Languages & Cultures of East Asia
Trad 101, Sections
18-19-20-21 Fall 2000
Lecture Outline, 12/4/00 - Topic confusion in English-Asian discourse
Scollon and Wang Scollon
Asians - inscrutable
Westerners - frank, rude
Based on systematic differences of the way people communicate
Source of perceptions
Difference in the way topics are introduced
1. Call: what initiates the conversation
e.g. ringing of phone or doorbell
Strict constraints - cannot introduce topic
Open-ended - defers to the caller
3. Introduce topic
Caller has the right
Must wait for opening
e.g. knock - pause - knock
Call - open-ended
e.g. "What are you thinking?"
Answer - topic introduced
Feel politeness and deference
Not coming to the point - inscrutable
Not about main point
Similar to Western pattern
Differ in when topic is introduced -only after small talk
Small talk - facework, find out listener's mood and attitudes
Why small talk?
Introducing topic = making imposition
If facework not enough à topic may not be introduced
If facework sufficient à topic need not be introduced
Difference is source of much confusion
Q: What kind of confusion?
Both remember same details, but assign different values
Unsure what the point of conversation is
Asian- two patterns
Compounded by social roles
Q: What social relationships are relevant?
Inside: family, same class
Outside: temporary contacts
e.g. taxi drivers, bank tellers
Two discourse patterns
"Waiter, two bowls of beef noodle soup"
"A ticket to Taipei"
Post offices, banks, stations, restaurants
Pushy, aggressive, rude
Q: Why such different patterns?
Possible moves limited
No facework required
Q: Western service encounter?
Constrained by call-answer-topic
Q: Westerner in Asian banks?
Watch others being served
Exceptions - banks in Seoul
1. Hierarchical relationships
2. 'jen' - benevolence, humanity
Lower greets higher
student --> teacher
staff --> boss
Q: Lower has the right to introduce topic?
No. Right remains with parent, teacher.
Q: Is greeting teacher a call or an answer?
Teacher - subtle, clear, non-verbal signal
No signal à no greeting
Q: lower introduces topic?
No and yes
No - has no right
Yes - how?
Make his needs known indirectly
'Jen' - benevolence
Higher needs to study needs of lower
Shows 'jen' by introducing lower's topic
Q: What does it mean to speak first?