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Topics: Linguistics, Language acquisition, Language education Pages: 5 (2558 words) Published: November 3, 2014
December 2010, Volume 7, No.12 (Serial No.84)

Sino-US English Teaching, ISSN 1539-8072, USA

A study on pragmatic failure in cross-cultural communication FANG Jie
(Foreign Languages College, Qingdao University of Science and Technology, Qingdao 266061, China)

Abstract: Through analyzing and comparing the anecdotes of pragmatic failure in cross-cultural communication from the aspects of lexicon, syntax and discourse, some pragmatic strategies are suggested in intercultural communication. To improve learners’ cultural awareness and communicative competence, a cultural-linguistic approach in foreign language teaching should be adopted. Key words: cross-cultural communication; pragmatic failure; pragmatic competence; cultural awareness; communication strategy

1. Introduction
People may meet with various problems in intercultural communication. The knowledge of target language’s culture is as important as its grammar or vocabulary. Perhaps more to the point, a lack of cross-cultural awareness can be a severe hindrance in the understanding of a message which is linguistically accurate or comprehensible. As a rule, people are much less tolerant of cultural “bumps” and cultural shocks than they are of grammatical mistakes and lexical insufficiency.

The word “culture” is too broad to be defined in one or two sentences. Here, the author uses it in its narrow sense which relates to language use, i.e., the way of life, the conventions of behavior, value systems, ways of viewing the world and institutions. Language is inseparable from culture. Thus, when learners learn a language, they learn about culture; and as they learn to use a new language, they learn to communicate with other individuals from a different culture.

2. The importance of cultural awareness in communicative competence The study’s focus of linguistics once was set on language itself. “Langue” was preferred to “parole” by de Saussure (1916). Either the study on American Structuralism or that on linguistic competence by Chomsky ignored the social situation and norm to some degree. The social-linguist shifted the study from separated abstract language form to the actual use in social context. The term “communicative competence” was put forward by Hymes in 1971. Communicative competence includes both linguistic competence and pragmatic competence. Pragmatic competence is further divided into linguistic competence and social-linguistic competence. The former is the ability to use language form and pragmatic function to understand the speaker, thus to express his own intention exactly; the latter is emphasized on the ability to use target language properly in target language’s cultural background.

3. Anecdotes of pragmatic failure
A lack of either competence will lead to pragmatic error. English learners from different cultures may result FANG Jie (1970- ), associate professor of Foreign Languages College, Qingdao University of Science and Technology; research fields: pragmatics, English teaching methodology, testing.

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A study on pragmatic failure in cross-cultural communication

in different pragmatic errors. In intercultural communication, the learner tends to transfer the forms and rules of his native language, including his native culture, into target language, which will bring trouble in communication, sometimes may even lead to breakdown. So, the more knowledge learners know about target language’s culture, the easier it will be for them to reach effective communication. Cultural awareness plays an important role in language learning and teaching. In cross-cultural communication, there are a number of differences worthy people’s attention.

3.1 Culture-loaded words
Word sense includes linguistic sense and cultural sense. The cultural sense of a word is a word’s subjective evaluation among people with same cultural background. If the evaluations from two different cultures are not the same, the effective communication will be interfered....

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speaking-managing rapport through talk across cultures
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