EESE Strategy Paper No. 4

Intercultural Communication in EESE

Karlfried Knapp (Erfurt)

1. Towards a definition of "Intercultural Communication"

Because the adjective "intercultural" is nowadays used in a very inflationary way in the most varied contexts and because "culture" and "communication" occur frequently as 'passe-partout' concepts, it would seem appropriate here first to explicate the concept "intercultural communication" which forms the basis of this eponymous section of EESE, and then to outline the subject area to which this concept refers.

"Culture" will be understood here in the sense of cognitive cultural anthropology as a body of knowledge shared by members of a society as to standards of perceiving, believing, evaluating and acting (Goodenough 1971), a knowledge which is itself manifested in the public performance of symbolic behaviour (Geertz 1973) and which is taken for granted when dealing with one another (ABS 1973). "Communication" is to be understood here as interpersonal interaction by means of a linguistic symbol system in the widest sense, i.e. one which includes verbal, para-verbal and non-verbal elements; a system that can be realised either directly (face-to-face) or via other media (written, aural, visual). "Intercultural communication," abbreviated in this article as "ICC", can hence be defined as the interpersonal interaction between members of different groups, which differ from each other in respect of the knowledge shared by their members and in respect of their linguistic forms of symbolic behaviour.

It is the occurrence of these kinds of differences in contact situations that creates the problems typical of ICC. These problems mainly originate from the fact that in ICC the pragmatic consensus on which everyday social interactions are based has proven to be particularly fragile. This is a consensus in which one cannot and need not define ad infinitum the meanings of the forms of communicative behaviour, but rather that one can presuppose these meanings to be self-evident, given and shared by the communication partner due to a common communicative experience. However, participants in ICC have only limited, if any, communicative experience in common. Therefore, the assumption that the other person possesses both the knowledge of the linguistic forms of communicative action as well as the body of knowledge to which they refer may be false. Misunderstandings on the level of the message, the propositional meaning based on the content, and still more on the level of the metamessage, the implied social meaning which is usually only indirectly expressed - i.e. the assessment of the social relationship - (Bateson 1972) are a frequent consequence.

Differences in the knowledge on which the communication is based and the linguistic forms of symbolic behaviour related to this do not just exist between groups defined by a nation or a country (which could be called "macro-cultures"), but also between groups within macro-cultures (i.e. "sub-cultures"). To this extent, intercultural communication does not differ in principle from intracultural communication. That is, if the concept of culture is viewed narrowly as being based on sub-cultures, then one could definitely designate, as ICC, the communication between the younger and the older generations in a society characterised by differences in the communicative code and in the underlying norms and values. For this reason it is absolutely logical that recent studies on intergenerational discourse have had their methodological standards set by researchers who also work on the macroculturally defined level of ICC (e.g. Coupland / Coupland / Giles 1991). In principle it is possible to consider all the differences between varieties or styles stratified with regard to social class, region, function, age or sex as intercultural. This is the way Antos / Kühn (1998), for example, describe as ICC the contacts between East and West Germans after reunification which were characterised by clashes of regional varieties of German as well as distinctly different bodies of social knowledge, and hence loaded with misunderstandings. Tannen (1990) does the same for the different communicative styles of men and women.

The problems of ICC become particularly noticeable when one of the partners participating in intercultural contacts only has a partial mastery of the symbol system underlying the interaction - and this not just to the degree that is typical of a particular subcultural symbol system. Typically, one of the participants in the interaction has to use, what is for him, a second or foreign language which is not a variety of his own. To this must be added that the knowledge of acting and interpreting brought into the interaction is already different on the macrocultural level, with the result that misunderstandings can develop into conflicts, and that these are much more likely to occur than is the case in intracultural communication between subcultures.

This conceptualising of ICC can be regarded as a referential framework for research traditions, which can be included, in the European context, in sociolinguistics, in particular interactional sociolinguistics (e.g. Auer / di Luzio 1984, Hinnenkamp 1989, Kotthoff 1989) and in the American context, ethnographic linguistics (e.g. Gumperz / Hymes 1972, Saville-Troike 1982, Gumperz 1982, Tannen 1984, Scollon / Scollon 1995) and communication studies rooted in social-psychology (e.g. Gudykunst / Kim 1984, Wiseman 1995).

Certainly the mere mention of this tradition makes it clear that ICC is an interdisciplinary field of research - of which those just mentioned form just a fraction of the scientific disciplines which concern themselves with the knowledge shared between members of society and the actions and behaviours related to it. The interdisciplinary and comprehensive character of the label "intercultural" which has become particularly well established in German-speaking countries often corresponds, particularly in English, to various other designations, which signify a particular disciplinary preference or focus on the communication between specific groups (Knapp / Knapp-Potthoff 1987).

So one finds, above all in Anglo-Saxon psychology and social psychology, the expression cross-cultural communication, which involves giving preference to the comparative perspective and as is typical in their case, the neglect of any linguistic interaction. Although in this case German word-formation rules prevent a direct translation, there are other good reasons why interracial communication has not been adopted in Germany. The expression interracial which is used particularly in the USA refers to the communication between different races, in the first instance between blacks and whites (e.g. Kochmann 1981), but nowadays more between Main-Stream-Americans on the one hand and all other types of minorities on the other hand (e.g. Dameron 1996). In this context it is certainly not so much the biological factors which are in the foreground but problems such as discrimination and racism. Interethnic is particularly frequently used in anthropological and sociological studies, when groups within a society that is largely defined by national frontiers communicate with one another - groups which consciously set up boundaries between themselves and others by emphasising linguistic and/or religious differences or features of outward behaviour - however slight they may be objectively - and thereby define their identity (e.g. Barth 1969, Kim 1986).

Even though it is justifiable to include all the studies which also fulfil the definition of ICC formulated above and which are collected under these labels, in the subject area of this section of EESE, it is clear from this conceptual diversity that this subject area, its theory and methodology, and even the disciplinary status of ICC, have until now not yet been clearly outlined and so still need to be discussed in this journal.

2. Subject Areas

Nevertheless, below this level, five topic areas can be identified within the area of ICC in the sense adopted here, where a great deal of research is taking place or where new research topics are opening up. They are:

  1. Contrastive analyses of language use in cultural comparison;
  2. Analyses of communication processes and problems, especially of misunderstandings occurring in actual, ongoing, interpersonal interactions;
  3. Methods of comparison and analysis as well as evaluations of the generalisability of the outcomes of the comparisons and of the analyses together with their theoretical backing;
  4. Investigations of the attributes and abilities that characterise a "good intercultural communicator" and "intercultural competence";
  5. Applications of the findings from (1) to (4) to teaching and training intercultural communicative competence.

2.1. Contrastive Analyses

In ICC, problems of communication and understanding can arise from unrecognised cultural differences, which exist before the intercultural contact and as such are introduced into the contact situation by the communication partners. Such differences are revealed by a comparison of forms of symbolic behaviour in their respective individual cultural contexts. For linguistic forms of such behaviour, the perspective of comparison is adopted by works which can be subsumed under the field of contrastive linguistics. However, this perspective goes beyond the general observation of structural differences in the communicative codes under comparison, as, on the one hand, it concentrates on the differences in the expression of propositional and social aspects of meaning which lead to misunderstanding and, on the other hand, it investigates the social and cultural motivation behind the contrasts which appear.

Interculturally relevant differences in meaning are most noticeable in the field of the lexicon. Despite the long tradition of investigations into contrastive semantics and into comparative lexicology in linguistics as well as anthropology, this area is still a long way from being fully covered. Admittedly, from the point of view of ICC, descriptions of culture-specific referents (e.g. "shortbread" is a biscuit-like, neutral-tasting pastry, which is eaten with tea, above all in Scotland) are less interesting than such cases in which either the primary experience of the world, which is the same for all humans, is differently structured, as in the well-known examples of the division of the colour-spectrum by "primitive" peoples (Berlin / Kay 1969), or in which expressions referring to an apparently comparable socio-cultural reality are embedded in differing behavioural, interpretative and evaluative schemata. The latter is frequently the case in everyday expressions, even in relatively related cultures, where there is a danger of being over-hasty in treating them as semantically equivalent (Müller 1981). For example a British civil servant and a German Beamter are only very roughly comparable.

It is above all misinterpretations on the level of social meaning that can result from unrecognised differences in the conditions of occurrence and forms of realisation of speech events. So, for example, in the Japanese context in response to a kindness, instead of the speech act of thanking, the speech act conventionally performed is that of excusing - excusing for the trouble that one has caused the other person. Requests in German tend to be made syntactically in a more direct manner than in English (House / Kasper 1981). Revealing such differences is a subject of contrastive pragmatics. Their main attention is directed to the field of verbal politeness, and consequently, up to now, there have been special studies with regard to the linguistic-cultural differences in realising requests, demands, refusals, apologies, justifications, compliments, thanking and similar face-threatening and face-saving speech acts. Stimulated by studies in linguistic pragmatics, in which, as in Leech (1983) a connection between the directness of speech acts and their politeness is postulated, it is the aim of studies in this field to make propositions about the socio-culturally preferred degree of directness in the realisation of these acts in each of the languages compared. As a consequence of the first large-scale and extremely effectively publicised project in this field, the Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (CCSARP, cf. Blum-Kulka / House / Kasper 1989), there are now numerous findings available on the realisation of speech acts with their communicative functions in German, British English, Anglo-American, Anglo-Australian English, Danish, Hebrew and Canadian French. Because in each case there is an individual cultural preference for particular forms from of the range of possible forms of realisation, which may result in interferences when performing speech acts in a foreign language, this branch of research originally developed from studies on second language acquisition, and especially from the analysis of learner language. Nowadays it is known under the label of interlanguage pragmatics.

However, research - which should find expression in relevant articles in EESE - is needed not just with respect to other types of speech acts. The current state of the research is still heavily influenced by methods based on those of CCSARP: i.e., as a rule, students are asked to fill in a questionnaire on the appropriate communicative behaviour in specific social situations. Methodologically this is not without problems (see 2.3) and makes it necessary to scrutinise the results obtained by CCSARP with other methodological procedures and other types of informants. It is also necessary to express the relationship between directness and politeness more distinctly: Boxer (1996) shows that an indirect complaint is not only in itself a more polite realisation of a face-threatening act but that it can also have the function of developing solidarity and rapport with the communication partner - such as when one congress participant complains to another about the bad organisation. It is clear that the various functions of the same type of speech act in different situations should also be an object of further research.

Speech acts are usually embedded in more complex sequences of action that can also differ between cultures. For example, in the USA it is customary to accept a compliment with thanks, whereas in Japan in the second part of the 'compliment - response' sequence the convention expects a polite refusal of the compliment (Wolfson 1981). Other everyday speech events are also characterised by a culturally conventionalised selection and sequence of speech acts and their forms of realisation. Corresponding differences were shown in respect of telephone calls (Godard 1977), suggestions and buyer-seller interactions (service encounters, cf. the overview in Hatch 1992). The comparative description of everyday speech events represents a field of research which, to a large extent, still remains uninvestigated.

This is also valid for more complex patterns of communication which are typical for professional contexts of communication or in institutions such as courts, hospitals etc. For example, Clyne (1994) shows the cultural differences between native speakers of Australian English and Asian immigrants by their respective organisation of the course of discussions at work in a factory, or Merk (1993) who describes the different conventional expectations which Dutch and French people have about the course of business negotiations. The description of the cultural variability of negotiating styles (e.g. Hellwig / Samovar / Skow 1993) is received with burning interest in the world of industry and commerce. Knapp / Knapp-Potthoff (1976), for legal consultations, and Rehbein (1985b), for medical consultations, show, in the case of German and Turkish participants, that there are very different cultural conceptions in such speech events as to what are considered the necessary communicative moves, their sequencing and forms of realisation. Studies such as these have, up to now, just focused a spotlight on the practical relevance of this area of investigation. Specifically with regard to the task of teaching a practically applicable level of intercultural competence the description of the cultural specificity of forms of communication in professional and institutional contexts is an urgent requirement.

As in spoken face-to-face interaction, specific cultural patterns can also be identified in written communication. Such patterns are often a reflection of more general cultural principles of discourse organisation and of the style of argument. They are sometimes expressed as a culturally-cognitively based deep structure that can be described in opposition to linearity, digression and circularity (e.g. Kaplan 1966, Galtung 1981). Until now, comparative investigations of the conventions of text formation have given priority to academic / scientific language (e.g. Clyne 1987, Gnutzmann / Oldenburg 1990), to business communication (e.g. Schröder 1991), to letter-writing style (e.g. Hornfeck 1998) and not least to the style of argumentative essay writing, which may have a decisive effect on the career of a non-native speaker studying at a foreign institute of education (e.g. Connor 1987). EESE is also open for such studies in contrastive textology.

The medium which transports communicative functions in face-to-face interactions is not just the spoken word. Particularly those functions concerning the level of social meaning are also partially, even primarily, expressed by paraverbal and non-verbal means. In these areas there are also considerable differences between languages and cultures. Gumperz (1982) shows how differences in prosody - for example in the intonation marking the difference between questions and statements -, in the rhythm and volume between speakers of different varieties of English (British vs. Indian and West Indian) can lead to misunderstandings with serious consequences. Loveday (1981) shows that pitch variations which signalise friendliness in English, are labelled by other cultures as "effeminate" or "affected".

Similarly, the other communication partner is often given negative attributes as a result of unrecognised differences in the temporal structure of conversation, for example with respect to how the speakers take turns, where cultural preferences exist for either relatively long pauses between the contributions of various speakers (in Europe e.g. with Finns, Lehtonen 1995) or for the unbroken overlapping of the contributions from one speaker and the next (e.g. with New York Jews, Tannen 1981).

How culture-specific synchrony or asynchrony in the non-verbal behaviour of interaction partners affects the attribution of competence and liking and what consequences this can have for educational consultations and job interviews is shown by e.g. Erickson / Schultz (1982) or Roberts / Sayers (1987).

Although there are, by now, many descriptions of culture-typical aspects of gesture, proximity, eye-contact, the relating of actions to the dimension of time, etc. (cf. e.g. Wolfgang 1979, Poyatos 1988, Hall / Hall 1990), the non-verbal dimension of communication has, until now, been more neglected than the paraverbal in the research of ICC. There are certainly practical reasons for this. Paraverbal and non-verbal data can only be represented at great effort and expense by conventional printing methods and, therefore, there is less data available for analysis than in the case of verbal data. This is regrettable because, particularly in interpersonal communication, a large part of the communicated information is transmitted by these means. It is also regrettable because verbal, paraverbal and non-verbal forms of communicative activity always occur simultaneously in natural face-to-face interaction and because the social meaning is the cumulative effect of all these forms. Whether a request is perceived as polite in a concrete interaction situation does not just depend upon the syntactically determined directness but also e.g. upon the strength of voice and the facial expression with which it is made - a smile, particularly coming from a non-native speaker, may well compensate for what is otherwise too direct. Contrastive investigations should therefore concern themselves much more than they have previously with more complex communicative patterns of action, in order to compare the verbal, paraverbal and non-verbal dimensions of their execution in their entirety.

The co-occurrence of communicative forms of action is not just limited to individual, isolated patterns. Rather there are preferences according to which specific forms amongst the various possibilities are preferred for realising actions in the individual dimensions on each occasion. Such preferences coalesce to form communicative styles. Styles as group-typical preferences for communicating have been described for ethnic groups (e.g. Tannen 1981) as well as for cultures (e.g. Gudykunst / Ting-Toomey 1988). Such descriptions differ in the extent to which the characterisation of each style falls back on a collection of concrete verbal, paraverbal and non-verbal surface elements or to what extent very general descriptive dichotomies such as "direct / indirect", "verbose / taciturn", "instrumental / affective" are used. The first-mentioned procedure is typical for linguistic studies on ICC, the second for the science of social-psychological communication.

Although the category of "style" is not applied uniformly in linguistics (cf. e.g. Hinnenkamp / Selting 1989) and the concept of "communicative style" still requires further clarification, it can be useful to know the communicative style of a culture for practical reasons, because style characteristics can be generalised beyond the individual case. Certainly the methodological requirements for this sort of generalisation are considerable and also need to be discussed.

In explaining the origin of styles, it is often attempted to ground their formation on general cultural characteristics. Indeed, the principal arbitrariness of linguistic signs does not exclude concrete forms of communication being motivated by cultural references. However, in the explanation of communicative characteristics by cultural characteristics, there are approaches with, on the one hand, a more detail-orientated, in this context sociological and historical argumentation, and, on the other hand, more global argumentation. An example of the first-named category is e.g. Münch (1984), who explains the relatively uninhibited self-presentation of Americans in interpersonal interaction by the fact that in the USA, for specific historical reasons, there is not such a great distinction between the public interest and the private interest as there is in Germany. More comprehensive explanations are provided by e.g. Hofstede (1980) who refers to value dimensions such as individualism / collectivism, masculinity / femininity, large / little need for uncertainty avoidance or Hall (1976), who refers to certain orientations to communication. According to Hofstede, Germans have a greater preference for direct and explicit communication than the English, because the German culture characteristically shows a greater preference for avoiding uncertainty. Hall traces methods of communication back to whether, in the culture concerned, much information is being transmitted explicitly by the language code used (in which case little information is being transmitted implicitly by the context, and hence this culture is termed a low-context-culture) or whether only little information is being transmitted explicitly by the language code (in which case much more information has to be transmitted by the context, and the culture is accordingly a high-context-culture). According to Hall, European and Anglo-American societies tend to be low context, Asiatic and Arabic more high context. The accuracy of such contentions obviously needs critical discussion, also in EESE. It is certainly apparent at this point that interdisciplinary contributions are required.

2.2 Interaction Analyses

Beyond the differences brought into the interaction which have just been described, problems of an original type, which are quite independent of the languages and cultures of the interaction partners, can develop from the dynamics of intercultural, interactional situations - and even solutions to such problems. These are the subject of recent interactionistic approaches which investigate real, ongoing, intercultural interactions with the methods of interactional sociolinguistics or the ethno-methodological conversation analysis.

The boundaries between these approaches are fluid. The main aim of interactional sociolinguistics is to show how the language means used fulfil their communicative function, how in the course of an interaction the communication partners, taking recourse to a multiplicity of information carrying elements, manage to construct a shared - or frequently in the case of ICC even a differing - interpretation of what has been communicated, and to point out, what communicative and social consequences each of these interpretations have (Gumperz / Cook-Gumperz 1982).

Essential for this process of interpretation are those information carrying elements or contextualisation cues, with which the participants continuously signal each other how they are understanding the ongoing interaction or how they intend it to be understood. - but with which they sometimes also signal that they do not understand or have misunderstood. Features from all levels of communication structure can be used as contextualisation cues, e.g., from the lexicon, grammar, prosody and non-verbal communication. In themselves, they have no situation-independent meaning, but activate knowledge and interpretations by the communication participants in the context of their occurrence (cf. e.g. Gumperz 1992).

Studies on ethno-methodological conversation analysis focus not just on the basis of interpretation but also on other everyday methods of accomplishing speech events and for creating understanding, e.g. on ways to repair problems in communication and on the forms and functions of larger patterns of discourse and actions in which intercultural contacts are embedded.

It is common to studies of both approaches that they are always empirical case studies which analyse ICC in specific communication constellations (such as the social situation, languages and cultures concerned, types of interaction (see below)). Standing predominantly in the foreground are those constellations which are of high practical relevance to the life of the )ndividual participant. Typical examples are career-deciding gate-keeping-encounters such as academic and professional consultations (e.g. Erickson / Schultz 1982), job interviews with employers (e.g. Williams 1985), interactions in institutions such as the legal system - particularly in court - (e.g. Becker / Perdue 1982, Mattel-Pegam 1985, Philips 1992), in hospital or medical consultations (e.g. Rehbein 1986, Cicourel 1992), or in business negotiations (e.g. Stalpers 1987, Rehbein 1992). However, general types of action-patterns are also investigated, such as argumentative conversations (e.g. Kotthoff 1993), small talk and similar situations for initiating relationships (e.g. Günthner 1993), or situations amongst members of a majority and a minority, in which the interaction leads to - mostly negative - social attributions and discrimination (e.g. Roberts / Davies / Jupp 1992). The number of studies is still relatively small; the communication constellations which are particularly interesting from the German perspective are not even close to being covered. EESE is willing to accept many important contributions in this area.

Such empirical investigations can also provide information as to which strategies are used by participants in intercultural interactions in order to deal with the departures from expectations and uncertainties resulting from cultural differences or in order to resolve misunderstandings successfully. In this context, together with the recognition of the individual stereotypes and the expectation of otherness (cf. e.g. Dahl 1998), accommodating processes which take place in the interaction itself also play a role (cf. e.g. Giles / Smith 1979). Linguistic accommodations, such as occur in the interaction between native and non-native speakers, have been described in research on second language acquisition in particular (e.g. Janicki 1986). The tracking down and testing out of successful strategies is an important aim of research, directly with a view to teaching the ability to communicate, although the overall level of knowledge about anticipatory aprioric or reparative post hoc strategies to deal with intercultural communication problems still leaves a lot to be desired.

The same applies to the knowledge of the cultural specifics of such strategies. For example, the question whether the communication partner has understood what has been said, which is unproblematic in Western societies, is frowned upon in Japan because it means a check on the person spoken to on the level of social meaning and not a clarification of the common basis of understanding (Nomura / Barnlund 1983). Therefore, strategies which are used with the intention of ensuring understanding can, under certain circumstances, by themselves lead to problems of intercultural understanding.

As yet little has been known with certainty about the creation of "third cultures". It is assumed by interculturalists of all persuasions that the persistence of intercultural contact leads to the creation of a mixed culture in the course of time - an "interculture" in the literal sense. Frequently cited examples are the organisational cultures of international bodies such as the UN or the World Bank. However, even here the empirical evidence which could support this - not implausible - hypothesis is lacking. This is even more valid for the creation of a really independent "third" communication culture. Sociolinguistic lingua-franca research should make a start here.

Empirical interaction analyses are of particular practical relevance because they take into account the fact that intercultural conflict does not automatically develop from the differences in knowledge and behaviour which are brought into the communication by the participants. One reason for this is that not every communicative difference tends to lead to conflict. A second reason is that the participants in intercultural interactions do not normally expect that everything will be like it is "at home". This results in the expectation of otherness, which can lead to a tolerance of departures from the expected behaviour which would not normally be tolerated ("foreigner bonus"). What forms the expectations of otherness take amongst lay persons in such interactions and to what extent and under what circumstances they are prepared to allow a "foreigner bonus" has certainly not yet been investigated.

A third reason why the equation derived from the basic assumptions of contrastive linguistics, "communicative difference = communicative problem," is not always valid lies in the fact that in an ongoing interaction not every element of the communicative code is interpreted in isolation. That is, it is normally embedded in a super-ordinated behavioural context, which is determined by the functional aims pursued by the participants. As long as these aims are not put at risk, the potential for misunderstanding inherent in individual code elements is neutralised by the behavioural context.

In addition, such a neutralising effect obviously depends upon the tendencies, brought into the interaction or developing during its course, of the participants to define the social relationship with the communication partner as positive or negative and correspondingly to regard the interaction as convergent or divergent. In addition to the perception of one's individual identity, in particular the perception of a threat to this identity, the real power relationships between the participants appear to be decisive for determining the interactive consequences of communicative differences (Giles / Coupland 1991).

That other factors, apart from mere communicative differences, play a significant role in the success or failure of concrete intercultural interactions has been shown by Hinnenkamp (1987) for example. He points out how an intracultural interaction between a German beggar and a Turkish donor only becomes intercultural through the need of the beggar to distinguish his status from that of the Turk by means of code switching from Standard German to a form of German foreigner talk, and how this interaction then fails from the point of view of the Turk - that is: interculturality may not be brought into a communicative situation immediately, but that it is often only established interactively. In a similar way, Knapp (1997) illustrates that the difficulties of communication between employees of the German headquarters of a large business company and the staff of its British subsidiary, which had been stated by the staff to be typical problems of intercultural communication, actually had less to do with cultural factors and that the organisationally based factors of the inequality of power between the head office and the subsidiary and crude misunderstandings on the level of the elementary mastery of the languages were more responsible - interculturality can therefore simply be a resource, on which basis conflicts caused by other factors can be fought.

When it comes to explaining the problems of intercultural communication, contrastive approaches therefore frequently prove inadequate. It is only on the basis of interaction analyses that one is able to assess what is really "intercultural" and problematical in situations of intercultural contact. There is still a great need for action in this area - if only to clarify the question as to what extent communication problems, which are recognisable as genuine linguistic problems, can be traced back to cultural differences in communicative style or to learner-language causes (Kotthoff 1991).

As in the case of explanations of actual interaction problems, specific communicative phenomena of intercultural contact situations can themselves only be approached in the framework of empirical interaction analyses. This includes the problem of language choice, for example. The question of which language or languages the communication will take place in influences the course of the interaction in a decisive manner. It has to be decided at the beginning of a verbal interaction and it can be repeatedly renegotiated during its course. It makes a big difference to the participants if they communicate in their native language or in a more or less developed learner language or whether they resolve to use a common lingua franca, particularly with reference to the status and the equality of chances in terms of interaction strategies. And even in the last case, in which no one can have the advantage of using their native language, differences in competence can lead to one party being placed at a disadvantage. Far-reaching questions, which research has yet to answer, and which concern the factors which determine the choice of language, are still open. These factors include the prestige and the extent of the spread of the languages, conventionalised decisions of language choice, or power relationships between the participants (cf. e.g. Altehenger-Smith 1987, Coulmas 1987) - but also the circumstances under which code-switching takes place (e.g. Poplack 1980, Hinnenkamp 1987, Myers-Scotton 1993).

As a rule, the decision about language choice is bound up with the choice of the type of intercultural communication. These types are learner-language-communication between native and non-native speakers, lingua-franca-communication and communication with the assistance of interpreters. All these types of communication show characteristic properties, which formally influence the course of an intercultural interaction.

Apart from cases in which communication takes place in different forms of the same language - initially there was also reference to the communication between e.g. men and women, East and West Germans, speakers of British and Indian English as instances of ICC - ICC is affected by the participants' varying (national) language abilities. In most cases, ICC is learner language communication for at least one party. Therefore, research on learner language interaction can also be considered as research on ICC. Studies of communication strategies, of phenomena of the reduction of meaning and the negotiation of meanings in the native / non-native-speaker discourse are particularly relevant here (e.g. Gass / Varonis 1991).

Problems and strategies of learner-language-communication can also be involved in the case of lingua-franca-communication. Because, in this instance, all the participants are non-native speakers, this communication is characterised by linguistic and cultural interferences introduced into the common communicative basis not just by one party but by all participants (cf. e.g. Meierkord 1996). As has been mentioned previously, the investigation of the circumstances in which a specific third language is chosen as the lingua franca as well as the structures and usage conventions which develop between the users urgently need to be studied. This is particularly valid from the English language point of view, because English has established itself as the international lingua franca in most fields of communication. From which arises, for example, the question of the consequences for the forms and ways of using native-speaker varieties of English (Knapp 1990).

There is also a need for research into the third type of intercultural interaction mentioned here: that of communication with the help of a non-professional interpreter or mediator. In the areas connected with institutional communication (in authorities, schools, hospitals etc.) this type of interaction is very frequent and of great social relevance (cf. e.g. Carr et al. 1997). First analyses of interpreters' discourses have shown that here there are special forms and considerable limitations of the control of the conversation by the participants. It has also become clear that, while interpreters can certainly prevent or solve intercultural misunderstandings, typically they can also cause other types of misunderstandings specific to this situation (e.g. Knapp-Potthoff / Knapp 1986, 1987; Apfelbaum 1997). Communication partners who use an interpreter are thus frequently lulled into a false sense of security. Studies demonstrating the limitations of this security - arising from unrecognised linguistic and cultural interference, from particularities of the discourse structure or from typically limited strategies for repairing misunderstandings - are as welcome in the section on intercultural communication in EESE as in the section on translation science.

2.3. Discussion of Theories and Methods

Academic activity in the field of ICC is primarily justified by its practical aims, such as improving the communicative ability of the individual or - on the societal level - improving the relationships between groups. In view of such aims, the reliability of statements about culturally based communication differences, about their consequences and about strategies for avoiding or dealing with possible negative consequences acquire great significance. High standards are required, particularly when generalising from comparative statements and analyses of the causes of successful or problematic intercultural communication processes to real-life situations in which the second language learner of the languages concerned can become involved.

As shown above, the causes of communication problems in concrete intercultural interaction situations are often very different, and are not infrequently based on specific factors given with the specific social interaction situation and are thereby not, or only partly, connected with culturally determined differences in the ways of communicating. Explanations of communication problems in ICC are, therefore, first and foremost always specific to the situation and are to be sought on the basis of empirical ethnographic observations. This certainly has the disadvantage that there are limitations to the generalisability of ethnographic case studies.

Taking the claim to make generalisable propositions for applications in language teaching as a point of departure, studies comparing speech act realisations across cultures use methods that allow for the collection of large amounts of data. The most frequently used method is a procedure which consists of filling in the gaps in a short, written, role-play type questionnaire - the so-called discourse completion test. In this, the subject has to state how he would react linguistically in the given scenario - e.g. how he would complain if a female acquaintance, to whom he had lent a book which he needed urgently, did not return it promptly. Such discourse completion tests have, up until now, primarily been carried out with students at institutes of higher education in various countries and the respective preferred forms of realisation in the languages / cultures concerned have been compared. So far, most of the published conclusions in the field of interlanguage pragmatics about preferences in speech act realisation (for requests see e.g. Blum-Kulka / Olshtain 1986; for complaints e.g. Olshtain / Weinbach 1987; for refusals e.g. Takahashi / Beebe 1987; for suggestions e.g. Banerjee / Carrell 1989; in general e.g. Blum-Kulka / House / Kasper 1989) have been and are being made on the basis of this elicitation instrument.

However, this procedure is not without its problems. Criticisms are frequently made concerning the lack of authenticity of both the role-playing and the subjects' reactions - most frequently they do not write what they themselves would actually say in such a situation, but what they believe to be the appropriate response. That is, they are creating ideal not real data. Further criticisms concern the limitations on the extent and type of data elicited which are imposed by the task's written mode, the comparability of the role-play situations between the cultures compared and the representativity of the selected subjects. Because, for example, the selection of the linguistic means for the realisation of a face-threatening speech act is dependent upon the social distance between the interaction partners, comparative studies must ensure that the social distance e.g. between a female American student and her female professor is of the same magnitude as that between a female Japanese student and her male professor. However, sociological comparisons of the role-play situation, which can be taken seriously and which could first create comparability of the communicative behaviour, are lacking in the conception of discourse completion tests. It is also unclear whether students, in view of their social status, represent a comparable and homogeneous population in all the cultures concerned. With reference to the last-mentioned problem, the socio-linguistic naiveté of some studies on interlanguage pragmatics in their full meaning is revealed by the example of Goldschmidt (1996), who, in comparing the acceptability judgements for the realisation of requests for a favour by students and non-students, considers them as two different, in themselves, homogeneous social groups.

It is certainly unlikely that there is a single methodological procedure for the investigation of intercultural communicative processes which can fulfil the requirements of both authenticity and generalisability to an equal extent. Therefore, it is currently being discussed how one can connect different procedures with one another (cf. e.g. the studies in Gass / Neu 1996).

This discussion is influenced by the interest in developing improved approaches both for foreign language teaching and for intercultural training - approaches that enable students to acquire the communicative behaviour of native speakers or the strategies for dealing with intercultural communication problems.

This aspect of ICC is mainly concerned with contact between foreigners and natives, whereby it is, of course, assumed that the foreigner has to adapt himself to the communicative style of the natives. Researchers who are concerned with ICC in the sense of the contact between minorities and majorities within a society, however, indicate that this approach and its practical application only affirmatively describes and strengthens communicative differences, if minorities are not, in the long term, going to lose their identities (e.g. Mühlhäusler 1990). Therefore, political changes of the socio-political inequality manifested in the communication (e.g. Blommaerts 1991) are sometimes seen as another solution to intercultural communication problems. Here, totally different epistemological interests and practical aims for studying ICC are revealed, which also result in different methods and theories. There is also a need for discussion here, for which EESE will make space available.

2.4. Intercultural Competence

The application of the results of contrastive and interactional analyses to the preparation of intercultural contact situations requires a conception of "intercultural competence", in the framework of which communicative differences and strategies for dealing with them receive a practical status, and against which background didactic and methodological decisions for teaching and training can be made. Until now, such conceptions have been almost exclusively developed in social-psychological research on communication, and also to a lesser extent and at a much lower academic level in foreign language didactics. The meanings of "intercultural competence" or "intercultural communication competence" from the linguistic perspective have, until now, been reflected in only a few studies.

The social-psychological work on "intercultural competence" was stimulated by the failure of many development projects of the American Peace Corps in the sixties. Against this background, it was attempted to identify more exactly those general abilities and dispositions which would enable the development assistant, technician, businessman etc. to perform their activities in foreign countries successfully. These individual characteristics and abilities such as "high motivation", "ability to empathise", "political sensitivity", "intelligence", "flexibility", "extroversion" amongst others were described as personal prerequisites for overseas effectiveness (cf. e.g. Dinges 1983).

Such individual characteristics are without doubt relatively constant personality traits which can scarcely be changed by education or training. Therefore, in the recent past, social-psychological research has concentrated on identifying the concrete and changeable behavioural characteristics which make a "good intercultural communicator". The discussion about these behavioural characteristics is carried on under the title intercultural competence, but recently also under intercultural communication competence (cf. e.g. the studies of Martin 1989 or in Wiseman / Koester 1993). Here too, the research approach has consisted primarily of post-hoc questioning, interviews and tests etc. of persons who were successful in intercultural contact. Behavioural parameters were then developed as a theoretical construct from the results. These included display of respect ( i.e. the ability to be able to express respect for and a positive estimation of another person), interaction posture (i.e. the ability to react to another without prejudice), empathy (the ability to be able to take the perspective of the other person), tolerance for ambiguity (the ability to deal with unknown or uncertain situations without showing perceptible uneasiness). The academic argument mainly concentrated on the methodological - mostly statistical - procedures for determining the number of the constitutive constructs of intercultural competence and on expressing them in precise terminology. However, such theoretical constructs are of little help in identifying modes of behaviour which will be of practical use in a specific intercultural interaction situation.

This is particularly evident in the construct interaction management which appears in many outlines of intercultural competence as the only behavioural dimension being relevant to communication in the narrow sense (e.g. in Wiemann 1977). It is often defined as skill in regulating conversations. However, it is not specified which concrete forms of communicative behaviour these are. Although, as mentioned above, there is a great deal of knowledge about language and culture-typical characteristics of the formal and contentual organisation of conversations from linguistic research. Here one notices the negative point that almost the whole social-psychological research on communication is made in English speaking areas, i.e. their empirical investigations are carried out there, using English-speaking informants etc. This leads to a typical anglocentric bias - the idea that everyone speaks English and that communication problems in the narrow sense do not exist.

One might expect that the linguistic aspects of intercultural communicative ability would acquire that role in the concern of foreign language didactics with intercultural competence which their actual importance demands. However, that is generally not the case, at least not in foreign language didactics in Germany. In this context, the dominant studies are either concerned with "transnational communicative ability" in the sense of a rational discourse between peoples, as understood by Habermas, without taking adequate account of the consequences of culture specific communicative differences for the participating individuals (e.g. Melde 1987), or they continue to extrapolate the contents and procedural methods of traditional area studies under the now fashionable name of "intercultural learning" (e.g. Buttjes 1989). All this results in intercultural learning being seen in such a narrow way that, even in the field of English didactics and despite the world-wide function of English as a lingua-franca, text books provide information about the English or American target culture as if it were unique and homogenous (e.g. Klippel 1991). As a result of such "area studies" types of learning, in most contributions to foreign language didactics intercultural competence remains in a vague area somewhere between gaining background knowledge through area studies and developing the ability to empathise. So it is no wonder that the results of the relevant linguistic and social-psychological research are only seldom recognised. (e.g. as in Bausch / Christ / Krumm 1994).

Linguistic approaches to determining intercultural communicative competence have been outlined by Knapp (1998) and Knapp-Pothoff (1997). In their approach, this competence is understood as the ability to achieve an equally successful understanding with members of other cultures and communication networks as with one's own. In detail, this means the ability to anticipate and compensate for unforeseeable problems arising from strangeness. Components of this ability are, at least,

  1. a specific knowledge of patterns of communicative action and interpretation in one's own as well as in the relevant foreign language and culture,
  2. general knowledge about the relation between culture and communication (including the dependence of human thinking and acting on culture-specific cognitive schemata, the dimensions in which cultures can differ, the specific limitations of the above-mentioned types of communication etc.) and
  3. a stock of interaction-stabilising strategies (e.g. for establishing common ground on the relationship level, for the metacommunicative making good of errors etc.).
Individual aspects of these conceptual outlines, in particular the strategic part of competence, certainly still require to be made empirically concrete. Indeed, the overall concept of intercultural competence needs to be thoroughly discussed in EESE.

2.5. Applications to Teaching and Training

In view of the fact that, up until now, it has not been possible to make more than a few definite findings about the characteristics of intercultural competence, it may appear to be too early to consider applying intercultural research to teaching and further education. However, there is a considerable need for action here; specifically there is a need for a multitude of activities on the development of curricula, methods and teaching materials, particularly for foreign language teaching, and for intercultural training in adult education.

In order to apply the knowledge gained from research on the manifestations of communicative differences and its interactional consequences to foreign language teaching, this knowledge must be converted into aims, contents, methods and materials for foreign language teaching. For these purposes, examples from the American context are already available, for example: introductory, didactic overviews of the problem area and consequences for the learning aims resulting from them (e.g. Damen 1987, Kramsch 1993), and for their application to teaching materials and teaching units (Levine / B!xter / Macnulty 1987, Levine / Adelman 1993, Seelye 1994). Dealing with such studies can be just as stimulating for foreign language learning here as considering approaches from the area Deutsch als Fremdsprache (DaF) (German as a foreign language), which opened the intercultural perspective considerably earlier in Germany than foreign-language didactics did. So, for example, an important aspect of intercultural competence - namely the awareness of cultural differences in communication - had already been dealt with in the eighties in the contents and methods of a well-known DaF text-book (cf. Hog / Müller / Wesseling 1989). Directly because the current discussion in foreign language didactics still primarily sees "intercultural communication" as being equivalent to "area studies", there is considerable need for didactic studies which seek to evaluate and apply the insights gained from research on intercultural communication to teaching methods and materials.

At first sight, this requirement appears less important in the application to intercultural training on the tertiary level or in further education. However, the preparation for intercultural contacts and international cooperation has been a major motive for the creation of the intercultural paradigm in social-psychological communication science. In this context, numerous training methods have been and will continue to be developed - often for very special target groups and for the marketing advantages of the promise of something new. A comprehensive overview of methods of intercultural training is provided by Landis / Brislin (1983). In general, three approaches can be differentiated. The first is information-oriented training, which gives the participant knowledge about the target country or about the requirements of the intercultural contact situation, though in a methodical, rather conventional way. The second is self-discovery orientated training, of which a major part consists of the simulation of contact situations, )n which the participants are exposed to new experiences which are alien to them and where they connect, step by step, to a fictive culture by hypothesis-driven explorational behaviour. The third is interaction orientated training, in which the participants are brought together with partners from a target culture or put in a cooperative situation where they learn to get along with each other (Thomas / Hagemann 1996). Nevertheless, because the overwhelming majority of training concepts developed up to now have been designed for Americans and because, for almost all the concepts concerned, the results have not yet been evaluated, there remains a considerable need for theoretical reflections and empirically validated training approaches in respect of other source cultures. Of particular interest are the approaches from Clackworthy / Moosmüller / Beermann (1996), who conceived of a type of intercultural interaction training based on interactional socio-linguistics and the ethno-methodological analysis of conversation.

3. Intercultural Communication in EESE

Because the research into conceptualising intercultural competence stands in a markedly subject-specific discussion context which is directed to social-psychology, studies on this theme will only be published in EESE when they concern the problems of communicative inequality in the interaction and the processes of their successful management. On the other hand, EESE is open to contributions concerning applications to school and further education. Those studies which are more strongly theory-orientated will probably be found in the "Intercultural Communication" section and those which are primarily practice-orientated in the "Foreign Language Teaching" section. The core of manuscripts published in EESE on intercultural communication should certainly be concerned with contrastive analyses and interaction analyses.

Therefore, the strategic considerations for publication are:

  1. Because EESE comes from a Germ!n-speaking context, the main emphasis of the publications should be put on the comparison of German ways of communicating methods with those of other languages and varieties.
  2. Because analyses of actual, ongoing German-English interactions are still very rare, particular value is ascribed to contributions in this area. Above all, in view of their practical relevance, analyses of German-English interactions in institutions such as administrations, hospitals, education, consultations or in negotiations are particularly welcome. This also includes interactions in which English is used as a lingua franca without the involvement of native speakers.
  3. Because, particularly in the fields of semantics and pragmatics, no generally accepted standards for the comparison of the forms and functions of communicative methods are available and because the necessarily narrow database renders the generalisability of interaction analyses difficult, particular value will be given to reflections on the methodological procedures of the comparison or of the analysis. Alongside empirical investigations, studies which are more generally or even exclusively devoted to methodological and theoretical questions are also welcomed.
  4. Of special thematic interest, particularly for EESE, are reflections on intercultural communication in the Internet. This could, for example, refer to the first decision which has to be met in every intercultural communication - the language choice. It would be interesting to see studies on the extent of the use of English in the Net and on the (very frequently non-standard) varieties which occur. It would also be interesting to enquire into the extent to which English language texts in the Internet are interculturally understandable, in view of the fact that a large proportion of their authors and readers are non-native speakers.
  5. The electronic form of EESE offers a special advantage for the publication of studies on intercultural communication because it also makes it possible to store audio and visual data. This enables authors to refer to paralinguistic (e.g. intonatory) or non-verbal (e.g. gesture and mimic) characteristics of the communication which are difficult to represent graphically. The same can be said for data which take up a lot of space when printed, such as long transcripts which could be stored electronically in appendices unlimited in size. In this way EESE also offers the possibility of using the empirical data of available publications as an easily accessible database for individual examples and for complex case studies of intercultural communication.


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