Language Shock

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-02-10
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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The key to communication, says linguistic anthropologist Michael Agar, is understanding the context and culture of conversation. In Language Shock, Agar reveals how deeply our language and cultural values intertwine to define who we are and how we relate to one another. From paying an electric bill in Austria to opening a bank account in Mexico to handling a parking ticket in the United States, he shows how routine tasks become lessons in the subtleties of conversation when we venture outside our cultural sphere. With humorous, insightful stories from his extensive travels, Agar engages us in a lively study of "languaculture" and enriches our view of the world.

Table of Contents

CULTURE BLENDS Language carries more meanings than you ever dreamed, and culture is where you find them
THE CIRCLE A circle around language isolates grammar and dictionary, but it leaves culture out
THE CIRCLE AND THE FIELD The story of how language and culture came unglued
CULTURAL SIGNIFIEDS How a fire-prevention engineer argued that you couldn't pull language and culture apart
SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES The way that language and culture -- "languaculture" -- differences turn transparent when laid against our common human background
SITUATIONS Language comes to life in the real world and changes from words and sentences into discourse
CULTURE The story of an important and confusing concept, and how the confusion clears up when you attach culture to language
SPEECH ACTS How people do things with words, and why the lie you thought you were telling turns out to be the truth
SPEECH ACT LUMBER AND PAINT How to recognize a speech act when you meet one, and how to hear the culture that gives it color
COHERENCE The pieces fall together when you figure out a different languaculture, and the blend takes you somewhere new
VARIATIONS ON A FRAME Just when you think you've got it straight, some new bit of languaculture always springs up
SAILORS AND IMMIGRANTS Why people who know where they're from but live someplace else are guides into the next century
NOTES 259(14)

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