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Review of  Intercultural Discourse and Communication

Reviewer: Laura M Callahan
Book Title: Intercultural Discourse and Communication
Book Author: Scott Fabius Kiesling Christina Bratt Paulston
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Anthropological Linguistics
Issue Number: 16.2192

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Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2005 19:07:44 -0400
From: Laura Callahan
Subject: Intercultural Discourse and Communication: The Essential Readings

EDITORS: Kiesling, Scott F.; Paulston, Christina Bratt
TITLE: Intercultural Discourse and Communication
SUBTITLE: The Essential Readings
SERIES: Linguistics: The Essential Readings
PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing
YEAR: 2005

Laura Callahan, The City College of New York


This collection contains a preface, twenty papers, and an index. Two of
the papers were written for this volume and the remaining selections first
appeared between 1976 and 2003. They are distributed among four sections:
Approaches to Intercultural Discourse, Intercultural Communication: Case
Studies, Cultural Contact: Issues of Identity, and Implications. Each
section has a brief introduction by the editors, and is followed by three
to ten discussion questions. The preface and section introductions offer
suggestions for students and instructors, including titles of introductory
textbooks to use with this volume.


Part I: Approaches to Intercultural Discourse
1. Dell Hymes. (1986). Modes of the Interaction of Language and Social
Life: Toward a Descriptive Theory. Hymes gives the rationale for and
outlines the ethnography of speaking, in which primacy is given to the
community, rather than to the variety. In Hymes' words: "Speech community
is a necessary, primary term in that it postulates the basis of
description as a social, rather than a linguistic, entity. One starts with
a social group and considers all the linguistic varieties present in it,
rather than starting with any one variety" (p. 6).

2. Alessandro Duranti. (1989). Ethnography of Speaking: Toward a
Linguistics of the Praxis. Duranti further elucidates the terms presented
by Hymes, such as speech community, speech event, speech act, speech
situation, etc. His paper offers a concise version of the SPEAKING model,
which stands for the sixteen components of communicative events. Both
authors emphasize distinctions between the ethnographic approach and not
only Chomskyan linguistics but also sociolinguistics. Duranti also
discusses conversation analysis, pointing out similarities and differences
between it and the ethnography of speaking.

3. John J. Gumperz. (1982). Interethnic Communication. This chapter covers
Gumperz' analyses of miscommunication between speakers of South East Asian
and British varieties of English, which he attributes to differences in
the participants' expectations and conversational style. In one case,
Indian and Pakistani cafeteria servers were perceived by their British
customers to be rude, due to the former's use of falling intonation at the
end of a question, where the latter expected to hear rising intonation.

4. Rajendra Singh, Jayant Lele, and Gita Martohardjono. (1988).
Communication in a Multilingual Society: Some Missed Opportunities. Singh,
Lele, and Martohardjono contribute a critical examination of studies such
as those presented by Gumperz in the preceding chapter. The authors point
out that much work has focused on miscommunication involving members of
groups that labor under a large power differential. Furthermore, these
accounts have had a tendency to be unidirectional, reporting on the
misconstrual of the intentions of speakers who have the least power by
speakers who have the most power. It is suggested that interethnic
miscommunication that has been ascribed to intercultural differences might
be interpreted as mere violations of the cooperative principles of
discourse, were it to take place between members of groups with more
similar sociocultural backgrounds.

5. Gabriele Kasper. (1997). Linguistic Etiquette. Kasper provides an
overview of theoretical perspectives within the study of linguistic
etiquette, covering key areas such as politeness, the Cooperative
Principle, face and self, and universality versus cultural variation. The
paper's extensive references, nearly ten pages, make it a valuable
resource for those embarking on an investigation into any aspect of
politeness strategies.

6. Elinor Ochs. (1993). Constructing Social Identity: A Language
Socialization Perspective. Ochs shows how speakers establish social
identity via the performance of social acts and the display of stances.
Intercultural differences in social identity construction can be traced to
what acts and stances are normally used to construct certain identities.
Ochs gives the example of how middle class North American caregivers'
accommodative stance toward children contrasts with Western Samoa, in
which the same type of accommodative acts, such as speaking in a
simplified register, are used, but not toward children, who themselves are
expected to accommodate to adults and make their speech intelligible to

7. Scott F. Kiesling. (2003). Norms of Sociocultural Meaning in Language:
Indexicality, Stance, and Cultural Models. Kiesling discusses the complex
associations between shared norms and social identities, showing how
various levels of indexicality are established, which connect context with
language. The discussion is illustrated with a glimpse of a case study
involving the use of -in and -ing by fraternity brothers at a North
American university.

Part II: Intercultural Communication: Case Studies
8. Janet Holmes. (1998). Why Tell Stories? Contrasting Themes and
Identities in the Narratives of Maori and Pakeha Women and Men. Holmes
highlights differences of focus in narratives by New Zealanders of
indigenous and European origin (Pakeha). A qualitative analysis finds
gender and ethnicity to have an influence on aspects such as individuality
versus group identity, female subservience, and self-praise. Holmes sees
Maori narratives as foregrounding ethnicity, whereas "[b]eing Pakeha is
simply experienced as 'normal' and unmarked" (p. 115).

9. Deborah Tannen. (1981). New York Jewish Conversational Style. Tannen's
case study of New Yorkers of Eastern European Jewish heritage shows how
conversational styles different from one's own may be interpreted as
character defects. Talking at the same time as one's interlocutor and
taking turns with no pause in between is perceived as showing interest in
the conversation by those who share this style; by those who do not, it is
perceived as rude. Conversely, individuals who listen in silence until one
speaker has finished, and perhaps allow a few seconds to elapse before
taking their turn, may be perceived as aloof or even dull-witted by those
who have been socialized in the higher involvement style. Tannen observes
that "the comfort of interaction in a setting in which one's home style
predominates goes far to explain what often appears as clannishness-the
preference for the company of those of similar ethnic background" (pp. 145-

10. Ake Daun. (1984). Swedishness as an Obstacle in Cross-Cultural
Interaction. Daun proposes "to show how the Swedish culture-the Swedish
mentality-can create special obstacles in cross-cultural interaction, and
how the Swedish culture itself presents difficulties for immigrants in
adjusting to life in Sweden" and maintains that "[I]t is not merely
immigrants' cultural values and traditions which create difficulties" (p.
163). He highlights elements of the host culture that are particularly
problematic for immigrants to Sweden. One such element is the segregation
of private from public life, which means that immigrants whose only
contact with Swedes is in the workplace have a difficult time achieving
intimate friendships with them. A negative valorization of emotional
displays outside the home leads to the characterization of Swedes as cold
and unfeeling. Likewise, an immigrant who expresses strong emotions in the
workplace, whether positive or negative, is subject to scrutiny.

11. Penelope Harvey. (1994). The Presence and Absence of Speech in the
Communication of Gender. Harvey examines the factors behind Quechua
women's silence and less use of Spanish in a Peruvian town. She researched
the multifaceted relationship of Spanish, Quechua, and male and female
roles in the area, finding that women speak much less Spanish despite
their access to the language and recognition of the power it affords the
speaker. Female characters portrayed by men in ritual dramas maintain
silence, which Harvey concludes represents aspects not only of gender but
also of the indigenous person's racial identity in the face of colonial
domination. 12. H. Samy Alim. (Commissioned for this volume). Hearing
What's Not Said and Missing What Is: Black Language in White Public Space.
Alim cites examples from his Northern California fieldwork to show how
Black linguistic practices are misunderstood in school and other public
places. Empirical evidence of a young man's style-shifting ability is
given, which contradicts a teacher's assessment of her pupils as speakers
with limited repertoires. Ignorance of the sociopolitical situation that
privileges some language varieties at the expense of others hampers the
teacher's ability to respond when students ask why they shouldn't speak
African American Vernacular English in the classroom.

13. Christina Bratt Paulston. (1976). Pronouns of Address in Swedish:
Social Class Semantics and a Changing System. This paper delineates the
rules of an address system in flux. Paulston was able to discover how
usage of the formal and informal pronoun varied due to different
connotations for each according to social class. For example, the informal
pronoun, du, signaled intimacy for upper class speakers and solidarity for
members of the working class. The formal pronoun, ni, could indicate the
speaker's dislike of an addressee. Similar to the situation in other
European countries at the time, in Sweden a shift to the informal pronoun
was in progress, which was attributed to a political ideology favoring

14. Maria Sifianou. (1993). Off-record Indirectness and the Notion of
Imposition. According to received politeness theories, requests entail
imposition on the hearer, and making the request in an indirect, off-
record fashion reduces the threat to the addressee's autonomy. Sifianou
questions the universality of this notion by showing how Greek social
structure renders the imposition null. Intra-group rights and obligations
include mutual favors, and requests are not perceived as an imposition.
Rather, indirectness functions as a way to let the addressee demonstrate
generosity, allowing him or her to take the initiative of fulfilling off-
record requests.

15. Suwako Watanabe. (1993). Cultural Differences in Framing: American and
Japanese Group Discussions. Using a group discussion task with students at
a university in the U.S., Watanabe shows how North American and Japanese
speakers hold different expectations about interactions in this speech
event. The Japanese students first decided the order in which group
members would speak. Their contributions to the discussion took the form
of storytelling, with each person presenting the main point at the end of
his or her turn. The North American students made their contributions in
brief, reporting style. Watanabe discusses the negative perceptionsthese
contrasts in style can cause.

Part III: Cultural Contact: Issues of Identity
16. Karen Ogulnick. (2000). Learning Language/Learning Self. Ogulnick
reflects on her experience learning Japanese in Japan and in the
process "acquiring a role, and knowing how to act according to that social
definition" (pp. 253-254). The opportunity to be a participant-observer in
the target language country increased her perceptiveness of both its and
her own culture.

17. Benjamin Bailey. (2000). The Language of Multiple Identities among
Dominican Americans. Bailey studies how Dominican American teenagers
resist the imposition of a binary Black/White classification, at times
using their Spanish-speaking ability to differentiate themselves from
African Americans. Multiple social identities and strategies surface,
including the use of English to distinguish oneself from recent
immigrants, and the use of African American Vernacular English to align
oneself with African Americans.

18. Christina Bratt Paulston. (1992). Biculturalism: Some Reflections and
Speculations. Paulston reminds us that becoming bilingual does not
automatically make one bicultural. She concludes that some aspects of
culture can be taught, while others must be chosen by individual language
learners, who for this process need to have access to models of the
culture in question.

Part IV: Implications
19. Susan U. Philips. (1983). A Comparison of Indian and Anglo
Communicative Behavior in Classroom Interaction. Philips documented
differences in communicative patterns between Indian children from the
Warm Springs Reservation, in the state of Oregon, and their Anglo
classmates. The disparities most often discussed involve competing for the
floor and answering questions directed at individual students. In the
children's home community calling attention to oneself is not encouraged,
and speakers have more control over when and how long to speak. Hence, in
comparison to their Anglo peers, the Indian children raise their hand less
to answer questions directed at the entire class, and when called upon
might pause a long time before speaking or not respond at all.

20. Diana Eades. (Commissioned for this volume). Beyond Difference and
Domination? Intercultural Communication in Legal Contexts. Eades warns of
the potential misuse of information on intercultural differences in
communication strategies. Lawyers cross-examining three Aboriginal
plaintiffs in a police abuse case took advantage of an Aboriginal
pragmatic pattern known as "gratuitous concurrence" (p. 305), in which an
individual expresses agreement with a statement, independent of actual
agreement or even comprehension. This paper raises issues over the
linguist's role in society, since it was a handbook of Aboriginal English
that purportedly informed the lawyers of these aspects of Aboriginal
communicative style.


As a collection, this volume will definitely be of interest to
researchers, instructors, and students of intercultural communication.
Within this focus, it also offers some papers of particular interest to
second language acquisition, and to studies of politeness. As the editors
point out, "the 'complete' list of essential readings [on intercultural
communication] would fill an entire, ever-expanding bookcase" (p. xii).
Kiesling and Paulston have successfully met the challenge of deciding what
to include. The selection and especially the sequencing of the work is
well motivated. Foundational readings are offered together with a few more
recent pieces. In a couple of instances articles that either extend or
refute each other's arguments appear in tandem. In several of the essays
traditional perspectives are challenged, in particular the
conceptualization of individuals as possessing characteristics solely by
virtue of their membership in a certain group. There is a strong focus on
the creation and maintenance of identity through social interaction.

Care has been taken to include essays that concentrate on presenting
issues from the perspective of speakers from a less dominant group. The
most notable example is by Singh, Lele, and Martohardjono; others come
from Alim, Daun, Eades, Harvey, and Holmes. This raises the subject of the
researcher's bias. Holmes, for example, states that her interpretation has
undoubtedly been influenced by her own ethnic affiliation, even after
discussing her analysis with members of the other group. Whether it is
possible for the researcher to escape his or her own frame of reference is
an old question; failing this, scholars can be clear about the sources of
their potential subjectivity.

An important issue raised in this volume is the need for awareness of the
larger perspective, or, in Eades' words, "the wider power struggles" (p.
314). The dynamics that contribute to the evaluation of certain speech
varieties as standard and others as non-standard, with the attendant
advantages and disadvantages to their speakers, are often accepted without
question or even comprehension, as Alim's paper shows. He proposes that
knowledge of this system of linguistic inequality be used for a discussion
about our collective and individual implication in its maintenance.

Similar views have been expressed in the disciplines of Spanish for
Spanish-speakers in the U.S. (Leeman 2005; Martinez 2003; Villa 1996,
2002) and English as a Second or Foreign Language for Academic Purposes
(Turner 2004). Critical pedagogues advocate teaching students to recognize
the wholly non-linguistic reasons for which so-called standard, or
prestige, varieties exist-at the same time agreeing that students need to
acquire such a variety. The question remains as to how, or if, it is
possible to "eradicate linguistic supremacy" (Alim, p. 195), regardless of
how much awareness everyone may have of the power relations that feed it,
as long as the use of certain varieties ultimately continues to be
mandatory in academic and other gatekeeping encounters.


Leeman, Jennifer. 2005. Engaging Critical Pedagogy: Spanish for Native
Speakers. Foreign Language Annals. 38-1: 35-45.

Martinez, Glenn A. 2003. Classroom Based Dialect Awareness in Heritage
Language Instruction: A Critical Linguistic Approach. Heritage Language
Journal. 1-1. Available

Turner, Joan. 2004. Academic Literacy in Post-colonial Times: Hegemonic
Norms and Transcultural Possibilities. In Alison Phipps and Manuela
Guilherme, eds. Critical Pedagogy: Political Approaches to Language and
Intercultural Communication. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters. 22-32.

Villa, Daniel J. 1996. Choosing a "standard" variety of Spanish for the
instruction of native Spanish speakers in the U.S. Foreign Language
Annals. 29-2: 191-200.

Villa, Daniel J. 2002. The Sanitizing of U.S. Spanish in Academia. Foreign
Language Annals. 35-2: 222-30.


Laura Callahan is Assistant Professor of Spanish Linguistics at the City
College, City University of New York (CUNY), and Research Fellow at the
Research Institute for the Study of Language in an Urban Society (RISLUS),
at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her interests include interethnic
communication, language and identity, and heritage language teaching.

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