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Review of  Ethnopragmatics


Reviewer: Lilia Moronovschi
Book Title: Ethnopragmatics
Book Author: Cliff Goddard
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics
Sociolinguistics
Book Announcement: 18.365

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Review:
EDITOR: Goddard, Cliff
TITLE: Ethnopragmatics
SUBTITLE: Understanding discourse in cultural context
SERIES: Applications in cognitive linguistics 3
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter YEAR: 2006

REVIEWER: Lilia Mironovschi, Institut für deutsche Sprache und Linguistik,
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

The natural semantic metalanguage developed by Anna Wierzbicka (1996) was
used by contributors of this volume to describe the verbal and non-verbal
realizations of human feelings and relations in different cultures: Anglo,
Australian, Singapore, Chinese, Colombian, Japanese, several West African
cultures, and others. The unifying idea of the articles collected in the
book is that every culture has its key ethnopragmatic concepts, which can
be formulated in simple words in the form of cultural scripts and explained
to the outsider from the point of view of the culture insider, like a
parent explains to a child how to behave in a society.

SUMMARY

In the introduction to the book, the universalistic paradigm of linguistic
pragmatics, represented in studies such as Grice (1975) or Brown and
Levinson (1978), is criticized for its lack of reference to individual
cultures, and for explaining the communicative behaviour of every culture
in terms largely specific to Anglo-culture, such as positive and negative
politeness, cooperation, and relevance.

Chapter 1, 'Ethnopragmatics: a new paradigm', written by Cliff Goddard
gives an introduction to the natural semantic metalanguage theory,
accompanied by a list of semantic primes (simple shared meanings, common to
many languages, like 'I', 'do', 'this', 'good', and so on) which help to
describe a culture without explaining it in terms of another culture.
Previous studies, in which the metalanguage was used, are listed. The weak
points of universalistic pragmatics -- like Anglocentrism, terminological
problems, and descriptive approaches -- are discussed.

Chapter 2, 'Anglo cultural scripts against ''putting pressure'' on other
people and their linguistic manifestations', contributed by Anna
Wierzbicka, argues against the trend of representing human behaviour in
general by means of Anglo conversational norms. Step by step, she compares
Anglo communicative strategies aimed to avoid ''putting pressure'' on other
people with the communicative behaviours in other cultures, like Polish,
Italian, or Russian. Since ''putting pressure'' is differently evaluated in
different cultures (not just negatively), the cultural scripts related to
interpersonal 'pressure' are also not the same.

Chapter 3, '''Lift your game Martina!'': deadpan jocular irony and the
ethnopragmatics of Australian English', written by Cliff Goddard provides
explications of this characteristically Australian humour species. Since
humour can hardly be defined precisely in any culture, the author uses many
semantic explanations of Australian social attitude and communicative style
in order to characterize the Australian philosophy of life in general and
the sense of humour in particular. The author finds the roots of the
deadpan jocular irony in such forms of sociability as social
egalitarianism, cheerfulness, and sarcasm common among the Australian people.

Chapter 4, 'Social hierarchy in the ''speech culture'' of Singapore',
contributed by Jock Onn Wong deals with the speech manifestations of
generational differences. The social honorifics 'Auntie', 'Uncle', the
child-oriented adjective 'gu UNICODE A MACRON i' (well-behaved), and the
deferential speech act 'call', as well as the Singaporean view of
respectful behaviour towards older people are explicated in a series of
cultural scripts.

Chapter 5, 'Why the ''inscrutable'' Chinese face? Emotionality and facial
expression in Chinese', written by Zhengdao Ye, analyses different facial
expressions and the corresponding lexical expressions in Chinese. The study
gives codes to the most characteristic Chinese facial expressions, which
are often misunderstood by the insiders of other cultures. The cultural
rules governing the facial expressions of good or bad feelings are
explained through Chinese key cultural concepts, partially based on
Confucian ethics.

Chapter 6, 'Cultural scripts: glimpses into the Japanese emotion world',
contributed by Rie Hasada explores the aspects of Japanese people's
attitudes towards emotions and compares the corresponding Japanese and
Anglo cultural scripts of dealing with emotions. Crying, suppression of
emotional display, and sensitivity to eyes of other people ('hito',
'seken-tei') are explicated in detail.

Chapter 7, 'The communicative realization of confianza and calor humano in
Colombian Spanish', written by Catherine E. Travis, focuses on the
widespread use of terms of endearment in Colombian Spanish, like 'mi amor',
'gordo', fictive 'mamita' and 'papito'. The cultural scripts are also
provided for 'sensitivity' to feelings of others and for being untruthful
in small ways. To avoid the ethnocentric bias of English terms like
'interdependent' or 'collectivist' the author characterized the person
possessing 'confianza' and 'calor humano' by the Colombian term 'vinculos'
and gave a semantic explication of it.

Chapter 8, '''When I die, don't cry'': the ethnopragmatics of ''gratitude'' in
West African languages', contributed by Felix K. Ameka analyses the
gratitude expressions in such languages, as Ewe, Akan, Buli, Likpe, Moore,
Dagaare, or Gã. Explaining the meaning of the expression 'When I die...' in
those languages, the author discusses various institutions, social values,
funeral rites and attitudes about death in West African cultures. In
general, the expressions of gratitude were very culture-specific. The
author also found a close affinity between thanking and congratulating in
the West African area.

CRITICAL EVALUATION

This is a very readable and accessible book. The cultural phenomena which
attracted the attention of the authors are simply and clearly explained.
Every empirical chapter would certainly be a valuable addition to a
non-linguistic guide on the corresponding culture. It should prove to be of
interest to many with specializations outside of cognitive linguists, but
for the latter, the names of Anna Wierzbicka and Cliff Goddard certainly
make it worth reading.

This collection of pragmatic studies from around the world continues the
previous work of Wierzbicka in the field of cross-linguistic pragmatics
(e.g. 1991, 1992). Each contribution demonstrates that an ethnopragmatic
analysis based on the cultural scripts and semantic explications in natural
semantic metalanguage is a convenient way to explain the culture-specific
pragmatic phenomena to outsiders. Since no cultural obstacles were observed
in applying the metalanguage to very different cultures from every
continent, further metalanguage-based investigations of linguistic
pragmatics can be expected in the near future.

REFERENCES

Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson (1978) Universals in language
usage: Politeness Phanomena. In Questions on Politeness: Strategies in
Social Interaction, Ester Goody (Ed.), 56-310. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Grice, H. Paul (1975) Logic and Conversation. In Syntax and Semantics, vol.
3: Speech Acts, Peter Cole, and Jerry L. Morgan (eds.), 41-58. New York:
Academic Press.

Wierzbicka, Anna (1991) Cross-cultural Pragmatics: The semantics of human
interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Wierzbicka, Anna (1992) Semantics, Culture and Cognition: Universal human
concepts in culture-specific configurations. New York: Oxford University
Press.

Wierzbicka, Anna (1996) Semantics: Primes and Universals. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.


EDITOR: Goddard, Cliff
TITLE: Ethnopragmatics
SUBTITLE: Understanding discourse in cultural context
SERIES: Applications in cognitive linguistics 3
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter YEAR: 2006

REVIEWER: Lilia Mironovschi, Institut für deutsche Sprache und Linguistik,
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

The natural semantic metalanguage developed by Anna Wierzbicka (1996) was
used by contributors of this volume to describe the verbal and non-verbal
realizations of human feelings and relations in different cultures: Anglo,
Australian, Singapore, Chinese, Colombian, Japanese, several West African
cultures, and others. The unifying idea of the articles collected in the
book is that every culture has its key ethnopragmatic concepts, which can
be formulated in simple words in the form of cultural scripts and explained
to the outsider from the point of view of the culture insider, like a
parent explains to a child how to behave in a society.

SUMMARY

In the introduction to the book, the universalistic paradigm of linguistic
pragmatics, represented in studies such as Grice (1975) or Brown and
Levinson (1978), is criticized for its lack of reference to individual
cultures, and for explaining the communicative behaviour of every culture
in terms largely specific to Anglo-culture, such as positive and negative
politeness, cooperation, and relevance.

Chapter 1, 'Ethnopragmatics: a new paradigm', written by Cliff Goddard
gives an introduction to the natural semantic metalanguage theory,
accompanied by a list of semantic primes (simple shared meanings, common to
many languages, like 'I', 'do', 'this', 'good', and so on) which help to
describe a culture without explaining it in terms of another culture.
Previous studies, in which the metalanguage was used, are listed. The weak
points of universalistic pragmatics -- like Anglocentrism, terminological
problems, and descriptive approaches -- are discussed.

Chapter 2, 'Anglo cultural scripts against ''putting pressure'' on other
people and their linguistic manifestations', contributed by Anna
Wierzbicka, argues against the trend of representing human behaviour in
general by means of Anglo conversational norms. Step by step, she compares
Anglo communicative strategies aimed to avoid ''putting pressure'' on other
people with the communicative behaviours in other cultures, like Polish,
Italian, or Russian. Since ''putting pressure'' is differently evaluated in
different cultures (not just negatively), the cultural scripts related to
interpersonal 'pressure' are also not the same.

Chapter 3, '''Lift your game Martina!'': deadpan jocular irony and the
ethnopragmatics of Australian English', written by Cliff Goddard provides
explications of this characteristically Australian humour species. Since
humour can hardly be defined precisely in any culture, the author uses many
semantic explanations of Australian social attitude and communicative style
in order to characterize the Australian philosophy of life in general and
the sense of humour in particular. The author finds the roots of the
deadpan jocular irony in such forms of sociability as social
egalitarianism, cheerfulness, and sarcasm common among the Australian people.

Chapter 4, 'Social hierarchy in the ''speech culture'' of Singapore',
contributed by Jock Onn Wong deals with the speech manifestations of
generational differences. The social honorifics 'Auntie', 'Uncle', the
child-oriented adjective 'guāi' (well-behaved), and the deferential speech
act 'call', as well as the Singaporean view of respectful behaviour towards
older people are explicated in a series of cultural scripts.

Chapter 5, 'Why the ''inscrutable'' Chinese face? Emotionality and facial
expression in Chinese', written by Zhengdao Ye, analyses different facial
expressions and the corresponding lexical expressions in Chinese. The study
gives codes to the most characteristic Chinese facial expressions, which
are often misunderstood by the insiders of other cultures. The cultural
rules governing the facial expressions of good or bad feelings are
explained through Chinese key cultural concepts, partially based on
Confucian ethics.

Chapter 6, 'Cultural scripts: glimpses into the Japanese emotion world',
contributed by Rie Hasada explores the aspects of Japanese people's
attitudes towards emotions and compares the corresponding Japanese and
Anglo cultural scripts of dealing with emotions. Crying, suppression of
emotional display, and sensitivity to eyes of other people ('hito',
'seken-tei') are explicated in detail.

Chapter 7, 'The communicative realization of confianza and calor humano in
Colombian Spanish', written by Catherine E. Travis, focuses on the
widespread use of terms of endearment in Colombian Spanish, like 'mi amor',
'gordo', fictive 'mamita' and 'papito'. The cultural scripts are also
provided for 'sensitivity' to feelings of others and for being untruthful
in small ways. To avoid the ethnocentric bias of English terms like
'interdependent' or 'collectivist' the author characterized the person
possessing 'confianza' and 'calor humano' by the Colombian term 'vinculos'
and gave a semantic explication of it.

Chapter 8, '''When I die, don't cry'': the ethnopragmatics of ''gratitude'' in
West African languages', contributed by Felix K. Ameka analyses the
gratitude expressions in such languages, as Ewe, Akan, Buli, Likpe, Moore,
Dagaare, or Gã. Explaining the meaning of the expression 'When I die...' in
those languages, the author discusses various institutions, social values,
funeral rites and attitudes about death in West African cultures. In
general, the expressions of gratitude were very culture-specific. The
author also found a close affinity between thanking and congratulating in
the West African area.

CRITICAL EVALUATION

This is a very readable and accessible book. The cultural phenomena which
attracted the attention of the authors are simply and clearly explained.
Every empirical chapter would certainly be a valuable addition to a
non-linguistic guide on the corresponding culture. It should prove to be of
interest to many with specializations outside of cognitive linguists, but
for the latter, the names of Anna Wierzbicka and Cliff Goddard certainly
make it worth reading.

This collection of pragmatic studies from around the world continues the
previous work of Wierzbicka in the field of cross-linguistic pragmatics
(e.g. 1991, 1992). Each contribution demonstrates that an ethnopragmatic
analysis based on the cultural scripts and semantic explications in natural
semantic metalanguage is a convenient way to explain the culture-specific
pragmatic phenomena to outsiders. Since no cultural obstacles were observed
in applying the metalanguage to very different cultures from every
continent, further metalanguage-based investigations of linguistic
pragmatics can be expected in the near future.

REFERENCES

Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson (1978) Universals in language
usage: Politeness Phenomena. In Questions on Politeness: Strategies in
Social Interaction, Ester Goody (Ed.), 56-310. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Grice, H. Paul (1975) Logic and Conversation. In Syntax and Semantics, vol.
3: Speech Acts, Peter Cole, and Jerry L. Morgan (eds.), 41-58. New York:
Academic Press.

Wierzbicka, Anna (1991) Cross-cultural Pragmatics: The semantics of human
interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Wierzbicka, Anna (1992) Semantics, Culture and Cognition: Universal human
concepts in culture-specific configurations. New York: Oxford University
Press.

Wierzbicka, Anna (1996) Semantics: Primes and Universals. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER


Lilia Mironovschi is doctoral student at the Institut für deutsche Sprache
und Linguistik, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. She is currently working on
the pragmatics of compliments and compliment responses in Russian and in
German cultures.


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