Intercultural Communication: A Critical Introduction

By Ingrid Piller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
The Genealogy of Intercultural
Communication

3.1 CHAPTER OBJECTIVES

Generations of Latin students have had to memorise the beginning of Caesar’s account of the Gallic wars (59–51 BC):

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt
Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra
Galli appellantur. Hi omnes lingua, institutis, legibus inter se
differunt
.

English translation: All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of
which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their
own language are called Celts, in our Gauls, the third. All these
differ from each other in language, customs and laws.1

Compare Caesar’s account of the Belgae, Aquitani and Gauls with the beginning of this contemporary text about the Kurds:

A largely Sunni Muslim people with their own language and
culture, most Kurds live in the generally contiguous areas of
Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia and Syria–a mountainous region of
southwest Asia generally known as Kurdistan.2

What Caesar sees as important in describing a people or a tribe–or, to put it in more contemporary terms, an ethnic group–are lingua, institutis and legibus. There is no mention of culture where the contemporary text has ‘language and culture’–a ubiquitous collocation in contemporary writing about ethnic groups. Conversely, reference to customs and laws is typically absent from contemporary accounts of ethnic groups. This is

-18-

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