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Title:Chinese norms of relationship and communication: An exploration of four folk concepts
Author(s):Chang, Hui-Ching
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Delia, Jesse G.
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Speech Communication
Abstract:Patterns of relationships and communication in contemporary Taiwanese society are examined through the lens of four folk concepts--kuan-hsi (relation), pao (return), mien-tzu (face), and yuan (conditioning factors)--and their associated linguistic expressions. Kuan-hsi summarizes the fundamental attitude Chinese hold toward relationship, pao stresses the balance of interpersonal exchange, mien-tzu denotes sensitivity toward another's situational front, and yuan describes the conditioning factors which allow associations to occur. Although not exhaustive, these four folk concepts provide a broader framework within which patterns of relationships and communicative practices can be understood from the natives' perspectives. Also emphasized is the continuity of Chinese cultural traditions, as these folk concepts inhere much traditional Chinese cultural values and continue to direct natives' contemporary interpersonal life.
Through analyzing interviewees' interpretations, it is demonstrated that members of Taiwanese culture utilize these folk concepts as social vehicles to reason about and give meaning to their interpersonal relationships. These folk concepts give integrity to Taiwanese interpersonal life, while at the same time allowing its members' various, idiosyncratic interpretations. With the main focus upon emotional concern, Taiwanese relationships are seen as unique, other-oriented, sensitive to the context in which relationship takes place, and essentially an expression of a philosophical attitude toward human existence. In light of their interpretations of patterns of relationships, Taiwanese communicators are characterized as sensitive to the depth and types of relationships involved, flexibly attuned to the needs of one's communicator as a means of expressing one's emotional concern, and attuned to the demand of the context so that the communicator can manage a good balance between communicators.
The study challenges the precepts about Chinese patterns of communication as rigid, indirect, and a suppression to individuality, as reflected in common descriptors such as collectivism, particularism, and familism. It is argued that these descriptors are often colored with Western value judgments which utilize their own frame of reference to explain the behavior of the cultural Other. To engage in in-depth cultural descriptions, it is suggested that scholars must be prepared to subscribe to natives' own frame of reference, an example of which is folk concepts as a means to enter into the life of the cultural Other.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Chang, Hui-Ching
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9416345
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9416345

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