Volume 13, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0155-0640
  • E-ISSN: 1833-7139
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The author argues that the differences in the ways of speaking prevailing in different societies and different communities are profound and systematic, and reflect the different cultural values. In the past, the extent of the differences between different language communities in their ways of speaking was often underestimated. In particular, the search for universals in language use inspired by language philosophers such as Paul Grice (1975, 1981) and John Searle (1969, 1979) often led to the identification of the mainstream American English with the “normal human ways of speaking”. The last decade has witnessed a growing reaction against this kind of misguided universalism,resulting in the birth of a new discipline: cross-cultural pragmatics. The progress of this new discipline, however, has been hampered by the lack of a suitable metalanguage. Researchers in this field tend to rely heavily on vague and undefined terms such as “directness”, “indirectness”, “harmony”, “solidarity”, which are used differently by different authors, or by the same authors but on different occasions. This leads to confusion, and to a lack of consensus and clarity even on the most basic points. The author argues that to compare cultures in a truly illuminating way we need a culture-independent perspective, and that one can reach such a perspective by relying on a natural semantic metalanguage, based on universal semantic primitives. These claims are illustrated in the paper with numerous examples.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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