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Author's acknowledgments

Series Editor: H. G. Widdowson


Language And Culture

By Clair Kramsch


Claire Kramsch is Professor of

German and Foreign Language Acquisition at the

University of California at Berkeley)



March 2000









1 The relationship of language and culture

Nature, culture, language

Communities of language users

Imagined communities


Linguistic relativity

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis



2 Meaning as sign

The linguistic sign

The meaning of signs

Cultural encodings

Semantic cohesion

The non-arbitrary nature of signs




3 Meaning as action

Context of situation, context of culture

Structures of expectation

Contextualization cues, situated inferences

Pragmatic coherence

The co-operative principle

Participants' roles and the co-construction of culture



4 Spoken language, oral culture

Speech and writing Indicating status

Social positionings

Protecting face

Conversational style

Narrative style



5 Print language, literate culture

Written language, textual culture

Print and power

Social construction of literacy

Text and discourse

Literacy event, prior text, point of view

Genre Summary


6 Language and cultural identity

Cultural identity

Cultural stereotypes

Language crossing as act of identity

Linguistic nationism

Standard language, cultural totem

Linguistic and cultural imperialism



7 Current Issues

Who is a native speaker?

Cultural authenticity

Cross-cultural, intercultural, multicultural

The politics of recognition


SECTION 2 Readings


SECTION 3 References


SECTION 4 Glossary








What justification might there be for a series of introductions to language study? After all, linguistics is already well served with introductory texts: expositions and explanations which are comprehensive, authoritative, and excellent in their way. Generally speaking, however, their way is the essentially academic one of providing a detailed initiation into the discipline of linguistics, and they tend to be lengthy and technical: appropriately so, given their purpose. But they can be quite daunting to the novice. There is also a need for a more general and gradual introduction to language: transitional texts which will ease people into an understanding of complex ideas. This series of introductions is designed to serve this need.


Their purpose, therefore, is not to supplant but to support the more academically oriented introductions to linguistics: to pre-pare the conceptual ground. They are based on the belief that it is an advantage to have a broad map of the terrain sketched out before one considers its more specific features on a smaller scale, a general context in reference to which the detail makes sense. It is sometimes the case that students are introduced to detail without it being made clear what it is a detail of. Clearly, a general understanding of ideas is not sufficient: there needs to be closer scrutiny. But equally, close scrutiny can be myopic and meaning-less unless it is related to the larger view. Indeed it can be said that the precondition of more particular enquiry is an awareness of what, in general, the particulars are about. This series is designed to provide this large-scale view of different areas of language study. As such it can serve as preliminary to (and precondition for) the more specific and specialized enquiry which students of linguistics are required to undertake.


But the series is not only intended to be helpful to such students. There are many people who take an interest in language without being academically engaged in linguistics per se. Such people may recognize the importance of understanding language for their own lines of enquiry, or for their own practical purposes, or quite simply for making them aware of something which figures so centrally in their everyday lives. If linguistics has revealing and relevant things to say about language, this should presumably not be a privileged revelation, but one accessible to people other than linguists. These books have been so designed as to accommodate these broader interests too: they are meant to be introductions to language more generally as well as to linguistics as a discipline.




The books in the series are all cut to the same basic pattern. There are four parts: Survey, Readings, References, and Glossary.



This is a summary overview of the main features of the area of language study concerned: its scope and principles of enquiry, its basic concerns and key concepts. These are expressed and explained in ways which are intended to make them as accessible as possible to people who have no prior knowledge or expertise in the subject. The Survey is written to be readable and is uncluttered by the customary scholarly references. In this sense, it is simple. But it is not simplistic. Lack of specialist expertise does not imply an inability to understand or evaluate ideas. Ignorance means lack of knowledge, not lack of intelligence. The Survey, therefore, is meant to be challenging. It draws a map of the subject area in such a way as to stimulate thought and to invite a critical participation in the exploration of ideas. This kind of conceptual cartography has its dangers of course: the selection of what is significant, and the manner of its representation, will not be to the liking of everybody, particularly not, perhaps, to some of those inside the discipline. But these surveys are Written in the belief that there must be an alternative to a technical account on the one hand and an idiot's guide on the other if linguistics is to be made relevant to people in the wider world.



Some people will be content to read, and perhaps re-read, the summary Survey. Others will want to pursue the subject and so will use the Survey as the preliminary for more detailed study. The Readings provide the necessary transition. For here the reader is presented with texts extracted from the specialist literature. The purpose of these Readings is quite different from the Survey. It is to get readers to focus on the specifics of what is said, and how it is said, in these source texts. Questions are provided to further this purpose: they are designed to direct attention to points in each text, how they compare across texts, and how they deal with the issues discussed in the Survey. The idea is to give readers an initial familiarity with the more specialist idiom of the linguistics Literature, where the issues might not be so readily accessible, and to encourage them into close critical reading.



One way of moving into more detailed study is through the Readings. Another is through the annotated References in the third section of each book. Here there is a selection of works (books and articles) for further reading. Accompanying comments indicate how these deal in more detail with the issues discussed in the different chapters of the Survey.


Certain terms in the Survey appear in bold. These are terms used in a special or technical sense in the discipline. Their meanings are made clear in the discussion, but they are also explained in the Glossary at the end of each book. The Glossary is cross-referenced to the Survey, and therefore serves at the same time as an index. This enables readers to locate the term and what it signifies in the more general discussion, thereby, in effect, using the Survey as a summary work of reference.



The series has been designed so as to be flexible in use. Each title is separate and self-contained, with only the basic format in common. The four sections of the format, as described here, can be drawn upon and combined in different ways, as required by the needs, or interests, of different readers. Some may be content with the Survey and the Glossary and may not want to follow up the suggested References. Some may not wish to venture into the Readings. Again, the Survey might be considered as appropriate preliminary reading for a course in applied linguistics or teacher education, and the Readings more appropriate for seminar discussion during the course. In short, the notion of an introduction will mean different things to different people, but in all cases the concern is to provide access to specialist knowledge and stimulate an awareness of its significance. This series as a whole has been designed to provide this access and promote this awareness in respect to different areas of language study.




Author's acknowledgments


My understanding of the complex relationship of language and culture has been deepened by the graduate students in applied linguistics at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education, and by innumerable researchers and language teachers around the world. I am particularly grateful to Linda von Hoene, Eva Lam, Margaret Perrow, Steve Thorne, Greta Vollmer, who read drafts of this book, and to Pete Farruggio and Soraya Sablo who provided some of the data in the Survey. I wish to thank the staff of Oxford University Press for their patient and efficient support. This book would not have come to pass without the encouraging guidance of Henry Widdowson, to whom go my deepest gratitude and admiration. He has helped me bring into focus in the very personal view that I present here on language and culture in language study.


This book is dedicated to my first grandson, born at the confluence of seven languages and cultures.





Section 1 SURVEY



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