Review of Language Matters
|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
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
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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:
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.