LINGUIST List 15.329

Thu Jan 29 2004

Qs: Cross-cultural Pragmatics; Time Differences

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  1. Fay Wouk, cross-cultural pragmatics: accounts
  2. Edward McDonald, Expression of time differences

Message 1: cross-cultural pragmatics: accounts

Date: Sun, 18 Jan 2004 20:38:36 -0500 (EST)
From: Fay Wouk <>
Subject: cross-cultural pragmatics: accounts

I am interested in studies of the specificity or vagueness of accounts
given in support of other speech acts, such as apologies, requests, or
refusals. Bresnehan & Liao 1996 discuss this with respect to American
vs Taiwanese refusal strategies, and reference work by Takahashi &
Beebe. Is anyone aware of any other works that look at relative
frequency of specific vs vague accounts/explanations?

I will, of course, post a summary of responses to the list.

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Message 2: Expression of time differences

Date: Mon, 19 Jan 2004 21:31:03 -0500 (EST)
From: Edward McDonald <>
Subject: Expression of time differences

A recent discussion with my Chinese colleagues, in which we all got
ourselves caught up in semantic tangles, has made me wonder about the
expression of differences between time zones in different languages. I
was saying that Sydney was ''behind'' Beijing and ''in front of''
London, which I expressed in Chinese as Sydney being wan ''late'' and
Beijing zao ''early''. My Chinese colleagues, to my puzzlement claimed
the exact opposite, i.e. that Sydney was ''early'' in relation to
Beijing. We finally sorted out the tangle when we realized that I was
thinking in terms of adding or subtracting hours - as I'm used to
doing when ringing my parents in Sydney or my sister in London - while
they were thinking in terms of where the sun rises first. I had no
trouble with the latter concept when reading a recent newspaper
article about Auckland trying to take advantage of its two hour time
difference with Sydney to steal the latter's thunder in relation to
New Year's Eve celebrations, particularly what got televised
internationally, but to think of Auckland being ''earlier'' than
Sydney in terms of time zones somehow struck me as counterintuitive.

I wonder if other list members have had similar experiences, and
whether there are any cross-linguistic generalization to be drawn

Ed McDonald
Language Consultant, China Central Television 
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