Intercultural Pragmatics and Communication

A. Wierzbicka*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Intercultural pragmatics studies problems arising in communication between people with different cultural backgrounds and different cultural expectations, which in the contemporary world occurs on an unprecedented scale. It is a discipline that has developed in response to what Istvan Kecskes (2004), the editor of the new journal Intercultural Pragmatics, calls "the challenges of a new era.". At a time when every year millions of people cross borders, not only between countries but also between languages, and when more and more people of many different cultural backgrounds have to live together in modern multiethnic and multicultural societies, it is increasingly acknowledged that cross-cultural communication requires cultural learning, and that ways of speaking associated with different languages and cultures need to be properly described, understood, and taught. As also noted by Kecskes, the old paradigms have proved unequal to the task. Pragmatics as a part of linguistics has always been concerned with interpersonal interaction-but in the past it was often locked in a monolingual and monocultural framework, derived, essentially, from the English language and Anglo culture. A few decades ago, the pragmatic scene was largely dominated by the search for the universals of politeness and for the universal maxims of conversation, and it was widely assumed that the apparent diversity of ways of speaking worldwide was superficial and could be explained in terms of some universal principles of interaction. Today, it is increasingly accepted that that diversity is not superficial at all; that it can only be accounted for with reference to different cultural attitudes and values; and further that the study of these different attitudes and values requires a suitable metalanguage, justifiable from a global perspective. The approach to intercultural pragmatics advocated and implemented in the so-called NSM approach seeks to solve this crucial problem by pointing to the existence of a shared lexical and grammatical core in all languages, and by developing a theory of cultural scripts based on that shared core. Other contemporary approaches to intercultural pragmatics seek other solutions to the problem of metalanguage. The common theme is, increasingly, a move away from the supposed universals of politeness and from the anglocentrism of the past and a search for a greater relevance to the challenges of cross-cultural communication and education in the increasingly globalized world.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Language & Linguistics
PublisherElsevier Ltd.
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9780080448541
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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