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Chapter 3
i Cross-cultural pragmatics amd different
culturaU values

Anyone who has lived for a long ume m two different countries knows
! that in different countries people spealc m different ways - not only
because they use d i e r e n t li~lguisticcodes, involving different lexlcons
and differelit gramnars, but also because thelr ways of uslng the codes
are different. Some of these differences are so stable and so systematic
that one cannot always draw a line between different codss and different
ways of nslng the code; or between different 'grammars' and different
'ethnographies of spealung' (cf. Hymes 1962).
The extent of the differei~cesbetween different societies and differenl
language communities m the11 ways of spealclng 1s often underestimated
in the literature dealing with language use. In particular, theories of
speech acts and of conversat~onallogic associated with, or foliowmg
from, the work of philosophers such as John Searle (1969, 1979) and
! Paul Grlce (1975; 1981) hase tended lo assume U~atthe ways of sped<-
lilg characteristic of mainstream white Amerlcan English represent 'the
normat human ways of speaiting', and that, apart from minor variations,
they can be expected to be the same as those prevalent in any olher
numa11 society. But Ulls is of course an ethnocentric illusion.
The search for universals ~n language usage at the expense of culture-
specifics 1s also a feature of the influentla1 study of 'politeness phenom-
ena' by Brown - Levmson (1978; revised editlon 1987). There would
of course be nothing wrong m focussing on ulliversals rather tllan on
culture-specific aspects of language usage - if the search for universals
is undertaken from a iruly universalist, culture-independent position. But
as a number of recent studies have shown, the basic coi~ceptuaitools
introduced and relied on by Brown and Levlllson (in particular, the
ilotion of 'face') have in fact a strong anglocentnc btas (cf. for example
iMatsumoto 1988; ICairiel 1986; Tannen 19843 Wierzbiclra 1985% b).
Brown - Levinson see two pnnclples as the most iinportant ones
in numan interaction: 'avoidai~ceof imposition i'negat~veface') and
'approval of the other person'. which they exemplify with the English
coinpliinent Virizal iovel]' roses! ('positive face'). But thelr very cholce
of rllese particular parameters reflects clearly the autliors' culture- sociability, and i t is disagreement rather than agreement ihat is seen
specific (anglocentric) perspective. as something that brings people closer together (see section 2.1 beiow).
The same charge of anglocentrism can be made witli respect to various It is, then, an angiocenrnc illusion ro tliini: Illat all cultures value
other supposedly universat 'maxims' and pi-inciples of human conversa- agreement more than disagreement, discotirnge self-praise, encourage
iionnl behav~ouraiia interaction, which have been ad\,anced in the litera- praise of other, ana view 'imposltlon' as the main sln in soc~alinter-
ture. Consider, for example, Leech's (1983:132) maxims oS 'moosst)" action.
and of 'approbatloii' Tlie lasr decade has wiulessed a growing reaction against t h ~ skind
.kpprobation maxim of misguided universalism. a reaction which has led to rile emergence
ia) Minimise dispraise oS orller; [(b) Ivlastmise praise of or/~ei-.] of a new fieid and a new direction in language studies associated xvit11
lslodesty maxim the term 'cross-cultural prngmatmsi (cf. for example Abrahams 1976:
(a) h'linimise praise of seK [(b) .Maxtmise dispraise of self.] Ameka 1987; Eades 1982; Goddara 1985; Har1:ins 1988; Hijinda -
Soiin 1986; Icatnel 1986: ICochman 1981; Mizutani - Mizutani 1987;
Leech is aware that tile weig!lt of maxims such as these may vary from Ocns 1976; Sclliffrin 1984; Sohn 1983; Tannen 1981a; Wierzbicka
cultilre to citliure, but lie assnrries that apart from quanlitatirv! differ- 1985a. b). The main ideas which have informed and illumrnatea thls
ences they ;!re in essence universally valid. In fact, however. empirical new dii-ectton in the study of language are these:
t-o~dencesuggests that tliis is simply nor m e .
170r example. ICocl~man (1981) tias shown that in Black American (1) In different societies, and different communities, people
cuiiure the norm or mode sty^ does not apply, and that self-prnise is nor speak differently.
viewed negzilively at all. ICochman mentrons in [Ids connection the utlr (2) These differences in waps of speal:ing are profound and
of biohammed -ilii' surobiogaphy: I an! rile gl-earesr, ana he discusses systematic.
the stgnificance of Blacl:. folk categories such as 'rappingi, 'grandstand- ( 3 ) These differences reflect different cultural values, or at
ing: and 's!io~uboating'(I return to illis matter in section 1.5 below). least different iiierarchies of values.
Similarly, :\,Iizutani - Mizutani (1987) sliow that 'approbation. or (4) Different ways of speaking, different communicative
praise of otlier is not encourageu in Japanese culture; and they aevote a styles, can be explained and made sense of, in terms of
ivhole section (1957:45-46) to "refrain~ngfrom direct praise" Liliewise, Independently established different cultural values and
Monna - lioffer (1989:74) potr?t out fiat 'praise of other' is seen as cullural Priorities.
zirrogant and presumptuous in Japanese culture, wliere "even wi~en[<he These four points are; in my view: of fundamentai Importance - not
speaker] has io or \\(ants to express his praise for persons wiihin his only from the point of view of our icowledge and understanding of tile
circle. lie often begins ivith a phrase such as ' I don't really mean to world, but also from a practicai, social point of view; and in particular,
praise ...' or 'I lcnow i t is too presumptuous to praise B), so doing
. . . I
from the polnt of view of cross-cultural understanding in a multi-ethnic
lie tries to give me impression rhat he is not really an arrogant person." society such as ihe United Stares or Australia.
It is not u-ue. then, that all human societies v ~ e w'praise of self' Consider, for example, tile situation of Australians of Anglo-Saxon
iieganvely, zitd 'prarsc of otlier' positively. or Anglo-Celt~cbaclcground who note that some immigrants behave
The same applies to die supposedly universal maxtms of harmony: \,eraally In what appear to be suange, unfamiliar ways. For example.
"minimiss disagreement, rnasimise agreemetit" (Leech 1983:132). For they seem to shout and scream for no reason at all, they interrupt otlier
esarnple, as Schifirin (1984) has shown, Jewish culture dispiays a clear people, they start heatea arguments for no apparent reason, they spenlc
preference for disagreement: in this culture, people show their involve- in what is perceived as a blunt, dogmatic and bossy way, they flatly
ment with otller people and their lilterest in otlrcr people by saying 'no. assert their opinions and fluti), contradict other people, and so on.
rather rh;m ' y e s In Jeviisii culture, argument 1s valued as a form of If 'strange' and possibly offensive behaviour of this kind can be ex-
plained, and made sense of, in terms of independently understandable
Cross-crcliaral pragwailcs a11d diflere~lrceiiio-al walues 71

cultural values, serious social and interpersonal problems can be On the other hand, m the literature on (Amencan) Blaclc English, the
resolved, and serious conflicts prevented or alleviated. Of course, not 'standard' (white) English is presented in the opposite way. Here, it is
all problems can be solved in this way: if there is a real conflict m said, and even assumed, that standard English is 'indirect' rather than
uitderlylng values, mere expiaitung will not Iielp. But m many cases, 'direct'> that it avoids self-assertion, and that it discourages siocerlty
perhaps in most cases, what is mvolved is not a real conflict in values and spontaneity. It is Blaclc English which 1s said to be 'directis ana to
but a difference in Ule hierarch), of values; and when this is the case, favour self-assertion, sincerity and spontaneity. Similarly, in the litera-
explaining can help. ture on Jewish culture, on the Yiddish language and also on Israeli
It can only help, however, if it is done in a way which is mtelligible Hebrew, Yiddish and Hebrew are presented as 'direct', as bent on self-
to the target audience. And this is, I believe, rvhere cross-cultural prag- expression and self-assertion, and as favouring sincerity and spontaneity.
matlcs often fails. Even the most enlightened studies in cross-cultural wliereas English is presented as associated with the suppression of all
pragmatics (such as for example Icochman 1981; Sohu 1983; Lebra these values.
1976) tend to explain different cultural prlonties associated with differ- At first, one might thinlc that conflicting assertions of this icind are due
ent languages (or different dialects and sociolects) in ways which are simply to differences of degree: perhaps English (that is, standard white
not, and which cannot be, comprehensible to people of different cultural English) is more 'direct' or more 'self-assertive' than Japanese but less
backgrounds. The crux of the matter lies 1n the language 1n which the so than Blacli English or than Israeli Hebrew. But when one examines
explanations are couched. the data adduced in support of the conflicting generalisations, one
What usually happens is that researchers m cross-culturai pragmallcs discovers that this 1s not the case, and that in fact the differences referred
try to e1;plam differences in h e ways of speaking m terms of values sucll to are qualitative rather than quanhtative. For example, what is called
as 'directness' or 'indirectness', 'solidarity', 'spontaneity', 'sincerity', 'self-assertion' in the studies of Black English is not the same thing
'social harmony', 'cordiality', 'self-assertion'. 'intimacy', 'self-expres- that is usually meant by Uus term m the studies of Japanese; and the
sionSjand so on. without explaining what they mean by these terms, alld same applies to 'self-expression', 'smcerity', 'spontaneity'. 'solidarity
using them as if mey were self-explanatory. But if one compares the and so on.
ways in which different wrlters use these terms, it becomes obvious Ulat I conclude froin this that labels of this icind am simply not helpful
they don't mean the same things for everyone. In fact, the mtended 1n the elucidation of cultural differences. Labels of this land are semi-
meanings are often not only different but mutually mcompatihle. As teclinical and obscure at the same time. They are used diffei-ently by
a result, the same ways of speaking are described by some authors as different writers because they have no clear or self-evldent meaning.
'direct' and by others as 'indirect'; as a manifestation of 'self-assertioni They are also highly anglocentric, as they have no exaci equivalents
or an absence of 'self-assert~on'; as an expression of individuality or m otl~erlanguages. For example, Japanese has no words cotiespoildiilg
suppression of individuality. This leads to total confusion, and to an to srticerrty. The two Japanese words which are usu8illy translated
absence of any consensus, even on the most basic pomts. as 'smcenty', magoicoro ancl makoto, mean in fact sometlung very
For example, 1n the literature on Japanese culture and society, different from srilcerriy, as Ruth Benedict (1947) among others has
Japanese ways of speaking are often described as 'indirect' and are clearly demonstrated. Nor does Japanese - or, for illat matter, Polish,
contrasled with the English ways of speakmg, which are supposed to be Italian, French or Russian - llave a word for self-asseri~on.
more 'direct'. It is also claimed, or even assumed, that English ways It seems obvious that if we want to compare different cultures in terms
of speaking are characterised by a high degree of self-assertion, of their true basic values, and if we want to do it in a way that would
wliereas in Japanese self-assertion is avoided and suppressed. It is help us to understand those cultures, we should try to do 1t not in ternls
also sald that English ways of spealang reflect high regard for of our own conceptuai artefacts (sucli as the English terms self-asseraoi~
sincerily and spontaneity, whereas Japanese ways of speaking discourage or srncerliy) but in terms of concepts which may be relevant to those
sincerity and spontaneity, preferring to them courtesy and consideration other cultures as well - that is, in terms of concepts which are
for others. relatively, if not absolutely, universal. We should also tly to do it in
terms o i concepts wllich are lntuitlvely clear and lntultlvely verifiable. On the other hand, when Kocl~man(1981:29) compares "the capacr-
and whtch therefore will not be used differently by different schoiars ues and inclinattons of whites and hlacl;s [in Amer~ca]to assert them-
ant1 in differeni cultural contexts. selves" he sees the whites (that is, the members of the mainstream
Tlns ma)' seeii? a t a l l oruer, bur I submit that 11can be done if we rely Angio-.American culture) as less able, and iess ~ n c l i n e a ,ro asserr
on such slrnp!e and untversal or near-universal concepts as ivalli, say, themselves. According to ICochman, "black cuiture allows its members
1:1ioio, riti~r!;, ::ood and bad. In this chapter I shall try to demonstrate tlie cons~derablpgreater freedom to assert and express themselves than
explanatory value of this approach by examining a number of parameters does white culture" H e illustrates thls ciaim, among other things,
whtcll are widely relied on in the literature, seeking to clarify the sources the different attitudes of v~hiteand black cuiture towards boasting and
o i confurton. and to reveal the real differences between languages bragg~ng:"White boasting and braggtng also contrasts with black prac-
obscured by rne use of confusing and inconsistently applied labels. ttce with respect to the etiquette governtng self-assertton. As white
culture restricts individual self-assertron generally, i t requlres th:it
~ndivtdualsbe governed by tne norms of modesty \%,hen charactertstng
the11 performance" (1981:69).
Thus, according to ICocliman, xvhite Anglo-Amencan culture restr~cts
tndividual self-assert~on, whereas according to .Lebm or Suzul:~, rhe
same white Angio-Amencan cuiture strongly encourages indivtdu;il
self-assert~on.Who is right and who is wrong? M y vlew is that both
stdes are n g h t in wt.nat they are trying to say, but that they both fail to say
From a Japancsc i)olnt of vt<:w, Western culture in general and Anglo- ~t clearly and unambiguously. Both stdes use the same iabei 'self-asser-
Anlertcan culliire in p:irtlcular can be seen as dominated by 'self-asscr- tlon'. but tlley don't define ti, and in fact they mean something qulre
tion' For example, Lebra ii976:257) contrasts "the Western model based different by 11.
on rhe cotnples of individuality, autonomy, equality, rattonaliry, aggres- The main difference between Japanese and mainstream English in the
sron, and seli-assertion" with "tlie traditlonai [Japanese] compies of area under discussion can be represented in terms of certatn clearly
collectt\~ism, interdependence, superordination-subordination. empathy; specifiable underlying conceptual snuctures. These structures re; above
sentimentality. rnrrospectlon, and self-denial" all; tiiese two:
Similarly, Suzu!;i i i 9 8 6 ) emphaslses the Jao:inese tendency to avotd Japn~~esc don'r say: 'I want thlsi, 'I don't want rhts'
self-assertionr and the difficulrtes wliich tills creates for the Japanese ri~tgio-An~er~cando say: 'I want Illis'; 'I don't want thls
in contact \\win \T"csrerners:
We, used to iissimilntion and dependency, expect to project ourselves onro Japanese culture discourages people from saying clearly vihat tile).
[lie oriisi, and expeci liim lo emaathise with us. We iiave great difficulty want and wllat they don't !Sant, wiiereas Angio-Saxon culture, on the
nszlh 1111 idea rlii!t so Ion: as our addressee is not Japanese me can't expect contrary, encourages them to do so.
:o have a a i posirian ilniicrstooo riwtliout srrong seif-asserrion. But esrab- In a similar vein, Japanese cuiture discourages people from csprcssing
lisliing our 0%'- rie\t8oo~nt or pos~rronbefore our addressee 112s unoersiooo clearly rhelr wishes, thelr preferences, and their deslres (what they
is nor our iorii: ... So \r*ltenJapanese, wiio aren't good ar foreign languages. wouid or wouldn'r 1il;e or \\,ant), whereas .4nglo-Saxon culture encour-
don'i show iliexi rius ability in ~niernnrionaiconferences and rci,olarly ages them to do so:
nieenngs. l i 15 less because of tlie~rianguagc stills i ~ a nbecause of the
!\seal: dsveiapmcnt of me mill to express rhemseirres lingu~sncallyto suffi- Japanese don't say: 'I would/wouldn't iike (\vmI) 1111s'
clsnr degree. I1 lies furthemore in ttie underdeveloped abiiiry to stand ii?i.qlo-An~encari do say: 'I wouid/wouldn't like iwant) this
:!par( from tile posltlon raten by anorller and at lensr assert oneself to 111s
extent oi saying. 'This is ivhere 1 stand at rliis momenr.' (Suzuki i936:157)
Furthermore, Japanese culture, in contrast to Anglo-American culture, Asking someones wishes directly 1s also impolite m Japan. Saying
discourages clear and unequivocal expression of personal oplruons: things like
'"Naizi-o inbefar-desn-no. What ao you want to eat?)
Ja,panese don't say: 'I thinlt t b s I I don't thinK tlus *Na?ii-gaiioslrii-desn-/<a.What do you want to have?)
Anglo-Anierlcail do say: 'I thinlc this / I don't think Ulis' should be limlted to one's family or close friends. ... To be polite, one
As pointed out by Srmth (1983:44-45), "the Japanese are at pains to should ask for instructions rather than directly inqulre knto s0meone.s
avoid contention and confrontation ... much of the definltlon of a 'good wishes. Thus, saymg:
Mudo-o okeinasl2oo-ko. (Shall I open the wlndow?)
person' involves restraint in the expression of personal desires and
IS more appropnate than
opmions". This restraint manifests one of the greatest Japanese cultural '5Vlodo-o o k e f e - ~ ~ ~ o l ~ a l r a - d e s i\?'ould
~ ~ - k n . you lilre nit to open the
values, called emyo, a word usually translated as 'restraint' or 'reserve'. wlndaw?)
"One way to express eniyo is to avoid giving opinions and to sidestep (IvIizutani - Mizutanl 1987:49)
choices when they are offered. As a matter of fact, choices are less
often offered in Japan than m the Unlted States." (Smith 1953:83-54) The same cultural constraint prevents people m Japan from clearly
Smith quotes in this connection Japanese psychiatrist Talceo Doi's stattng their pieferences, even m response to direct questions. Many
account of tlle strain he experienced on a visit to the United States. Japanese, when asiced about their convenience, decline to state it, saying
where he was constantly offered choices: instead, for example:

Anothcr thing that made me nervous was the custom whereby an American ils~c-deniokelcl<oo-desir.(Any time will do.)
host will asic a guest, before a meal, whether he would prefer a strong or a Dolco-de17zo kelcicoo-desa. (Any place will be all right with me.)
sofi dnnK. Then, if the guest asks for liquor, he will ask him whether, for Nan-demo ican~armasen.(Anything will be all right with me.)
example, he prefers scotch or bourbon. When the guest has made this (Mizutam - Ivfizutani 1987:117-118)
aeclsion, he next has to glve Instructions as to how much he wishes to
dnnk, and how he wants it sewed. With the main meal, foitunately, one "In actuality one cannot always agree to what another persoil wishes, and
has only to eat what one is served, but once it is over one has to clloose one will men have to state one's own convenience anyway, but i t is
\vhether to tatre coffee or tea, ano - in even greater derail - whether regarded as childish to mimediately start staong one's own convenience
one wants it w~thsugar, milk, and so on. ... I could not have cared less. when asked." (1957:115)
(Do1 1973:12) What appiies to uie expression of one's wants applies also the expres-
sion of one's opmions. This, too, comes under the value of ertqo. Lebra
Smith comments:
(1976:7-9) wntes: "Pressure for conformity often results in a type of self-
The slrain musl have been considerable, for in Japan, by contrast, the host, restraint called eriiyo; refraining from expressing disagreement with
havlng carefully consrdered wllat is most lilrely to please tltis particular whatever appears to be the rnajonty opmion." But "the virtue of enryo,
guest, will slmply place before him a succession of an ovenvhelmlng 'self-restrainti, is exercised not only to respond to group pressure for
number of items of food ano annit, all of which lie is urxea. to consume, in conformity but to avoid causing displeasure for others, regardless of
the standard phrase, 'without o ~ r y o 'It is incumbent on the guest to eat ano their group membership ... The imposition of self-restramt to avold
drlnk at least Dart of evervthine ofierea him. wnether or not he likes the

partlcoiar item, in order not to give offence by appearing to rebuke his

hurting Alter's feelings ... can reach an extreme that reveals immaturity
host for mlscalculatlng wilat would please him. (Smith 1983:84) even to most Japanese. The individual may acquiesce in the face of an
intrusion on his rights or autonomy only because he is reiuctant to offend
Since Japanese culture places a taboo on direct expression of one's another person by claiming his right." (Lebra 1976:41-42)
wants, 11 is also culturally lnapproprrate to ask other people directly I believe that the English concept of self-assernoii is lust as confusing
what they want Mizutan~and Mizutani explain: and unhelpful when applied to Japanese culture, as the Japanese concept
of eilryo would be if applied to Anglo-Amencan culture. On the other
iiand, tile concept of eiiryo provides an essential Ley to understanding I want you ro do X
Japanese culture. Bui to be able to use tllis key, n ~ emust first understand I don't i;no\v if you will do i t
what this concept really means; and nee cannoi understand i t by trying to I !isant you to say if you \\,ill do 11
translate it into Enslish cultural concepts sucli as reserve, restraint;
modesty, or self-effacement. We can only understand it if we translate This or a similar combination of components can be realised in English
ir Into culrure-lnoependent. llnlversal or near-unioersal concepts such
by means of interrogative-direcnve devices (sometimes called 'wliim-
as ii,onr, i/iiii/:, so>'. good or had. This can be done in the following way: peratives') such as:

e,irjzo 1Voirld gorr do S?

S thri1i;s: Ii'iii go11 do X?
I can'i say lo this person: I \\,ant this, I don't want thfs Coirid yo11 do X?
I think this, I don't think this i
Cmi yoir do X?
TT/liy doii'r you do X?
someone can feel something bad because of this !
S doesn'l sag ? I because of this and so on. By contrast, in many other ianguages, for example Polish
X doesn't do some things because of thls (Chapter 2 above), Russian (Comrie 1984a). Hebrew (Blum-ICulk~-
Difficulties zspericnced b y the Japanese in dealings with Americans Olsntain 19841 Blum-Iculka - Danet - Gherson 1985). Italian (Bares
(of [lie l:inu described by Doi) liigiilight the fact that no similar value is 1976), and Hungarian iHollos - Beeman 1978), the bare imperat~ve
embodied in,.Aiiglo-Arnericai1 culture. 011the contraig, in English one is used mucii more freely, and the use of interrogative structures in
is espected to say clearly and unequivocally uihar one wants; wilat one directives is mucii niore limited.
\..'auld Iilce, or ?vliiit one lhinks. If that is wliat is meant by 'self-asser- In fact, even in Japanese, the use of interrogative srructures in direc-
[son', tlleii uninhibltec self-assertion is indeed 3llowed and encouraged tives is more limited tl~anin English (see for example Matsumoto 1988).
in mainstream Anglo-American culture - as long as i t doesnl come into This does not mean mat Japanese encourages the use of the bare impers-
conflict mith ;inother chertshed value of tile culture. illat is, personal rive any more than English does. But in Japanese, the important thing
nutononiy. This means tllat wliile one is allo!veU to say, in principle, ' I is to show deference and to acknowledge one's dependence oil otller
\-!ant X'; one is nor alIo\ved to sag freely: peopie rather than to avoid imposition. As Matsumoto (1988) ngiitly
points our, non-imposition based on individual rights 1s an Anglo-Saxon
I nJ;iiir goo to do X (or An:io-Amencan), not a universal value. For esample, in Japatlese i t
since in this case; tile speaker's right to 'self-asseriion \vouid come is very polite to start mteraction w~tilother people by uttering 'direct'
into conRicr !r;itli tile zddressee's aght to personal autonomy. This is requests, such as
in Eilglish the use of the bare imperative is very limited, and why Doozo yorosl~ikfioiiegarsr~nnsir.
directives tend 10 mke an mteirogative or semi-interrogattve form in (lit.) 'I ask you ro please treat me well.'
cnglish. hlirsro~~e o doozo goros/~il:ir onegaisinrasir.
This means t!iat m English there is a strong cultural constrnint on (lit.) 'I ask you to please treat/tai<e care of my daughter !\,ell.
saying to ocher people something tllai would amount to 'I Ivan1 you ro do
X' Instead, one is expected to combme rliis component arirh some other Matsumoto (1988:410) observes that in utterances of this !;ind the
coinponeiits. u2i\ic1~ii*ould recogmse tlie addressee's personal nutonom!,, speakers "in indicating that they, or someone closeiy reiated to them.
for example: are someone \\rho needs to be taken care of by the addressee, humble
theqselves and place themselves in a lower posltlon. This is certainly
typical of deferent~albehaviour. The speech act in quesaon, however,
is a direct request: thus, an fmposltion. ... 11 is an honour to be asiced to
take care of someone in that it indicates that one is regarded as holding Black culture values individuvlly regulated self-assertion. it also values
a higher position m the society." spontaneous expression of feeling. As a result, blaclc cu1tur;il events typi-
This means that, in many sltuahons, it is easier to say 'I want you ; cally encourage and even require individuals to behave in an asserti\~e/
to do X' than 'I want to do X' - as long as one acltnowledges one's expressive manner, as m sucn black speech events as roppirrg and s,giiib-
dependence on the addressee: ~tlg... and, as I am cta~minghere, argument. (ICocnman 1901:29-30)

I want you to do X Similarly, when whlte American culture is described m terms of 'self-
I know that you don't have to do it restramt'; tills word doesn't stand for the same Uiing for \vliich i t stands
I say: it will be good for me if you do it in the literature on Japanese culture. Another example from ICoclmlail:
I thinic: you will do it because of this White culture values the a5ility of individuals to rein in their impulses.
White cultural events do not aliow for indivtdualiy inltivted self-asseroon
111English, if one wants the addressee to do something, it is important
or the spontaneous expression of feeling. Rather, self-assertion occurs
to aclcnowledge tlie addressee's autonomy by invitmg them to say us a soclal entttlement, a prerogauve of one's higher
~. . status or, as wlth
whether or not they will comply with the request. Hence, the prolifera- tum-taking, something granted and regulated by an empowered autliorlty.
tlon and the frequency of 'whimperatives' m English. In Japanese, mter- And even when granted, it is a low-Keyed assertion, showing detachment.
rogative directive devices or 'wmmperatives' exist, too, but theu scope modesty, undersiaiemeiit. ... 'Show~ngoff'; which would represent
is much narrower than in English (cf. lvlatsumoto 1988; Kageyama - ~ndividuvllyiniuvted lunuuthcnsed) self-asseruon and more unresiralned
Tamon 1976). Instead, there is in Iapanese a proliferation of devices self-expression, is viewed negauveiy wlthin white culture. Biaclr culture,
acknowledging dependence on other people, and deference to other on the other hand, views showmg off - in blacit idiom s1)~lh' our,
people. Hence, the basic way of making requests in Japanese involves s/lou~boailng,grortdsiaildii~g- pos~uveiy. ... Because white culture
not 'whimperatives' (i.e. quasi-mterrogative structures) but dependence- requlres that individuals check those tmpulses that come froin witliin,
acknowiedging devices (usually combined with expressions of respect): whites become able practitioners of self-restraint. However, this practice
has an mtdbiting effect on their ability to be spontaneousij, self-assertive.
lf-re kudasai. (ICochman 1981:30)
'Give me (please) the favour of domg V.'
Clearly, 'the ability of individuals to rein in their impulses. is some-
'I feel respect towards you.'
thing quite different from the ability to say clearly what one tlunks, what
Even speaking to a child one would usually phrase a request in terms one wants to do, or what one's preferences are. If the Japailese self-
of 'favours although the expression of respect would be omitted: restramt' consists manly in reframing from saying 'I %want:('; the white
Anglo-American r self-restraint' consists largely m I-efrainlng from say-
11-1e Ic~tj-e.
ing now What I want now and from saying what I Uiinlc the moment !
'Give me (please) t'he favour of doing V.'
tiiinlt it.
The very principle of turn-taking, regarded as fundamental in Anglo-
Amencan culture, forces the individual speaxers to 'rein ins their
3.2. iSelf-asseriion' in biaclc and white American English
impulses to some extent. In blaclc culture - as in Jewisli culiure (cf.
Tannen 1981b) -different speakers are allowed to speaic all at once, to
When we turn to the comparisons between what have been cailea biacli
overiap with one anotller and to interrupt one another, lo share in tliis
and while speech styles m America, we see that the tern 'self-assertion'
way excitement, mterest, and mt~tuaiinvolvement: and to maintain a
sranas here for rather different features of verbal behavlour than those
conrinuous flow of unmhibited communication and self-expresston. But
to whrcll it usually refers in the literature contrasting English with
this is not a difference between saymg and not saying 'I viant X' Rather,
Japanese. For example, ICochman writes:
it 1s a difference between saymg it at once and saying it at what one
sees as an appropriate moment.
1.3. Spontaneity, autonomy, and turn-taking: Englislt vs. Japanese general respect for ihe rights of every individual. The principle of
tum-taking can be represented as follows:
This doesn't mean that rvliite Anglo-American culture generally discour- someone is saying something no\\,
ages sponnneous self-expression, Raiher; n discourages it to the estent I can't say somethmg at the same time
to wliicii spontaneous self-expression might come Into conflicl with the I can say something after this
principle of everyone's personal autonom)': one can express oneself
spontaneously, i i this doesn't inkings on \%,hat1s seen as other people's It is interesting to note that Japanese culture doesn't observe the same
rtght ro speal; ntithour interruptions and wtthout interference from principle of turn-taktng. On the contrary, smce Japanese culture vahtes
oti1er people. interdependence more highly ihan autonomy, in Japanese conversation
Ir is inLeresting lo note in this connection tila1 in the literature compnr- utterances are expected to be. to a large extent, a collecti\~eworlc of the
ins Japanese culture rr'tth mainstream Anglo-Amencan culture, the latter SpeaBer and the addressee, or, more generally, of different speakers. This
is iisually s a d to encourage rather tliari discourzige 'spontaneity' For is done. in parttcular, by means of 'response words'; that is, of whal IS
e:<ample, Ihe auihor of a study comparing Japanese and Ainerican called in Japanese arzirciri~a word which likens Japanese conversation to
educationai materials writes: the work of t\vn s\vordsmiths hammering a blade in turn. Mizutani -
Mizutani (19S7:lS-19) write:"The word ol means 'doing something
:he cxncsrson of sponraneous ieelings encouraged or discournzed? ...
together' ... . rs!rc/ii means 'a hammer' ... Two people talking ond
Jaonnese rcachcis are aavised to discourage students from expressing
impu!sl\'c thou~lirand emotional opimons ... Tile result may ue the esmb- frequently eschanglng response words is thus lilcened to tile way two
lisli,ng o i iwo iiienritier, one iunctlonlng on the communtcatir~elevel sviordsmiths hammer on a biade. In Japanese conversation, the listener
and rite orlic!- i:now!i only to ezo. A damper is oared on the potentla1 ioi constantly helps the speaker with alzirclii ... - rlie roles of the speaker
shared csciiemcnr. Tilere arc. oi course, inhibitors in the United Stares. and the listener are not completely separated." Mizutant and Mizuroni
Tile dirfei-cncc is a imntrsr oi degree. (Lanham'iDS6:294) stress that orzrrciii are absolutely essential to Japanese conversation and
they support this wtth a startling statistic: 'The average number of
But I don i tlitnic it is a matter of degree. Rather, i t is a matter oi'
oirirchi per minute is ... from 12 to 26, according to the study made by
different cultural prionnes. In Japanese culture, the overriding cultural
one of the authors." (1987:20)
prirlc~picseems to be constant caution not to offtiid or not to hurt oilin.
This is a striking mnnifesration of the Japanese \)alue or interdepeod-
people i;ind also to avord embarrassment for oneself wliicl~ could
ence, which is just the opposlte of the Xnglo-Amencan prtnctpie of
folio!u froom tiltsi: that is, an altitude n,lllch can be porlrayed as follows:
personal autonomy. The same applies to the Japanese conversational
ii 1 60 I someone could feel sometnlng bati because or rhls ptlncipie of leavtng sentences unfintsiied so that the addressee can com-
1 don'! ..van1 this plete them. a s Mizutani - Mizutani (198727) describe i t , in Japanese,
"leaving a part of the sentence unsaid so that me lisrener can supplement
The Anglo-.4mericnn prtncrple of personal autonomy can be representea
i t 1s often more considerate and polite ihan just going ahead and complet-
as follo!%~s:
ing one's own sentence. ... aiways completing one's o\vn sentences can
everyone can sap: '1 \\,ant thisi, 'I don't want tills' sound as if one is refusing to let me other person participate in complet-
'I think this': 'T don't think this' ing a sentence which might better be completed by two peopie"
one cnn'i say to someone: 'you nave to do X because I want i t ' The attitude reflected In Japanese conveisational style can be por-
'you can'r do X because I don't trayea as follows:
!!>ant t i '
I want to say something now
The Angio-.American principle of tum-ralcing can be seen as a manifesta- I thini: you know what I want to say
t1on of this more general principle of personal nutonomy, and of a more I thin!;. you wouid say the same
I t h i i l ~I can say part of it, you can say another part of it 1975b:112), reference is made, m the first place, to what is said, and in
I think thls will be good partlcular, to the care Japanese spealcers take "to prevent overexposure
of inner selves" (1975b:112). Bamlund illustrates thls restraint' in self-
Thus, if the Anglo-American conversational prtnclple of turn-talung disclosure wlth s t r i l d g statistical data, showing enorlnous differences
reflects the cultural value of personal autonomy, the Japanese conversa- between Americans and Japanese in Uie range of topic tlley are prepared
uonal principle of 'collective sentence produchon' reflects the Japanese
to tall< about, and also In the range of persons to whom they are prepared
cultural values of interdependence, co-operatlon, and 'groupism
to reveal [hell. thoughts and tlien opmions.
As for when, Ule important thing is not so much not to overlap wit11
other people, as to premeditate what one is going to say in order to
1.4. 'Spontaneous self-assertion' vs. 'reguiated self-assertion':
avoid saying something which could hurt or offend somebody, or
black English vs. white English vs. Japanese wliicli could embarrass the spealcer liim/berself. Thus, Bariilund
(1975b:131) describes Japanese communication as "a three-act play:
Returning now to black English, we note that although it too rejects the 'Premeditation', 'Rehearsal', and 'Performance"' One can see why the
turn-taking model, it doesn't reject it in favour of the conversational
co-operatlon and interdependence character~stlcof Japanese. On the con- 1 terms 'regulated' and 'non-spontaneous' can come to mind in illis
connection, but ciearly t h s cannot be the same thing as ICoclirnan has
traqJi it rejects it m favour of what Ilochman (1981) calls spontaneous In mlnd when he describes wlilte Amerlcan English as 'regulated' aild
or impulsive self-assertion and self-expression, that 1s to say, in favour 'non-spontaneous'. This shows, once agam, that labeis sucli as 'regu-
of some values whlch are contrary to the Japanese ethos. It is interesting
lated' or 'spontaneous' are not self-explanatory, just as 'self-assertion'
to note that Ilocliman describes the contrast between black English and 'self-expresslon' are not self-explanatory, and are used by different
and whlte English in this respect using the same pair of terms that, for wrlters to apply to different phenomena, and to different cultural norms.
example, Bamlund (1975b:35) uses to describe the contrast between
On the other hand, semantic formulae coucned in ternls of unlversal
whlte English and Japanese: 'regulated' vs. 'spontaneous' Thus, accord- Semanhc prlmltlves can be both precise and self-explanatory. f propose
ing to ICochman, black English is 'spontaneous' and white Englisli the following:
'regulated', whereas according to Barnlund, Japanese 1s 'regulated' and
Engiisli (that 1s to say, white English! is 'spontaneous' But this means Blacli Ame~-ica,zci~lrn~-e
that the same white Englisn that from a Japanese perspective IS seen I want/thi~Utlfeelsomething now
as 'spontaneous' and 'not regulated', is seen from a black perspective I want to say i t ('self-assertion', 'self-expression')
as 'regulated' and 'not spontaneous'. I want to say it now ('spontaneity')
The 'regulated' character of wlilte English means, roughly spealcing, Wliiie Anglo-Aii~erzcnnculture
that while one call express one's thoughts, wants, and feelings, one is I want/thinlr/feel something
expected to observe certaln rules in doing so; in partlcular, one 1s ex- I want to say it ('self-assertion', 'self-expression')
pected not to interrupt other people, and not to speak at the same time I cannot say it now
as other peopie. This constrains one's spontaneity, to some extent; but because someone else is saying something now ('autonomy';
~t doesllit constrain one's freedom of self-expression.
On the other hand, in Japanese one is expected to he much more
circumspect m expressing one's thoughts, one's wants, and one's feel- J~lpnneseC I L ~ ~ I L I I
ings. It is not only a question of when to express them, but whether I can't say: I wantfi thinltfi feel something
one should express them at all; Japanese discourse can be s a d to be someone could feei something bad becauseof t l ~ s
'regulated' wlth respect to what to say, notjust when to say it. When the if I want to say something
Japanese self is described as a "guarded self' (for example by Barniund I have to think about it before I say it
1.5. .Self'-assertion as personal display: blacl~Englisli vs. n.liite I lalo\\,
English I can do good things
other people can I do the same
i t tie ! I l l self-assertiveness', attributed by Iclochman and others to 1 feel something good because of this
Aniericnn bl;icl; cultore, has other features, \vllicli are reflected in char- I want people to th1nK good things about me because of rills
acteristic b1331( styles and g e m s such as s ~ l i i oirr, ~ ' sliol~~booriri:,and I say rhis because I want people to feel something good
griiiii~iii'[gi-a~!dsiii:irIiiig) (1;ochman 19S!). Each of these concepts de-
serves deiniled analysis. which cannot be undertalcen here. All that I can 1:ochman (!98!:73) points out that in black culture, boasting is inter-
(10 in ilie present contest is to point out to some characieristic cultiirat preted "not as an unwarranreu and uncouth claim to superiority but ns
fenitires whici, are n ~ ~ n i i e s t eind these and orher similar foil;-concepts. humour" or as Reisman (1974:60) puts 11, as "tile assertion of oneself,
The b!ncl: so-called self-assertion consists largely in an uninhibiieu the maKing of one's noise, \vi~ichdepends not so mucli on tlle specific
desire lo ma\?. allention 10 oneself, and to behave, verbally and non- content of the boast as on the fact that it is made - loudip - at ;ill" The
verbally, in i1,ags i~!hich would ensure tliis. .As a first approximation, expression 'assertion of onesel? appears liere again, but, again, the con-
tiiis cnn be icpresented as follows: test makes i t clear tliat i t is not the same 'assertion of oneseli' mhich tlie
literature on Japanese language and culture attributes to mainstream
i \,!ant people io think about me nom Anglo-American culture.
1 \,.'ant 10 do something because of 1111snon,
111 addit? Illis general desire for attention, ho\vever, there is also the
more specific desire for admiration; or rather, for ndmiring atrention - n 1.6. 'Self-assertion' and <good interpersonnl relat~ons'
desire IVIIICII 111 biaci: culture is positively, not negatively. This
is cleiirl)' !~isibie, for example, in biaci; boasting. bragging, and over1 One mlgilt nypothesise that all cultures clierifi and seek to promote
erultatioii and ]ubilation over one's success. For exampie, Iiocliman 'eood relations' among people. But different cultures Interpret this goal
(19S1:72) cites a rclevision inten2ie\v ivith some blacl; bas1:etball play- differently, and tlicy seek to impiement i t in different ways; and these
ers; ir.'lio liaa just \iroii n championship basketball game. "One of the main diffkent interpretations are reflected in different 'ethnogra~hies o i
players of me te:lm, aslcea to comment on their opponents, was serious ai speaking'. In Japanese culture, the prevailing conceptual formilla 1s this:
first, talking aboiir playing llard and matching us height for height', etc. if I do/say something someone could feel something bat1 becau\e
1-Iolvever; he ended up with rlle exulfant and self-congratuiato~'But we of thlS
were jusr too zoo0 for rhem!' " I don 1 want this
As n first npprosimation, we could portm). this attitude as follows: I have to tilink about it before I do it
I kilO\\~ This is wi~yJapanese culture can be seen as a 'culture of anticipatory
i can (lo good mings perception' and a 'culture of consideration' (Suzui:~ 1986:!57), a cuiture
otller people can7! do tlie same bent on preventing displeasure. Lebra (1976:41) remarks: "One should
I feel something good because of this note hot, often in speecll the Japanese refer to the need not 10 cause
I \van[ people to tlilnl; good things about me because o i this ~~ieiisakri,'trouble'; for another person, not to be in his way, and nor to
I1 is important ro recognise, however; that in black culture seli-aggran- hurt his feelings. In actual benav~our,too; they tend to be circuinspecl
disement of 1111s Kind has a some\vhar theatrical quality, and that i t is and reserved. so as not to offend other peopie."
mean1 partly :is public entertainment. To reflect tliis \'ital aspect of blact: In blact: American culture there is no srmilar emphasis on preventing
self-aggmndisement' one import:int component i~iisto be added to the displeasure. and, consequently, there is no emphasis on 'seli-restrain!
iornlula s1:etclied above: On the contrary, blacl: culture encourages uninhibitecl spontaneous seii-
expresslon. At the same time, however, i t IS a culture where self-expres- Hose a mce dug! (often addressed to complete strangers, soinetimes
sion and self-display n seen as conducive to 'good feelings', not only in even displayed on badges on the uniforms of shop asszslants, or on
the speaker but also in other people; and as a means to promote shared taxi windows).
e?;cltemeilt, shared fun, shared interest, and shared 'colour' A black These three different cultural emphases in the interpretat~oiiof 'good
English derogatory term for white people is 'grey'. white people are seen Interpersonal relauons' can be represented as follor~,s:
as 'grey' not only because of the colour of their shin, but because of
what is perceived as their 'lifelessness'. thew 'moderate ~mpnssioned i
'IVu,?tlth'. of the kind assoclczted u?tll RUSSLOII
I feel someihing good towards you
o r Polisil culrl(l1-e:
behavlour, Uleir lack of spontaneous emotionality, their 'rething in of I
their irnpnises' (Johnson 1972:144-145) 'Cons~deruroless and en~parlij~, of the lcrnd associared with
In white Anglo-Amer~canculture, the main enlphasls 1s not on pre- Japuriese culture:
venilng displeasure, or on spontaneous and umnhibited self-expression, I don't want someone to feel something bad
or on generating good feelings among one's 'audience', hut on personal 'Ge~ieralfrrnldiir~ess'. of the lciizd ussociared 117irhAnzer~can
autonomy (for everyonej, on non-imposition, and non-mterference. It is culture:
a culture which encourages everyone to say freely - at the nght time - I want everyone to feel something good
what they want and what they think, and (in a charactenstic phrase) to I
'agree to disagree' ! Needless to say, the formulae slcetched above.are not meant to capture all
Thus, while one can presume that all cultures' cherish and seeK to the different aspects of different cultural attitudes to emotBons. For
promote 'good relations' among people. it is not true that, for example, example, for Japanese culture we mlghl also p o s ~ tthe followzng rule:
both American culture and Japanese culture cherish 'warn1 and cordial' I don't want to say what I feel
relations among people, as asserted, for example, by Lanham (1936:293).
A cnitllral emphasis on Interpersonal warmth (in private relations! can be whereas for Russian or Polish culture we m ~ g h tpostulate the opposite
said to be characteristic of Russian culture (cf. for example Smith 1983). norm:
but nor of Amemcan or Japanese culture. Such an emphasis is reflected, I want to sag what I feel
for example, in the extraordinary wealth of Russ~anexpressive derlva-
tion, and in particular, m the abundance of hypocorist~cforms of Russian On the Other hand, it would not be justified to posat for Japanese cultul-e
naines (see Wienbiclca, to appear, chap. 7). the rule which seems to prevail in Javanese society, especially among the
Japanese culture can be said to encourage empathy, consideration, and Javanese gentry (prijnji):
avoidance of hurting others, but not warmth or cordiality, as is shown by I don't want people to lmow what I feel
the extraordinary wealth, and wide use. of devices encoding 'apoiogies',
'quasi-apolog~es','preventive apologles'. 'gateful apologles', and so on For example, Geertz (1976:247) wntes of the Javanese: "One often hears
(see for example Mizutaui - Ivlizutani 1987; Coulmas 1931). The vu- peopie say in praise of someone that 'one can never tell how be feels
tual absence of linguistic devices encoding 'warmth' (in sharp contrast inslde by how he behaves on the outside' ": and he spealcs of "the nearly
witll the wealth of devices encoding 'respect'; 'deferencei. and the like), absolute requirement never to show one's feelings directly, especially to
points in the same direction. The relatnfely small degree of physical a guest" (1976:246). (See section 2.4 be1ow.j
contact and physical Intimacy between people in Japanese soclety In Japan Uie norm seems to be different: not 'I should conceal what I
provides further evidence for this (cf. Barnlund 1975b:106-103). feel' but 'I should not verbalise what I feel'; that is, not 'I don't want
Amzmcan culture encourages a generalised friendly attitude to people, peopie to icnow what I feel' but 'I don't want to say what I feel' The
including strangers. But this, too, is different from the personalised af- whole Japanese emphasls on empathy, on ojnolyaf-i(cf. Lebra 1976:33-
fection displayed, for example, in Russian hypocoristic names. The 49) shows that Japanese culture does not discourage an interest in other
An~ericangeneraiised friendliness can be seen m the common phrase people's emotions: quite the contrary. But it does discourage verbal
expression oi emotions. We coiild formuiate, tlierefore. tile following, cultural ewianattons for the cioss-ltngul~ttcdifferences associated with
firller, set o i 1ap;inese cultural norms related to emotions: ulese terms can be provided
(1) I don't arant someone to feel something bad
(2) i don'! to say \\,hat I feel
(3:) I should lanow what this person can feel 2.1. American culture vs. Israeli culture
1111s jlerson doesn't nave to say i t
According to Blum-Iculka - Danet - Gherson (1985:133), "steweri
from a cross-cultural perspective, the generai ievel of directness in
Israeli society 1s probably reiativeiy very high" What exactly is meant
by thts 'hlgh level' of 'directness'? One clear example is provided by
2. 'Directness'
the wide use of bare Imperatives in social interaction. iticluding public
The terms directness' anti 'indireciness are often used in linguistic (Passenger to driver: on the bus)
rlescriprions as if rliey mere self-espianiitory. In fact; however. they are Passenger A: pray ei iiadeler, lreha,o
applied to iotally different phenomena, \~,htch are shaped by totally (Open the door, drtver.) (No response.)
different values. Passenger B: izesag, deier oxorrr.
The conftision wiiich sunounds this notlon 1s linked wldi the rvidely (Driver, rear door.)
accepted disrinction oetrveeii so-called 'directr and 'indirect' speech acts. (Compliance.)
and ?n poriicuiar. beI\\,een imperatives and the so-called whimperatlves. (Blum-ICullca - Danet - Gherson 1985:124)
Thus, i t is ~ v ~ d e assumed
ly that if one says to somebody Close rite door-!
rllis is a 'direct' speecil act, whereas if one says Coriid yo11 close rile Presumably, m Englih, an tnrerrogative-directive device (coi~ldyou or
door? or il'orrld yoit 17:rnd ciosrrrg rlle door? this is an 'indirect' speech wonid yorr) would be used in a similar situahon, and the autliors appear
act. But ai~houglitiiese particular examples may seem clear, it is by no to regard this as a clear case of direclness vs. indirectness. In asking
means clear liow the distinctton in question should be applied to other directions from a stranger on the sneer, the standard procedure for
plienomena :ind to orller languages. Thus, in many languages, for es- English is an 'attention-gerter' (E.rcirse nte ...) and the form Canlcotrid
ample; in Russlan. Polish, Thai, or Japanese, the tmperattve is often )'or( re// rne ...? (Blum-Kullra 1982:46). But in Hebrew, the standara
comuined \vttti various parhcies, some of them somewhat impatient, procedure is a 'direct request for informallon' ('Where is the railway
others rather friendly, some of them described as softening' the direc- station?').
tive, others as, on the contrary, making it harsher or more peremptory What does 'directness' mean in cases of this !and? I minl; 11 means
and so on. .ire such combinattons of the imperattve wttli a particle that m Hebrew one can say miher freely something that means:
'direct' or 'indirecr speech acts? There is no general principle v~llich I tvant you to do (say) X
~vooldailov/ us to answer tl~isquestion.
I suggest, tilerefore, that the wnoie distinct~onbetween 'direct' and whereas in Englisii, generally spealcing, one is not expecled to say
. speech acts shoulii be abandoned - at least until some c!ear this without at the same ttme acknowledgtng the addressee's personal
definitton of these terms 1s provided; and also, that the distinction be- autonomy:
iween 'direct' ano 'indirect' ways of spealdng in general should be I want you ro do X
abandoned, and tllat the different phenomena associated with these I don't lmow if you will do It
labels shou1d be tndividualiy examined. I believe that when this is done.
the confusion stirrounding these concepts can be cleared, and some clear
90 CJ- or^-crrirrwai prngisaitcs and differenr cuiriirai i,alses 'Di~.ecoiess' 9 I

Ilence the combination of the imperative with some interrogative phrased as requests for informauon ('Do you have such alia sucll?') In
features in common English directives. shops, hotcls, and restaurants, a habit that probably contributes to the
Why should the American and the Israeli cultures differ m this way? popular view about Israelis' 'laclc of politeness'. (Bium-1Cuika 1932:30-31)
According to the above-mentioned source: We can portray the Israeli attitudes in question as follows:
One possible explanation for this high level of directness is an ideological- we can all say to one another:
historical one: The early settiers of Paiesune were guided by an ideology
of eg;llitarism, which frowned on all manifestations of possible discrimma-
'I want this', 'I don't want this'; 'I thinlc this'. 'I don't thinic
tion between people, including a show of deference in speech. ... It IS this'
against this baclcground that one should consider the directness of present- we will not feel something bad (towards one another?) because
day Israeli soczety ... (Blum-1Culka - Danet - Ghcrson 1985:133-134) of this
But this expianation is hardly convincing, given the egalitarian ethos of In Anglo-American culture, too, one can say fairly freely what one
North America: surely, American culture doesn't encourage manifesta- wants, what one doesn't want, and what one thinlcs, but one 1s not
tions of discrimination among people, or ' a show of deference', either expected to be similarly 'blunt' about it, because it is as important in this
(cf. de Tocqueville 1953). culture to acknowledge everyone's nght to independence and personal
The same authors (1985:137) &so offer another explanation: "... these autonomy as to exercise one's own right to self-expression, Furthermore;
findings can be Interpreted as reflecting the disttnct, culture-specific In Anglo-Amencan culture there is no emphasls on 'we' (corresponding
interactional style of Israeli soclety. The low value attached to social to the cultural value of 'solidarity'' in Israeli culture); rather, there is a
distance, manifested m language by a relauvely high level of directness, strong emphasis on every individual's separate and autonomous 'I' This
suggests that the interactionai style of this society is basically solidanty is sometunes described in terms of 'rugged individualism' as opposed to
politer~essoi.teiited." I think that this observation is more to the point an 'ethos of solidarity' (cf. for example Arensberg - Miehoff 1975); but
in comparing Hebrew with English, but, unfortunately, terms such as there are many ways to be 'individualisuc' and many ways to be 'non-
'social distance' or 'solidanty politenessi are no! self-explanatory either. individualistic' or 'anti-mdividualistic'. For example, the Israeli ethos of
Trying to really understand the cultural values m question, we couid 'solidanty' (cf. ICatriel 1986) IS different from, though related to, Ule
propose for Israeli Hebrew the following formula: Australian ethos of 'mateship' (cf. Wierzbicka 1986b); and it is cerlalnly
different from the Japanese ethos of 'dependence' and 'grouplsm' (cf.
we can all say to one another: '1 want you to do this' for example Lebra 1976; Smith 1983). Here as elsewhere, therefore,
we will not feel something bad towards one another because of in spelling out cultural values it is safer to rely on explicit semantic
this formulae than on undefined and protean global labels such as 'diiect-
Since m Israeli Hebrew one can also freely express one's 'diswants' ness'; 'individualism', 'solidanty' or 'collectivism'. Wr can portray the
(for example, in refusals, disagreements, and so onj the formula above Anglo-American cultural assumphon in question as follows:
should probably be expanded so as to inciude 'I don't want' as well as I thmk: 1 can say: 'I want this", 'I think this'
'I want'. For example, Blum-Kulka observes in an earlier worlc: I Icnow: other people don't have to want the same/think the same
Generally spe&ing. Israeli soctety seems to allow for even more directness no one can say: 'I want you to want this'. 'I want you to think
In socrai interacrron than tlte Amencan one .... It is not uncommon to hear this'
people around a conference table in Israel disagreeing with each other
I have not mcluded m this formula the component 'I don't want this'
bluntly (suylng things like aia io'e 'You're wrong', or lo ttaxorr! 'Not
true!'). Such directness in a s~milarsetting In American society would because Anglo-American culture does impose certain inhibitions on
probably be considered rude. Similarly, refusal is often expressea in Israel the expression of 'diswants' and doesn't encourage open confrontation.
by a curt 'No'. the Same lo (no) can also be tleard as a response to requests In Hebrew, and in Jewish tradition m general, open confrontation is
encouraged nnd cllenshed, as a reflection of spontaneity, closeness and I doll't \T2anryou to feel sonlethlng bad because of this
mutu:iI irusl. As tile ie!\,ish wnrer Sliolom Aleichem put i t (quoted In I will say something more about it becau'se of this
blyernoff l97S:ISS): "We iight to keep 5.\rarn~. Thai's holv we sur\,tve."
jcf. also Sclirilfrin 19883). In Anglo-Amencan culture, however, 'direct Israeli crliriire
conirontation is a\,oiaed in the tnterests of social harmony between I say No
independent ~ndiv~duais. In vie%\,of the emphas~son individualism and I I thinit I don t have to say anything more about i t
on everyone's Dersonal autonomy, 'cioseness' is cherished in this culture In Japanese cuiture, the norm seems to be to avoid saying 'No' aito-
less tlian 'I1arrnon)r gether (in part~cular,to refuse an offer or a request, to express disagree-
In saylng t h ~ sI, Tim contradicting the view of maup Japanese scholars, ment, and so on). Thus, Naiiane (1970:35) notes: " ... one would prefer
wtio sce J;ip:~nese culture as a culture of 'harmony' and Anglo-American to be silent than utter sucn words as 'noi or 'I disagree, The avoidance
ciillure as one which positiveiy encourages 'direct contention and con- of sl?cll open and bald negative expressions IS rooted in the fear that
fronmtion But this just shows, once again, that global labeis such as it intght disrupt tile harmony and order of the group" Thls norm can be
'harmony arc useo by different wnters in different senses. The fact of represented as follows:
tile matrei- is tilac. as pointed out by Blum-Rulka (1982:30-31) or by
Levenston (11)70), in England or in iirnenca 11 is not common to hear Japanese cirlrlire
people around a conference table disagree with one anorher by saying I can't say: No
'you're wron_e' or 'that's not true'; in fact, 11IS not common to use sucli I will say sometlling else because of this
phrases in-everyday conversation either. Anglo-American tradit~on Bamiund (197jb) explicitly compares the Japanese with the Americ~ms
encourages people to say 'I don'r think soi rntlier than 'you are wrong' in this respect:
Japanese culiure discourages people even from snylng 'I don'r think so'
Rut !ve canriot accurately account for all such differences in terns of Anyone who has observed groups of Japanese or Americans talking
together is aware at once ol certaln pecuIianlics m thex habits of speecli.
labels such as 'haimony', 'direcrnes~'~ or 'confrontauon'
In one group everyone bows and exchanges personal caros. When ihcy
Blum-I<ull;a (1982:30-31) mentlons that it is not common in Englisli spcai: me)' do so qu~etly,often i n the form of understatements. Rarely iloes
to express refusal by saying 'No' as one does in Hebrew, or to say 'No' one hear u Delli~crentor unequivocal 'Xo. ... In [he otner group, rhcy all
In response to a request for information (for example in shops, hote~s. shaiie hands ns hey bzgm a conversation. 'Noi is heard a t least as often
and restaurants): 'Do you have such and sucll?'. In English, wnen some- or more often than ' Y e s ... Arguments are heated. Issues often poianseo.
one indicates that tliep mant something we are free to say no^; (Barnlund 1975b:26-27)
but not to say lust 'No' The label 'directness' is not helpful m describ-
Bur if the difference between rhe Americans and the Japanese is pre-
ing [his aspect of me Anglo-nmencan ethnography 01speaking, though
sented in such a polarlsed manner, i t ts hard to see hovi the same Amen-
one can use here. more illuminatingiy, the label 'bluntness'. (It should be
noted. iiowei'ei, that 'bluntnessi, though clearer here than 'directness' cans can appear to the Israelis as people !vho_ in contrast to themsel\'es,
avoid saying 'No' It seems to me that the semantic fornlulae proposed
is nor self-explanatory either, and that for example Geertz 11976:2835)
here allow us to paint a clearer and more coherent overall prcrure.
attributes 'hiuntness' to Anglo-Amencan culrure, connast~ngit in this
~vitiiJavanese culture.) 'Bluntness' in saylng n o ' is vleweo posi-
rlvely in Israeli culture but not in Anglo-Amencan culture. These differ-
2.2. 'indirectness' in Japanese
ent attitudes to 'bluntness' in saying 'No' can be represented as follows:
cirlftrre According to Mizutani - Mizutani (1987), Honna - Hoffer (1989). and
I say: No many other writers on Japanese language and culture, i t is exrremel),
important when taking politely in Japanese 'to sound indirect'. But rvhar
does one do in Japanese 'to sound indirect'7
First of all, one doesn't say what one wants: instead, one sellds 'How about gotng to a movie?' [lit. 'How about seelilg a movie
implic~tmessages', expecting that the addressee will respond to them: or somethmg?']
The spealcer thus often makes rndirect requests, and the listener also (ivlizutani - Mizutani 1987:34)
iespontts to implicit messages: this maltes me Indirect development of Similarly:
speech possible. For Instance, a man, usually a superior, will come Into
tile room and say: A: 1Mndn jikait-ga ant-11-desu kedo.
Kyoo-itra iya-,it arsru-nee. (It's awfully hot today, isn't it?) 'I have some tlme to lull.'
.And one of his men will say har ['yes'. respectful], and lhurry to open the B: Ja, zassl~i-demoyorldara doo-desn-/<a.
wlndow or turn on ihe air conditioner. He may even apoioglse saying: 'Then, why don't you read a magazine or somethmg?'
Doonlo Id-gn rs~rkiozaseit-de... (I'm sorry I didn't notice.) (Mizutani - fi4iztitanl 1957:34)
... many Jopanese seem to find pleasure in oelng with somcone who under-
stands them very well and so will sense their wlshes and act to realise them In such situations, oclm-denlo or eega-denlo are preferred to oclta-o or
'~vithourbelng asked. eega-o because they let the listener choose among several possibilities.
(Mizutan~- Mizutanl 1987:36) T h ~ sdeliberate use of non-specific reference and non-specific numeral
expressions can be portrayed as follows:
The attltude manifested in speech behavlour of this!lcind can be repre-
sented as follows: I say: I would want something iiice thls
! I don't want to say: 'I want this'
I want something
idon't want to say tlus It is not difficult to recognise here again the Japanese value of eilryo,
I will say somethlng else because of this : discussed earlier - a value whlch is quite different from the Anglo-
I thinb this person will know what I want Amerlcan value of personal autonomy. But if all the different plienom-
ena in question are described by mearls of the same label 'indirectness'
K different phenomenon, also described in the literature ln terms Of then the different cultural values involved cannot be revealed, and
'indirectness', has to do with deliberate laclc of precision and lack of the generalisat~onsmade in individual works devoted to comparisons
specific~tym the ldentificatlon of referents, or m uslng numbers: of two cultures do not seem to malce sense in a broader cross-cultural
In soclat sttuauons the 3apanesc like to refer to numbers or amounts m n perspective.
non-si)ecific way. For instance, when buylng apples they will often say: As a parucularly s t r i h g example of the resulung confusion I now
krrdasar.(Pleasegrve me aoout three of them.)
illirrsrr-hodolgt~railboliar~ turn to the qnestlon of 'which culture encourages more "indirectness" -
lnsread of saylng Greek or Amertcan?'
Mitisu Rlldasni.
(Mizutani - IvIizntant 1987:33)
Furtlier~nore,111 making proposals or suggestions, the Japanese tend to 2.3. Greek culture and American culture
refer to thlngs wlth indirect expressions like dento and nado (and others).
For example: Consider first the following statement, fairly chaxacterlstic of the way
the concept of 'indirectness' tends to be used in the literature on cross-
Octla-derno l~onllnlasell-l;n. cultural pragmatics:
'How about havlng some tea?' [lit 'or somethlng?']
E~ga-aenroin~n~ashoo-ba Though languages provide thew speakers wtih explicit, direct ways for
acliievlllg commun~cntlveenos, in day-to-day communlcat~onspeaicers
seem to prefer ~ndirectways. In malting n request to a secretary, for
example, peo~ieare more likely lo say ihings like 'Could you do !ri or The cliaracterisation of Greek culture as 'indirect' also goes against
'Would goi! mind domf i t ' rh:m tl>eslmple 'Do it'. iBlum-ICulka 1982:30) the expectation that Greece and Middle East (including Isr3eI) might
share some cultural vaiues, and some features of their ethnograph)' of
The writer of the above Knows very well that the generalisation in ques-
speaking (cf. Tannen - Oztek 1977; Matisoff 1979) rather than being
tlon applies nor to 'people in general' but mainly to Anglo-Saxons; and
at the opposite poles of a scale, with Anglo-Saxon \ ~ a ) ~ofs speaidng
thnt, for esample, i t doesn't apply to the Israelis. Bu! inis doesn'r preveilt
in the middle:
her from formulating i t as if it in fact applied to -people in general'
Furtilermore. the illustration provided malies i t ciear that what the 'direct' Israel
author Ins iii mind is rlle plienomenon of 'wlumperanves, directives 'intermediate' England and North America
pilrased interrogariveiy; but me generalisation is couched in terms of 'indirect' Greece
indirect ways of spealring' - as if it were enough to mention tile
One cat1 only ~ironderwhere Japan wouid appear on a scale of this I:ind?
whimperativesi to explain \vhat one means by 'indirect ways of speal:.
Below Greece, perhaps? And (Amencan) black English? Above Israel?
i n g in general.
I believe that here as elsewhere, scales are misleading and confusin~
Blum-I<u!!;a (i982:30) proceeds then to make the important and; I
if they are nor preceeded by rigorous qualitative anaiysis. If one exam-
think, perfecrly valid point that "one major factor that can influence tlie
lnes the data in Blum-I<ulka's source of information on Greel; cultui-e
application of such principies can be the general 'ethos' of one society
(Tannen 19Sla), it transpires that the so-called Greek 'indirectness'
as compared to another one" But having said this, she says something
applies to phenomena quire different from the use of whimperatives; an0
ramer startiing, that is, Lilac "Greek social norms, for example iTannen
the wllole puzzling story of 'Greek indirectness' Versus 'American
/19Gla]); require a iliucn higher level of indirectness in social interactioii
directness' begins to make sense.
tlian American ones" (Bium-I<ulka 198230).
What Tannen did was to present a number of informants (some
This statement might leiid one to believe that if in Israel one tends to
.4mencans, some Greeks, and some Greek-Americans) with a Ivntten
say 'Do it!' more 171ideIy than one does in America, in America one
quesnonnaire, nihicll begins by presenting an exchange between a wife
tends to say 'Do it!' more widely than one does in Greece; and that,
and a husband:
converseiy. if iii rLmenca one tends to say 'Would youi or 'Could youi
In many siruarions in rvliich in Israel one would say simply 'Do it!'. iii Wife: Jo/ii~'si1a1~111g
a pori)'. Cifn~iiiap o l
Grsece one rends to say 'Would you' or 'Could you' in many situations Husband: Okay.
i n ~vhicliin America one wouid say simply 'Do it!'
T ~ v oparaphrases are then presented, and respondents are asked to tndi-
But is this believable? Surely not. In fact, a claim of thls kind molild
cate which they believe the husband meant wilen he said okay:
seem to go ngninst cvergthing one 1;noivs about ivfediterranean culture
generally, and about the Greek; culture more specifically. In particular, (i-I) h#ly \vife mants to go to this party, Since she aslied,
the ciiaractensat~ono i Greel; culrure as 'indirect or as 'more indirect' I'll go to maee her happy. ['indirect']
lilan Amei-ic;in cuilure, seems to be mcompatibie with the results of
(I-D) My wife is asKing if I want to go to a party
iichnviournl studies de\'oted specifically to the Greek national character,
I feet like going, so I'll say yes. ['direci'l
and 01- behaviouml differences between Gree1;s and .Americans3 such
3s Trianclis - Vassiliou (1972). For example, according to this study, Tannen's results are ciear ana interesting: "A cornpanson of tile percenl-
1~'pical Greei; bell3!'lOL1r SI~OWS charactenstics that an American !\rill age of responoenrs in die three groups who opted for paraphrase 1-1 tunis
interpret as arrogance. Uogmatism, and artempts to appear all-lmowing out looliing much like a cont~nuum,with Greelis the most likely to
anc! aii-po\!~ti!. tattz the indirect interpretation, Americans Lhe least likely, and Greeli-
Americans !n the middle, somewhat closer to Greelcs." (Tannen
98 CI-oss-csltrrr.olpragrnoitcs and different cirlr, vnlue~

Although Tannen herself describes her study as dealing with 'modes to me that a conclusion of this kind is unwarranted and mlsieading. On
of indirecmess', she is generally careful to point out that she is dealing i the other hand, Tanhen's data suggest the follow~ngcultural norm.
only with one specific context: a negotiation between husband and wife ,
! which seenis to be quite credible, clear, and meamngful:
about whether to go to a party. Nonetheless, some of her comments I want something
could be seen as inviting the kind of over-generalisatlon expressed m I don't have to say this
Blum-Kulka's account of her study. For example, she reporb ulat "an i I thinic this person will lcnow what I want
Amencan-born woman of Greelc grandparents ... commented that she !
I think she will do i t hecause of this
tends to be indirect because she piclced it up from her mother, who Was
influenced by lier own mother (i.e. the grandmother born m Greece)" It is particularly interesting to note here the difference between the
(Tannen 1981a:235). Similarly, she quotes another personal testimony Japanese general e n v o ('reserve, self-restra~nt'):
which she calls "most eloquent": "tliat of a professional man livlng in !
I want something
New Yorlc City, whose grandparents were from Greece. He seemed fully I don't want to say this
assimilated, did not spealc Greek, had not been raised m a Greek neigh-
bourhood, and had few Greek friends. In filling out the questiomalre, he and the Greeic [male, typically) self-confidence:
chose 1-1, the initla1 indirect mterpretatlon. In later discussion he s a d I
I want someth~ng
that the notlon of indirectness 'rang such a bell'." (1981x235) i I don't have to say this
This really could lead one to believe that Greek culture is somehow (I thmlc she will do it anyway)
generally 'indirect', certainly more so than American culture. But what
does this really mean? All that Tannen has really shown is that Greek It IS also relevant to mentlon the importance of the division between
. and 'out-group in Greelc culture, and the great intlmacy
coupies seem to be inore attuned to one another's unexpressed wishes
than h m e r ~ c a ncouples are, and more ready to guess one another's unex- and cioseness prevailing within the 'in-group' Triandis - \~assiliou
pressed wishes, whereas American coupies seem to rely more on explicit (1972:304) spealc in this conllection of the existence of an "extremely
verbaiisations of wishes. In fact, some of Tamen's comments suggest tightly kmt family and an 'ingroup' that provides protection, soclal
that in Greelc culture it 1s the woman who is generally expected to guess, Insurance, and a warm and relaxing envlronment; in short, a haven
and to comply with, her father's, or her husband's, unexpressed wishes: from the larger wo11d" In a warm, intlmate envlronment of this Innd
One doesn't have to rely on overt, verbal expression of one's needs,
For example. a Greek woman of about 65 told me that before she had wlshes and desires.
manlea she had to ask her father's permlsston before doing anything.
As for Anglo-Amencan culture, Tannenis findings are perfectly
She noted that of course he never explicitly denied her pemlsslon. If
she asked, for example, whether or not she should go to 2 dance, and consistent with the general Anglo-American emphasls on everyone's
tie answered. personal autonomy and on the individualism prevailing even within the
i l ) A n rhes, pus. ('If you want, you can go.') family: Anglo-American culture encourages people to say, clearly and
she knew that she could not go. If he really meant that she could go, he explicitly, what they want and what they thinic. Apparently, American
would say, spouses, too, rely less on wordless communication, and more on clear
(2) Nc. Nn "us. ('Yes. You should go.') self-expression. Possibly, this implies less of a feeling of 'oneness'
... This informant added that her husbvnd responds to her requests m the between the spouses, and a greater emph:isis on each spouse's individu-
same way. She therefore agrees to do what he prefers w~thourexpecting ality, unpredictability, and personal autonomy. All this is consistent w~tii
hinl to express his preference directly. (Tannen 1981a:224-225) what we otherwise lcnow of Anglo-American cultural values. Tlie term
But if this is all there is to it, is it enough to draw the conclusion that 'indirectness' doesn't really- help us here. In fact; i t is rather an obstacle
"Greek social norms ... requlre a much higher level of indirectness nI to understailding.
social interaction than American ones" (Blum-Kullca 1982:30)? It seems
2.8. 'Indirectness' and 'dissimuiation' in ,Tavanese ... onc must call out to any passerby one knows inviting him lo stop in.
even lnougi, he may or the last person on carti, you wtsh to see. One must
According io Geertz (1976:214), indirectness or 'indirection' is a major refuse iooa !unless the liosr pcrststr tn offenng 11) even if one is dying of
theme of J;ir,anesc beilavtour. Geertz illustrates this feature with the hunger ... One shouid never refuse outnght peopies reouests to do some-
proverb 'to look north and iiit s o u r n H e 3150 rnenrtons the fact that Illing for them: raiher, one merely agrees even if one has no tntznllon of
old-time k i j d i s (!<orantc teachers) never expiicttly tnformed people going through Wiih whatever it is. and tlien one never gets around to doing
the!; were iviong, but told little stones from wilicii the listeners could get 11,purrrng the pettrioner off wrtb various Proi-&or excuses, until lie realises
ot last that one was nor serious in the first pince. (Geertz 19763246-247)
tile p01nt less pa?nfuiiy. "One must get the i-asa of whar people are
saying, the real conleni. informants are alrvags emphasistng, because Apparently, what applies to feelings and to wtshes, applies also to
aliis peopis (i.e. crvilised people) often don'r like to say whar is on ihoughts. Geertz (1976:217) quotes a village polit~cianon this pomt, who
tlietr minds." began his speech as follows: "No one ever says what he reallg tinnks.
'Indirectness as described above is closely related to another People always era/:-etof: when dealing with other people. I too never
Javanese ctlltitrai norm, that is; to what Geertz calls 'dissimulat~on or say whar I reallg thtnlc. and you can't tell holx, I feel about things bg
pretenct5. or whar the Javanese themselves call ~ r o f c - ~ r o"The
/ ~ . cliarac- what I say."
rerlstxc qiialiry of 4ioi:-irol:. in contrast to our patterns of dissemblance, The reluctance to espress one's feelings, wants, and thoughts links
is nor merely that 11 is far more prevalent and that it 1s largely approved Javanese culture with Japanese cuiturai norms described earlier; bur
... but illat i i need not have any obvtous justification, belng merel)' the element of concealment, of conscious 'disstmulatton', seems to be
gratuitous: ... In general, polite Javanese avotd gratulrons truths." specificallp Javanese. W e can portray this 'disstmuiation' as follo\\,s:
(1!?75:245-2/15). Thus, Geertz quotes <he follon~ingdefininon of Ero1:-
I don'r want to say: I feel X / I want X / I think X / I icnow X
;ink, offered by an informant:
I don'r want people to l<nnw what I feel/want/thtnk/l:no\v
He said: Suppose I go off sourh and you see me go. Later my son asxs
you: 'Do yo11 1:now where my father \\sent?' And you ray no, grot-rlol: you The inore specific norm proscribrng explicit requesrs can be porrm)'cd
uon'r 1:noiv. I nshed him wiig sliould I 8roi:-rlok, nr lheie seemed ro be no as follows:
icnson lor !y!na, and he said, '011,yoa just 2rni:-2iol:. You don'r have io I can r say to someone: 'I want you to d o X'
have n reason.' (Geei-rz 1976246)
someone could feel somethtng bad because of rhrs
Tliis geno..?l cultural nom1 of concealment, o i nor saylng, nor telling I have ro say somerhing else
peoplc Ziny gmtuitous truths', applies in parttcular to the truth about
The norm proscribing explicit refusals can be portrayed aloiig s i n ~ i l a ~
one's personal feelings:
The same sori o: pattern i s involved in the neariy absolute requirement
never lo rlioiv o n e s real feelings directly, cspecraliy to a guest. Any if someone says to me:'I want you to do X'
kind 01' negative feeling towards another must be diss~muiated.... Srrong I can't say: 'I don't want to d o it'
pos~rivci-lings are :itso supposed to be hidden except in very tnrimare someone could feel something bad because of this
situations. The sffoir is ro keep a steady ievei of very mild poritlve nfiec: I have to say something else
in intzr~siro!lal rci~rions, an Pfok-8101: ivarmih behind !vliicli all real I don't nave to do it because o r this
feelings c;!ri bz eficctiveiy concealed. (Gcertz 1976:216)
The a\foidance of prov~ding'gratuitous informatiuni can be represented
What applies to feelings applies d s o to \\#:shes: one should conceal as follows:
one's n~rsllesand one's tntenltons, partlcularl). if they are 111 cotlflici
i i someone says to me:
with other oeople's wlsnes or desires. For ekample:
yon i a o w sometrung
102 pi.agnioncs mid different cultural values

'I want you to say it' Many writers have tned to explaln cultural differelices of this Bind,
I can"t say: 'I don't want to do lt. poiotlng to different cultural attitudes to Icnowledge, questloils, and in-
I can say something else formarlon (cf. Eades 1982; Ahrahams 1976; Sansom 1980; Iceen 1978;
I don't have to do 11 because of thls Hams 1984; Goody 1978). While accepting thelr explanations, I would
like to add to them an addit~onaione: diffsrent cultural attitudes to truth.
The general priilc~pleof erok-4tok can perhaps be formulated as follows: European culture has tradit~onallyplaced a great premlum not only on
I don't want to say what I t h i n k h o w 'lcnowing' but also on saying what one knows, that is. what is lcnowabie
I don't have to say this (01- true). Other cultures may v l u e lcnowledge wlthout valuing verbal

I can say something else articulation of knowledge. For example, Japanese culture 1s s a ~ dto value
intultlve lcnowledge and to mlstrust verbalised, articulated 1:nowledge
In Western culture, saying what one thmlcs tends to be seen as lcf. for example Barnlnnd 1975b: Lebra 1976). It is lnterestlng to note in
everyone's right, and saying what one knows, as everyone's obligation this connection that while all ianguages appear to have a word corre-
(alihougil there are of course lim~tsto this). Generally spelcing, then, sponding to blow, many languages do not llave a word corresponding ta
questions can be freely asked and answers c m l o t be freeiy w~thheld rrae (cf. Hill 1985j. Some languages have a word for something like
(cf. Eades 1982 and the references quoted by her). These attitudes can lyrng (to another person), w~tllouthavlng a word like lrue which com-
be portrayed as follows: bines m its meaning 'knowmg' and 'saying' (that IS, 'saying what one
(1) I can say what I think can h o w ' ) , without any reference to ~nterpel-sonalrelations, as in the
(2) i can say to people: case of 'lying' (cf. Lutz 1985:73).
'you icnow something' In fact, even ui English the word lriirh didn't always hase the irnpzr-
'I want to lcnow it' sonal and objective nng which it has now. .4s Hughes (1988:61-62)
(I can think: they have to say it) observes, "The central and fascinating polnt in the semantic history of
(3) if someone says to me: trirth 1s that it evolves from being a prlvate commitment to a publicly
you lcnow something' assessed quality. The form of word even changes, so that trot11, the
'I want to icnow 11' private form, can, by the proof of arms, be asserled even the
I have to say it claims of evldence or tesumony, if need arises. (This mediaevaiised
form of tnrrh is, of course, virtually the opposite of the modern notlon,
In many non-Western cultures, however, and In partlcuiar In Javanese which 1s factual, demonstrable and essentially impersonal.)"
culture, a different norm prevails, wtuch can be portrayed as follows: European culture, however, elevated the truth (first the pnvate,
if someone says to me: personal 'trutll', and then the public, impersonal truthj to a past~c~~rariy
'you lcnow something' high place among generally accepted ideals; and 'truth' call be seen as
'i want to know it' opposed to both 'lying' and 'concealment', to both saying what one
I don't have to say it lino\ss IS not true and not saylng what one lcnows is true. The culturai
norms ID question can be represented, roughly, as foliows:
As shown by Eades (1982), in ~ n s t r a l i a nAbor~ginalculture one
wouldn't even assume that one has the rlght to aslc; on the contrary, Ule it 1s bad to say what 1s not true
opposite norm prevails: it 1s good to say what is true

I can't say to people: It might be added that modern Anglo-Amencan culture appears to be
'you lcnow somethmg' more 'pragmaoc' xn 11s attitude to &uth than European culture. This IS
'I want to lcnow it' reflected, for example, m the concept of ' a w h ~ t elie'j wlilch doesn't
seem to have any equivalents in German, French, Italian, or Poiisli
! 3.1. 'Intimacy'
1 i (see sseciion 3.5 below). Cultural attituaes to conscientiousness.
i punctualiiy, or reli:rbiliiy may indeed differ along the lines suggested i1
by Max Weber (\:er)~roughly. bei\\~eenProtestant tlort~lernEurope, plus It is widely believed that different culrures differ in the importance they
its Amerlcnii extension, and the Catholic rest; cf. Weber 1968); but the gi\w to "intimacy' as a social value. For example; according to Iiijirida
attliudes to pragmatic, w h i t e lies may be divided along rather different - Sohn (1956:390) American culture gives this value a high priority.
lines. i\,itii, i-ougiii). speaking, continental Europe on one side of the whereas in Japanese and Korean culture otlier values (for example. re-
dividing line ant1 the more 'pragmatici Angio-American culture on the spect for rank and smtus) by far 'overrule' lntimacy as a cultural nornl.
otiier. This modifieti, inglo-Amerlcan arutuae lo tiutb can be repre- The claim that in American English 'intimac~' overruies mnic or soclal
sented, very roughly. as follo\vs: status. \vIiereas the opposite is true of Japanese and Icorean, is perhaps
not ilard to believe, even viithoul any preclse definition of 'intimacy'
iiis llsliaiiy bad io say what is not r u e
Bur when the authors make a more genera! claim, attributing to Ameri-
sometimes i t is good to say ~ v l ~is
a t nor true
cans an "extreme sensitivity toward the mnmacy vanable" (1986:391).
11 notlling bad can happen to anyone because of thls
we cannot go aiong with tiiis without asKing what exactiy is meant by
-4s oile early Anglo-Saxon put it: "Use not to lie. for tllat is unhonest; 'intimacy; and how ttiis 'seuslti\~ityto intimacy' 1s assessed.
speak not euery truih. Tor that is unneedful; yes, in time and place, a In fact, in my own analysis of Anglo-American culture as compared
ilarmless !ie is a great deal better than 11 hurtful trutll." (Roger Ascnam, with Polish culture (cf. Wierzblclca 1985b; see also Chapter 2 above! or
!550, qooter! by Stevenson 1946:2058). Bui the norm discouraging ilot- with Russian culture (cf. Wierzbicka, to appear), I iiave reaclied conctu-
irutll (i%~hztlisr
in an 3bSOiUte or in o modifieo, pragmatic' form) is by no sions very different from tliose suggested by Iiijirida ano Solm. From
means unil'ers.?i. In particular, tile Javanese principle of eiok-irok allo\vs a Polisli, or Russian- point of vlew, Anglo-American culture is not
one oorii noi io say what one lcno\i~sis true and also to say what one 'sensitive to intimac)' at all. What, then, xs 'intimacy'?
i !:nonrs IS not tme. Perceived cultural advanrages inl'olvea In sucll an If we were to rely on the everyday meanlng of tne ruord inrinlacy (and
atiliude may inciudc tranquill lit)^', 'harmon),. smoorh and peaceful inter- !\,hat else can we rely on?), we couid define the concept as follows:
/ pcrsonal relations ('I don't wan1 to feel sometlimg bad', 'I o o n t want Intimacy refers to a readiness to reveal to some particuiar persons some
i someone to feel sornetliing bad'), and so on. aspects o i one's personality and of one's inner world that one conceals
i from other peopie; a readiness based on personal uusi an0 on perso~ial
'gooa feelings'. Tlus last proviso is necessary because althougii one
mlght disciose one's secret fears or womes to a doctor or to a psycllo-
3. Further illustrations: same labels. different values analyst this doesn't qualify as 'intimacy, to count as intimacy, self-
disclosure llas to be based on an assumption of personal good feelings.
Thjs can be represented as follows:
In this sect~on,I discuss in a more summary way the use of five other rririlliac)~
global labels, ivllicli are genemllp believed to stand for identifiable X tfiinks: I fee! something
cultural v;iiues; bui which in fact are used to refer to different atrxtudes I \i.ant to sap it to someone
and different ivays of speaking. I try to uncover ilie real differences in I can say it to Y
cultural values. concealed and obscured by such incons~stentlyand arbi- I feel somethxng good towaras Y
trarily applied terms. The Iabeis in question are: 'intimacy', 'closeness- Y feeis something good towards me
(contrasted \~/itll'distance'), 'infomalit)" (contrasled with 'formality'), I can say it to Y because of this
'harmony', and 'sincerity' I can't say it to other people
X says n to Y because of *is
106 Cross-c~~llarnl
pragtnancs o18d differertr c~rllrrralvallles Fztr.fher iiilurralio,rs: sanje labels, differetit ,railtes 107

Barnlund (1975b), who as we have seen has shown that Ameilcans I conclude that there is no lingulsttc evidence for the c l a m thal
are more prone to self-disclosure than the Japanese, has concluded from English is particularly sensitive to lnhmacy. On the contrary. English,
this that the former value inhmacy more than the latter: with its absence of any 'intimate' form of address, seems to be particu-
larly insensitive to it. On the other hand, there is massive evidence for
The Amertcans will tend to culuvate physlcal as well as verbal tnumacy. the importance of intimacy tn Slavic languages. This evidence takes
Since the axm is lo seek more complete expresston of the tnner self, Amen-
cans may not only disclose more fully verbally, but may Lry to utilise as the form, above all, of enormous differentiation of expresstve forms of
many channels of communicatton as possible. For this reason they may personal names, such as, for example, ICdtja, Iilite~t'l<a,ICo~jilSen'l:a,
display greater physlcal arumatton and engage in a higher frequency of ICdretlca, Ifdrik and so on for ICarerinti, or I/i!ifa, Vdlietka, VanjdSa,
pliyslcal contact durtng conversatton. Touch, as one of the more tntimate lfanjziika, Vanjdse?lio, and so on, for I v a n (see Wierzbiclca, to appear).
forms of Interaction, may be more encouraged and more accepted. With respect to Polish. one can argue that the value of Intimacy is
(Barntuna 1975b:38) even enhanced by the wide use of tities and other ling~itsttcdev~ces
Iceyed to rank and status, since this increases the differentiation of
But even touch ceases to be 'inkmate' if it 1s applied mdiscnminately.
personal relattons. Hijirida - Soh11 (1986:389) state that "botlt Japanese
A handshake may incleed be more revealing than a bow, but it is not
and Koreans, being extremely status-conscious, are eager to give and
necessarily more intimate. If intimacy could be reduced to self-disclo-
receive powerladen titles in daily interpersonal encounters". and they
sure, the claim that Americans are more given to inttmacy than the
link this with the low value of intimacy IIIKorea and Japan. But Poles,
Japanese could be sustained. But although intimacy is indeed related
too, are extremely status-conscious, and are eager to give and recelve
to self-disclosure, it cannot be reduced to it. To count as intimacy,
titles in daily interpersonal encounters; they also value a degree of
self-disclosure has to be selective (in ternls of the: addressee), and this
formality and ritualised courtesy. At the same time, nowever, Poles place
selectiveness has to be based on personal affection.
a high value on mtimacy, and the wide range of possibilittes between,
In my view, a culture where one basic term of address, 'you', 1s used
say, Pan: Professor ('1Mrs Professor". with a third person form of the
indiscnmtnately to everyone, cannot be regarded as one which attaches verb) and various tntimate forms of expresswe dertvat~onof names.
a great importance to the value of intlmacy. If anytlling, it is extremely
enhances Ule value of intimacy enjoyed witll those special people wit11
difficult to be intimate m English, because of this universal 'youZ,that whom one chooses to share it.
is, because of the absence of any 'intimate' forms of address.
It is an illuston, then, to thituc that an egalitarian ethos, such as that
There are of course ntclmames, and so-called affectionate nlclcnames
prevailing in Anglo-American culture, leads necessarily to an Increase in
(for example Bob and Bobby for Roberr, [Care and ICafie for ICafller.~ne); Intimacy, or that a culture sensttive to Status disttnctions is necessarily
but are Ihese truly instruments of inhmacy? Hijinda - Sohn (1986:391)
inlmical to intimacy. Once agan, termtnoiogtcal confusion leads here
thinlc that they are. They wnte: "The tendency of Americans to upgrade
to conceptual confusion, ciearly visible, for example, in the following
address forms (from FN to TLN) toward a person they are angry at,
passage from an otherwise subtle and insightful study:
suuctural differentiatton of FN Into FFN, Nn, and ANn in E[nglish] and
the productive use of them ali reflect the extreme sensitivity Americans Of the three socletles under comparison, Amencaii IS least sensrtlve to
have toward tile intimacy vanable." power variables, as evidenced in both the patterns ana usages of honorifics.
But I don't tllinl; this is right. It is not 'inkmate' In English to call This seems to be due lo their egalitaitan value onentatton. As a result,
somebody Joltit rather than Dr. B ~ O I Yand I ~ , 'nicknames' such as Bob or solidarity var~vbleslike tnttmacy and casualness prevail, although
Tin1 are no more intimate than Joltn. As for so-called affectionate'mclc- groupness [SIC] solidant!: ts the last rhing for Amencans io gtve tteea to
due probably to them strong individualistic value orientation, (Hijirida -
names, such as Bobby or Timnty, they are not intimate but child-oriented; Sohn 1986:383)
lhey can be affectionate, but affection is not tne same thing as inttmacy,
particularly if i t is an affection associated wtth the adult-child style Amencat1 society is described here as one domtnated by 'solidarity
of interaction. (For fuller analysts of forms of address and names see variables like inttmacy and casualness', although at the same time
Wierzbicka, to appear, chaps. 7,g.i
solidarity is said to be 'tlie last thing for Amencans to give heed t o ' This To justifj' this claim, Brown and Levinson appeal to their 'intuit~ons':
is confusing and self-conlradictor)~. We can clear this confusion if we but this just shows how unreliable and idiosyncratic such 'intuitions'
about abstract and semi-teclmical concepts like'dismnce' may be.
stop using undefiiied ighels such as 'intimacy', 'solidantyi or 'casual-
ness and st:irt using instead precise and self-esplanatory Semantic
; It seems to me tllat if we are to reiy on the everyday use of the word
iorrnul3e couclied in rerms of universal semantic ~rimitives. ciose Las applied to human relaoons) we would have to say that close-
ness lias to do with interpersonal 'lcnowledge' as well as interpersonal
feelings: two people are said to be 'ciose' if they ]mow one another
very well, and have 'good feelings' for one another. This is similar to
intimacy, but it is not tlie same fhmg. For example, a mother can be
Speai;ing mcmphoncally, innmacy implies closeness - another variabie said io be inerj, 'closei to her daughter, but it would be a little odd ro
which often comes up in discussions devoted to cross-cultural pragrnat- say that a mofher is 'intimate. with her daughter. A mother \lFho is
I . But i t s closeness' in interpersonal relations and how does one ! 'close' to her daughter l;no\vs a great deal about the daughter - about
2ssess ii? Sac131 psycii0log)t lias developed various measures that can her 'hidden' tlioughts; fears, hopes, desires, and so on.
be used to assess 'social distance' (cf. for example Triandis - Triandis Speech doesn't seem essentiai to the idea of 'closeness'; but mutual
1960; Bogarcius 19331, bur these have to do with reiations between Knowiedge, and the willingness to let one another icnow what is happen-
groups, not between mdividuals, and cannot be transferred to the study ing inside us, does seem to be essential. Somenmes, 'closeness ma)!
of interpersonal relations. even reduce the need for verbal self-disciosure:.if two people are very
The concept of 'distance in interpersonal relations is heavily relied 'closei they may each 1;novi liom the ouler person feels without overr
on by a number of writers on linguistic pragmatics, and in particular, by speech, by a iund of empathy. But not all 'empathyi manifests 'close-
Brown - Levinson (1978); but it is never defined, and i t is treated as ness'; 'closeness being a permanent (long-term) feature of a relation-
if it was self-espianatory. At best, it is eiucldared by means of examples. ! ship, based on mutual good feelings.
For esample, Brown and Levinson assert tiiat: Tentatively:
oiily Dfistanccl varies in Ibe follor3vrnq two sentences: cioseliess ('X and Y are close to one another')
(1) Excitre i i i e , ivoirid yoir by mty c1,ance iini,r cite iinie? X and Y know: we feel someihing good towards one anomer
(2) Go; riic n,,ie, ,,io;c,? because of this each of them thinks of the other:
Our inru~r!onsarc ihai (1) would be used ivlierc (in S's perception)
I want to lmow what this person feeislthinfislwants
S[peni:er] and lircarerj were distant (strangers from different parrs, say). 1
and 12) \vheie S and 1-1were close leither known lo each oilier, or percepii- I want this person to know what I feel1thinl;iwant
bly 'similar' in soc1:11 terms). D; then. 1s tile only variable i n our formulii because of thls, each of them can know what the other feels/
rhnt cllanqes Froni 11) to (1)... (Brown - Lev~nson1978:85) thinkslwants when other peopie can't

But this is bafflirig and unhelpful. Two university professors are pre- To let someone become close to us means to trust them enough, and to
sumably 'simiiar in sociai terms', but i t ooesn'r follow from ttiis iliat feel enough affection (or 'good feelings') for them, to allow them to
they would bc likely to eschange phrases like Go1 rile rrlne, more? On the h o w us really well - betrer tllan other people i:now us. This may be
other hanu, two young male nitcnhikers may well address one another seen as dangerous; because lcnowing us so well the other person \\,ill
in tliis way w e n if rney are 'strangers from different parts' probably be able to hurt us. There will also be more opportunities for
Similarly baffling and unhelpful is the furtlier claim that 'D' is held clashes, for mutual hurt, for open conflict. It may be safer nor to get too
constant in me following utterances: 'ciose' - if one values peace, harmony, absence of conflict and absence
of mutual hurt.
(3) E.~cineoie, sir. ivoilld ii be nll r~gilif l srnol;e?
ijl s?rrol:c? (Brown - Levinson 1978:84)
(4) ~Wi~id
Ro.rIler. illrrstrano~ls:sati~elabels. d ~ ~ e r e iaalacs
ir 11 i

Not all cultures, therefore, encourage closeness, certainly not to the Needless to say the 'closeness' portrayed here has little to do with the
same degree. For example, if I think something bad about you (for attitude reflected in utterances such as
i example that you look awful, or that you have done something bad) I Got tlie trri?e, mare?
have the option of telling you this or of concealing this thought from Mirid $1 snioke?
you. If I do tell you you may be hurt or offended, but at least you
i Utterances of this kind could be described as inforu~alor casual (among
will Know what I thinlc, and you will know that I am Interested in your
actions and your appearance. Telling you could promote our closeness.
Not telling you is more likely to promote harmony. In a situation iiice
other thmgs), but if they were said to reflect either 'iiltirnacyi or close-
ness', one would have to say that the words 'intimacy" and 'closeiless'
i this Polish culture, or Russian culture, would tend to opt for telling (that are being used in some technical sense, not in the everyday sense, and
/I is, for closeness), and Anglo-Amencan culture, for not telling (that is,
for harmony).
that without clear definihons such Llse of these words obscures. rather
than clarifies, the athtudes involved.
i Or suppose that I have done, or want to do, something that I think you
! would disapprove of..Sliould I tell you or not? I 1 tell you, this will
promote our closeness, but it will disrupt our harmony and peacefulness.
! '

You may feel something bad because of this, you'may feel angry, you
may express your disapproval, and you may malceme angry and upset. Informality is a cultural athtude which, as we have seen, is frequently
If I don't tell you, there will be no ill-feeling, but we will not be close. confused with intimacy or closeness. In Australia, when one rings a
1: Again, in a situation like this, Polish culture, or Russian culture, would travel agency, one will often hear a response including the travel
I: probably opt for telling, and Anglo-Amencan culture for not telling. The clerk's first name, for example:
attitude of a person who cherishes and seeks closeness with another Anrencan E.!press, Caf/?y speaking.
i: person can be portrayed as follows:
If one were to believe Hijirida - Sohn (1956) one migilt conclude that
i .
I want you to m o w what I feel/thinic/want
I know that you can feel somethmg bad because of this
I know lhat I can feel something bad because of this
this travel clerlc expresses intimacy or closeness towards her customers.
I have argued, however, that intimacy involves a 'special relationship'
1 8
between two people, which certanly does not apply m the present
j, I want you to ~cnowit case: die travel cierlc cannot be claiming a 'specla1 relahonship' with


because I know that you feel something good towards me
I think you Know that I feel something good towards you
If one wanted to put a global label on this attitude, one might suggest
self-disclosure', or 'openness'; but this would be misieading. As we
every anonymous caller. Nor can she be cla~mmgdeep personal lu~owl-
edge of the addressee, associated, as I have argued, with 'ciosenessi
Wltat is signalled by her self-presentation, then, is neither 'intimacy' nor
'closeness', but rather characteristic Australian 'infoinlality' - the same
i have seen, Barnlund (1975a) interprets his findings concerning Amencan informality which, for exampie, Australian university students express
I culture in terms of 'self-disclosure', but clearly, the attdude he is taking by addressing their lecturers by their first name, or which Australian
I public servants express'by address~ngtheir colleagues, and most of
about is quite different from that portrayed here. In the 'self-disclosure'
i discussed by Barnlund, the stress is on 'self'; on 'I' on saying what I thelr superiors, by their first names.
: What is the meanmg of this near-universal Australian 'infornlalit)~"?
thinlc. In the 'closeness' discussed here the stress is on the relationship
between 'I' and 'you'; on good feelings between 'I' and 'you', and on I think the essence of 'informalityi (at least as practised in Australia)
! a deslre to continue and to promote a special relauonship between us lies in the purposeful rejection of any overt show of respect, with impli-
two; even at the cost of hurt and conflict. cations of familiar~ty,friendliness, and equality. Thus, by saymg Catiiy
speoKillg the travel clerk is inviting the anonymous callers to treat ller
as if they !mew her well, to assume that she 'feels something good
to\vards all callers, tlle present caller included', and rhar there 1s no need In fact, 'inf~rmalit)~' does rend to be linked witix egalitariamsnl, and
to show overt respect to\rJards her (for example. by calling rier ildiss, iZ.ii-s, 'hierarchyi does tend to be limed wtth 'formality', but none of these
or Ms). A university lecturer or a branch head w i ~ olnvttes his or tier linlis is straightforward, and none of them can be understood ourstde the
sludents or subordinates to address him or !ier as Bob or .iamze conveys whole complex of other cultural norms and vaiues of a given sociery.
a similar attitude. Very roughly: Above all, the norms themsel\res have to be well understood and
carefiilly d e h e d .
(a) you don't have to 'show overt respect for me'
(b) I want you to speal; ro me as people do when they aim<:
(c) we !:no\\, one another well 3.1. 'Harmony'
(d) me fee! something good towards one another
(2) me can speak to one another in the same way In i!ie discussion of 'closeness' I have used repeatedly the word 'har-
Component ici of tiiis explicat~onimplies familiartty, component (d), mony' -another 1:ey word used wtdeiy in discussions of cross-cuiturai
inutual -good feelings'.. and component jej, egalirariamsm. Component pragmatics. But of course 'Iiamonp' is no more self-expianator)' than
(b) shows 1Ii:lt the spe:ii:er doesn't really have to lcnow the addressee, to 'self-assertion', 'indirectton', 'inttmacy' or ' c l ~ s e n e s s 'and
~ if one
have personal good feelings towards the addressee, or to claim full equal- doesn't say what one means by 11 in a particular context. it can be as
ity and full symmerry in his or her relation with the addressee ifor misleading as <he ofher wideiy used global labels. In the literature, this
example, <he travel clerl: may well call the addressee ~IdrsBroivii or Dr word, too; has been used in many different and mutually incompatible
S~iiirlixvhil< [calling herself ~Corilg).By using one's first name, or the senses. For example, nshiie both Anglo-Amencan and Japanese culrures
addressees iirst name; the speal:er IS evol;tng a certatn prototype of can be satd, and have been said, to value 'hai~mon)~',it ts clear the
human reiatlons (spelled out tn the components (c), (d),and (e)), and Anglo-Amertcan culture doesn'r a m at 'harmony' in me sense in which
diis is, I suggest, the essence of 'informalit),' In addition, however, Japanese culture does; in particuiar, it doesn't aim at sameness, OF
'informality has to be opposed to 'formality': this is reflected in the npparent sameness, of tnougl~ts.Patricia Clancy 'describes this Japanese
followmg, additional componeni: vlew of harmony as follows:
(0I know: people can't always speak like this to other people The Japanese reliance upon mdirect~onis consistent ivith tllelr attitude
tnmsrds vcrhnl conflict. As Rarnlund points out, in Japan conversation is
'Formality is not always associared with hierarchical human relarlons 'a \$ray of creatlng and reinforc~ngtnc emotional ties that bind pcoplc
and ~\,itlianti-egalitariantsm. For example, in Australia, at formal meet- together with ihe aim of social harmony. Therefore, overt espresslon of
ings of a universtt)' faculty, everybody speal:s in a very 'formal' xvay. conflict>ngop~nions1s taboo. Even conference partlctpants ... In conirast

\vithour dissociating ihemselves thereby from the Australian ethos 01 to tiierr argumentative Amencan counterparts. rend to express rlierr vie\vs
super-egalitariamsm. ienratlveiy. In antictputzon of possible rctract~onor qualificauon denending
In Polisll culture, titles of respect are used \+,idel)', and mutually: upon how they are rcceived they try ro feel out the positions of rneir
'informality' is not valued tn the \sap t i is in Australia; yet illis relative collcngues. see1;ing a common ground for establishing unanlmlry
'ionnalily' is linked i-!tin a democrattc, relanvely e,oaliranan etilos icf. (Bnrnlund 1975lbI; Doi 1971).
Davtes 198?:331-336). On the other hand, in 'vertzcal' societtes such as ... Individuals may hold their own r21ew, bur, in the rnterests of group
harmony, should not express i t if it conflicts i.irth the opinion oi orbers.
I<orea or Japan (cf. Nalcane 1972), the value placed on social hierarclip
[Clnncy 1986:215)
is closely iinlced witli value placed on 'formality Hence, from a Korean
or Japanese perspeclive, the 'infornialityi of the Australian or American The following comment offered by Clancy (with reference to Do1 1974)
culture ma)' seem to be linked to thetr egalitanantsm even more closely sums up the Japanese approach to narmony tn a parricutarly stril~ing
&an i t really is. way:
Fs,?ltei. illrurror!oris: sarrze labels, di$fezier-en1imalttes i 15

Since Japanese 1.5 a left-oranching verb-final language, with negauon Ifro S L cilrbr
~ [en s i p ltlbl.
appearing as a verb suffix, speakers may negate a sentence at the last 'People who peck one another on the head (like iighung blrus)
moment, depending upon the addressee's expressloe. (Clancy 1986:214! like one anomer.'
This attitude, wnlch IS certainly different from the Anglo-Amencan As thts proverb suggests, it is not only diffe~enceof oplnlolls whlcll
~ d e aof harmony, can be portrayed as follows: ts valued in Polish culture, but a fotcefully, pointedly, and pmnfully
when someone says something expressed difference. Thls attitude can be portrayed as foilouts:
I can't say: 'I don't tl~inicthe same' I want to say what I thtnlc
someone coulrl feel something bad because of this I lcnow you can feel somethlng bad because of tllls
wnen people say: 'we ail think fhe same' it 1s good I don't want not to say it because of Ulls
As Clancy mentlons above, Barnlund (1975b) links the attitude I want yoti to linow what I UllnL;
portrayed here wtth the atm of 'creatmg and relnforcmg the emotional Once agam, we must conclude that global labels sucn as 'harmomy
lies that bind people together'. This sounds rather l i e tne Polis11 or or 'distance' obscure rather than ciarify the real differences between
lluss~anideal of 'closeness'. In fact, however, the attitudes involved are different cultures and differenl ethnographies of spealung.
almost diametrically opposed. In S l a v ~ cculture, saying 'I don't th'tdc the
same" 1s seen as promotmg rather than ~eopardising 'closeness'; and
'causing people to feel somethlng bad' (now) can be seen as promoting 3.5. 'Sincerity'
~closeness'1n the long run.
Anglo-Amencan atttludes to 'harmony, and 'closeness' are different The problem of 'closeness' in interpersonal relations is closely relalea to
again. When constdered from a Slavtc or East European point of vlew, the problem of smeer~ty.It has often been s a ~ dthat 1n modem Weslertl
Anglo-American culture must be said to be onented to 'harmony' rather culture slncerlty has emerged as one of the core values. For example,
t'nan 'closeness'., but certainly not to the kind of 'harmony' sought In Trilling wrttes:
Japanese culture. Obviously, Anglo-Amencan culture does not discour-
age people from saying 'I don't think the s a m e ' It does, nowever, If slscenty 1s the avoidance of being false to any man tnrough belog [rue Lo
i one's own self, we can see that this state of personal exlslence 1s nol lo Dc
discourage them from saying 'what you thmk 1s bad', 'I don't want you
attamed wlthout Uie most arduous effort. And yet at a cerlaln polnl In
I! to think thts', 'I UII* somethine h l A about you". and so on. Furthermore. history cerraln men ana classes of men conceived that the nlalung of
11 doesn't enrn--- -' ilngs wnich are likely to cause the this effort was of supreme lmportanct 111 the moral life, and the vaue
t even temporarily, m the Interests rney attached to lhc enterprise of sincerity became a salient, perhaps a
defimtive, characterlstlc of Western culture for some four hundred years.
I nity and 'harmony' were spelled (Trilling 1972:s-6)
11. s-2 This may be so - but what does t h ~ scructal norm of 's~ncerity'really
r '2
f o ~5:. mean? Trilling (1972:2) offers the followtng definit~on:"The word as we
Da\,~es1% .6 " ' now use it refers primarily to a congruence between avowal and actual
Icorea or Ja, 0 ."h feeling" We could translate this definition into the foilowlng formula:
0 "n
IS closely linkeL-; 3
3 because of this)
if I don't feel X I shouldn't say 'I feel X'
or Japanese p e r s p ~ . s
culture may see111 to-L ;enessZ are epltomlsed In the Is it true that the norm spelled out above 1s an Important feature of
ti~an11 really is Western culture? More specifically, is it true that 11 1s an tmportant
feature of Anglo-Amencan culture?
. .. .
. . ---
11 is interesring ro nore that tine subjecrlve experience of Easrern- hiatthew Amold called the hidden self the ' b s t self'. but, Trilling
European irnnl1gmnts in Elglisti-speaking countries often leads rhem aslcs, 'is it the own self?' In Tri1ling.s 11972:j) new, if there is anything
ro the oppositc conclusion. hi particuiar, Eastem European imm~granrs aeep down In =vhich corresponds to 'the archetype of human being';
ofren complain abolit what they perceive as the 'insincer~t)" of Englisll that is, to the ~man1;lud's best self'; this is not my sole self: "I I'.now
con!~ersational routines, above all, of conversarionai openings such that it coexists with another self which is less good in the public moral
as Haib~01-E )voii?, Nice lo see goit, Loiaelj' d o ~ i ini'i
, i t . and so on. (Cf. way but which, by very reason of its culpability, mlght be regarded :IS

Drazdauslaene 1981j. more peculiarly mine. So Hawrhome ihouglit:'Be true! Be true! Be true!
The perceived insmcent)" of the 'Iiow are you?' routine consists Shn\v freely to the world, if not your worsr, yet some trait by whtch tlie
I sbotli i n the belief that the speaker doesn't really \\,ant ro lcno\v ho\-v me worst may be inferred.' "
addressec feels and is expecting the addressee to reply positively ('Fine. This brings us; I mink, much closer to the real meaning of 'sincerity'

_ 3
tnanl; you , 'Very \\'ell_ thank you: 'Iu'ot too bad') regardless of how the in European culture. It 1s not a questlon of never saylng mar one feels
addressee renlly feels. Consequently, common positive answers ('Fine, something that one doesn't feel; rather. l t is a question of m n g what
tiianl: you') are felt ro be generally insincere; and the rvhoie game is one really feels (including feelings that reveal somethin,n bao about
perceived ;IS an c!:ercise in shared insincerity. I can add to this my oneself) and of being able to m e those real ieelings (especially
personal testimony as an imm~grantand a bilingual: After seventeen those which show something bad about oneself) 'to tile world' Every
years of living 111 Ausrmlia, l still find the pseudo-quest~onHole are )'or[? human being is 5nyu_ee,and u ~ q ~ l y ~ t e r ~because t i n g of tllis. We
:: pelplzslng one, since my olvn cultural impulse is to try to reply shouldn't try ro appear 'good' to other people. zainer, we should try to
sincerely, i\8hicilI lcnon~1 am not supposed to do. When I recenrly failed
ro reply proinpriy io this question, helplessly searching for woros, my
inter~ocutoi-Iaugi~ed at me: 'Come on, this is not sucli a difficult
-- ----
reveal 'to tlie world' our u&a,geEez, and this involves3 above all else.
our 'badness' because 0111 'badness'
ing, than our Lgoodness'
is more original, and more intere!;r-
quesriotl Bur lo nlc, I! is a difficult quesoon, and I laon* that I share - T h e culurai injunctions in question can be formuiarea as follo!%,s:
rlils difficuiiy n,i!li thousands of other East European immigrants in
Austsalia and in Ainenca. I don't imow wiiat I feel
1 can't beiievc. tlierefore, rhat Anglo-American culrure really cher- I wan1 to lcnn\v It
islies and promotes the norm that Trilling attributes to it: 'if I don'i \!,hen I Icnoiv I! I want ro say it
! reel
S I sliouidnSrsay "I feel X"' On rhe contrary, I think that Slavxc I want people to h o w i t
I :~ntlEastern European culture promotes this norm, and tliat b)' doing so
I8 i t coines into conflicl uiitll Anglo-American culmre.
I tllinic rhat people can think sometlung bad about me because
of this
Eui tli~sis not ro say that I aon't recognise the validity of nllat -.
I d_qn't.-
want -n o s o s y II-bepu? of$$
Trilling is ii-ying to sap about Western culture (as opposeo to what rle I believe that the attltude speit out above may indeed be, as Trilling savs,
aclur.liy does say). Clearly, what he had in mind was not slncenty (or 'a salient, perhaps a definitive charactenstic of Western ~ u l t u r e linked
olIler\i'~se.! 01' conversatrnnal fomiulae, bur sincerltg of certazn lands of with me emergence and
/\ self-disclosure. Trilling (1972:j) quotes in this connection hlatthew
closely with the blrth of
growing significance of iarles, autobiographies,
Arnold's "n~isrfulst:ilemcnt of the difficulty, perhaps even impossibiity, 'confessions', Introspection, and so on. My point is that we canna1
of locating tile own self' capture, or identify, this cnaractensric by means of some global term
Belaa' the surioce-rrrcam, shallow and light, SUCII as 'smcenry'
Of what 4-c s3y ~ V Cfeet - beloit, the scream, Contemporary Anglo-American culmre doesn't seem to place any
As iighi, of tvliar \re ihirii: we feel - tliere flows premium on 'neijer saying rliat one feeis something that one doesil'i
With no~sclesscurrent strong. obscure and aeep, feel'. On the contrary: the routines of human interaction reflected in ihe
TIE cznii-;iirrrcnm o i tvhn! we ieel indeed. Engiish language encourage saying that one feels something good when
one doesn't feei anything good. Thls 1s manifested, in a spectacular In logically wlth the modern Anglo-Amencan constraints on direct
way, not oiily in the Hoiv are you? routlne, but also m the convenuons confrontation, direct clashes, direct criticisms, direct 'personal remarks
of letter-wnting: the opening phrase Dear Sir expresses a good feeling - features whlch are allowed and promoted in otlier cultures, for
towards an addressee who may be a complele stranger, and so does the esample, m Jewish culture (cf. Schiffrin 1984) or m Black Amexkcan
ciosing phrase Y01li.s suicerely. Phrases of this kind cannot be used in culture (cf. for example ICochman 1981), in the Interest of cultural values
otlier European languages, certainly not in Slavic languages, vihich do i such as 'closeness", 'spontaneity'. 'anlmat~on',or 'emotional intensity
not allow any formalised expression of clearly non;exlstent 'good feel- 8
wliich are given m these cultures priortty over 'social harnlony'
ings' (and which encourage expresston of exlstlng 'bad feelings'). ! This 1s why, for example, one doesn't say freely in (white) English;
Trillirtg (1972:3) opens his discuss~onof 'sincer~ty'in Western culture 'Yon are wrong". as one does tn Hebrew Lcf. Schiffrin 1984) or 'You're
with a quote from Hamlet: crazy', as one does in Black English (cf. ICochman 1981:46). Of course
some 'Anglos" do say fairly freely things like Rubbisl~!or even Bullsl~~i!.
Thts above all: to thine own self be true In particular, B~~lishir!(as well as You bastard!) is widely used in con-
And lt doth follow, as the nlght the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man. versatlonal Australian English. Phrases of thls Bmd, however, derive

A It would appear, however, that in modern times the idea of 'being tiue
to oneself' has become disassociated from that of 'never bemg false
their force and their populmtp partly from the sense that one is vlolaung
a social constraml. In using phrases of this kind, tlie spealcer defies a
soclal constraint, and explolts it for an expressive purpose; indirectly,
lo aiiy m a n ' This may be linked with the shift of emphasis From 'smcer- ti~erefore,he (sonietimes, she) acltnowledges tile exlstence of this
+ ity' to 'auti~enticity',whlch as Trilling points out, has taken place in
&- constraint In the societp at large.
modem times. Generally spealung, m mamstream Anglo-American culture one has to
A very considerable onglnabve power had once been clatmed for s a , be rather careful as to what one says aboot @because one prefers
but llothing to match the marvellous generauve force that our modern to avoid confrontation, preserve h a r E avoid the irnpresslon of
judgment asslgns to-zty ... Still, before aurhenuclty had come imposing or interfering, and so on); at tlie same time. one can be Less
along lo suggest the deficiencies of sincerity and to usurp 11s place in our circumspect in saying things hguoht1--a here, too, there are
esteem, sincenry stood high m the cultural fimameilt and had dominton various constraints and restrictions. such as the constraint on 'bragging'
over men's rmagination of how they ought to be. (Trilling 1972:lZ). or t h e constraint on the expression of one's bad feeiings towards the
addressee, or tlie constramt, on 'emotional displays'
It seems to me that m modern times the two Ideas 1inl:ed by Shakespeare
The general nonn, then, can be portrayed as follows:
in the passage froin Hamlet have become dissociated: the idea of 'bemg
7 true to oneself' developed Into something like that 'authenticity' dis- I can say what 1 think/want/feel
'-, cussed by Trilling, whereas the Idea of 'not being false to any man' other people can say wnat they thl~llO'w~ultlfeel
has given way to a modem Anglo-Amencan virtue of social harmony, i
Some of the constraints on this general norm can be formulated as
based on 'distance' and on avotdance of interpersonal clashes. i follow^:
The vlrtue of 'authentic~ty'has to do wtth the notion of 'self', and of
a true, genuine, and unidiibited expression of one's self. It does not ID- I (1) I can't say: 1 am good
~ relation between 'I' and 'you'. As far as the relation between
V O ~ Vthe I can do thlngs that other people can't
'I' and 'you' is concerned the emphasis seems to have shifted from (people would thinl: something bad about me
'sincerity' to the avoidance of clashes, to smooth, well-greased, hanno- because of this)
nlous soclal interactlon. Conventional expressions and conventional (2) I can't say: I feei sometlimg bad towards you
routlnes such as Dear iiir X, Hoiv are you?, Losely lo see yorc, Nice ro I thinic something bad about you
lmve tiler you, Loijely day, rsn~iit. and so on, provide the oil for such
harmonious social interactlon. The expansion of such expressions fits
( 3 ) I can't sap: I winr you to do something that you don't \qJant (a) I sap: I feel something
to do 1b) 1 say this because I feel this
(4) I can't always say whar I feel (c) I i;no\v: you can think that I say thrs
(people could think somettiing bad about m e because of this) because I tliim I should say it
( 5 ) I can't say things ~viiensomeone else is saying sometlung (d) I don't want you to ihinl; this
One rnigllt say, then, that a curious paradox is in\~olvedin the position (e) I say thls because 1 feel this
of 'sincerity as a cutrural value in modem Anglo-Amencan culture. On In Japanese culrure, mere is 110room for this liind of attitude because [lie
tlie one il.~nd, as Trilling says, the very word si?icei.e(l),) has come emphasls is very largely on saylng whar one thinl<s one should say, not
to have an air of insincerity about i t - and, yet, as Goldstein - Taniora on saying what one really feels. Hence, there is no perceived need to use
11975) palilt our, 'Anglos' (in contrast to tlie Japanese) go to great
troubie to sound sincere. T o achieve tiiis, they seek to espress their
feelings in a personalised way, in contrast to the Japanese, who rely on
slandard fomls and Uo no1 \,lew 'clich&s' or ready-made f o m u i a e in $1
negative way:
To the Anlei-lcan, rhe Japanese method of srandard messages, such ns
I i

... rlle Amencan spearer mares a personal connectLon to i h e r lsici
wnile at h e same time expressing his own personality in the arrangemcnl
of words he chooses lo use. The Japanese speaker, havjng rile form al his
disposal. snows chiefly his awareness of his obligar~onby uslng the verbal
form at the appropirate ier,e! at the appropriate [me. (Goldstein - Tnmura
'Congraruiul~ons'!%'r.lIhonly a name, the presentanon of a gift with a stan- 1975:80)
dard ~ h i n s e ,a refuse! rvirh a standard phrasc before acceprance ... may
seem very bare lndeecl and perhaps somewhat ttisi,rcere. (Goidstem -
Tamurn 1975:91j lernphas~sadded]
The limerlcan gursr espresslng tilan1:s to his llost :ir ihc end of dinner iias 4. Different attitudes to emotions
no ... sranriard form: bul iarher makes use o i a vnnely of possibiliries
generoliy enipiiasising rile siiccess o i the men!, \i,irh or w~thour ail
exnresslon of rh:inl:s, such as 'Thank you for tile dcliclous dinner' or Different cultures take different attitudes to emotlons and these different
'What a dclic~ousmeal that was' (more informal) or 'Boy, tnar was great!' attitudes to emotions influence, to a considerable degree, the \r,ays
(colloquiai-slang). each said with npproprrarc inronaoon ro express si,,cer.- people speak. (See for example Lutz 1986, 1988; .Wierzblcl;a. to appear.)
!ry. (Goldstein - Tamurn 1975:72j /emphasis added1 1 Differences of this kind cannot be satisfactorily expla~nedby means of
This search for n personalised exprecqror) o f . m p 2 - ',e any global iabels such as 'emollonal' or 'anti-emotional', 'express!~'e' or
feelinms, seems to reiiecr a tension bet\veeri tne value of authenticity, 'non-expressive' They can, however, be made clear by means of
01 'berng rruc to oneself' and the search for friend]-mus semantic explications. In \\,hat follows, 1 will try to present thumb-nail
a a t i o n s ~ v l t hother people: between the desire to exoress one's ' r ~ a i si~etchesof several cultures, considered from the poilit of view of their
sell' ('this is what I i'eeliwantltliink') and the deslre friendly characterist~cattlrudes to emotions.
i n t e r p ~ e r S o ~ ~ r s l a r i owith
n s other people and to
f e.-
elssometli~ - n-rood'
4.1. Polish culture
Tiie d e s ~ r eto liave friendly relations with otlier people may lead one to
sag things LI'IIICII do not correspond to what one really feels and thinks.
Tiie amareness of this, an0 the value placed on both 'harmony' and self- Like other Slavic cultures, Polish culture vaiues what might be called
expression, may lead to an attitude m h ~ c hcan be portrayed as follows: uninhibited elnotional espression:
I want to say what I feel
D(ffere~ztattitudes 10 entorrorzs 123

This includes both good feelings and bad feelings: because he is hungry. The mother bursts out, 'Eat, eat, eot. All you want to
do is eat. May the worms eat you. May the earth open up and swallow you
I feel somethlng goodbad alive.' This mother loves her child, she is only pounng out the bitterness
I want to say ie that's in her heart in the only way she icnows. But m translat~onshe sounds
lilce a monster. (Butwm 1958:9)
As mentioned earlier, 11 values m particular expression of good feelings
towards the addressee:, A few further examples of Jewlsh 'wtshes' espresslng the speai<er's
feeling (see mati is off 1979):
I feel something good towards you
(I waot you to Imow it! Governor Reagali, IIlfly he be erased, i a l ' r giving airy r-aise t11ls
year to niy SOIL the professor, a Realtli ro trbn.
and it offers for this purpose a wealth of linguistic resources, such as
a very rich system of hypoconstic forms of personal names, and also a A blacli year on her, all day lojig she clie~eednty ear off. wit11
rich set of terms of e n d e m e n t . The latter point 1s illustrated by Polisli trivia.
terms wldely used in everyday speech, partlculariy m speech directed
My 11iotlter-in-law, nloy a lamelit be lciio~~n
to he{-,liar a iv~clced
at children: piaszlcii 'dear little bud', kotliii 'dear little cat', stoneczlco
'dear little sun", iabko 'dear little frog', skar'bie 'lreasure'. itotko 'dear
littie gold', and so on (cf. 'WierzbicKa, to appearj. rvfe - mtut she live? - gave rt away to iiim for 12otl1~1ig
Many othel features of the Polish ethnography of speaicmg call be Matisoff (1979:86j offers the following comment, w111ch I believe
explained m terms of this cultural attitude. For example, cordial impera-
expresses a deep insight: "Especially m the case of curses, the formulas
tives and 'imposltives' ('have some more',, 'you must have some morei, may serve a purely therapeutic function. They are convement, con-
'you must stay a little longer', and so on) are clearly related to it
(cf. Chapter 2 above).
ventionaiised ways of letting off steam -releasing bursts of psyclllc
energy whicil mlght otherwise remain hopelessly bottled up ..." Follow-
Polish principle of 'cordialify' tng this insight, we can represent the pragmahc principle m questlon
I feel something good towards you as follorvs (the braclieted component is optional):
I want good things to happen to you Jer~nsiiexpressive cirrses
I waot to be w ~ t hyou X thmnks of person Y
(X thlnics: person Y did something bad)
X feels somethlng because of thls
4.2. jerv~shculture X wants to say sometiung because of thls
X says: I want someihing bad to happen to Y
Emotional self-expression was also hlghly valued in traditional (East
European) Jewish culture, as described, for example, by Matlsoff (1979).
In this culture, however, good and bad feelings were generally expressed 4.3. American black culture
by means of good and bad wishes. Hence the tremendous importance
of curses and blessings in Yiddish speech. Thls characterlstlcally Unlnhibited emotional self-expression is also charactenstic of Amencan
Jewish style of emotional expressiveness is well illustrated in the black culture, as opposed to white culture. In tnls culture, however, thel-e
follow~ngpassage: 1s no emphasis on 'good feelings towards the addressee, and there 1s no
There are as many types of curses as there are people cursing, but the tradition of expressive wlshes. Among several characteristlc features
hardest ro explam is the mother cursing iier child. Tlle child may be crylng of this culture which emerge from the rich literature on the subject I
will single out the 'intense': 'emotional' character of black speech: the
'animation' thc 'heated tone' of discussions, the 'Iacl~o f detachments in it because they thlnl: it is good. By contrast, wliites tend to present tlleii
; '.
staring one's opinlons and expressing one's mougiits; even on abstract. ideas as spol:esmen, not advocates. "How deeply a person cares about
inrellect~ial topics: tlic distrust of a deliberntely dispassionate and or believes in the idea 1s consrdered irrelevant to its fundamental value.
,detached mode of discussion favoured by \sliite Anglo-Amerlcan ... Whites beliese that canng about one's own ideas, like the infatuation
culture. Rocnman ivrites: of scienrists \slth their own hypothesis, will make then1 less receptive to
opponng ideas." 11981:21). I<ochman speaks in this connection of the
Bur they ibiac!:sl I > : i v nnorlier reason lo mzsinrerprcr (nna distrust) ihe
dispasslonaii 2nd dst:~cned mode that whites use to engage in debnre. It separation of 'truth' and 'belief' in Anglo-Amencan culture, and lie linl:!:
the norms of dispassionate, neutral objectivity, and of detachment from
4 I
resembles !lie mode tktr blacks tn<:rnselvesuse when [hey are/,.o,rrirzg: lhai 1
is, consciously suppressme whar tliey rmly feel or uelieve. As one black one's ideas n'iih Ule desire to discover 'the real truth' (which I S seen as
student put I!. 'Tlinr's whsn I'm tyln'.' Front~nngenerally occurs in blacK1 involving only sentences, not people). He points out that in this culture
\viiirz encouiitsrs \i*hen bIac1:s pcrcclve n risk factor and rhey decide 11 the merits of an idea are seen as intnnslc to the idea itself. and that
would lie more prudenr ro Keep sileni rbnn lo speai;. (Koclirnnn 19S1:12) emotional involvement with ideas is seen as something that can only
prevent people from being able to assess their ~ntrinsic\#slues.
Ylacl: culture values, then. and promotes the folln\~fingattitude:
Blnci Al?ler-zcan
i riiini: sometning
I feel something because of this
I think something
I feel something because of this
I iiJant to say I I
I think it is good to think this
i?'iiite Anglo-~i~iierican cuiturc values and promotes \%,hat one might I want other peopie to think this
call loosely tlie opposirc attitude:
I thine solnething I think something
I \\,ant to say ir I don't feel anything because of this
I don'i feel anything because of it 1 other peopie don'r have to think the same
The iwo cultural norms in quesnon could aiso be represented ns folloivs: I u2anr to say what I tilink

Giack ilinericui;
X thinl;.s sonietliing
I want other people to think about it
I want to knorv what other people tlllnl a6 out i t
The con~flicnonthat our ideas are good and the attitude of emotionai
X xvanrs to say it
attachment to them leads in black culture to what I<ocnman (1981:23)
one c:iil see Illat X feels someihlng because of tliis
calls 'dynamic opposition', an attitude which is perceived as a uniiying
people lllint:: rllls is good
rather than a divlsive force. "Whites attempt to minimise dynamic
Anglo-.i~~?er-icni~ opposition wtthin the persuasive process because such confrontation, or
X thinlcs something struggle; is seen as divisive. Blacks, however, see such struggle as
<: \wants to say it unifying ... It signifies caring about something enough to want to
one can't see that X feeis anything because of this shuggie for it." I think that to account for this 'dynamic opposition' and
peopie tnini:: iliis is good for its 'unifying force' we could add to the formulae si;etchcd above the
Furiiiermore, for blaclcs, views are ~nseparablefrom values and values
are closely linked mitli emotionai involvement. Consequently, "blacks Block A?~ierrca~i
present their views as advocates. They take a posltion and snow that I icnow that you don'r think the same
rhey care about this position" iI<ochman 1951:20) - and they care about
1 Different airlrrides ro enzonoits 127

I tlllnl; this is bad I feel something bad because of this

I feel sometlung because of tlns
In addition, Japanese clllture places very high value on empathy, on
-:-I want us to tlunlc the same
anticipamg what other people might feel. It is thls high sensitivltj, to
Anglo-Antericait other people's (unexpressed! feelings that causes the Japanese to 'masic'
I know that you don t thlnlc the same and conceai thelr feelings:
I don't thidc this is bad In soclal interaction, Japanese people generally are expected to restrun, if
1 don't feel anything because of this not suppress, the sirong or direct expression of emotron. Those who cannot
I thmK. we don't have to thinlc the same convol their emouon are considered to be immature as human beings.
Strong expression lverbal or nonverbal) of such negative emotions as an-
ger, disgust, or contempt couid embarrass other people. Direct cxpresslon
4.@.Japanese culture of SOTTO\V or fear couid cause feelings of gnsecunty in other people.
! Expression of even happiness sllould be controlled so that i t does not
In Japanese culture, as we have seen, the prevailink norm with respect displease otlier people.
to emotions is thls: The best way to coinply wifh this social code of bel>avior1s to utilise
masking techmques. Thus, Japanese people, although unaware, frequenuy
I don'i want someone to feet something bad display apparent iack of a meaniiigful faclal expressloo. often referred to
as 'inscrutable' by Western peopte. It is an attempt to neutrvlise strong
This is manifested In countless ways m the Japanese ethnography of
emotions to avoid displeasure or embarrassment on ille part of other
spealcing, but perhaps most spectaculariy in the omnipresence of peopte. (Honnu - Hoffer 1989:88-90)
apologies and quasi-apologtes m Japanese speech (cf. Conlmas 1981:
cf. also Mizutani - Mizutani 1987). The importance of apologies in This can be represented as follows:
Japanese culture is epitomsed m the fact that in the Japanese version I don't want to say what I feel
of Little Red Riding-Hood the wolf has to appear at tile end with tears someone could feel somethtng bad because of this
in his eyes aslung for forgiveness (Lanham 1986:290). The theme of
indebtedness which pervades Japanese soctd Interaction is related to this Thls focus on empathy 1s manifested not only In the constant attenlpts
omnipresence of apologies, and also to the lack of boundaries between to avoid anything Ulat might hurt or offend the addressee, but also in the
acts which from a Western perspective would be mterpreted as ap0logleS attempts Lo antlclpate and guess other people's unexpressed needs and
and thanks. Roughly: wishes (cf. Lebra 1976).

(1) 1 did something ithat was bad for youj The Japartese principle of 'enlpatli)~' and 'coilsldef.ario~i'
I thinic you could feei someuling bad because of this X thinks:
I feel sometlung bad because of this if I do something (Y)
(2) You did something good for me this person can feel something badlgoou because of this
I didn't do something like fhis for you I \-fill not/will do it because of this
1 feel sometlling bad because of this inis person doesn't have to say anything

Thus. both the constant fear that someone may feel Something bad This stress on empathy is linlced to the Japanese reluctance to verbal-
because of us and the constant awareness of unrepaid good tlltngs rse feelings at all - due largely to the fear that by domg so one may
that other people have done to us lead to the humble expression of our hllrt or offend other people, but also to the convlciion that feelings
uwn 'guilt'. should be expressed, and understood, without words; and furthermore, ,.i
.. ---- I didldidn't do something (tnlfor you)
that feelings cannot be really expressed by words. Goldstein and Tamura
coniment in inis connectton: The management of one's emooonal economy becomes one's primar).
In general. ... Amciicans ... rend more to the feeling t1131 tltey can express concern, in terms of whicli all else is ulllmateiy rarionalised. The rpfritu-
senrimenis dii?etlu and personally through the medium of language. ... To all), enliglitened man guards his psycholog~calequilibrium \\,ell and inages
tlic Liponese, on the other hand, 'No word conveys sorroiv; you must iooe a constant effort to maintain its placid stability. His proxrmatc a m is
;it i!,e color of lhe eyes' (Goidstcto - Tamura 1976:02-93) cmot~onaiquiescence, for Dassion is 1:asor feelin$, fit only for cliildrcn.&---
animals, peasants, and foreigners. His ult~mateaim, mlticb this quiescence
T h e attitude epiiornised In this proverb can be ],ortrayed. roughly, as mal:es nossible. IS gnosls, the direct comprehension of the ultimarc raso.
r01loivb To feei all is to understand all. Paradox~cally,it is also to feel norhing ...
Emorlonnl equnmmrty, a certain flatness of affect. IS, rile"; the prlzea
I dotisr mant ro sag what I feel
psycl~ological state, the mark of me truly allis Irefinedl chzractei.
one canz! sax. what o n e feeis (Geertz 1976239-240) -, i l l
This would suggest an a t t ~ t u d ewhich can be portrayed as follows:
I want to feei ihe s a m e all tile time
I think if I d o something thts will happen
.As we have seen earlier, not saytng what o n e feels is also higilly valued 1 thinl: I can d o tilts
in Javanese culture. Here, ho\vevcr_ the motivations seem to ue rather
different tiiiin in Japan: t i is not s o much rne belief that feelings cannot
be expressed tn \vords, o r the preference for wordless empathy, or the
consideratioit for other people's feelings, but rather, a deslre to protect
5 . Conclusion
one's own -equanimity and peace of mmd, w k c i l couid be tltreatened a?
an overt expression_ of -
feeling. Thus Geestz.writes:
~. '

I i one can calm one's mosr mward feelings (by being ri.l,,io, sabar, and For tntzrcultural understanding, "More than mere contact is essenttal.
ii;las). ... one can build a mall nround them: one will be able both lo People must become capable of empathy, of being able to project t h e m
conceal them iiom orliers and to protect ihem From outside disturbance. seives into the nssumptive world, the cultural unconscious; of an alien
The refinement of inner feeling has thus t\~.o~spects:the direct inrernnl culture. Yet this is a formidable task unless there are ways to introduce
attempt ro control one's cmonons represented by irt,nn, sobor, and ikios: people to the assumpttve world of others" (Bamlund 1975b:140).
and, secondly. an external atlempi to build n wall around rhem Lila1 u%sill
I have vied to show that there are w a r s to d o tnis. W e cannot enter
protect rilem. 00 the one hand, one cngager i n an inward disc~plinr,2nd
on tlie other !it an outwaro defence. (Geerrz 1976:241)
the 'assumpttve world of o t h e r s if w e try to rely on culture-specific.
complex, and obscure concepts such a s ' d i r e c t n e s ~ ' 'self-asserttoti'
This can be reflected in the formula: 'solidarity' or 'harmony'. but o n e can d o it if we rely, instead, o n lextcai
I don'i want people to know wh;it I feel universals such as ivani, rhirik, say, o r knolr!.
Ruth Benedict (quoted in Bamlund 1975b:110) wrote:
It would seem; then, that while n e ~ t h e rthe Japanese nor the Javanese
ivani to say \\,hat they feel. the Javanese, in addition, don't even want One of the llandicaps of the twcnlretlt centur)8 is that we still liave the
vaguest 2nd most biased notions. not only of what makes Japan :I natson o:
others to i;now wt1ai they feel; and tiley want to restrain not only the
Japanese but of rvhar makes the Untied States a nunan of Americans,
externa! expresston of feelings, but also lnternal emottonal expel'ience France a nation of Frenchmen, and Russia a nation of Russians. Lacking
a n attttude remintscent of the Stoic aparl~ern'freedom from emotional this l;no\\,ledgc; each counnp misunderstands the other. (Denedict 1947:13)
disturbance', see Wierzhicl;a, t o appear, chap. 6).
What applies to different natlons, applies also to different ethnic groups
i n a multieihntc society. What makes Japan a nation o f Japanese. o r
Russla a nation of Russians 1s reflected - more clearly than anywhere Chapeer 4
else - in the ways the Japanese or the Russ~ansspeak. And the ways Describing coni~ersationalranantines
in which they speak can be summarlsed 111 clearly and universally
accessible formulae'couched in the natural semantic metalanguage.

It IS a uuism to say that different cultures, and subcultures, have differ-

ent conversauonal routines, and that it is Important that those different
routines should be carefully studied, analysed and described. But the
ways ~n which this self-evldent program of research should be Imple-
mented are by no means clear or generally agreed upon. In this chapter I
shall argue that desplte the considerable effort which has gone Into the
descnptlon of conversat~onairoutines, much less has been achieved 111
this lmportant area than might have been - because not enough thought
has been given to the vital question of a metalanguage in wllich such
analysis can be fruitfully carrled out.
To show how a suitable metalanguage can facilitate the descnptlon
and comparison of conversationai routines, I examine a number of
generaiisauo~ls suggested, or hinted at, in Anlta Pomerantz's (1976)
lnterestlng paper on responses to compliments. I try to show why in
the present form these generalisauons are neither cleas nor verifiable,
and I propose ways of refnrmulat~ngthem which could make them clear
and verifiable. I try to show how the use of the proposed metalanguage
makes such reformulat~onpossible, and how it enables us to describe
conversational routines used in different socletles in a way which can be
illuminatmg, r~goronsand free of ethnocelltric bias. (For another attempt
along ~ i m i i a lines,
r see Amelca 1987.)

I. Conversational analysis: linguistic or naona-DingaoEstEc


Many conversational routines m many cultures are lexlcalised andlor

grammatlcaiised, that is to say, they conslst in utterlng in certaln
situations certain phrases, or using certam constructions, which encode
certain language-specific interactional meanings. It seems clear that
Russia a natlon of Russlans is reflected - more clearly than anywhere
else - in the ways the Japanese or the Russlans spealc. And the ways I Chapter 4
Describing conversational routines
In wll~chthey speak can be summarised in clearly and universally
accessible formulac couched in the natural semantlc metalanguage

It 1s a trulsrn to say that different cultures, and subcultures. have differ-

ent conversational routines, and that it 1s Important that those different
routlnes should be carefully studied, analysed and described. But the
ways in which lhis se1f:evident program of research should be imple-
inented are by no means clear or generally agreed upon. In this chapter I
shall argue that despite the considerable effort wl~ichhas gone into the
descr~pt~on of conversational routmes, much less has been achieved 111
this important area than might have been - because 1101 enough thougilt
has been given to the vital quesuoa of a metalanguage in which such
analysis can be fruitfully carried out.
To show how a stiltable metalanguage can facilitate the description
and comparison of conversatronal routmes, I examine a iiulnber of
geileralisat~onssuggested, or hinted at. in A n ~ t aPomerantz's (197s)
Interestmg paper on responses to compliments. I try Lo show why in
the present form these generalisatlons are neither clear nor verifiable,
and I propose ways o r reformulating them whlch could malie them clear
and verifiable. I try to show how the usc of the proposedmetalanguagc
malies such reformulauon possible, and hoiv it enables us to describe
conversational routlnes used m different societies in a may rvhlch can be
illuminating, rigorous and free of ethnocentric blas, (For mother attempt
along slmilar lines, see Ameka 1987.)

i. Conversaiionai analysis: !ingl?islic or raon-linguistic


Many conversational routines in many cultures are lcxicaliszd and/or

grammatlcalised, that 1s to say, they consist in uttering i n cerialn
SitUationS certaln phrases, or using certain constructlous, which encode
certaln language-specific interactional meanings. It seems clear thai
devices can be stated in rigorous and yet self-explanatory semantic Chapter 2
formulae. 'Radical pragmatics' is rejected as a blind alley, and an
integrated approach to language structure and language use is proposed, DifXea-en&cuklianres, different !angaagesq
based on a coherent semantlc theory, capable of representing 'objective' different speech acts
and ' S ~ b j e ~ t l aspects
~e' of meanlng m a unified frarneworlc.
Chapter I 1, 'Conclusion: semantics as a key to cross-cultural pragmat-
ics'., recapitulates the m a ~ nfeatures of the approach to the study of
human lnteracuon advanced m the present book, stressmg in particular I
its universal, 'culture-free' perspective, and its 'mult~cultural',culture- From the outset, studies in speech acts have suffered from an astonlshiilg
specific, content. It highlights the theoretical and methodological novelty ethnocentnsm, and to a considerable degree they continue to do so.
of the book, its empirical orientation, and its potentla1 for use in Consider, for example, the following assertion: "When people make
language teaching and m the teachmg of cross-cultural understanding requests, the)' tend to make them mdirectly. They generally avold im-
and cross-cultural communication. peratives like Tell tize the trine, which are direct requests, in preference
i for questions like Carl yori tell ?Tie the tinze? or assertions like I'nz trylag
1 tofitzd out what tmze it is, which are indirect requests." (Clark - Schunk
It is clear that tliese authors have based thelr observations on English
alone; they take it for granted that what seems to hold for the speakers
of English must hold for 'people generally' Another author writes:
The focus of this chapter is on the situat~onalconventions that influence
how people make, understand, and remember requests. I will argue lhat
people's icnowledge of particular social situations results m certaln re-
quests being seen as conventional. ... My starting potnt will be to show
how social contexts conslraln the ways in which people comprehend
indirect requests. ... I will sketch ;I new proposal that specifies how the
structure of social situations directly determines Uie surface forms used by
speakers m making requests. (Gibbs 1985:98)
This author seems to be quite unaware that there are people other than
spealcers of English; consequently, he doesn't even suspect that 'surface
forms used by speakers in malung requests' may differ from language to
language, and that if they do differ then they cannot be 'directly' deter-
mined by 'social situations'
Throughout this chapter, I will try to show that statements such
as those quoted above are based on an ethnocentric illusion: it is not
people in general who behave m the ways described, it is the spealcers
of English.
Presumably, the ethnocentric bias characterlst~cof speech act studies
is largely due to their origin m linguislrc philosophy rather tlrair m
linguistics proper (see below, section 5). Nonetl~eless,statements mlstdc-
. - -
semantic formulas - for performing a given speecli act. ...
~ -

At a meeting of a Polish organisation in Australia a distinguislied

81 request, for exampie: in one ianguage by asking the liearer Australian guest is muoduced. Let us call her Mrs. Vanessa Smith. One
ability to do the aci (Call )'oil do riinr?), by expressing one's of the Polish hosts greets the visitor cordially and offers her a seat of
tile hewer to do the act ( I ' d rerilly a~ppl.eciare$'yoif'd do rhar), honour 17~1ththese words:
hcse same semantic formula:; - strategies - are asailable to
ers of every other ianguzge." (Fraser - Rintell - Waiters ib11.s. TJanessa! Please! Sir! Sir!
19). These author:: are nor unaware of some crosslinguist~c Tlie word Mrs. is used liere as a substitute for the Polish word paiii,
:s in rllis respect, but they dismiss them as 'miniinal' which (unlike illrs.) can very weil be combmed with first names. IVhat is
reconceptions could probaoiy be seriousiy dented by reference more interesting about the phrasing of the offer is the use of the short
any language. Here, I sliall be drawing mainly upon illustrative Imperative Sir!, which makes the utterance sound like a command, and
rom Polish and iiom Australian English. in fact like a command addressed to a dog.
:n i f one limits the tasl; ail: hand to companng selected speech The phrase Sir down! would sound less mappropriare, but in the con-
only I\VO ianguages? rile topic is still vast and couldn'r be text 111 question it would not be very felicitous either: it still \vould not
:hausrivelg in any one woric. The cultural nomls reflected in sound like an offer, let alone a cordiai and deferential one. K very
is differ no1 only from one language ro another, but also from infommi offer could be phrased as Have a sear, with imperati\le mood.
~ilaland soc~a!variety io another. There are considerable but not with an action verb in imperative mood. More formal offers
es between Australian English and American English. would normally take an interrogaave form:
mainstream American English and American Black English,
middle-class En,oiish and worliing-class English, and so on. Pi7ill yozr sir doiviz?
liso a great deal of vanation within Polish. Nonetheless: tliere i'i'oil't yo11 srt doilal?
~70i!ldyou like ro sir doiun?
rzmar1:able amount of unifornniy within English, as there IS
lish. Sir doiz~n,ivon't yoif?
\r~ithoutsaying rliat the differences between English and Polish In fact. even very informal offers are often performed in Engltsh by
in this chapter could, and sliould, be studied in a much more means of sentences m the interrogative form:
and systematic way than tins been done here. But to do so, one
re to devote a \vhole boolr to the subject, or one mould have to Sirre yoif 11~01fldfi'rlike n beer? (Hibberd 1974:218)
s field of vision to a strip so narrow that one would have no
Like a sx~~tgnr the niiik? (Hibberd 1974:213)
or reaching the generalisations which in my view explain Significantly, English has developed some special grammatical
:a o i the kind discussed here. The present overview was com- devices in which the interrogative form is normally used not for aslung
pilot study. I believe, however, that even m its present fomi i t but for m a h n g an offer, a suggestion or a proposal, especially the form
?,onstrates that different cultures find express~onin different Hoiv nbo~lra AJP7.
i speech acts, and that different speech acts become ennenched,
Hen, aboirr a beer7 (Buzo 1979:64)
me extent, codified in different languages.
HOII,aboifr a borrle? (Hihberd 1974:187)
In Polish, HOJI'aboitt utterances have to be rendered in a forni indis-
tinguishable from that of genuine questions (except of course for the
28 Differorr crclirrres, differe~irIofrglmges, differenr speech acis

~LIozesic czegoi napijesz? What applies to offers applies aiso, to some extent, to inv~tations.For
'Perhaps you will dr1111i some(bing12 example, in English a man can say to a woman:
A further difference between Polisfi an0 English 'concerns me literal Worcld yor~like lo co~rreto the prcb l o ~ ~ t o r r orr~ghr
~ v ivrlh me arrd
content of interrogative offers. In English, a teiitative offer (even a very Davo? (Buzo 1979:60)
lnformal one) tends lo refer to the addressee's deslres and opimons: E'ould yorr like to come oil? arrii me one ~rrghi?iris ~veek?
(Hibberd 1974:214)
Like a s>slg a? llie nrilk? (Hibberd 1974:213)
Hey, yo~rivorrld~r'ilike lo cante ro dinner roilight, ieould )~ori?
Siire you a~onldiiiilike a bnsh a t sonre? (Hibberd 1974:214)
(Hibberd 1974:193)
The pliraslng of such offers implies that the speaker is not trying to In Polish, iiteral transIatlons of such utterances would make very poor
impose his will on the addressee, but 1s merely trying to find out what
mvltatlons. A sentence in the frame:
the addressee himself wants and thinlis.
In Polish, literal equivalents of offers of ihls kind would sound inap- Ci), niialabgi oclrofe ...
propriate. The English questlon Are yorr sure?, so often addressed by 'Would you like to ... ?'
hosts to the11 guests, sounds comicai to the Polish ear: it breaks the sounds like a genuine question, not like an lnvltation or a proposal. If
unwritten law of Polish hosp~taiity,according to whicil the host does not
a man wants to asli a womail out, 11 would sound presumptuous for him
try to establish the guest's wishes as far as eatmg and d r d n g is con- to express overtly an assumption that she 'would like' to do it. Rather,
cerned but tnes to get the guest to eat and drink as mucll as possible (and he should show that he would like to go out with her, and Seek her
more). A Ilospltabie Polish host will not take 'No: for an answer; he consent. One would say:
assumes that the addressee can have some more, and that it would be
good for him or her to have some more, and therefore that his or her kfozebysnly poszli do kina?
resistance iwhich is likely to be due to politeness) should be disregarded. 'Perhaps we would go to the cinema?' (implied: if I asked you)
A reference to the addressee's desire for food is as inappropriate in an rather than:
offer as a reference to his or her certamty. Sentences such as:
Ciy n~ia(aby,ySocllore o6jif ze emnp do Iiirra?
il.lialbys ocl~oigna pr~va? 'Wou~dyou like to go to the clnema with me?'
'Would you like a beer?'
A tentative and self-effacing invitation such as the following one:
would be interpreted as questions rather than as offers. It would not be
good winners to revealto the host that one feels like having a beer; the Say, all, I don't siippose yoir'd like to conie and /rave lurici~lvi?lr
soclai convention requues the host to prevail upon the guest, to behave me, ntould you? (Buzo 1974:44)
as if he or she was forcing the guest to eat and dnm, regardless of the
could not be translated literally Into Polish wlthout losing its intended
guest's deslres, and certainly regardless of the guest's expressed desires,
illocut1onary force:
which would be slmply dismissed. The typlcal dialogue wouid be:
Po~vredz,hm, nre przypr~szczanr,zebyS nrlata ocl~orezjeSC lu~rch
PI-osif bardzo! Jeszcre ?i.oszke!
i e nrnp, co?
Ale jrii irre nrogf!
.hie koruecstrle! The sentence sounds blzarre, but if it could be used at all it would be
used as a genlilne questlon, not as an invitation or proposal. A question
'Please! A little more!'
of this land could of course be interpreted as a prelude to an invitation,
'Bui I can't!' but it would have to be reported as he aslied me n~hetl~er, not as he
'But you must!' (literally: 'But necessarily!') invtted i71e lo. Clearly, one factor responsibie for Ulis difference is the
)rinciple of 'polite pessimism'; characteristic of Anglo-Saxon culture an imperative mould be avoided, whereas in English recipes or tnstruc-
ci. Brown - Levinson 1978:134-133, but absent from Polish culture. tlons it is quite common.
It should be noted, however, that advert~sementsand recipes are; first.
anonymous, and second, directed at an imaginarp.addressee, not at a
particular individual. What Anglo-Saxon culture abhors is the impression
2. :interpretive hypothesis that one individual is trying to Impose his or her will upon another
individual. In the case of 'public speech acts' such as advertisements or
recipes this danger does not arise, and Ole imperative is not felt to be
If course, Polish is not alone among European languages in differing offensive. In Polish, however, 'pr~vate' speech acts, directed from one
i-om English in the xvays indicated above. On the contrary, it is English person to another, can also-use the imperative, and the), do not rely on
vhicll seems to differ from most other European languages along these interrogative devices in this area either.
ines, ivIany of me observations made in the present chapter rvould also In what follows, I will consider a number of areas where Polish, and
#?pi): to Russian. Serbo-Croatian. Spanish and many other languages. It other languages, differ from English along the lines suggested here,
s English whicli seems to have developed a particuiarly rich system o i specifically: advice, requests; tag questions, opinions, and exclamations.
levices reflecting a characteristicall), Anglo-Saxon cuitural tradition:
tr:idition wh~cilplaces special emphasis on the rights and on the auton-
,m)' of every individual. \vhich abhors interference in other people's
tff:iirs (If's rioiie of niy ~ ~ ( S I I I ~~ShSi c) ,l is
i tolerant of individual idiosyn- 3. Case studies
,rasles and peculiaritii:s, whicli respects everyone's privacy, wliicli
tpproves of compromises and disapproves of aogmatism of any kina.
The heavy restrictions on the use of the imperative in English and the 3.1. Advice
vide range of use of interrogative forms in performing acts other tnan
iucsuons, constirule striking linguistic reflexes of this socto-culturai In a language like Polish, aovtce 1s typically offered in tlie foim of
ttirude. In Enolisli, the imperative is mostly used in commands and in an imperative
srders. Other kinds of directives (i.e., of speech acts through mhich the
J n ci radzp poisledr mu prait~dg.
pa"ler XtempIs to cause tlle addressee to do something), Lena to avoid
'I advise you: tell h ~ mthe truth.
11s imperative or to combine 11with an interrogative andlor conditional
orm. (For certain lniportaut qualifications to this overall tendency. see In English advice would normally be formulated more tentatlvel)':
,al;off 1972; Ervin-Tripp 1976.)
If I ivere yoil I isoi~/dre11 Iiim rlie tri~rli.
.At least this is how English strikes natxve speakers of a language like
Tell ~iimthe 11-itril -I ~t'onld.
'olisn; where the bare imperative is usea on a much wlder scale. It is
IlJiiy do,lSryori tell him tile rncfli? I fliinl: r t ~ v o l ~ be
i d besr.
iiteresting to note that from a different cultural perspecttve English may
ilVz), 1101 fell iiim flie rriirli? I riiinh- rliar mlgl~rbe best.
,e seen as 3 ianguage favouring, rather than sliunmng, the use of impere-
iLlaybe yo11 oagiir ro fell iiirri rlle irllril?
!vc. Tills 1s; in particular. bow English appears to spca:ers of Japanese.
Do ],or, ihir~ki r nirgiir be o good idea 10 tell liini r11e rrilili?
,or example, Higa (197253) notes the wide use of the imperative in
he English adveriising language and points our that, for example, the All these utterances could be reported in English uslng the verb adiuse
npanese sign correspondiiig to the ubiquitous English Drink Coco-Colo! (Sire advised me ro fell ltitn rlie rrirfli). But their literal Polish equivalents
~?ou!flread Cocn Coio o 1701n11?iaslr6!(Ltterallv. - . 'We ill drink Coca would not be reoorted using the verb radzid 'advise'. Normally, only
.'oi:1!') rather tnan the imperative Coca Cola o ~iollre! Similarly,
~latsumoto(1988:420) polnts out that in Japanese recipes or lnsnuctions
32 Differeitt culrercs, differeirr languages, differe~lrspeech acts

Radze ci, iebyS nrrr powiedzral pi-awde. Dlaciego nre zarlrknresi olina?
'I advlse you to tell hun the truth.' (Literally) 'Why don't you close the wmdow?'
It is also worth notlng that the English verb advise is seldom used would lmpiy unreasonable and stubborn bellavlour on the part of the
performatively in ordinary speech: the phrase I advrse yorr sounds very addressee ('why haven't you done what was obviously the right thing
stiff and formai; by contrast, its Polish equivalent ja ci !.adze sounds Lo do - you should have done it long ago; I can't see any excuse for
perfectly colloqu~aland is frequently heard in everyday conversations. your failure to have done it'). The corresponding English sentence could
also be lnterpreted m this way, but it does~i'fhave to be. In parttcular,
as pointed out to me by Jane Simpson (p.c.1, the contracted from
3.2. Requests Why'n'rcha suggests a request rather than a question.
It is worth noting 111 this connection that English has developed some
In English, if the speaker wants to get the ilddressee to do something and special devices for expressingrequests and other d i e c t ~ v e sin a partly
does not assume that he could force the addressee to do 11, the speaker interrogative style, especially the expresslon Wlry doriit you be (AD.T),
would normally not use a bare imperative. Speech acts whlch could be i which can hardly be used for genuine questions. As pointed out in
reported by means of the verbs request or ask (to) frequently have an Green (1975:127), the sentence W71y aren'r you qiriec? can be a genuine
interrogatlve or an interrogattve-cum-conditional form, as in the follow- question, but Uie sentence Wlty don't you be ourer?! cannot. Thus, the
ing examples (ail from Green 1975:107-130): constructlon Why don't you be ( A m ? has an interrogative foim, and
an Interrogative component in its meaning, but is speciaiised In speech
bl'ill )'on close tile door please? I acts other than questions.
IVilf ),OILclose rlii window please. Charactensbcally. Polish has no similar constructions. Since in Polish
Will you please take 0111' all~iiirnirii~l
cans to file Recyclirlg Celure. the use of interrogatlve forms outside the domain of questions is very
Clrorllri poll rake or~rrlre garbage piease. limited, and since the interrogative f o m ~is not culturally valued as a
bl'oilld you Set me a giass of water. means of performing directives, there was, so to spealc, no ciiltural need
IT'orfld yorr inrnd clos~ng.rile &virrdolv. to develop specmi interrogative devices for performing speech.acts other
IVoronld yorr like tto-set rlie fable now. than questlons, and in parttcular, for performing directives.
Woir't yoir close the wrndow please. As for literal equivaleilts of sentences in the frame Mron'r you, such as:
Do yorc war11 to set rile table IIOIIJ?
U'iiy don't you cleari up rhar mess. )Vie iainkiiresz okira?
Do yorr tvarrr to ger me a scorch. 'Won't yon close Uie window?'
Wi~ydon't yolr be i~rceto yorrr brotller for a cllarige. they would be Interpreted as surprised questions (not necessarily critical
Wily don't yorr be quiet. questions, but surprised questlons). They would Invite both an answer
1,TJ/1)3dorin'ryorr be a Ilone)~and starr dinner irols. and an explanation ('You are not going to do it? That's strange; I
Not a singie one of these utterances could be translated literaiiy wonder why?').
into Polish and used as a request. In particular, literal equlvaients of The difference between English and Polish In t h ~ srespect becomes
sentences m the frame Wiry don't you would be interpreted as a combina- particularly clear in cases of transference. For example, my daugliters.
tlon of a qiiest~onand a critic~sm,rather like utterances based on the who are bilingual, but wlio live in an English-spealcing envlrormient,
modal CVIi), do it are in English (Wliy parrir yorrr /rouse purple?) (See often phrase the11 Polish requests interrogatively (or did when they
Gordon - Lakoff 1975:96; cf. also Wierzbiclca 1988:28.) In.fact, a were younger):
sentence such as: filarno, czy podasz in1 ctiusteczke?
'Mum, will you glve me a ICleenex?'
This sounds very add lo me, and I rend to conect them, urging them Carl'! yoir siiiir rm? (Hibberd 1974:22S)
to use the iinpemiiuc (with the v,rOrd p r o s z ~'please') instead. To an
English spealzer, this might look like an attempt to teach one's child to 1Vliy do;?'! yoir stiirr yoiri- niotrtli? (Hibberd 1974:228)
be impolite. But in Polish, politeness is not linked wit11 an avoidance of 1Vill sorrieorie piit rile fifcking rdiot oirr of his miser:,'? (William-
imperative, 2nd n,irii tlie use of interrogatir~edevices, as i t is in English. son 1974:46)
The expression Ii'oi~ldyo11rr~ilidhas simply no equivalent in Polish. I
ao not wisii to impip, however, that Polish never uses tiie inteiTogative 1Yiii yoir bioody ,uell iiirr,). im! (Williamson 1974:56)
rorm in requests. It does, but in cornpanson with English, the possibili- For. Ciirrst's soke, i<tillyoir get lost. (Williamson 1974:191)
ties are heavily restricted. Thus, one couid perfonn requests, or acts
closely relared to requests; by ostensibly 'as1:ing' about (he addressee's 1Vliy dori't gorc sliict irp? [Buzo 1979:37)
ability to do something, or about his or her goodness (or icindness): Andrew (to Irene, very angry): Will )'air please go ro bed? iWil-
liainson 1974:197)
Czy 11iog!6,~s... ?
'Could you ... 7 ' Coiild yoir rr), arid firid rile soiri-ce of rliat smell liefore rheri, aiid
la/; riobr),, zeby ... 7
Czy 6~lib~'f
coilid yo11 possibly piti yoilr apple cores and orailge Peel I n rile
'Would yo11 be so good as to ... 7'
bin for. tire next feie da)'s? (After a pause, loudly) Hiid coirtd goii
bloody ivelI siiir iri tile iioie for. a change? (Williamson 1974:7)
Li,~!ja)D)' Partii) iasi;ni~,(a)... 7
'Would you be so lcindigracious as to ... 7'
In fact, the interrogative form in English llas reached the stage of
being so tlioroughly dissociated from the language of courtesy and re-
But one couid not ask people to do something by using literal Polish spect that it can well be used in pure swear phrases, \vhere the speaker
eqiilvalents of the phrases li/orrld gou do it, I170n'r gort (lo it, IITii), ! forceiully expresses his feelings apparently without attempting to get the
doll'! yoit do i r , Do go11 ivorit to do it or Tl'oirld gori lilce to do it. addressee to do anything, as in the following example:
Pseudo-quesnons mlitch ostensibly inquire about tiie addressee's desire
and which in faci are to be interpreted as requests (Il'or~idyoit like to, Do 1Vhy dori't you all go to lieli! (Hibberd 1974:199)
you illarir f@) Seem particuiarlg odd and amusing from a Polish point This shows particularly clear1)I that the Englisli predilection for tiie inter-
of vie\v. as 1r:mspsrent acts of what loolcs like naive hypocrisy. rogative form in human interaction, and the heavy restrictions which
But it is no1 just ilie range of acceptable interrogative devices \Vllich i English places on tlie use of the imperauve, cannot be explanied simply
distingmshes Polish directives from the English ones. Differences in in terms of politeness. .4fter all, Polish, too, tias its polite and cstm-
tiiuction are at least 3s sirilcing. Thus, in Polish interrogative directives I
polite ways of speaking, and has developed a repertoire of politeness
Sound rormal and elaboratel)o polite. They are also tentative, lacicing in devices. TVliat is at issue is not politeness as such, but the interpretation
confidence. One \~'oulduse them when one is geiiuiiielp not sure whether of what is socially acceptable in a given culture. For exampie, Australian
the addressee would do what is requested. Moreover, they could not be culture is htghly tolerant of swearing. Swear words are ofteii used to
used in anger (unless sarcastically) and they are incompatible \\~irfithe express strong feelings and not only negative but also positive feeiiilgs,
use of s!Vear words. In Australian English, Iiowever, both the mterroga- as in the follou,mg examples:
rive 2nd the intenogative-cum-conditional forms are frequently used ti?
speecli acts uihicll could be reported bj' means of tlie verbs 01-der to, Stori:: Not bloodp bad, is ir?
comniand or tell to, and they are perfectly compatible !~nith verbal abuse Clyde: It's a oloody bearrq~.(Williamson 1974:18)
and verbal \,iolence, as the following enampies demonstrate: Bloody good nirrsrc! (Buzo 1979:30)
36 Different culirires, different lnfzgrmges, different speeclr acts Case srrrdics 37

There is no longer any widely shared taboo against swear words m By contrast, the English interrogative directives explicitly invite a
'polite conversatlon', for example in conversation witli ladies about verbai response, as well as a non-verbal one (Okay, All right, Slir-e, and
music. On the other hand, there is evidently a strong reiuctance to use the like), and tlius indicate that the spealcer views the addressee as an
bme imperatives - not only m polite conversation, but even m not-so- autonomous person. with his or her own free will, who can aiways
polite conversatlon. The implicit cultural assumpuon reflected in English decline to comply. The imperative is neutral in this respect: it neither
speech seems to be fils: everyone has the nght to then own feelings, precludes nor invltes a verbal response. Partly for this reason, no doubt,
their own wishes, thelr own opmions. If I want to show my own feel- it is favoured m Polish and disfavoured in English.
Ings, my own wislies, my own opmions, it is all G h t , but if I want to I would add that the mfirutive construciion is by no means restricted
lnfluellce somebody else's actions, I must aclcnowledge the fact that to contexts where the spealcer is angry. It can also be used simply to
(hey, too, may ha\,e their feelings, wishes or opmions, and that these assert one's authority: for example it can be used by parents who wisli
do not have to comcide with mine. to sound stern. as m the following example:
It is interesting to note that the flat imperative, which in English
cultural tradition can be felt to be more offensive than swearing, m Macie parasol? I S prosto - rue oglpdad sip. PartitgraC:
skrontnoif - skarb dzrewczecia. (Zapolslca 1978:30)
Polish consututes one of Me milder, softer options in issuing directives.
When the spealcer gets really angry with the addressee, the spealcer will 'Do you have the umbrella? (To) go straight - not to loolc
around. (To) remember: modesty is a gul's treasure.
often avoid the imperative and resort to 'stronger' devices, m particular
the bare infinitive: When the speaker wants to be more polite while still wishing to signal
Nie poicazyivac irii st? iitiaj! coidness and a lack of intimacy, the infinitive can be used m combina-
'Not to show oneself to me here!' (i.e. 'You are not to come here.') tion with a performatively used verb:
Prosre sip do tego rue niieszni.. (Zapolslca 1978:1031
bVyiynoslc sif stpd!
'To get away from here!' (i.e. 'Get away from here!') 'I ask not to mterfere.'
Proszp - urosig powiedziei., proszg sip ,lie krepoi~lac.(from the
Zabierac sie stpd!
'To take oneself off from here!' (i.e. 'Off with you!') film "MorainoSC pan1 Dulslciej")
'I ask -1 ask to say, I ask not to be embarrassed.
In the examples above (talcen from Andrzej Wajda's film "Moralno6i
pant Dulslcrej", based on a number of Gabriela Zapolslca's plays), the In a sense, Uie infinitive direcuve functions as a distance-building device
verbs chosen (ivyiiosif sle, zabierac stej are offensive and pejorauve, in Polish, just as an interrogative directive does in English. But in
but especially offensive is the impersonal syntacuc construction, with the Anglo-Saxon culture, distance is a positlve cultural value. associated
infinltrve Used instead of the more neutral imperative. The impersonal with respect for the autonomy of the individual. By contrast, in Polish
infiniti\,e seems to annihilate the addressee as a person (the absence of a culture it is associated with hostility and alienation.
mention of the addressee m the sentence being an icon of hisher 'non-
existence'): it implies that the addressee is not worthy to be addressed
as an individual humail being, and that the speiker does not wish to 3.3. Tags
establish any 'I-you' relationship witli himiher. In particular, the spealcer
excludes the possibility of any reply from the addressee. The infinitive The deep-rooted habit of aclcnowiedging possible differences between
signals: 'No discussion' ('there is no person here whom I would regard indiv~dualpolnts of view is particularly clearly reflected in lhe Englisll
as a potentla1 interlocutor, for example, as someone who couid refuse or tag questions. Seen from a Polish point of view, English speech is
decline to do as I say'). characterised by an all-pervasive presence of tag questions, highly
diversified in form and function. Essentially, Polish has only five or
six ivords mhrch can be used as tags: praivda? 'true?', ?lie? 'no?'. In contrast to ii,on'! yoir, ivill gori can be used very widely, for
fa/:? 'yes'!' co? 'wllat?', dobrre? 'good', and riiepraiudoi? 'not mre?' example in orders and commands, as well as in requests, and r r is com-
jsligl~tly archa~c).These are comparable to rile English rags okop?: patible with the use of swear words:
riphi?, and eii? (tills last one frequently eilcountered in .Australia).
If tllese iive or six Polish words were used nearly as often as English Look oi !/?is bloody ring, ii'iil p a ? (Williamson 1974:58)
tag questlons are, Polish speech \vould sound grotesquely repetitive. The
English strategy of uslng ausiliarp verbs - an)' auxiliary verbs, in ally
combrnanons of moods; tenses and persons - as tags, ensures great
fomiai variery of Lag questions. Espressions such as did iie, ivas sire,
iini'e you. oreii'f riiey and so on may all have the same function, bul the
So jxsr nroi'e our, 11~iIlyori? (Buzo 1979:73) (sald by a viife
throwing her husbano out of their house)
In Polish m similar c~rcumsrancesa bare Imperative would normally be
usen, unembellished by any tag whatsoever,
slicer varlet)' of their form allows them lo be used much more frequently
illan the live Polisli tag words could be used.
I There are Inany other kinds of contests where a tag questlon would
be used in English hut not in Polish. In particular. English negative
But rlls differences bet\veen the English and the Polish systems
I questions with an opposlte polarity would normally be translated lnto
of tag questlons go much further than that. The topic is vast and Polish without a rag:
obviously cannot be treated eshaustiveiy here (see Chapter 6; secuon 5
on lcie illocutionary force of tag questions). l e t me simpiy make a
few observanons.
As has ofren been noted, English imperatives allorr. not one tag but
1 I don't silppse yorr'\ae seer1 Haninio nror~nd,have poi,? (Buzo
Nie ivrdzfalei przypodkieni Harir~i~o?
(literally: 'You haven't seen Hammo by any chance?')
several, eacli wit11 a slighli), different funcoon:
1'011 are nor havilrg a go ai me, a r e )loll? (Buzo 1979:ll)
Clove the door, tvill yolr? Czy rysle prr~~padkielli re rnlile irie nabijasz?
CIore ole door. it~ori'iyozi? (literally: 'You are not havlug a go at me bp any chance?')
Close riie door, coirld yon?
Close rile dooi-, cail'r )?OIL? Yoir im\reri'i heard ai~yiirbigaborlt nie. Iiai'e yoir: Any sori of ...
Close rhe doot-, ishg doil't yon? riinioiirs, iralre j'ofr? (Buzo 1979:64)
Close rile door, ivii), con'r yoir? Nie sQsreliScie grrypadkiem czegoi o rnnie? Jakiclrs ... plorek?
Close rife door, ~t~ollld goii? Oiterally: 'You haven't heard anything about me, by any chance?
In Polish, a11 these different tags would have to be rendered by means i Any rumours?')
of a single one: dobne? *\veil (good)?' i
Another situation where a tag questron sounds plairsihle in English but
not in Polish can be illustrated with the follo\v~ngutterance:
I've nrade a bloody fool of niysef, iioveii'r I? iWilliarnson
Semantically, the Polisli rag corresponds mosr closely to the English iidll 1974:48)
)'err, tile tag n,111cli assumes and expects compliance. The sentence Sir
i1oi1'11, ildii )'oil? Is inore confident, more self-assured than Sii doivil, The, speaker discovers something about himself that he supposes the
i:~oiriigorr?, and tlle sentence Shirr rip. i ~ ~ iyon?
ll sounds much more addressees have been aware of all along. In Polish, a plausible thing to
natural than Shfir UP. ison'r goif? Siint rip, iao~i'igoii couid of course be 'I see', wltllout a tag:
say in a case like this wouid be i4~rdr~
used sarcastically, bur the sarcasm would exploit the effect of the Widzg, re sic ~aclioii~alem jak dare<! (?co, ?prawda, ?rok, ?me.
semantlc and stylistic clash between the forcefulness of siirrr tip and etc.)
the tentativeness of it~on'ryou. 'I see I have acted like a fool!' (?what, ? w e . ?yes, ?no, etc.)
40 D$ cultrtres, different lo,lganges, differen! sneeclt acrs Cnse srudies 41

Aga~n,I am not suggesting that tag questlons are always usen in Needless to say, it would be good if Uie observations ventured above
English out of conslderauon for other people or out of pohteness. In could be supported w t h text counts. S o far; I have not undertalcen any
fact, they can be comh~nedwlth accusations, tnsinuatlons and abuse, large-scale counts of thls icind. But to give the reader some idea of the
as in the Eollowing examples: order of differences let me say, on the basis of a perusal of a large
anthology of Polish piays and of several volumes of Australian plays by
Weil. We have become a sorlr old stlck, Ilal~en'rwe? (Williamson
different authors, that one can easily get throngl~fity or more pages of
1974195) Polish plays without encountering a single tag, while in Australian
IVl~ar?Yorive changed yorrr rllind again, /rave yon? (Williamson plays one can seldom get tluough five pages wlthout encountering one,
1974: 198) and often one finds several on one page.
I would lilce. to stress, however, that apart from quantitative differ-
Yo11 at-e a smarr little prick, aren't yorr. (Williamson 1974:192) I ences suggested here, which requlre stailstlcal validatlon, there are also
Yor6'ee engineered iltis ivhoie deal, 11aven'i yon? (Williamson
iI some indubitable qualitative differences. A a particularly clear example
1974:193) I wouid mentlon chains of tag questions, characteristic of English
conversation but ~mpossibiein Polish. I quote a dialogue whicll I heard
You'd ratller 1 was sriil over there, il~orrldtityou? (Williamson
not iong ago at a bus stop In Canberra:
A: Lovely shoes, aren't they?
In cases like these, one would not use a tag In Polish. In Polish Ule use B: Aren't they rlrce?
of tags is, by and large, restricted to situations when the speaKer really
expects confirn~atlon.In English, however, tag questlons have come to
be so ubiquitous, and they have deveioped Into such a complex and
! A: Lovely, arerr'i Nrey?
One migilt say mat in exchanges of tius kmd the interlocutors are no
elastic system, that thelr links with politeness. cooperauon and soclal longer seelung confirmation, but rather are, so to spealc, celebratmg a
l~armonyhave become qulte tenuous. Often, they are used as a tool of rltuai of social harmon)' based on antl.dogmat~sm a n d religiously
confrontation, chailenge, putdown, verbal vlolence and verbal abuse. respected freedom of judgement and rlght to one's own opmlon.
The very fact that tag questlons have come to play such a major role 111 Similarly, the difference between the 'opinion-onented' English tag
English seems to reflect tile same cultural attitudes which have led to the ('I think you would say the same; I don't lulow if you would say the
expansion of lnterrogatlve forms elsewhere, and to the restrictions on same') and the 'truth-oriented' Polish tag ('true?') IS a matter of stsuc-
the use of the imperative, the same emphasls on possible differences of lure, not of frequency, and needs no stausbcal validatlon.
opinton. of point of view. Basically, tag questions express an expectation
that the addressee will agree with the speaker, but the very need to voice
t h ~ sexpectation again and agaln signals constant awareness of a possibil- 3.4. Opinions
ity of differences.
The range of contexts and sltuatlons where speakers of Polish would In Polish, opinions are typically expressed fairly forcefully, and m every-
mvlte confirmation 1s not nearly as wlde, precisely because Polish day speech they tend not to be distinguished formally from statements
cultural tradition does not foster constant attention to other people's of fact. One tends to say:
'voices', other people's polnts of view, and toierates forceful expression
To dobne. To nredobrze.
of personal vlews and personal feelings without any consideration for
'That's good.' 'That's bad.
other people's vlews and feelings. In fact, the baslc Polish tag, pi-awda?
'true?'. presents the speaker's pomt of vlew not as a point of vlew as one says: 'That's white', 'That's blaclc'. In situations where ln English
bui as an objective 'truth': and it doesn't seek agreement but an one would say: I like et, I don't like !it, or even I riii~zki like ~ i r .
aclcnowledgement of thls 'truth'
As menttoned above, this difference is manifested in the structure of in Polish one would say simply:
Polish tag questions, One saps in Polish. literally:
To prniudn.
'She is nice (terrific), true?' 'This is true.'
;is if bemg nics or terrific or not were a matter of truth. In English, one Drazdausl;~ene (1981) notes that expressions such as I thilii:, I beliei~e,
rnigni say: I srlppose or I don'r rlibik are used much more often in English than they
are in Litliuaman. She suggests, basically correctly, I think, that the)'
She is Iiaiio>r,i.rg/ir?
signal "diminished assurance and therefore courteous detachment and
bur hardly optionill treatment of the subject matter" (1981:57), and a desire not to
put one's vlew bluntly, and not to sound roo abrupt or quarrelsome.
?Sire is iirce, rigllr?
I don't agree, however, with her interpretation of this difference: "This
"?Slie is rerrijic, rigit!?
leads to a conciusion of the principal differential feature of English and
But In Polish, the same rag, praivdn 'true'; would be used in hot11 cases. Lithuanicn which is that in the familiar register English 1s verbally more
In Polish, one seldom presents one's opinions as ~ u s ropinions (.rather courteous and less straightforrvard than Lithuanian." (1981:60-61). Iii
ihan as 'lhe truth'), and one seidom prefaces them ujiih expressions my view, 11 is ethnocentric to say ihat LiUluanlan is less courteous than
r:uch as I rii~~zk,I belieiie or in ~ n yi ~ i e ~Ex,oressions
~). of this kind esist English (or, for a Lithuanian author, ethnocentric a rebours): simply, the
of course (in spd;~,ja lnj,S/p, nio11,r ?danie~~i, jo itivaiant), but their use ruies of courtesy are different in each language. Furiherniore, the signifi-
is much more restricted than the use of their English equivalents. In cance Of the English norm in question should be seen as a reflection of
particular, Polish has no word which would correspond to the English a deeper cnlturai attitude. English speakers tend to use expressions such
ivord rrcl~orz,wliicli is used very widely in worlcing class speecli, as I rlri?il,-or I reckon even in those situations in which they evident~v
especially in liusrralia, m not>-intellectua~contexts; and which has no don't wish to be courteous; as in the following exchange:
intellecrual pretentlons. Translating utterances with I recka~iinto Polish
Gibbo: Slioiss how 1nrlc11yoir knoiv. Tiiose back room bojss ivorfi
one !'~ould often have to leave it out, s1nt:e all the conceivable Polisli
I~arderrlrait arty of 11s.
eqitivaients !vould sound too intellectual, too cerebral, and simply wouid
Jacko: Ar blrlls. I rech-011 rr'd be a pretty sofr cop berrrg o bocii
not fit the contest. For example:
r o o ~ boy.
~ i iBuzo 1974:20)
Gibbo: I reckolr if's fire spugherrl iliey eor. Drives iiie~~i
rolrnd rlie
As a different manifestarion of the same cultural difference I would
berid offer n itdiil<. (Buzo 1974:37)
mention the English preference for a hedged expression of opinions
Jaclco: (smiling) I'orr k~ioiv.Robbo, I reckon yoil'd lrose ro be and evaluations, and the Polish tendency to express opinions in strong
nbo~rr!!rree lirr~rdr-edro have dolie nll !ire tlihigs goit i-ecko~i terms, and w~thoutm y hedges whatsoever. Consider, for example, the
yoir'idr done. (Buzo 1974:jl) f o l l o ~ i n gexchange:
Polish expressions such as spdzt, ntySIf or eit~azn~it would sound Norm: ifieil. yo11 see, Ahmed, I'm all olone now, since niy good
as inappropriate in these contests as the expressions 1 beliei'e or rli injb Beryl passed aivay fo Nie heaven nboire.
iverv mould be in English. Similarly, the expression I gtress, commonl!' Ahmed: I'ni very sorry ro hear rhar, Norm, yoli musr feel ror11e1-
used in Amerrcan English, is \serj' colloquial, and it has no similarly lotiely. (Bnzo 1979:15)
c ~ l l ~ q ~counterparts
ial in Polish. In situations when in English one says.
In Polish, one would not say anything like 'rather loneiy'. Instead, one
for example:
would say bardm sarnorriy 'very lonely' o r srraszziie surnorny 'terribly
1 giress ;r's n.;ie. loneiy' Similarly, if someone's wife should icicle him out of iheir
house, to live there with another man, it would be very odd to comment
on thls situation m Polish uslng a term such as ratllej., as m the follow-
lng passage:
The nouon that English 1s fond of understatement 1s of course common-
Richard: Tell 111e.Itow's yoltr iovely w$e? I
place. Sometimes, however, the validity of this nouonls disputed. For
Bentley: I doii'r kilow. She.s living wrtl~Sin~ina111 our horzie irillt. example, it was questloded by Drazdauslciene (1981:66), who notlced
Richard: Bad luck. that strong poslttve stereotyplcal exclamatlons such as HOWloiiel)l! or
Bentley: Yes, rr IS, ratiter. (Buzo 1979:64) Is?irtit lovely! are much more common m English speech than they are m
In E~lgiish,hedged oplnions go hand m hand wlth hedged, Indirect Llthuanlan speech. I would say that the same observation would apply to
questions, suggestxons or requests. People avoid malcing 'direct', force- Polish: Polish, like Litlluanian, m a e s frequent use of negative (cntlcal)
ful comments as they avold asklng 'direct', forceful questions or malting exclamations but not of posltlve, enthuslastic ones.
'direct', forceful requests. They hedge, and an expression such as rathel. I would p a n t out, however. that the English understatement applies to
or sort of often fulfills a functlon similar to that,of conditional and spontaneous opinions and feelings, not to oprnlons or feelings which are
lnterrogatlve devlces. In fact, lexlcai hedges of this kind often co-occur presumed to be shared. The stereotyplcal exclamat~onsdiscussed by
wilh grammatical devlces such as the conditional ahd the interrogative Drazdauskiene typically express entnus~asucappreclatlon for something
form, as m the following examples: which Ule speaker presumes to be shared by the addressee. They often
sound exaggerated and mslncere, and they certalnly don't sound dog-
Richard: (to Sandy) Could )toll sort of ... ptic III a good ii~ordro matic. The speaker is not bluntly statlng hlslher own view, disregarding
Sir?lnloabollt me? (Buzo 1979:42) i
! any potentla1 dissent; on the contrary, he (or, according to the stereotype,
Jaclco: Oh, Pomnlyis a I I I C ~eno~fgl~ kid i n her own way. B ~ r t she:) is eager to agree wlth the addressee. It 1s of course highly significalil
yon'r-e sol-r of differei~t.I ~ n e a ithere's
~, a lot niore ro yoir, I'd say. that, as mentioned earlier, the stereotyplcal exclamatlons often take an
1 nleaii, itoiv d0ll.i get nie n!rong. I'iil not tr)'iiig ... ,veil, all I said interrogahve fonn (Isil't tlrat loveiy?) or are followed by a symmerrlcal
was, how about coi?llng to lrrncl~?(Buzo 1974:W) questlon asking for confirmation (How ivondeifu[! Isri't tilaf ivo/:deiful?)
Drazdausklene suggests that the difference between English and
Translatmg this last passage Into Polish, one would have to leave out Lithuanian wlth respect to the use of stereotyped posltlve exclamations
several of the hedges. There 1s no way of saylng I iilean in Polish, m any may be related to the fact that Lithuanlans are reserved and resiralned
case no way of differentiating I iiteait from I'd sa)"; there is no particle in (and this view: expressed by a Lithoanian. certalnly agrees w ~ t hthe
Polish wvhich would correspond to $veil (cf. >Vierzbicka 1976); and there Polish stereotype of Llthuantans!. But Poles, unlike Lithuanrans, are not
1s no etluivalent for sort of (except perhaps for jakaSljakoS, out this 1s regarded as restrmed or reserved, and yet in this parucular respect tiley
closer to somehow than to sort oj? the emphasls 1s on the speaker's seem to be closer to Lithuanlans than to spealters of English. I suggest
Inability to describe the quality in question, not on a laclc of full commit- that exclamatlons under discussron do not point to any lack of emotional
ment to what IS said). restraint on the part of tne speakers of English. On the contrary: they
Thus, English is fond of understatement and of hedges; by contrast, are a conventtonal deVlCe a ~ m e dat 'hetng mce' to the addressee rather
Polish tends to overstate (for emphasls) rather than understate. When I than any spontaneous and umestrained outburst of the heart.
translate my own wrltings from Polish Into English, I: find myself In Englis'n, exclamatlons can talcc not only an affirmative and posltlve
remowng words such as totally, tirrerly, extrerilely or alivays, or replac- form, as m:
ing them wltli words and expressions such as ratller, somewhat, lends to,
orfrequei~tly;and vice versa. Howl it~ce!
but also (especially In what tends to be regarded as more typically feml-
nine speech) an interrogat~ve-negativeone, as in the utterance:
l s i i ' r !ti. fnaroriioiis! (Buzo 1979:Jl) 4. Culturai values reflected in speech acts
Thus. the functlon of such exclamat~onsis similar to that of tag questions
with an opposite polarity:
1 4.1. Lexical evidence

Negative-interrogati\!e exclamations do not always nave an interroga-

I The cultural differences between English and Polish discussed here have
I also innumerable iexical reflexes. I will mention two of tllem here.
rive intonanon, and do not alrvays invite confirmation. Often, tlley are i
I One is the presence in the English lexicon of the word priilacy, \vhich
used s~mplyio express tlie speaker's feeling, and are followed by n
has no equivalent in Polish, nor, apparentiy, in other European languages.
posltrve statement from the speaker rather than by a pause to be filled
by the addressee: I In fact, tile concept of privacy seems to be a characteristically Anglo-

Bentiey: Isn'r $112o .rioeetie? a real dariiiig. (BUZO1979:45) ! Saxon one. The word prisac), IS a very common one, frequently used in
everyday ipeecn, and it clearly reflects one of the central values o l
~nglo-Saxonculture. To lia1.e priiiacy means, roughly, 'to be able to do
Sundra: Ilinsii'i rt,arfilnny? Tirat ivas the fit~ri~iesr
iieard. (Buio 197~!:i 14)
tlriiig I've ever.
certain things unobserved by other people, as everyone would want to
and need to' The cultural assumption embodied in this concept is very
Sundra: Is,l'r tl~nlntce of fiilerl~?1fhirll: rizat'~13eq' nice of tlle,)r. ! characteristic: it is assumed that every individurrl would want, so to
(Buzo 1 9 7 4 : l l i ) speak, to have a little wall around himfher, at least part of the tlme,
~ u n d i a :Is,r'i thar ii.onderfi,l? I rlliril~r!iar's ivonderfiri. (Buzo and that this is perfectly natural, and very important.
1974:l 15:) ! One is tempted to speculate, in this connection, that tile absence of

l.iowever, even wlien interrogattve-negative exclamations are not used as

a truiy dialogic d e r ~ c etney still signal (at least in a perfunctory way) an
I an intimate T-form of address (in the sense of Brown - Gilman 1972),
which sets English apart from other European languages, is a reflex of
the same attitude. The English goir is of course very democrat~c,it is a
interest in what the addressee would say; they aclnowledge the possibil- meat social equaliser, but it can also be seen as a distance-building
t~iatthe addressee could say the opposite (even though the spezker device. This is not to say that the meaning of the English word gorr is
regards this :Is unlikely! and symbolicallp seek confirmation. The anaiogous to that of a V-form in a language which does have a T-V
spealcer expects agreement; but does not take tnis agreement for contrast. Bur I think inat in the absence of such a contrast rhe forni ?OIL
gmnred, and 'graciously' leaves the addressees the opportunity to
express tlleir point of view, too. All this may of course be purely
1i can't convey the intimacy signalled by the choice of a T-form. .4n
intimate form allows the speaker to get psychologically close to the
perfunctory. purely convent~on,~l.
its own culmral significance.
but the convention is there. and it has I addressee, to penetrate the wail surrounding each individuai. The Eiiglish
yoii keeps everybody at a distance. In Anglo-Saxon culture non-sexual
Cnaracterrstically. in Polish there is no similar convenoon. Exclama- body contact is heavily restricted, as compared, for example, with SIa\,ic
tions always tale a positive form: ana Mediterranean cultures: people seldom touch one another, hug one
Jaf: gtirpo! another, kiss one another, or seldom even shake hands (see Triandis -
'How stupid!' Triandis 1960). They also physically Keep at a considerable distance
from one another, as compared, for example, w i u ~Slavs (cf. for example
Il'spanrale! Monahan 1983). The absence of an intimate T-form reflects and iosters
'Wonderful! ' the culturally expected psychological distance between individuals, tlic
Tile intcrrogariae form lvould be interpreted as a genuine quesnon. general need for psychological and physicai 'privacy'
One mlgllt add that the cultural taboo on 'personal remarits' character-
istic of Anglo-Saxon culture, and the existence in English of the sel
expression personal remarl~s,with its iiegative mpIicaUons, can be see11 of l~o~npi.oiizrsunquestionably embody value judgments. Thus, p l j i c
as another strategy for building a little protective w a l l arouiid every ?la lio!i?pl.on~is 'accept a compromise' suggests a moral weakness, a
indiv~dual.There is no similar expresslon m Polish, and there is no deplorable lack of firmness, a sell-out of values, The adjective
similar taboo ~n Polish culture. bezko?npi.omisowy 'w~tnoutcompromise' ( s a d of someone wlio would
Of course Englisli doesn't have the elaborate distance-building defer- never accept a compromise) is emphatically poslttve: it 1s a word of
ential devlces of Far Eastern languages such as ,Japanese, Icorean. high praise, like heroic, liable or rllimaculale.
Javanese or Thal, elther. It is Interesting to note that from the perspective Thus, in the Polish culturai tradit~on,Lioldilig fim11y: to one's beliefs
of languages of this Kind English may appear as a language lughly and makmg no concessions to those of others is a Valued and deslrabie
sensitlvc to intimacy. (Cf. for example Hijirida - Sohn 1986:391.j attitude. In the Anglo-Saxon tradition, similar attitudes would be
But tliis is an illusion. American (and generally English) address forms regarded as dogmatlc and mflexible, and would be vlewed with disap-
sucli as Bob, Jim, Toni or Kate, have nothing to do with intimacy. It is proval. hi fact; tile word inflesible a i d its Polisll literal counterpari
true thai they imply less 'distance' than, for example, Dr Sniith, but they n r e n ~ r ~ tprovlde
y another example of the same lclnd: the English word
don't come anywhere near the potential mtimacy of the Polish fy, or the has negatlve connotations, whereas the Polish one is' highly positive.
Frsnch lu, or even tile Japanese (ZSG) kil>ii.They impiy informality and Polish has also the word nreiloniily 'unbrealcable' which is also a term
friendliiiess, not intimacy. Intimacy implies an especially close personal of pralse and has no equivalent m English. (For further discussion see
relationship between the speaker and the addressee; and English has no Wierzbicka, to appear, chap. 6.)
devices to convey that. For example, at an Australidn nmversity a head
of department, or a dean, may send a memo to all the members of the
department or the faculty, signlng it wlth a first-name form: Bob, or Bob 4.2. Objectivisln as a cultural value
Jolinson; and at a meeting of a university committee, the members from
different departments may introduce themselves to each other as Bob The complex of cuituxal attitudes w l c h conditions every individuai to
(Johnson) and Kate (Brown), and start addressing each other as Bob and be constantly aware of other people, other voices, other points of view;
!Cote, from the very fust meetmg. This has nothing to do wlth ultimacy. to see oneself as one individual among many, all of them equally entltled
They can be friendly, informal, and familiar, but they are not claiming, to their psychological space, then autonomy, their own peculiarities and
in ulls way, any 'special reiauonsh~p' with Uie addressee. (For further eccentncltles, leads to objectlvlsm and antl-dogmatlclsm b a n g regarded
discussion, see Chapter 3, sectlon 3.) as important social and cultural values.
The universal English yorr is of course less 'distant' than tlie deferen- I would venture to suggest that this ObJectlvism may be reflected IU
tial Japanese m r d person forms of address such as sensei 'teacher", or peculiarly English ways of r e f e m g to oneself, and to one's own coun-
than the deferential Polish third person form of address sucli as Pall try, as it were from an external point of vlew. This can be illustrated with
Profesor- 'Mr Professor'; but it is also far less 'intimate' than the the cllaracterlstic expresslon Ntis coulttr.~~ (commented on in Doroszewslci
Japanese liinli or the Polish ry. Being tile great equaliser, the English yorr 1938:120). In Polish, it would be inconceivable to refer to one's own
keeps el'erybody at a distance - not a great distance, but a distance; and native land, one's ojcz)~zna'fatherland' as ten lwaj 'tills country', as if
it doesn't allow anybody to come really close. it were one among many countries, where one just happens to be at a
The second lexlcal difference between English and Polish that I would paI'UcuIar time. The Polish expression ten Icraj could oniy be used w ~ t h
ilke to comment on concerns the concept embodied in the Engiisn word respect to a foreign country; if it was used wiui reference to one's own
compromise (in the sense of mutual concessions) and its Polish country it would mark the speaker as a psycnologlcai emigre.
counterpart, I~on~promis. In English, the word is essentially neutral, and Similarly, in English it 1s possible to refer to one's own nation as tizis
if it has any value connotations they would tend to be positive rather nation, especially m an elevated rhetorical style. In Polish one would say
than negative. By contrast, the Polish word tends to be used witll in slmilar cucumstances rzasi tiardd 'our nation' (cf. Nasz nardd ,a/<
negative connotations. In any case, lexical and phraseoioglcal derivates laieo, i i i ~ ~ e r i c hzrnll?a
r ~ I niarfii'a, sucha I plugawa, 'Our nation IS like
lava, at the surface cold and lifeless, dry and repellent,' hlicl.'\ie\vicz The central role of 'rvarmth, of affection, in Polish culture (and in
1955:210). To say r o l 1iard.d 'tills nation': would indicate a complete Slavic culture in general) IS evidenced above all in the expressive
Iacic of identificat~onwlth one's nation: to use this expression one wotud derivatlon of personai names (which goes much further than anyrlling
llave to psycho logic all!^ leave one's o!irn nanon. As a furrher example, one can find, for example, ln Italian or Spanish). The toplc is vast, and
conslder the English expression iiiie) same ilel-e, referring to oneself, i cannot be discussed here in detail. Let me just mentlon that one personal
as in the following dialogue:
Micliael: i nligilr jirs: liai~ea sniall clare:.
Carmel: S a n ~ ehere. (Williamson 1974:Ijj-156)
I! name, for example Atiiia or d-laria, can have in Polish as many as
ten different derivates, all commoniy used with respect to the same
person, each of them implying a slightly different emotional attitude,
and 'emotional mood' For example:
In Poiish, the literal transiatlon of same iiere or ille sanle here would be
simply incomprehensible (as a way of identifying the speaker). ! Anria: rlr~ra,Aiika, ,411ec.-&a,
~ n r r s t aAnrdka,
, Anlrsreilka. Anrrlka,
It seems to me thar this inclination to look at oneself from outslde, to A~ii~c/~lia;
be conscious of me existence of many different points of view, ail of ~llaria:Marysia, ~VJarysrerika,iWarySka, A4arys1irc/1ria,hlarychria,
them equally valid (at least potentlallyj; fits in veqr well witii the other 1 d-lar)~~,
A4arysi11lko,1l4ar),cha, Marysrprko
cnaracterisric features of English speech described here. i
! This is quite apart from a variety of forms such as Maryla. Marlro.
! il-laryrirn, ~Walynn,ctc. (all from ~Warra),which are usually chosen from,
for a particular person, on a more permanent basis. (For a detailed
4.3. Cordiality as a cultural value
discussion of the semanocs of expressive forms of names in Polish and
i in Russian, see Wierzbicka, to appear, chap. 7.)
Throughout this chapter, tne emphasis has been mainly on Anglo-Saxon I I would suggest that there are many subtle ways in which expressive
culturn! values, reflected in the Englisli language. Polish has been pre- 1 derivation interacts with speech acts. The toplc desenges a separate study.
sented mostly in negative terms, as laclcing certain devices characteristic
In this chapter, I will mention just two examples of this interacllon.
of English. I ~vouidlike to say a few words to redress the balance. It
would be ridiculous to suggest that English speech acts reflect certain
ctiitural values \\,hereas Polish speech acts reflect nothlng but an absence
j In Polish, warm hospitality is expressed as much. by the use of dimmu-
tives as it 1s b y the 'hectoring' style of offers and suggestions. Character-
~stically,the food items offered to the guest are often referred to by tile
of those values. It goes without saying that in fact Polish reflects
host by their dimmurive names. Thns, lnsteao of asking:
values characterisrlc of Polish cuiture. From an English spealcer's point
of view, Polish ways of spealclng may appear to reflect dogmarism; laci;
of considerat~onfor other people, inflexibility, a tendency to be bossy,
II A'oilld $011 like some ,,lore f r o - r ~ r ~Are
one might say in Polish:
g ? yon sllre?

:I tendency to interfere; an6 so on. On the other hand, from a Polish

speaiier's point of view, English mays of spea!:ing may be seen as
reflecting a laci: of warmth, a inck of spontaneity, a lad; of sincenty.
I IVei jeszcze Sledzika! Konzecznre!
'Take some more dear-little-hernng-(DIM)! You must!'
The central place of warmth: of affection, in Slavic as well as in i Tlie diminutive praises the quality of the food and minlmlses tine quanrity
Mediterranean cultures, is reflected, among other things, in the ricli !
pushed onto the guest's plate. The speaker insinuates:'don't resist! it is a
systems of expressive derivation, and in particular In the highly

small tiling I'm asking you to do - and a good thing!' The target of tile
developed systems of diminutives, invoiving not only nouns, but also
praise is m fact vague: the praise seems to embrace the food_ tlie guesl;
adjectives nlid adverbs. By conrrast, in Englisll, productive diminutive
and tlie action of the guest desired by the host. The dim~nutlveand the
denvation hardly exlsts at ail, despite the existence of isolated baby
imperative wori: hand In hand in the cordial, solicitous attempt to get tire
h r m s such as lm~rdies,doggie or birdie (one can say girlie but not
guest to ear more. Certamly. the cultural style of such offers is very
a i ~ ~ r r bur
i r not S'irnciie, irorsre but not "'gonrie. and so on). different from that of IT'otiid yoir like some more?, but the difference
Clcitural i,olaes reflected ik s),eecil acts 53
cannot be described m temls of politeness. Rather,'tt has to be described you'll do it is to aclrnowledge your independence, but also, your
In terms of different cultural traditions. and, uitlmately, different 'distance' from me.)
hleiarchles of values. Similarly, in speaking to a child one would be unlikely to use an
If one's own view of what 1s good for another persoil does not interrogative request (corrid you, would you be so good a s to). Dloin~ally,
coinclde with the vlew of that person, Anglo-Saxon culture requlres that one would use an imperatlve. But mls imperatlve would be likely to be
one should rather respect the other person's wishes ( i s . , autonomy) softened not only wlth a multiply diminutive form of the name, but also
than to do what we think IS good for the. person; Polish culture rends wlth llumerous other diminutlves, on nouns, adjectives, adserbs, and
to resolve the dilemma in the opposite way. occasionally some other parts of speech:
A similar dilemma is tnvolved m leave-takmg behaviour: if the guests 1 Mo~~isrefiko,
Jedz zrtpke'
~ndicatethat tiley are about to ieave, should one let them go or should
'Mon1ca-DUv-D1M, eat you1 soup-DIM!'
one try to prevent them from leaving? In Anglo-Saxon culture, one
usually lets them go,.acknowledglng in this way their autonomy and Jedz p~-~cr~rfiio!
'self-determination' In Polish culture, however, such behaviaur would 'Eat quickly-DII\4!'
be seen as cold and uncaring; usually, tilerefore, one tries to prevent the
Zjedi i+iriySciiitlco!
guests from leaving, since a display of warmth towards the addressees 1s
'Eat it all-Dm1 up!'
perceived as more important than a display of respect for their autonomy.
An Anglo-Amencan or Australian host, lherefore, would normally thanlt Rich systems of dimmut~vesseem to play a crucial role in cultures in
the guests for coinlng and let them go, whereas a Polish host would insist wluch emotlons in general and affection in particular is expected to be
that the guests must stay longer, and would shower them wlth 'you
must's and wlth warm diminutives at the same time:
Ale jesicze wosrecik~!Ale ko~zreci~r~e!
I shown overtly. Anglo-Saxon culture does not elicourage unrestrained
display of emotlons. In adult English speech diminutlves (even those
few diminutives ufhtch English does have) feel out of place, just as
non-erotlc lrissmg and hugging feels more often than not out of place.
'But [stay] a little-DIM more! But you must! !
It is fascinating to note, m this connection, Lhat in cornparlson with
As a thlrd example of the interaction between diminutives and illocu- say Japanese culture, Anglo-Saxon culture m general and American
ilonary strategies I will mentlon requests. In Polish, a request formulated culture in particuiar emerges as one whlch greatly encourages physlcal
in the imperative mood would often be softened by means of a dimmu- expressiveness. Barnlund (1975a:445) reports a "drarnatlc contrast
tive. Tbus, while it would be more natural for a wife to use an lmperatlve i between the [American and Japanese] cultures" tn thls respect. "Touch-
than an lnterrogatlve-cum-condit~onalrequest when speaklng to hez mg behavior 1s reported nearly twice as often In all categories and wlth
husband, she would be likely to soften that imperative by a double all persons by Americans as by Japanese." (1975a:452). On tlie otlher
dimlnutlve form of his name (as well as by mtonation): hand, Amencan students of Russ~aand things Russian are amazed by the
amount of touching, Irissing and hugging w h ~ c hvisibly takes place
Jnreczictc, daj mi papierosa!
among the Russlans (cf. Smlth 1976:136; Monahan 1933).
'George-DIM-DIiM, give me a cigarette!'
From a Polish perspective. Anglo-Saxon culture in generai (including
An imlirect lnterrogatlve request would be less appropriate in this American culture) seems as I-estralned in physlcal expressiveness as
sltuatlon because 'interrogativlty' in directives 1s a distance-building Japanese culture seems to Americans. Most observers seem to a,T e e that
devlce: there 1s an lmpliclt conflict betweell lntlmacy and affection on the Poles are not qulte as effuslve as the Russians, but. for example,
the one hand and complete mutual independence on the other. (If I aslc kissing, hand-Kissmg and iland-shalrmg in greetlngs take place on a
you to do something for me, and if I thmk we are close, I will assume daily basls.
that you will do what I want you to do; to show that I don't know if The overtones which the word efliofiofral has acqlllred in Ei~glishare
a good illustration of the disapproval of public display -of emotlons,
(: 7
charactenstic.of Anglo-Saxon culture. Frequently tiiis word is used wirli Lutz (1986:299) points to the Anglo-Saxon Ishe says, American)
negative connotations, but even when it is not it implies at least 'an distinction uetween emotions seen as typical of; and forgivable in.
onexpectea and somewhat embaTassing display of emotions' women, and those which can be expected of men. "American cultnra~
Foi- cxaiiiple, when an abducted baby was returned; after two days, to belief does not deny that men may become emotional; it does, however,
his mother, n ~ h orllought she would never see lnm again, the Australian engender espectahons that men \!,ill expenence only certain types of
reporter (ABC News, 24.8.1983) described the m0ther.s behaviour as emotion, notably anger. \Vomen are expected to experience Ilie entire
'emortonal' ("Tile baby was reumted wifh his emotlonai mother"). In this range of emotions more frequently and deeply, witn the possible escep-
particular context, the word eniorioliol is not used as a criticism, slnce tion of anger"
the mother's 'emotionai stare' is apparently seen as sometiimg that can In Australian culture, whreh hlghly values 'roughuessi and anti-
be understood and excused. Nonetheless, from a Polish speaker's point 1 sentimentality, and rvhere the word bioodj? is the main veliicle for
of vie1v, [lie very need to mention and to excuse the mother's emotlon
would seen1 odd: 11 \vould not occur to one that a motner could do otiier
I expressing emotions (both negative and positive ones), any display of
'soft', 'femlnme' emotions is particularly abhorred. (CF. \X'ierzbiclca, to
than sIio\lJ elnorion In a sltuatlon of that kind. appear, ciiap. i1.j
As pointed out by Lutz (1986:290-301) the "afidely shared American It is .ivordl noting In this connectlon that cllaracteristicalig Australian
land; I would add, Anglo-Saxon in general - A.W.] ethnotiieory o i
bas~caliy Protestant European, middle class bac1:ground" identifies
"emotion priinarily with irrationality, subjectlvlty, the chaotic and othcr
negative characteristics" "One of the most pervasive cultural assump-
I abbreviations, such as rnorzres (mosquitoesj, ~n~isliies (mushrooms),
Drerzies (presents), bnrbie (barbecue), lipple (lipstick), or slllilires (sun-
glasses), which are often referred to as dimmulives, in fact are not really
diminutives and have a function quite different from the maln function
tlons about the elnotional is that i t 1s anrltlierical to reason or ratlonality"~
"emouons are fundamentally devalued ... as inatlonal, physical, unin-
1 of diminuti\res (although it is of course a simplification to speak o i
diminutives as if they had only one functionj. Formally, Uiey differ from
rentionai, ivenic, biased, and female"; "emonons rend predomlnarely lsic'l English diminutives because they are abbreviatlons: baby words such
to lead to erroneous Judgement.; and hence senseless or mationat actions. as bi!.die, flsiiie or doggie add a diminutive suffix to the full fornl of the
... people lend to see emotion as a disruption of, or uarrier to; the base word, but words such as borbie or lippte add a suffix to a truncated
ratlonal understanding of events. To iabzl someone emotional is ofteii to
~uestionthe validity, and more, the ver)$ sense of what they are saying."
Not so in Polisll culture. In the romantic poetry \vliich played a iunda-
mental role in shaping Polish national ethos, s e x e 'heart' is opposed
! form of the base word. Semanncally, they differ from diminutives in
expressrng, essenoally, not endearment but good humour. The core
meaning of true diminutives (such as doggie) can perhaps be represented
as follows (cf. WierzbicKa (1980, 1 9 8 4 to appear):
to the scientist's sz!:ieiko I olro 'magnifying glass and eyesias a source of
doggte =>'
'live irutli' versus the domain of 'dead truthsi, and this opposition has
I thinl:: tills .is something small like you are someone small
retained an inp port ant piace in the Polish erhnotheorp. The fact that the I I feet something good towards you
Polish counterpart of the English word e ~ n o l i o ~ i athat l ~ is; icniicioi~~y, 1 because of this, when I say sometiling about thls to )I011
113s posltiv~connotations, reflects this. Uczucro~~y does uoi designate i
I feel something good towards if
someone wlio S ~ O \ ~ J emotzon
S (because there is no cultural expectation
that feelings would or snould nor be sho\~rnj,but rather someone who The core meaning of Australian abbreviatlons with the suffix -ie is dii-
possesses rich and strong emotions (seen as 3 'good thing'). ferenr. I would represent it as follows (cf. %lierzbiclca 1984; to appzar):
It must be stressed, ho\vever, that the Anglo-Saxon taboo on 'emo-
inozaies =>
tions' does nor concern all feelings to the same degree. For example, as
1 thinlc: this is something small
mentioned earlier, in .Australian ctilture i t is quite all r ~ g h tto swear, tiiat I think: you think the same
1s to show 'strong'.. 'masculine' feelings. What is not all right is to show.
when I say something about this to you I feel something good
~vitlloutrestraint. '\veal;'. 'soft', 'feminine' emotions. sucli as tenderness.
56 Differerrt cultures, differoir larlgoages, different speecii acts

Thus, calling mosquitoes rnozzres, Uie speaker is good-humouredly both the (potenual) mttmacy of the Polish form ly and Uie courteousness
dismissmg the problem; he th~nksof mozzrrs as small (but not endear- of the Polish forms pa~ilpanl.
ing), and expects that tlie addressee would share this attitude. As I have This link between courtesy and cordiality is interesting to note be-
suggested elsewhere, the semantlc complex explicated abO\'e reflects cause it seems to be, typologically, rather unusual. Ceremony and ritual
many characteristic features of the Australian ethos: anti-sentimentality. may seem to be antithetical to spontaneity and 'emotionality', and cul-
Jocular cynicism, a tendency to knock tl~ingsdown to size, 'mateship', tuxes which favour the former usually restrict the latter. The Japanese
good-natured humour, love of informality and dislilce for 'long words;
(Slavic or Romance diminutives are typically much longer thari the
base words, but Australian abbreviattons are normally shorter than the
base words, and Australians feel that this formal brevity is somehow
l and Javailese cultures are cases m point (see Benedict 1947; Lebra 1976;
Smith 1983 on Japanese culture; Geertz 1976 on Javanese).
But Polish culture distinguisi~essharply between spontaneity ano
emotionality on the one band and informality on'tlle other. Like
functional). Japanese, Polish is very fond of titles, and the list of tltles cornmoot)'
As another linguistic reflex of the same Australian attitudes, and in used goes far beyond the 'Doctor'; 'Professor' or 'Father", commonly
particular of the Australian non-sentimental good humour, I wouid used in English. For example, one says commonly Pariie Dgi-eliiorie
mention me quintessentially Australian expression no rvor-ries, which 'Mr. Director', Pariie Naczeiriikrl 'Mr. Head: Parire I!~rynlel.ze 'Mr.
permeates Australian speech and which serves a wide range of iilocu-
tionary forces. The casual opttmism encapsulated m this expression and
also in the Australian abbreviations is something quite different from
Engmeer', Parlle !bfaglsirze 'Mr. MA-holder' (usually said to a phasna-
cist, who holds an MA in pharmacy), Pariie iMecei~asre'IvIr. Barrister';
and so on. But unlike in Japanese, m Polish the 'language of respect'
the warmth of Slavic diminutives. doesn't involve humility and self-abasement: one pays respect to the
status and rank of the addressee without ever Lowering oneself. Further-
more, this respect for the addressee is commonly combined in Polisli
4.4. Courtesy as a cultural value wiui cordiality and affectton.
The compatibility between courtesy and cordiality is best seen in
I think it is important to add that while Polish culture shares one major forms of address or of personal reference which combine formal titles
tlieme of Slavic culture m general, cordiality, it combines it with a differ- pan 'h'Ir.', par11 'Mrs.' and parirza 'Miss' with affectionate diminutive
ent one: courtesy, in the sense of a somewhat ceremonial show of respect forms of personal names, such as Panie il.lareczku 'Mr Mark-DIM' or
for every individual person (and especially for women). There is m Parii Basiehko 'Mrs Barbie-DIM'. Polish dislikes informality (whicli is
Polisn culture, alongside cordiality and spontailelty, an element of so characteristic, for example, of Aushalian English), and it encourages
ceremony, of somewhat ritualised courtesy and chivalry. The Polisli tbe use of titles even between 'equals' who itnow each other very well,
custom of iusslng a lady's hand (by men) is a charactenshc example of and who have lcnown each other for years (for example, betweeil woric-
thls: vlgorous warm iclsses on both cheelts signal cordiality, but' one mates). At the same time, however, the formality of such forms of
I<iss on a lady's nand signals both cordiality and ceremonial courtesy. address does not prevent the snow of emotron, and affectionate dimmu-
Courtesy is not in conflict with cordiality, but it imposes on i t certain tives of first names are freely combined with titles, as they are with
ritual forms; a certain ceremoniality. hand-kissing.
The courtesy aspect of tlle Polish savoir vivre is manifested particu- Poiisli differs in tlus respect from Russian, which has also a wealth of
larly ciearly m forms of address.' As mentioned ealier, in English every- devices for showing emotion, but which is not similafly ncn in devices
booy (except perhaps the Queen) can be addressed in the same way, for showmg courtesy, and which links affection with informality. To
as j'oic. In Polish, one always distinguishes the mtimate 0, 'thou. from sliow respect, courtesy, and non-mtlmacy one uses m Russian a combi-
the courteous ~anlpaiii ' s i r ' 'madam' (will1 the verb m third person nation of full first name and patronymic, and nom~aliythe patronymic
singular). The English yoti is democratic, the same for everyone; ~t lacks cannot be combined with an affechonate diminutive. (Cf. Wierzblclia. to
appear, chaps. 7,8.)
Apart froni names and names with patronymics, Russian has tmo basic One might add that, in communist Poland, the officially-supported
forms of address: I), 'thou'' and 1,)' 'you' (PL), one of which signals form 1 , y co-occurred ~viih'collectivist' vocatives and appellatives such
'intimacs" and the other 'distance' But the Russran form ly doesn'i as t o i t ~ a r ~ ) ~ sroitiarzysz
?i~, 'comrade', and, to a lesser extent. obgii~aielrc,
correspond exactly ro the Polish forms pa~llpani,because it signals only oby~varel 'citizen', and was no doubt interpreted in conjunction wldl,
'disunce' !lor courtesy. In Warsaw shops one sometimes encounters or against the backgIouno of, Soviet-style forms. The appeal to Soviet-
Russian woinen tourists, delighted and amused to be addressed ns style equality conveyed by the official ivy was backed by an explicit or
pan1 'Ivladam - 3 Eom \vhicli they perceive as quaintly courteous and lmplicir reference ro a collecti\~ityo i 'comradesz. that is, ideoiogically
iincieii regtrn~'. committed equals.
The absence of n special courtesy value in the Russian form 13)~ malies In Polish dialects, the fonn iv), has a different origin and a differeni
i t s~iitabiefor use among party apparat and police as well as among function: 11 is opposed to N only (not to ry on the one band and to pn111
ordinary people. In communist Poland, police and party apparar avoided pall, on [lie otller), and it expresses not equality but respect. Signifi-
tile fonns parilpoiri, \\,hose 'aura' didn't fit rile communist ideology. cantiy, it d0esn.r co-occur there with any collectivist and ideoiogically
Charactenstic:~lly,die communist regime in Poland attempted for many loaded forms of address such as iowor;y;ysz 'comrade' Rather, it co-
years to eradicate tllese forms, replacing them T1.*ith1vy (on the Russian occurs with terms referring to the addressee's personal status, such as
model). iCf. Davies 1981, 2581.) These efforts, however, proved futile. 'mother' or 'unclK., or with first names, usually in a 'dignified'. non-
TIie fact mat in the documentary iilm 'Wor1:ers 1980' the representatives diminutive form.
of the Government. talk~ngto Lech Waipsa and otiler representatives of I xvould add that [lie contrast between the courteous, Polish-st)'le form
tile tvorlmrs. used publicly the forms par?lpar?i.\\,as widely commented pflnlpo~~r and the impersonal, Soviet-style form ivy IS something th:lt
on in Polanti, as a 61nd of symbolic recogniuon of me defeat of efforts Poles are acutely alvare of and often comment on. To illustrate this
:liming at eradicating tlie Polish tradition of courtesy. general awareness o i the semantic implications of the TWO forms, I quote
Following on Brown - Gilman i1972), different forms of address a characteristic passage from an essay which was published in tlie lead-
silch as ty vs. ~ m i i l ~ in
a ~Polish
~ i are usually described in terms of 'power ing Polish emigrC monthly, Kilitirl-a:
and solidarity" (see. hon,ever, Ervin-Tnpp 1974). I would suggest, liow-
ever, tiiat as Far 3s Polish IS concerned, it is more illuminating to refer When the Russians speak of us iron~callyas Ie poiskie ffnrt)' i'illose Polish
gentlemen'], the connotaoons are of culture rather than class. The gentrv as
here to cultural vaiues such as intimacy and courtesy. The forms pall/
a clnss has long since ceased to exisi, bur we are still 'gentry' because we
Pant differ from the so-called \'-forms of languages such as Russian in didn't subrnlt to Sov~erattempts at 'Gleichscnaitungi, at 'comiadisrn_rius.
hasing positive courtesy built into them. The form 1v)' (second person and the form ivy ['you PL'] didn'i m6e. In commumst Poland (he only
plural); iavoured by the commumst regime, carrled with it implicatrons contrast really felt is that between Po?ro\ore ['genwy', but also 'mlsters'i
of impersonal equality, as well as distance. To the Polish ear; it sounded and those who are _generally referred to as on) 3.e. tllc regrme
cold, impersonal and discourteous. It de-emphasised personal ties (eitlier people, ine new ruling classl. (Schrstr 198-':7)
lntlmate. signalled by p, or based on mutual respect; signalled by pall/
nairi) In favollr of equality denved from membership in a collectivit),.
Pcrlipa~ii.on the other hand, is non-intimate, out i t is also courteous and
personal. I presume that the 'personal' character of panipaili is due partly 5. Theoretical implications
lo its singular form; and possibly aiso to its sex differentiailon, whereas
the 'impersonal' character of tlie form 113' is due partly to its plural and
genderless form. Polish courtesy stresses respect for every indivtdual In ihe literamre on speech acts; English conversational straregies dis-
as an individual, and is higiily sex-conscious. The collectivist and cussed here are frequently interpreted as a manifestation of a universal
genderless nng of the form 113' is jarring, in that tradition. 'natural logic' (Gordon - Lakoff 1975). a universal 'logic of conversa-
tion' (Grice 1975) or universal rules of politeness (Searle 1975). In the
and the general mecllanisms themselves are culture-specific. (Cf, Hollos The fact rlial tii80 speal<el-s\<,hose sentences are qultc nrammat~cnicnn
- Beemnn 1?78:353-354.) differ mdicnlly in their inlerpretnnon of each othcr's veibai strategies
This is noi io den). that the generalisatinns suggested in worl;s such indicates tnar conoeisat!onal management does iesl on lingulsric Icnorvl-
as Grice (1975). Gordon - Lal:off (1975) or Searie (1975) provide edge. But lo find out what that 1:nowledge is we must abandon the exlsring
useful insights into inecllanisms of language use. It is important. no!\!- v!ervs of commumcnnon lrfhich draw n baslc distinctloo between cullurzl
ever. that generalisations of this kind should not be seen as absolute. or social knowledge on the one hand and linguisiicsignalling processes on
'Natural logic provides a considerable range of options. The cliorces the otiier. We cannot regaia meaning as the output of non-linear procers-
embodied in individual languages reflect not only 'natural logic', and not ing in which sounds are mappea Into morphemes, clauses and sentences
by application oi the grammnticai and semantic rules of sentencc-level
only n combiiiarion of 'natural logic' with nistoncai accidents. Tiiey
Iingurstlc analysis, and 1001; at social norms as extralingurstlc forces wnicii
reflect also what Gumperz 11962:182) aptly calls 'cultural logics Searle
merely determine ho\is and under \<thatcondit~onssuch rneanlng units are
insists that interrogaii\,e English sentences such as: used. (Gumpen 1982:185-186)
Coil >'or(pass the salt(?) I would add that descriptions of 'cutturai 10gic'~to be heipful, must be
Tl'oiiid you poss ine the salr(?) done in fairly specific terms. It is worth noting in riiis connection that
I/;// goit pnss i?ie rile salt(?) in numerous studies written by Western schoiars and coricerning non-
are not iimbiguous (between quesoon and request), but that by virtue of Western cultures epithets such as 'direct' or 'blunt' are used to refer to
their meanliig they are simply questions (even when they are uttered with tile Anglo-Saxon cultural norms, whereas, by contrast, rhe other cultures
intonatioti cliaracteristic of directives, cf. Searle 1975:69). If they are studied often appear to value 'indirectness' (cf. for example Geertz 1976;
interpreted as requests, that 1s by virtue of the iiearers' "general powers Eades 1982). In the present study, the reverse is ihe case: by comparison
of rationality ant1 inference" (Searle 1979:176). witii Polish; the English ways of speaking appear to be highiy 'indirect"
But to sag uiis is to imply that speakers of languages such as Polish This shows, however. that terms such as 'directness' or 'indirectness' are
are sadly laclang those 'powers of rationality and inference' Poles much too general, much too vague to be really safe in cross-cultural
learmng English must be rauglit the potential ambiguity of i/oiild goii studies, unless tne specific nature of a given cultural norm is spelt out.
sentences, or II'iiy doii'i >'OIL sentences. just as they must be tanglit the The present study shows that English cultural norms (as compared
polysemy of the word bnnic. Searle might say tnat what they have to be mi111 Polish norms) favour 'indirectness' In acts aming at bnnging about
t:iuglit IS not meaning but 'conventions of usage' lcf. Searle 1975:76). an action from the addressee. On the other hand, studies such as Eades
But this distinct~onbetween meaning and conventions of usage becomes (19821, Sansom 11980) or .4brahams (1976) show that Anglo-Saxon
meaningless if the ignorance of the relevant 'conventions of usage' leads cuitural norms (as compared with Australian Aboriginal norms; or with
not just to un-idiomatic speech but to simpie misunderstanding of what Black American norms) encourage 'directness' in seeking information
Sear12 himself rvoiild recognise as meaning. For example. if Polish froin the addressee. Evidently, the Anglo-Saxon principle of non-inter-
newcomers to Australia interpret sentences such as: fcrence, which accounts for the heavy restnctions on the use of the
imperative, doesn't extend to questions (I don't mean 'personal ques-
HOIVnbortt a beel-? tions', but questions in general) - presumably, because infomiation is
II'ilp doil'r yo11 come arid iiai,e liiricli ~ v i f l iu?
i seen in Anglo-Saxon culture as a free and public good. In fact, rlie
as genuine cjuesrions_rather than as an offer and an invitation, rhey are restnctions on the use of the imperative seem to be compensated by ;I
milking a sem;intic elnor lust as much as when they interpret the utterance lremendous expansion of interrogative devices.
H o w do )'oI! do? as a genuine question. Similarly, Geertz (1976:230-248) stresses the 'indirection' and 'dis-
It is essentml to recognise that w;at is involved is not any differences simulation' characteristic of Javanese culture* and contrasts these
In 'powers of rationality and inference'? but differences in 'cultural features with ihnse characteristic of Amencan culture. According to
logic'; encoded in language: Geertz's classical study, Javanese culture favours "beating about the
64 D$fct.enr cultures, diferenr langitages, difcreirl speecl~acts

bush" "no1 saying on one's mmd', "unwillingness lo face issues general idea that Mediterranean peoples are cowardly because they
iil their nalced tmtll"; "never saying what one really thinlcsVj avoiding complain about things that only hystencal cowardly Anglo-Saxons
"gratuitous truths", "never showing one's real feelings directly" and so would mentlon. I have heard sunilar comments from Australian nurses,
on. Clearly, all these forms of 'indirection' are rather different from d u r ~ n gtwo seminars on linguistic problems of immigrants W ~ I C I I i
tilose cultivated ln Anglo-Saxon culture (especially, the dissimulation gave to nurses in two Canberra hospitals in 1983. A number of
of tmth). nurses commented on the unsympathetic attitude of Anglo-Saxon
It seems to me, therefore, that 11 is very important to try to l i n l ~ doctors towards unmtgrant women screaming m childbirth, and on the
language-specific norms of interaction wlth specific cuitural values, fact that often injections are adinmistered merely t o stop the screaming.
such as autonomy of the mdividual'and anti-dogmaticism m Angio- An immigrant woman who screams, crles or complains, is seen as
Saxon culture or cordiality and warmth in Polish culture. The Issues hystencal or unbalanced. The taboo on showmg pain is clearly related to
involved are of fundamental importance, and they ment a more general the taboo on showmg emotions.
discussion; I attempt to undertake such a discussion in Chapter 3. Obviously, cultural clashes of this kind cannot be compietelp
eliminated, but they can be minimised by eniigillened, well-planned
n~ulticulturaleducation. It seems clear that a liuguistic study of culture-
specific speech acts and speech styles has a great deai to contribute in
6 . Practical implications Ulls domam.

In a multi-et'hnic country like Australia, or like the United States, the

problem of speech acts and of their cultural significance is not a purely
academic one. It is a probiem of immense pracucal significance.
As long as it is wideiy assumed that English conversationai rouunes
reflect what is 'ordinary'. 'normal', 'natural' and 'logical', the prospects
for cultural understanding between immigrants and the Anglo-Saxon
population are not particularly bngllt. Anglo-Saxon institutions such as
schools, courts or government departments, as well as the streets and
'marltei places, are, inevitably, an arena of culturai clashes and cultural
misunderstandings. If immigrants who spealc passable English tend to
utter flat imperaaves, they are likely to be seen as rude or boonsll. If
they fail to respond to pieces of elaborate 'indirection'. they are likely
to be seen as uncooperative, or dumb. Elaborate indirectness accompa-
nied by juicy swearing can be as confusing to an ~mmigrantas the
directness, forcefuiness and 'emotionalityi of some immigrants can be
offensive and irritating to an 'Anglo'
Anglo-Saxon doctors and nurses (as Jane Simpson has pointed out
to me) are accustomed to thinKing that pain should be borne ~tolcally,
and that one sllould only cry in real extremity. Therefore they are unsym-
pathetic to people who complain, cry and scream at pains which can he
considered mtnor, behaviour acceptable to Italians and Greeks. This can
lead Lo very unsympati~ehctreatment by doctors and nurses, and to a