Cultural Gaps in Linguistic Communication with
Reference to English and Arabic Language Communities
Alaeddin Sadeq, and Jamal Azmi
Department of English Language and Translation, Zarqa University, Jordan Abstract: Since each culture has its own unique identity, there is often a problem of communication gaps. Cultural communication gaps are crucial issues that influence all types of communication all over the world. These gaps are often the underlying reason for major misunderstandings or misinterpretations among the members of different cultural communities. The first aim of this paper is to examine some of the problems that are caused by cultural differences on the basis of linguistic communication, i.e., the verbal means of contact between the source language culture and target language culture. The analysis in this study will be limited to English as a representative of the source language culture (SL) and Arabic as the target language one (TL). The second aim of the study is to suggest some methods for dealing with the problems of cross cultural communication such as understanding the source language culture from various perspectives in order to find a suitable equivalent meaning in the target language. Knowing the shared linguistic features in the language of the two cultures will help to avoid many misinterpretation problems. Adding explanatory foot notes in the case of some cultural items that cannot be easily translated will be also of great assistance in this direction. Then paper is divided into four sections. Section one deals with the meaning of culture and communication. Cultural gaps and problems of misinterpretation with some solutions are explained in section two. Section three focuses on the main problems of cultural gaps in linguistic communication and offers some solutions to them. Finally, section four is the conclusion which summarizes the major findings of this study. Received June 18, 2010; accepted May 16, 2011
The Definition of Culture and Communication
This section will examine three important terms in
connection with each other. They are culture, language
and communication. First of all, culture is defined as a
combination of different codes concerning the way of
life, tradition, rituals, beliefs, values, morals, shared
customs and all the habits that are practiced by a
particular community using a particular language as
means of expression. Culture is also used by historians
to refer to any socially inherited element in the life of
man, material and spiritual (See Sapir, 1964: 7983).
Therefore, within this complex network of traditionally
inherited habits, language usage or attitudes, culture
can be considered as the identity card of a society.
Since no two identity cards are the same, no two
cultures are identical either, especially within societies
that are widely different from one another, like eastern
versus western communities.
What is important here is that culture produces
social meanings through language, which does not
include only verbal and written forms, but also other
elements like body signs and movements that are used
as a means of communication (Lyons, 1981: 267). In
this respect, we can fairly say that because one’s
knowledge of one’s native language is culturally
passed along; i.e. gained by his membership in a
particular society, language and linguistic dialogues
are integrated in the pattern of human communication
with one another all over the globe (See Lyons, 1981:
The differences in language use are the results of the
existence of personal, social and cultural pressure on a
particular language, as is the case with the Arabic
language which has its specific nature and cultural
features. Words such as ع م (uncle – the fraternal
brother of the father) and خ ال (unclethe
brother of the mother) or عم ة (auntthe
sister of the
father) and خال ة (auntthe
sister of the mother) are cases
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