Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 May 2010
All social and ethnic groups operate within a cultural context, and as such, culture becomes a relevant parameter in any discussion of social and ethnic interaction. Before discussing the role of language in interaction in South Asia, it is necessary to briefly examine what is meant by culture and what aspects of culture are relevant to this discussion.
As Halliday (1993: 11) observes, the relationship between language and culture is not deterministic. Rather, “culture and language co-evolve in the same relationship as that in which, within language, meaning and expression co-evolve.” What I attempt to do in this chapter is to look at the interaction of language and culture as it manifests itself in strategies of oral and written interaction in South Asia.
The chapter is organized as follows: the first section discusses the interface of the relevant aspects of culture and language in social interaction in the South Asian context, the second section focuses on the general conventions of verbal interaction, and the third section concentrates on the traditions and constraints that operate in academic discourse in South Asia. The conclusion presents a summary of the discussion and points to areas of research that need attention.
The cultural context of language
First, “culture” is not an easy concept to define. It has been defined in many different ways in the anthropological literature.
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