Linking culture and communication

Throughout this course, the contributions of Edward T. Hall have been noted. This article provides an overview of Hall’s works and ideas, with a focus on how he emphasized context in how culture and communication affect each other.

Please read the attached article to enhance your understanding of Edward T. Hall’s influence on the field of intercultural communication. Below a brief summary is provided

Anthropologist E. T. Hall was the first person to use the term “intercultural communication.” He also famously equated the concepts of “culture” and “communication,” asserting that, “Culture is communication and communication is culture.”

Hall had an intellectual and conceptual influence on nearly all aspects of IC theory, research, training, or practice. In particular, his formulations for considering context, space (proxemics) , and time (chronemics) have enduring application.

“Context,” the circumstances surrounding any given communicative attempt, conveys implicit meanings in communication. In most cultures, for example, when a couple repeats their marriage vows in a wedding ceremony, the significance of the event is not expressed explicitly in words, but rather in the event itself, including the presence of family and friends. Hall considered this “high context” communication.

If, however, a couple wishes to have a detailed contract making clear what is expected and the consequences if these expectations are not met, they may hire a lawyer to prepare a contract (a “pre-nuptial agreement”). This would constitute a “low context” message.

Within any country one sees many examples of a range of higher and lower context messages or communication exchanges. However, Asian societies have been generally characterized as placing less trust in words (higher on the value of “context”), while English speaking, and northern European nations typically place more trust in specific words and details in everyday communication.

E. T. Hall is credited with the introduction and explanation of many comparative concepts (high and low context, proxemics for space relations, monochronic and polychronic time orientations) which today are used all over the world by those who study interpersonal communication as well as by managers and other professionals working in the public and corporate sectors. Hall’s works and terms have influenced how we think and talk about social interaction in different cultural contexts and in a variety of intercultural relations today.

Recommended citation:

Kulich, S. J. & Condon, J. C. (2015). Culture and communication: Celebrating a centennial of E. T. Hall’s contributions. The FutureLearn Intercultural Communication Course. Shanghai, China: Shanghai International Studies University

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This article is from the free online course:

Intercultural Communication

Shanghai International Studies University (SISU)