A relevance-theoretical analysis of intercultural misunderstandings in global communication
Globalisation can be seen as an evolution which is systematically reconstructing interactive phases among nations by breaking down barriers in the areas of culture, communication and several other fields of endeavour. (Ohuabunwa, 1999, p. 20) In the light of Ohuabunwa’s definition above, this paper aims to show the relevance of culture-contextual representation for the global com-munication process. The paper will base its discussion on the cognitive-pragmatic communication theory known as Relevance Theory put forward by Sperber & Wilson (1995) and in Sperber’s (1996) culture model. In both the theory and the model, culture is understood as collective representations of individual mental representations. The basic concepts of context and assumptions, as described by Wilson & Sperber (2004: 608) for the global communication process, will be discussed, as will the various cultural assumptions that characterize societies in the world today. Those assumptions have been classified by Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner (1998, p. 29) in dichotomous ways as universal vs. particular, individualism vs. communitarianism, achievement vs. ascribed status, and diffuse vs. specific. In the final analysis, though, this paper sees the differences between cultures not as hindrances, but as challenges that have to be overcome in global communication.