Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2006 20:50:05 +0000 (GMT) From: Natalie Jayne Rublik Subject: Language Matters: Communication, Culture, and Identity
EDITORS: Ng, Sik Hung; Candlin, Christopher N.; Chiu, Chi Yue TITLE: Language Matters SUBTITLE: Communication, Culture, and Identity PUBLISHER: City University of Hong Kong Press YEAR: 2004
Natalie Rublik, Faculty of Education, The University of Western Ontario
''Language Matters'' constitutes a compilation of selected scholarly papers presented at the 8th International Conference on Language and Social Psychology held in Hong Kong. As the title and subtitle suggest, this volume deals with the complex subject of how the use of language plays out through communication, in different cultural arenas, and varied identity constructs. Key issues explored in this 519- page collection are divided into 4 sections: I) Communication, II) Cultural Processes, III) Social Identity and IV) Communicating Culture and Identity in Natural Social Settings. In constructing this volume, the authors vividly allow these elements to come alive in its real-life applications. While the social aspect of language communication is stressed, its cognitive aspect is not ignored. The chapters would primarily interest researchers and graduate students in Applied Linguistics (AL). Readers should have a background in AL and knowledge of contemporary discussions in the field; nevertheless, the texts are clearly written and make for fascinating reading.
A comprehensive Overview and Synthesis introduces ''Language Matters''. In introducing the central focus of this collection, the impact of language in communication, culture and identity constructs, the reader is well prepared to digest the series of varied and complex chapters. Ng, Candlin and Chiu explicate the primary theoretical model used throughout the various contributions. The editors stress that despite the ''diverse intellectual traditions'' of the contributors, they share similar assumptions about the essence of human interactions (p. 9). Also provided are 3 separate diagrams which help the reader visualize the ''Dynamic interactions of communication, identity, and culture'', via social identity, shared knowledge (interpretive culture), communicative actions, experienced quality of interaction and context and structure of social interactions (p. 12). The editors hope that this theoretical model will motivate others to develop further unified conceptual frameworks which not only maintain social stability, but more importantly effect real social change as well (p. 23).
SUMMARY OF CHAPTERS
Section I 'Communication' includes 4 chapters by different authors who address an approach to communication, such as Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT), and cognitive theories. This section nicely links terror management gender-as-culture and dominance theories with intergenerational communication. Beginning this section is the chapter, ''An Intergroup Approach to Communicating Stigma'', where Jessica R. Abrams and Howard Giles examine the ways in which gays and lesbians have been stigmatized by exploring and analyzing four ''theoretical approaches (self-enhancement, terror management, ingroup enhancement, and system justification)'' (Crocker et al., 1998). The authors use these approaches to show how heterosexuals have excluded gays and lesbians on various levels of communication and language.
In Chapter 2, ''Emotional Expression as a Sociolinguistic Strategy'', Bernadette Watson and Cindy Gallois utilize the CAT perspective and a discussion of 3 studies to examine the ''interactions between health professionals and patients'' (p. 63). They found that ''patients are more likely to view communication as effective when there is no recognition of the relational dimension of the interaction'' (pp. 63-63), considering the role of emotional expression in these interactions.
In Chapter 3, ''A Self-Categorization Perspective on Gender and Communication'', Nicholas A. Palomares, Scott A. Reid and James J. Bradac argue that ''communication reflects the relevant similarities and differences of men and women in any given social context'' (p. 306). They accomplish this by reviewing gender and communication research and explanations, self-categorization theory and social identity salience, and mutual accommodation and linguistic gender reversal.
Chapter 4, ''Seeing the Difference, Feeling the Difference'', by authors, Angie Williams, Peter Garrett and Rosalind Tennant, concludes this first section on Communication. The authors also apply CAT in their extensive, quantitative study involving 243 university students in the UK, where they found that ''young adults (aged 18 to 25 years old) view interaction with (younger) teenagers in intergroup terms'' (p. 3).
Section II 'Cultural Processes' comprises 4 chapters in which authors present their unique contributions to the matter of language in diverse cultural contexts, as seen in the East and the West. Culture is clearly defined, and functions of cultural learning are explored in various comparative studies. Terry Kit-Fong Au opens this section with Chapter 5, ''Making Sense of Differences''. Using a narrative approach the author weaves 3 stories together to better understand language and cultural differences within and between groups. Au highlights Taylor's (2002) findings, which move from a documentation/description to a ''Why and How'' focus on understanding cultural differences.
In Chapter 6, ''Symbols and Interactions'', Chi Yue Chiu and Jing Chen present their detailed examination of culture and language through their Culture-Carrier-Context (CCC) model. Cultural carriers, such as language and institutions, are looked at, as well as an in- depth discussion of the definition of culture, as the authors define it. This chapter includes appropriate and meaningful quotes from G. H. Mead.
Both Chapters 7 ''Culture and Intergenerational Communication'', by Hiroshi Ota, and 8 ''A Comparative Study of Chinese and English Metaphorical Representation of Time'', by Rong Zhou, conclude this Cultural Process section. In Chapter 7, the author argues that cross- cultural research needs to address intergenerational differences and social psychological factors, for a more complete analysis of culture and language. Here, the importance of understanding that ''culture is communication'' (Hall, 1973, p. 97) is also stressed.
On a related note in Chapter 8, Zhou examines the metaphorical representation of time in quantitative study involving Chinese and British university students. In his study, the author found that time metaphors are very similar most of the time in English and Chinese cultures. However, this finding does not mean that these cultures hold the exact same metaphorical representations of time.
Section III 'Social Identity' contains 4 chapters which address deviance and leadership in groups, ethnolinguistic vitality, intergenerational communication and the intersection of language and globalization within an international landscape. Opening this section is Chapter 9, ''Social Identity, Self-Categorization, and Communication in Small Groups'', where Michael A. Hogg presents various findings concerning social identity research related to deviance and leadership within group communication. He also shows how social identity theory has played a significant role in this research (Tajfel, 1969; Tajfel & Turner, 1986).
The next two chapters highlight the emergence of new identities. In Chapter 10, ''Language and the Situated Nature of Ethnic Identity'', Kimberly A. Noels, Richard Clement and Sophie Gaudet discuss two key aspects of a 10-year research program: ''(1) the socio-structural status or ethnolinguistic vitality of the groups [i.e. Anglo-Ontarians, Quebecois, Franco-Ontarian, other international students] under consideration, and (2) the immediate interpersonal situation in which intercultural contact takes place'' (p. 246). Anxiety and confidence in using a second language is also examined in this research.
In Chapter 11, ''Exploring Social Support and Social Identity within a Multigenerational Community of Women'', Margaret Jane Pitts and Amanda Lee Kundrat present a qualitative, multi-case study involving nine female neighbors. Their study focused on detailed, descriptive narrative of the ''functions and uses of social support'' (p. 267) among these women, with some of the emergent themes being 'Offers Emotional Support', 'Provides Resources', and 'Sustains Independence' (p. 272).
This section finishes with a directional turn in Chapter 12, ''Language, Tourism and Globalization''. In their research, Adam Jaworski and Crispin Thurlow consider ''international inflight magazines as a prototypical example of institutionally driven, heavily mediated tourist discourse''..., ''tourist-host interactions in British television holiday programs''..., '''communication diaries' of British tourists in Gambia''..., [and] ''interviews with Polish farmers running holiday businesses'' (p. 300).
The final section of the book 'Communicating Culture and Identity in Natural Social Settings' comprises 8 chapters written by various authors. The first two chapters together open the discussion with ill health and caregiver identity. Chapter 13, ''Creating Caregiver Identity'', by authors, Marie Y. Savundranayagam and Mary Le Hummert, looks at communication challenges experienced between caregivers and persons with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Here, spousal and filial identities are found to be affected by the language abilities of those afflicted with AD.
In Chapter 14, ''Communicating Disability'', Cindy Gallois focuses on persons with later, acquired disabilities, their notion of self and their encounters with stereotypes in communication. Her paper also ''deals with the impact of identity on motivation for rehabilitation'' (p. 359) the associated consequences, and the role of heath professionals in this process.
The next few chapters deal with mentorship communication. In Chapter 15, ''Will You be My Mentor?'', Pamela Kalbfleisch presents her study involving 61 students at the University of Hawai'i and their communication patterns when seeking a mentor. In Chapter 16, ''Mentoring Recidivist Youth Offenders'', Chris J. Pawson and Carla L. Gibbes move mentoring to the prison environment. They describe the implementation of a Young Offenders Mentoring Intervention (YOMI) in a descriptive study involving 42 male recidivist youth offenders. The results indicated that the implementation strategy influenced the protective role of a mentor in three risk sources: the individual, the family, and socio-economic status and context.
In Chapter 17, ''Improving the Evaluation of Mentoring Programs'', Ralph Renger concludes the mentoring discussion by arguing for more effective empirical research, rather than the more frequent anecdotal evidence of such. The author's three figures assist the reader in visualizing the focus of mentoring of studies, the 'Why?' of these studies, and how these move us toward a more comprehensive evaluation of mentoring programs.
The following two chapters extend the discussion of youths. Specifically, in Chapter 18, ''Discursive Construction of Knowledge and Narratives about Gangster Youth'', Angel M. Y. Lin and Tit-Wong Lo present their qualitative study involving gangster youth in Hong Kong. One of their main goals was to analyze the discourse and communication strategies of the interviewers and the participants. In Chapter 19, ''Rap Lyrics and Antisocial Effects on Young People in Hong Kong'', Jacky Chau-kiu Cheung presents his study which examines the ''effect of death awareness on the Hong Kong undergraduate's self-defense in terms of denying the harm of rap songs on oneself, approving of antisocial rap lyrics, and concealing preference for rap music'' (p. 454).
Authors, Patricia Noller and Judith A. Feenay, conclude this book with Chapter 20, ''Conflict in Families with Adolescents'', as they turn the focus to the family. They provide an integrative review of research involving families with adolescents. Overall, their review supports a ''systems view of the family'' (p. 493). One of the significant findings indicated that spousal and parent-child relationships may both affect sibling relationships as well.
To evaluate the strengths and limitations of ''Language Matters'', I target five main aspects: 1. Scope (how thoroughly the intended scope is covered); 2. Sequence and organization of chapters; 3. Chapter contents (currency of information/knowledge included and the quality of examples and illustrations); 4. Formatting (general layout, table of contents and index); 5. Overall quality.
1. Scope: The most striking aspect of this book is the breadth and depth by which diverse topics, such as gender and intergenerational communication; language and ethnic/social identity; language, tourism and globalization, and mentorship are explored. These far-reaching topics may even introduce uncharted territory for some readers. However, some readers may find only certain sections or chapters addressing their particular interests. Thus, the book's breadth and comprehensive portrayal of language matters could be viewed as a positive and/or a limitation.
2. Sequence and organization: The chapters are appropriately grouped, given the thematically organized sections. Certain chapters could belong to more than one section, given the intersecting issues of some papers. Consequently, this collection of papers could be read as presented in sequential order or randomly, according to the reader's specific interests, as each chapter may stand on its own. However, the editors' overview and synthesis should be read first to provide the reader with essential background information, on which the chapters' contents are based.
3. Chapter contents: The articles are supported with substantial research and the various studies cited in the book are most recent and help to provide readers with updated information/knowledge about the topics. To examine and discuss their particular issue, the variety of chapters use a variety of means, such as qualitative and quantitative research, narrative accounts, practical applications and current literature citations. The collection of papers also represents an international selection of authors and studies. Given the detailed definitions of subject specific terms and explanations, a novice student/researcher should be able to come to an understanding of the complex issues explored in each chapter. Perhaps the greatest strength of this volume lies in its authentic illustrations of such themes.
4. Formatting: The editors' Overview and Synthesis proves particularly beneficial by explaining the theoretical framework used for the four sections of ''Language Matters: Communication, Culture, and Identity''. However, the editors' Overview and Synthesis contains a few editorial errors on p. 3, where the authors of Chapters 2 and 3 are interchanged, which in turn creates confusion for the reader. The individual chapter references, table of contents, editors' and contributors' background information and the subject index are complete and clearly helpful to readers of the book. A glossary of technical terms and a name index might have been valuable additions to this book.
5. Overall quality: The editors effectively present a varied collection of conference presentations, which deserve a serious read by Social Science and AL scholars. This edited collection will most certainly attract and awaken curiosity in the reader by means of including a comprehensive range of articles addressing issues as far reaching as gay/lesbian discourse and rap communication to both Eastern and Western cultural arenas. Not only are theoretical constructs well established, but many real-life applications of the interaction of communication, culture and identity are found in this insightful volume. Despite the vast research presented in each article, many new questions arise, and the authors invite scholars, and students to continue thinking about them from a critical perspective.
Crocker, J., Major, B., & Steele, C. (1998). Social stigma. D. Gilbert & S. Fiske (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (pp. 504-553). Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Hall, E. T. (1973). Silent language. Garden City, NY: Anchor Book.
Tajfel, H. (1969). Cognitive aspects of prejudice. Journal of Social Issues, 25, 79-97.
Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. S. Worchel & W. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 7-24). Chicago: Nelson-Hall.
Taylor, S. E. (2002). The tending instinct: How nurturing is essential to who we are and how we live. New York: Times Books.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Natalie Rublik is currently writing her doctoral thesis, entitled "Investigating the Role of Culture in the Development of Oral Fluency: A Case Study of Chinese Learners of English". She has taught English as a second language (ESL) in South Korea, The Czech Republic and China and ESL in Canada. She also teaches Multicultural Education and ESL Theory/Practice courses in the Faculties of Education and Continuing Teacher Education at the University of Western Ontario. Her research interests include Second Language Acquisition, Sociolinguistics and Multicultural Education.