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THE INTERTEXTUAL ASPECT OF INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION

Nina Roscovan
Moldova State University

In a globalized world, characterized primarily by a multicultural environment and by an


exceeding need of contact and communication with people of other cultures, the intercultural skills
receive a primordial role and require great attention. Language, as the most important representation
of culture, is ambiguous by nature. Every text, whether intended or not by the author, being dialogical
in nature, can be interpreted in various ways by the readers. Thus, the aim of the present article is to
evaluate the element of intertextuality in the intercultural communication.

Key words: interculturalism, intercultural communication, intercultural competence,


representations, text, intertextuality.

The reality we live in today is characterized by escalading levels of contact and communication
with people of other cultures, this being the result of the seemingly unstoppable process of
globalization. Bernard Saint-Jacques mentions that human beings are living at the same time within
particular settings on the one hand, and between different cultural environments on the other hand. [7,
p. 45]
In today’s world globalization also means a cultural dialogue, creating an increasing need for
intercultural communication skills. As E.R. McDaniel says: a knowledge of intercultural
communication, and the ability to use it effectively, can help bridge cultural differences, mitigate
problems, and assist in achieving more harmonious, productive relations. [6, p. 8]
The interrelations, relations and exchanges between cultures represent the concept of
interculturalism, relying primarily on a strong mutual respect and solidarity. Therefore at the base of
the intercultural lies the acceptance of otherness, by giving the Other equal rights, by recognizing
different values and lifestyles, in order to put the basis of a joint behavior.
Intercultural relations always suppose a personal approach; therefore, in addition to recognizing
the diversity of ideas, references and multiple values associated with other cultures, they come in the
shape of a dialogue, exchange and interaction between these representations and references, as well as
between individuals and groups with multiple references. The concept of representation was borrowed
from the social psychology and broadly, as presented by G. Ferreol, the representations can be
considered as "ways of organizing our knowledge of reality", this knowledge is in turn a social
construct, therefore, the representations are "directly related to our belonging to a community." [3, p
368] Furthermore, these representations allow the questioning of the native culture and the target
culture.
Communication cannot be avoided if you want to be successful in today’s data-rich societies, it
is inescapable. When people communicate, they are trying to persuade, inform or entertain. “Therefore
communication can be defined as the management of messages with the objective of creating
meaning”. [6, p.9] Dean Barnlund extends the considerations in this area and states that each culture
expresses its purposes and conducts its affairs through the medium of communication. The author
believes that cultures exist primarily to create and preserve common systems and symbols by which
their members can assign and exchange meanings. Furthermore Barnlund mentions that it is the
“difference in meaning, far more than mere differences in vocabulary, that isolate cultures” and that
cause them to regard each other as strange. Thus, “every communication, interpersonal or intercultural,
is a transaction between private worlds”. [2, p. 38-41]
Karlfried Knapp provides a linguistic approach and defines intercultural communication as
taking place whenever participants introduce different knowledge into interaction which is specific to
their respective socio-cultural group, which is relevant, but which is taken for granted and thus can
affect the process of communication. [4, p. 8]
Samovar and Porter mention that “intercultural communication occurs whenever a person from
one culture sends a message to be processed by a person from a different culture”, [8, p. 7]
furthermore, it requires a thorough understanding of communication and culture. Therefore,
intercultural communication is based on intercultural understanding. Bernard Saint-Jacques defines the
intercultural understanding as the ability to understand the perceptions concerning one’s own culture,
and the perceptions of the people who belong to another culture, and the capacity to negotiate between
the two. [7, p. 52]
The intercultural communication consists of mutual respect and can be defined as the ability to
communicate verbally and non-verbally with people from other cultures so as all the participants in
communication to be able to encode and decode the messages communicated and avoid as much as
possible any erroneous interpretations and evaluations.
The intercultural competence is the crucial factor necessary for the contemporary citizen in
order to meet the demands of the intercultural environment characteristic of the globalized societies
and in order to avoid malfunctions and any possible misunderstandings. This skill is represented by the
individual's ability to understand different worldviews, including the ability to appropriately adapt his
behavior and attitudes to the cultural aspects of otherness, of being open to other cultures and
individual identities.
The relationship with other cultures can not take place without understanding the meaning of
one’s own culture as every culture can generate different kinds of knowledge and action. Language, as
a very important component of culture, is ambiguous by nature. We can never fully control the things
we say and write. The meanings we exchange by speaking and writing are not given in the words and
sentences alone but are also constructed partly out of what our listeners and our readers interpret them
to be. [9, p. 11]
According to the dialogical nature of the text presented by the Russian linguist and philosopher
Mikhail Bakhtin in his work, the text can be seen as the dialogue between cultural identities with the
Otherness. In the same line of thought Gilles Ferreol believes that the literary texts would be excellent
bridges between cultures because they are privileged places where other visions of the world are
revealed. [3, p. 371] Texts can teach us much about the ethnography of communication, i.e. on the
effects of staging the participants, ritual behaviors, attitudes and gestures inherent in a particular
culture. [3, p. 374]
Intertextuality is defined as utterances or texts in relation to other utterances or texts. Therefore
any link that may be established between texts, any relationship that the reader makes between texts is
represented by intertextuality. It is the way in which texts interrelate to produce or to form meaning. In
the process of text interpretation, it serves as the basic element for the readers to link a writer’s
knowledge of the world with their own, encompassing their prior knowledge, experiences and
attitudes.
Thus, even within a single text there can be a continual dialogue between the given text and
other texts. J. Kristeva defines the concept of intertextuality as a crossing of textual surfaces, a dialogue
of multiple writings: the writer’s, the addressee’s, and of the actual or previous cultural context. [5, p.
83] Therefore, the concept under discussion was analyzed based on two axes: a horizontal one linking
the author and the reader of a text, and a vertical one linking the text to other texts. Thus, the author’s
words and texts communicate the usage of previous texts in his work concomitantly with the
communication between the author’s readers. Thereby, the concept of intertextuality, according to Julia
Kristeva, questions the originality of texts, with their layers of accumulated cultural and literary
knowledge, which constantly influence each other. [5]
Every word or phrase we use has already been used before, thus our originality consists in
finding new ways to put to use the stock of language we share with others, adjusting it to our needs and
purposes in order to fit a specific situation. Most often this is an unconscious act of using a language,
but sometimes we do want to attract attention to the source of the words we use, as their echoing
thought might have a great significance and authority. Therefore, by analyzing the ties to the former
texts surrounding us we understand the message they infer more deeply. This relation each text has to
the sea of texts around us is called intertextuality.
Regarded from the point of view of its location, different definitions and approaches to the
analysis of intertextuality can be revealed. Some scholars locate intertextuality in the text itself when
explicit or implied reference is made to another text. The intertextual relationship exists whether or not
it is detected by the reader and whether or not it was intended by the author.
Intertextuality can be found in the middle of every culture and profoundly binds civilizations
apparently so different. As Gerard Genette and Michel Riffatterre believed, intertextuality is
everywhere. The mechanism of intercultural communication in an author’s creative work encodes the
reality of his culture and adapts the text for readers from various countries. Through intertextuality the
author makes the reader familiar with cultural achievements of the Other.
In the context of globalization texts are international, therefore they foresee the existence of
invisible threads linking the works of different authors and thus binding the spirits of different cultures
that breathe in unison through the text and connect civilizations. Intertextuality, which is itself a
dialogic concept, establishes an intercultural dialogue and allows the rapprochement between texts,
literatures and cultures, being a point of meeting and confrontation between different cultural
universes.

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