Intercultural Communication: A Critical Introduction

By Ingrid Piller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Language and Culture

4.1 CHAPTER OBJECTIVES
This chapter will enable you to:
Familiarise yourself with the principles of linguistic and communicative relativity and to engage with them critically.
Engage critically with discussions about the relationship between a specific language and a specific culture, and contribute to those discussions through critiques of existing writing in intercultural communication.

4.2 LINGUISTIC RELATIVITY

For years,1 I have started my classes on language and culture with two questions. First, I ask those in the audience who are afraid of spiders or who know someone who is afraid of spiders to raise their hands. Usually, more than half of the people in the audience raise their hands. Second, I ask those in the audience who are afraid that somewhere, somehow a duck is watching them or who know someone who is afraid that somewhere, somehow a duck is watching them to raise their hands. No one ever raises their hand and responses range from bewildered looks to giggles about the absurdity of the question–all followed by outright laughter once I show a Far Side cartoon depicting a man sitting at his desk in front of a large window. The window is overlooked by high-rises with many windows, and in one of those windows there is a duck. The caption to this picture reads: ‘Anatidaephobia: The fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.’

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