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O. A. Leontovich
(Volgograd, Russia)

    The article deals with the present state of intercultural communication theory, as it is gaining ground in Russia. The author gives an overview of different areas of knowledge connected with the field and the approaches of the leading scholars who have made the greatest contribution to it. The article also discusses important notions developed by Russian scholars but unknown in the West (such as linguistic personality, conceptosphere, etc.), which are of great importance for the study of intercultural communication. Special attention is given to the works devoted to the issues of U.S.-Russian intercultural communication.

Today the theory and practice of intercultural communication attract more and more scholars, as it has become evident that the investigation of its problems requires expertise from different areas of study. Probably its greatest achievement is the fact that on "its territory" academics who used to protect the boundaries of their disciplines from "strangers," have now started listening to each other. On the other hand, the present state of intercultural communication research is characterized by a lack of general methodological foundations and common conceptual approaches. There is no clear theoretical basis, commonly accepted terminology, fundamental assumptions, which would allow representatives of different directions and trends achieve mutual understanding. Opinions differ as to what should be seen as intercultural communication. Some investigators ignore the fact that intercultural communication study is an independent area with its own system of notions and an impressive history of scholarly research.

In the U.S. and other Western countries communication study is a well-developed field, but linguistic aspects of discourse are largely ignored. In Russia, on the contrary, there is a strong preference for linguistics, whereas communication study is still at an early stage of its development. The most distinctive areas distinguished in Russia and based on the interrelation of language and culture are as follows (see detailed description in the books: Teliya 1996: 228-230; Maslova 1997: 39-40):

Linguo-country study (E. M. Vereshchagin; V. G. Kostomarov; G. D. Tomakhin; V. V. Oshchepkova, etc.). The research in this area mostly has an applied character and is a valuable source of information, which reflects the interrelation of language and culture.

Ethnolinguistics (A. S. Gerd, A. M. Kopylenko, N. I. Tolstoy, etc.) is a branch of linguistics, which studies the language in its connection with ethnicity and is closely linked with sociolinguistics. N. I. Tolstoy emphasizes that for ethnolinguistics it is important to discuss not only and not so much the reflections of folk culture, psychology, and mythological perceptions in language, but also the constructive role of language, its influence on the formation of folk culture, folk psychology, and folk creative art. He suggests two definitions of ethnolinguistics: 1) a branch of linguistics, which studies language in its relation to folk culture; investigates the reflection in language of cultural, psychological, and mythological notions and experiences; 2) a complex discipline, which studies the content of culture, folk psychology and mythology, irrespective of the means and ways of their formal implementation (word, object, ritual, visual image, etc.). N. I. Tolstoy believes that such study "can be carried out predominantly or exclusively by linguistic methods" (Tolstoy 1997: 315).

Cultural linguistics (V. N. Teliya, V. I. Khairullin, V. V. Vorobyov, V. A. Maslova, M. A. Kulinich, etc.). V. N. Teliya defines cultural linguistics as part of ethnolinguistics, devoted to the study and description of the correspondence of language and culture in their synchronic interaction (Telia 1996: 217). "The object of cultural linguistics is investigated at the crossroads of two fundamental fields: linguistics and culture study" (Abid: 222).

V. A. Maslova points out the following objects of cultural linguistics: 1) words and phrases, which have no equivalents in another language; 2) archetypes and "mythologemes", rituals, beliefs, and superstitions reflected in language; 3) proverbs and sayings; 4) idioms; 5) symbols and stereotypes; 6) metaphors and images; 7) stylistic norms; 8) speech behavior; 9) speech etiquette (Maslova 2001: 36-37).

All the above-mentioned areas of linguistics are aimed at the study of nationally specific peculiarities of a particular culture. The results of research are of great value for intercultural investigation, aimed at the comparative analysis of two or more linguocultures. Another important area is the study of the relationship between language and culture through the prism of psycholinguistics (A. A. Leontyev, A. A. Zalevskaya, I. N. Gorelov, K. F. Sedov, etc.), sociolinguistics (A. D. Shveitser, V. I. Karasik, N. B. Mechkovskaya, V. P. Konetskaya, etc.), as well as such interdisciplinary areas as ethnopsycholinguistics and linguosociopsychology (T. M. Dridze). The study of the mechanisms of understanding (V. Z. Demyankov, G. I. Bogin, A. A. Zalevskaya, V. V. Znakov, etc.) allows to make conclusions about the way interacting cultures "match" each other and exchange information in the process of intercultural communication. The description of nationally specific peculiarities of the worldview (B. A. Serebrennikov, A. A. Ufimtseva, S. A. Arutyunov, T. V. Bulygina, A. D. Shmelyov, N. D. Arutyunova), as well as the correlation of language and national identity (N. D. Arytyunova, N. V. Ufimtseva, V. G. Gak), is also of great importance.

Besides, there are a number of notions, which are well developed in Russian linguistic science, but practically unknown to Western scholars. They include such notions as linguistic personality (Y. N. Karaulov, G. I. Bogin, Y. D. Apresyan, M. V. Kitaigorodskaya, N. N. Rozanova, V. I. Shakhovsky, V. G. Gak, G. I. Berestnev), concept, and conceptosphere (D. S. Likhachov, E. S. Kubryakova, Y. S. Stepanov, V. P. Neroznak).

Special attention should be given to the investigation of speech communication (A. E. Voiskunsky, V. V. Bogdanov, O. L. Kamenskaya, E. F. Tarasov, O. Y. Goikhman, T. M. Nadeina, G. G. Pocheptsov), the relationship between consciousness and communication (I. A. Zimnaya, B. Gasparov, V. V. Krasnykh, V. Y. Shabes), as well as language and human communicative behavior (T. G. Vinokur, I. P. Susov). A number of works deal with the modeling of the communicative process (S. A. Sukhih, V. V. Zelenskaya), communicative strategies, (E. V. Klyuev), nonverbal communication (I. N. Gorelov, V. F. Yengalychev), computer-mediated communication (B. Y. Gorodetsky), phatic communion genres (V. V. Dementyev), and culture of communication (N. I. Formanovskaya). Recent publications analyze types, categories, structure of discourse, and culturally conditioned differences in its character (V. B. Kasevich, V. I. Karasik, M. L. Makarov, K. F. Sedov, E. I. Sheigal).

In late 1970s A. A. Leontyev raised the question about the national peculiarities of communication and the need for its interdisciplinary study. Nowadays the interest for such problems is immense. Let us point out only some works, which provide their deep and detailed analysis: N. K. Ikonnikova "Modern Western Approaches to Intercultural Communication (Models of Individual Behavior in Situations of Intercultural Contact)" (1994); V. P. Furmanova "Intercultural Communication and Linguistic Pragmatics in the Theory and Practice of Foreign Language Teaching"; (1994); I. E. Klyukanov "Dynamics of Intercultural Communication: Systems-Semiotic Investigation" (1998); T. N. Astafurova "Strategies of Communicative Behavior in Professionally Significant Situations of Intercultural Communication"; N. L. Shamne "Vital Problems of Intercultural Communication" (1999); N. L. Greidina "Basics of the Systematic Concept of Communicative and Cultural Interaction (Theoretical and Exprimental Study)" (1999); S. G. Ter-Minasova "Language and Intercultural Communication" (2000).

It is also necessary to mention a negative tendency - very often the approach from the point of view of intercultural communication is declared but not pursued. Scholars frequently ignore the fact that it is a science with its own terminology, approaches and investigation methods. Let us hope that with the development of intercultural communication in its Russian version this tendency will be reduced, and the field will acquire the best features of the Russian and Western scholarly traditions.

B. S. Yerasov suggests two main approaches to the problems of intercultural communication: instrumental and understanding. The first one is aimed at the achievement of a practical result (successful adaptation of individuals in an alien environment and the creation of a method of teaching effective communication in a particular context). The second one allows to examine changes in individuals and culture in general, human ability for the development of intercultural competency, and the formation of a personality, which would be able to function as a mediator between cultures. This approach is based on the necessity to preserve the uniqueness of cultures, as well as the idea of their interaction. The dynamic character of intercultural communication as seen from this perspective envisages steady development and improvement of the quality of communication, the formation of a positive attitude towards differences, and mutual understanding of cultures in different spheres and on different levels (Yerasov 1997: 443-444). This latter approach can prove to be highly effective.

Frequent intercultural contacts produce a strong need not only for the study of general problems of intercultural communication, but also for the investigations of relations between particular linguocultures. Unfortunately, such works are scarce. Let us take a look at the publications, which analyze the problems of US-Russian intercultural communication. Of special interest are the books "Russia and America. Problems of Communication Between Cultures" (A. V. Pavlovskaya, 1998), "Essay on American Communicative Behavior" (eds. I. A. Sternin and M. A. Sternina, 2001), and "Russians and Americans: Paradoxes of Intercultural Communication (O. A. Leontovich, 2002).

Besides there are a number of works devoted to particular aspects of the relationship between Russians and Americans. The most popular theme is professional communication, and the monograph by T. N. Astafurova mentioned above is devoted to it. The work by K. M. Shilikhina "Verbal Means of Modification of the Emotional and Psychological State of an Interlocutor in Russian and American Communication Cultures" (1999) is a sample of comparative investigation of communicative models used in Russian and U.S. cultures. The book "National Worldviews. America as Compared to Russia and the Slavic World" (G. D. Gachev 1997) does not fit into the paradigm of communicative research, but also contains interesting observations, which can prove useful for the field of intercultural communication.

The next category of editions are books about the U.S. published in Russia and aimed at the Russian reader. It includes sociological research of American English by A. D. Shveitser, as well as books on U. S. country studies by G. D. Tomakhin. Recent publication of a number of linguocultural dictionaries devoted to the U.S.A. (Americana 1996; O. A. Leontovich, E. I. Sheigal "U.S. Life and Culture", 1998; 2nd ed. 2000; G. D. Tomakhin "U. S. A.: Lingocultural Dictionary" 1999) proves that there is a big demand for this kind of editions. Of interest are also Russian and American guide books, which contain practical advice to travelers about the behavior in concrete intercultural situations, e. g. "Welcome to the U. S. A." (1994). The fact that in most cases such books are not devoid of errors, may be used by a scholar to predict communication break-downs between natives of different cultures.

The theory of intercultural communication still has to form a systematic field of knowledge. The interest of Russian and Western scholars for each others' works and the analysis of innumerable situations of intercultural contacts could play an invaluable role in the formation of intercultural communication as a discipline.


  1. Teliya V. N. Russian Phraseology. Semantic, Pragmatic, and Linguocultural Aspects. - oscow: Languages of Russian Culture, 1996.
  2. Maslova V. A. Introduction Into Cultural Linguistics.- Moscow: Nasledie, 1997.
  3. Tolstoy N. I. Ethnolinguistics in the Field of Humanities. // Russkaya Slovesnost. - oscow: Academia, 1997.
  4. Maslova I. A. Cultural Linguistics.- oscow: "Academia", 2001.
  5. Yerasov B. S. Social Culturelogy. - Moscow: Aspect-Press", 1997.

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