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Working Papers in Educational Linguistics, v9 n1 p21-45 Spr 1993

This study investigated how the relationship between "individual" and "institution" is constructed in people's perceptions about other cultures, and manifested in conversation. The potential for inappropriate generalization and misunderstanding of situations and cultures was examined. A videotape recording of a Japanese family and two guests, one American and one Japanese, was analyzed, focusing on one awkward conversational exchange involving racially discriminatory remarks. Analysis included review of the videotape with the American guest, mother, daughter, four Japanese graduate students, and four American graduate students. Subsequently, interviews were conducted with the American guest and an American college student with experience in Japanese culture. Interview emphasis was on how experiences in Japan affected perceptions of Japan, with particular attention paid during analysis to use of personal pronouns as a measure of the speaker's identification with the world. Analysis identified some cultural differences in behavior that could lead to misunderstanding and some commonalities (e.g., in gestures) that led to common interpretation. Dynamics of co-membership or identification with the culture during the conversation were also examined. It is concluded that generalizations in speech can create misunderstanding, and that "hedges" such as "I think,""it seems,""it might," etc., although considered sociolinguistically powerless in the United States, may help prevent conflict. (MSE)

Descriptors: Cultural Awareness, Cultural Differences, Cultural Traits, Culture Conflict, Generalization, Intercultural Communication, Interviews, Japanese Culture, Sociolinguistics, Stereotypes, Videotape Recordings

Autor: Iino, Masakazu


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