannot be taken for granted" (225).

In "Inter- and intra-cultural aspects of dialogue-interpreting"
(245-270), Frank Ernst Mueller presents various types of lay
interpretation in face-to-face interactions. For Mueller, interpreted
dialogue can be conceived of as "conversation which is collaboratively
designed for (a specific mode of) translatability" (246). Dialogue-
interpreting is an "activity sui generis" (Linell 1995: 205) and the
interpreter plays a central, "mid-wife" part in the activities, thanks
to "full linguistic access to everything that is uttered in
conversation" (248). Using transcribed interpreted conversation and
interpretive findings from a small-scale empirical study dealing with
interpreted dialogue of young French and German metal workers and
apprentices, Mueller shows "the (sub-) culturally fine-tuned nature"
(259) of the dialogue interpreting and also points out that
translatability and its cumbersome and costly machinery may have
formalizing and fragmenting effects on the natural flow of
conversation (265).

The next paper in this section is entitled "The conversational
construction of social identity in native/non-native interaction"
(271-294) contributed by Franca Orletti. Adopting the perspective as
advocated by Gumperz (e.g., 1992) and others that one must scrutinize
the detail of the interaction to catch relevant important aspects of
context, Orletti analyzes two informal conversations between a native
Italian speaker and a non-native Eritrean immigrant. Orletti is right
in arguing that "native/non-native interaction is not intrinsically
asymmetrical" (290) and that the process of positioning and the
negotiation of social identities resort to both linguistic and
interactional instruments available to the participants.

The last paper of this volume is "External appropriations as a
strategy for participating in intercultural multi-party conversations"
(295-334) written by Gabriele Pallotti. Building the theoretical
framework on Goffman's (1979) distinction between "ratified"
participants and "bystanders" developed by Marilyn Merrit (e.g., 1982)
as "vector of activity", Pallotti distinguishes two forms of
appropriations viz. internal appropriations and external
appropriations and argues that the repetition of other people's words
can be seen as a way of winning the battle for participation. Pallotti
focuses on the ways in which a five-year-old Moroccan girl learned to
participate in interactions in an Italian nursery school by acquiring
the linguistic means and the sociocultural knowledge necessary for
being accepted as a competent member of the school's micro-culture
(296). It is argued in this paper that external appropriations have
played a vital part in helping this girl achieve the status of
ratified participant in already open vectors of activity and that
linguistic and sociocultural acquisition should be seen as a tightly
intertwined process. One of the questions I would like to ask about
this paper is: Would things be still the same if the subject under
investigation were not a five-year-old Moroccan girl but a Chinese
girl of the same age?


The world is getting smaller and smaller, thanks to the fast-pace
advances in science and technology. Human beings are bestowed with
more chances than ever to communicate with people coming from
different cultural backgrounds, folkways and many other things. And
one of the major and ultimate, in fact, objectives in research into
intercultural communication should be how these people can come to
mutual understanding without any friction. People have come to realize
that cultural mistakes could be far more serious than language
mistakes. This very view is also shared by the present volume under
review. All the papers in this collection have been strung together by
the core thread, which turns out to be the recurring theme throughout,
that a comprehensive and convincing account of intercultural
communication must take into consideration "actual dialogic contexts"
(viii). Dynamism should be counted as one of the underlying principles
when it comes to explore online intercultural encounters. The volume
offers a rich spectrum of intercultural communication research, from
cultural differences in contextualization conventions to variable
realization of communicative genres, from linguistic ideologies and
hegemonial attitudes to "the contextualization of extralinguistic
elements in the negotiation of meaning" (xiii). All the contributions
give a fair view of the state of the art in intercultural
communication pursuit and more importantly touch upon new questions
for future research. Of course, some of the arguments presented in
this volume need to be further evidenced and validated. And there is
one tendency that we should guard against, that is, we human beings
appear, if not seem, to regard conclusions drawn from some case
studies as generalizations and use them as yardsticks to explain other
intercultural encounters. By the way, it would be better if the
spelling (some authors use British spellings while others employ
American spellings) and references format could be consistent
throughout the volume (e.g., 114; 115; 293).

To conclude, with both theoretical and empirical approaches going hand
in hand, this is an innovative and in many ways thought-provoking
collection of papers and would surely be embraced by scholars and
students of anthropology, sociology, cultural psychology and,
(interpretative) sociolinguistics.


Goffman, E. (1979) Footing. Semiotica 25: 1-29.

Gumperz, J. (1992) Contextualization revisited. In P. Auer and A. di
Luzio (eds.), The Contextualization of Language. Amsterdam: John
Benjamins, 39-53.

Habermas, J. (1981) Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

Merritt, M. (1982) Repeats and reformulations in primary classrooms as
windows on the nature of classroom engagement. Discourse Processes 5:


Suzhen Zhuang is an unaffiliated scholar in China. Her general
research interests include discourse analysis, pragmatics and,
intercultural communication.
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