Cultural schemas in intercultural communication

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Cultural schemas in ICC: A study of Persian cultural
schema of sharmandegi ‘being ashamed’
Farzad Sharifian
Maryam Jamarani
 An Iranian student at Shiraz University
receives from her American lecturer the
recommendation letter that she had asked
him to write for her and then turns to him
and says, “I’m ashamed”. Bewildered by
the student’s response, the lecturer asks,
“What have you done?!!!”
Theoretical framework
Cultural cognition
&
Language
Complex Adaptive systems
Heterogeneously distributed
Cultural conceptualizations
(cultural schemas, categories,
metaphors, etc)
Persian cultural pragmatic schema of
Sharmandegi ‘being ashamed’
 Expressing gratitude
Vaghan ke man ro
sharmandeh kardin , I really
THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart,
Really that me DO-marker
ashamed you did …
(You really made me ashamed).
 Offering goods and services
Khahesh mikonam befarmain,
sharmandam, ghabeleh
shoma ro
nadareh,
Please
help yourself, I’m ashamed, worthy of
you DO-marker doesn’t have
(Please help yourself, I’m ashamed, it’s not worthy of you).
 Requesting goods and services
Sharmandam, mitunam khahesh konam chand
daghighe az vaghtetuno be man bedid?
I’m ashamed, can I
beg do
some
minutes from your time to me you give.
(I’m ashamed, can I beg some minutes of your
time?)
 Apologizing
Vaghean sharmandam
ke saro sedayeh
bacheha nagzasht shoma bekhabid.
Really I’m ashamed
that
noise
kids
didn’t let you sleep.
(I’m really ashamed that the noise from the kids
didn’t let you sleep.)
 Accepting offers and refusals
6) Sharmandam nemitunam biam oonja
I’m ashamed I can’t
come over there
(I’m ashamed, I can’t come over there)
The schema of sharmandegi
 The overarching schema of sharmandegi
encourages Iranian speakers to be very much
conscious of the imbalances in their give-andtakes in daily social interactions. For example, the
speaker is urged to be overtly conscious of the
resources (such as time, money, effort, etc) that
others have or will expend for them in various
forms, and to acknowledge them by expressing the
feeling of ‘shame’. The speaker is also encouraged
to consider the possibility that any contribution
from them, may not be in accordance with the
other party’s “social esteem”.
The schema of sharmandegi in
intercultural communication







Accepting an offer
Expressing gratitude
Bringing excuse
Apologizing
Refusal
Requesting goods and services
Offering goods and services
Intended function of Sharmandegi
Example
Intended function
Lydia: I can pick your daughter
from school today and this way I
can spare you a trip.
Mahin: You make me ashamed, I
don’t want to bother you. But it
would be great if you could do that.
Expressing gratitude in
accepting an offer
Lecturer: I’m ashamed to tell you Expressing sympathy/regret
that you have failed this subject.
Student: No, I am sorry. It is not
your fault. I was not prepared for
the exam.
Roya tells her neighbor who mows Expressing gratitude
her front lawn voluntarily:
“You always make me ashamed by
mowing my lawn”, and the neighbor
stops doing so.
Intended functions of Sharmandegi
 As an expression of a feeling
 Gratitude
(You always make me ashamed by mowing my lawn.)
 Embarrassment (I am ashamed. I call you whenever I have a request.)
 Apology (So sorry, the food is not good.)
 Sympathy/regret (I’m ashamed to tell you that you have failed this subject.)
 As a disclaimer for a speech act
 For an excuse (I am ashamed I have been very busy lately. But will
catch up with you very soon.)
 For offering an apology (I am really ashamed. I had totally forgotten to
return your plate.)
 For a request (I am ashamed, can I possibly take two hours of your time
sometime this week?)
 For refusal (I’m ashamed. I would have loved you to come over to my house,
but I have already made an important arrangement.)
Anglo-Australian interpretation of the sharmandegi formulaic
expression
Example
Lydia: I can pick your
daughter from school
today and this way I
can spare you a trip.
Mahin: You make me
ashamed, I don’t want
to bother you. But it
would be great if you
could do that.
Intended function
Expressing gratitude
in accepting an offer
Interpreted function
-- Expressing
guilt/awkwardness
-- expressing
indebtedness
-- expressing concern
about imposition
Example
Intended function
Lecturer: I’m ashamed to tell
Expression of
you that you have failed this
sympathy/regret
subject.
Student: No, I am sorry. It is not
your fault. I was not prepared for
the exam.
Roya tells her neighbor who
mows her front lawn
voluntarily:
“You always make me ashamed
by mowing my lawn”, and the
neighbor stops doing so.
Interpreted function
-- Expressing regret
-- Expression of regret
over being deeply
troubled
-- Implies an expression
of guilt over a misdeed
Expression of gratitude -- Expressing shame
-- Expressing guilt as a
result of lack of
reciprocity
-- Expressing distress
Lecturer: I’m ashamed to tell you that you have failed this
subject.
Student: No, I am sorry. It is not your fault. I was not
prepared for the exam.
The word ashamed is appropriate if the student and lecturer
were having an affair and after the student dumped
the lecturer, the lecturer is ashamed that he/she let this affect
how he/she marked the student.
(An Anglo respondent)
Roya tells her neighbor who mows her front lawn
voluntarily:
“You always make me ashamed by mowing my lawn”,
and the neighbor stops doing so.
Mr. Anderson may have taken her words to mean:
“By mowing my lawn you are implying that I’m not capable
of doing it myself,” or more likely “By mowing my lawn
you make me feel negligent and as though you think I am
lazy.”
He may have been initially shocked that his kindness had
been misunderstood, and not wanting to threaten Roya’s
face any more, he stops the offending behavior.
A second layer of misunderstanding occurred when Roya,
could not understand her neighbor’s reason for suddenly
stopping mowing her lawn.
Misunderstandings evoked by
sharmandegi schema in an ICC context
 Expressing gratitude vs. expressing distress for
having done something wrong
 Disclaimer for a request vs. expressing distress for
having a weakness
 Expressing sympathy/regret vs. expressing guilt
Conclusion
 The findings of this study suggest that the
framework of cultural conceptualizations and
analytical tools such as cultural schema provide a
strong perspective for studies of intercultural
communication.
 Viewing cultural conceptualizations as
heterogeneously distributed among the members
of a cultural group would be beneficial in avoiding
the dangers of the development of stereotypes and
overgeneralizations.
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