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Intercultural Communication in Contexts: Fifth Edition Essay

Summarize and critique chapter six of the text

In social science, the focus is on unique elements of language. In the interpretive approach, language is a part of intercultural relations influenced by context. Its use is a dynamic process. The Nominalist perspective observes that a specific language does not differentiate human perception, while Relativists think the structure of language influences the pattern of thought. Most research supports the middle ground between the two. Culture gives variation to language, both in style and meaning. Through that, social contexts such as status and interpersonal relationships can be analyzed.

Language is a broad spectrum to communicate emotional ideas through the techniques of separation, accommodation, and assimilation. In multilingualism, the language used should be situational and based on the setting. Interlanguage occurs in circumstances where a person speaking a non-native language starts to use syntax and elements that are foreign to its linguistics. However, code-switching occurs when a person purposefully modifies the applied language and dialect. Language is seen in political policymaking and is used for purposes of protection of the national identity. In the midst of globalization, language is crucial, leading to the development of multilingualism, or in some areas, an established lingua franca (Martin and Nakayama 219-255).

Overall, this chapter does a respectable job of approaching such a broad term as language and the many roles it plays in intercultural communication. One of the most intriguing discussions is the extent of language influence over the pattern of thought. Despite many excellent examples, something to consider is the opposite, that the pattern of thought influences language. In many civilizations, language development, especially in its modern forms, came after an already established set of cultural norms.

Language is utilized as a tool to enhance or simplify communication, based on already defined cultural parameters. Also, the chapter made mention of interlanguage, something that is extremely common. In personal experience, at some point, carriers of two languages when speaking one dialect begin to use jargon from another. Often, it is slang or more universally recognizable words (probably originating from English which is studied globally), but there may be instances where a word may be used that has a homophone in another language. The chapter should have been more detailed in exploring this phenomenon and the psychology behind it.

Another aspect of language to consider is the evolvement of technology in the digital age and the emergence of online communication. Through this medium, some communication methods developed, such as chatting or texting, that utilize specific idiosyncrasies. Shortened meanings, abbreviations, and emojis have developed into a branch of linguistics that has a tremendous influence on the younger generations. An analysis of online communication as a language tool and how it differs in various cultures (which it does) would be helpful in developing this topic.

What are idioms or idiomatic expressions? Why are they important?

The text refers to these as metaphors, an expression used in dialogue that may have a non-literal or secondary meaning. The figure of speech is common in many cultures. The meaning can be either relatively easy to deduce or specific enough that some cultural knowledge is required. Rhetoric is a defining characteristic of the culture as it reveals the process of reasoning that occurred during the creation of the idiomatic expression (Martin and Nakayama 225-227).

English is a language that uses metaphors and idioms definingly often, particularly in some dialects. Other cultures also have such figures of speech. The text states that most analogous metaphors reflect emotion. The expressions emphasize that feelings emanate from specific parts of our bodies, a multicultural tradition, because despite any social barriers, the human physiology is universal. (Martin and Nakayama 227). These types of expressions seem like a creative or poetic element that is rarely used. However, there are more metaphors used in standard dialogue than most people realize, particularly in English. When learning a language, idioms are confusing as they are often culturally specific. By trying to understand such expressions, scholars gain a significantly deeper insight into the overall perspective on the history and folklore of the nation.

Analyze racial identity, as discussed in the text.

Racial identity is essentially how a person chooses to associate themselves based on a particular racial profile. Race classification was historically based on biological characteristics, such as skin color; however, now society accepts race as more of a social concept. Globally, there are many people with a mixed gene pool, especially in the modern world, where interracial marriages are accepted. There are also legal challenges to race identification as well as historical, social contexts, which led to certain racial trends. The example in the text alludes to the European migrants eventually all becoming part of a broad “white” social race group (Martin and Nakayama 185).

In an egalitarian world, one would think racial identity is a meaningless concept, but it does have an impact on life. In some situations, personal life and family have a strong association with a certain race, as with the woman in the text that sued the state of Louisiana (Martin and Nakayama 184). Also, racial identity is directly associated with racism. The ideology expressed by certain groups produces stereotypes, which is followed by institutionalized racism and oppression, having a direct impact on cultural development. While racial identity should be a personal choice to some extent, the social construct gives other entities such as media and government, the power of assigning race to citizens. In turn, this is a trend that historically has been unfair or abusive.

How do you recognize nonverbal behavior?

Nonverbal behavior is any number of external, personal, and contextual factors that are used as a communication medium. The text emphasizes that there are no set guidelines, it is a structure of behavior that communicates an underlying meaning to performed actions. It is varied based on culture, similar to language. Nonverbal behavior can range from facial expressions, gestures, and mannerisms (general body language) to clothing, symbolism, and direct actions. It serves to emphasize and complement spoken communication. Nonverbal behavior goes as far as a direct physical choice of action. For example, as described in the text, the promise to show up and not doing so in a social situation will also relay a certain message (Martin and Nakayama 266-270).

While specific reactions are instinctual, there is an expectation for humans to control nonverbal communication. This is especially relevant to cultural norms. The text describes the expectancy violation theory suggesting that in each setting there are parameters to which people should adhere. Any violation causes an adverse reaction, which in certain situations, such as the example given in the text about passing Shia checkpoints, may be life threatening (Martin and Nakayama 266). However, there is nonverbal communication which can be perceived positively, and therefore enhance the relationship with a person or group. Any such behavior is embedded on a subconscious level. Regarding cultural terms, there should be an understanding that each culture has its individuals with various perceptions, however, there are certain universal behaviors which are appropriate.

Describe and analyze one example of nonverbal behavior

One of the most prime examples of nonverbal behavior is eye contact. Many cultures regard the eyes as a mechanism of determining honesty, true feelings, and emotion. The primary function of eye contact according to the text is determining interpersonal distance, literally and on a more contextual note. This nonverbal behavior is utilized most commonly in dialogue when people are in proximity to maintain eye contact. It signifies the person’s attention is given, particularly by those who are listening. However, some cultures may perceive direct eye contact as impolite or, in some circumstances, insulting (Martin and Nakayama 276).

In personal experience, eye contact can be used efficiently to relay emotion and thoughts. The text discussed how deception might be expressed by erratic nonverbal behavior such as avoiding eye contact (assuming the situation calls to maintain it). However, eye contact has also been associated with other emotion, for example, depression. People struggling with the condition usually avoid eye contact and overall their gaze is different from someone who is radiantly happy or concentrated. While cultural norms have an impact, it is important to note how it combines with generational differences. In personal experience, young children from a family of the Asian ethnicity have trouble maintaining eye contact with adults, in any situation outside of the house. According to their culture, it is impolite to do otherwise with a figure of authority, such as parents. Therefore, the habit persists even outside of the home. Overall, eye contact has a defining role in social behavior.

Work Cited

Martin, Judith, and Thomas Nakayama. Intercultural Communication in Contexts: Fifth Edition. McGraw-Hill, 2009.

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"Intercultural Communication in Contexts: Fifth Edition." IvyPanda, 6 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/intercultural-communication-in-contexts-fifth-edition/.

1. IvyPanda. "Intercultural Communication in Contexts: Fifth Edition." September 6, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/intercultural-communication-in-contexts-fifth-edition/.


IvyPanda. "Intercultural Communication in Contexts: Fifth Edition." September 6, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/intercultural-communication-in-contexts-fifth-edition/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Intercultural Communication in Contexts: Fifth Edition." September 6, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/intercultural-communication-in-contexts-fifth-edition/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Intercultural Communication in Contexts: Fifth Edition'. 6 September.

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