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LANGUAGE SHOCK. Copyright 0 1994byMichael H. Agar.All rights reserved. Printed inthe UnitedStates ofAmerica. No partof this book may be used or reproduced inany manner whatsoever without writtenpermission except in thecase of brief quotations embodied in criticalarticlesandreviews. For information address HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 10East 5Jrd Street, New York,NY 10022. HarperCollins books may bepurchasedforeducational, business, orsales promotional use. Forinforma!ion please write:Special Markets Department, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 10East5Jrd Street, New York,NY 10022. Firsr Quilledition published 1996. Reprinted inPerennial 2002. Designed by Dorothy Balcer Libraryof ongress Ca13/oging-in-PubJication Data Agar. Michael. Language shock I MichaelAgar. p. em. 1 BN 0-688-14949_9 I. Language and culture. I. Title. P35.AJ7 1993 306.4'4-<lc20 92-21470 CIP 14 15 16 RRD 0 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21
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Contents PREFACE / 7 CULTURE BLENDS / I3 Language carriesmore meanings than you everdreamed, and culture iswhere you find them THE CIRCLE / 3 I A circle around language isolates grammar and dictionary, but it leaves culture out I THE CIRCLE AND THE FIELD /49 The story of how language and culture came unglued CULTURAL SIGNIFIEDS /61 How a fire-prevention engineer argued that you couldn't pull language and culture apart SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES /73 The way that language and culture- "languaculture">- differences turn transparent when laid against our common human background "
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I 6 CONTENTS SITUATIONS /89 Language comesto lifein the realworld and changes from wordsand sentencesinto discourse CULTURE / 108 Thestory of an important and confusing concept, and how theconfusion clearsup whenyou attach cultureto language SPEECH ACTS / 140 How people do things with words, and why the lie you thought you weretellingturns outto be thetruth SPEECH ACT LUMBER AND PAINT / 16 4 How torecognizeaspeechactwhenyou meet one,and how toheartheculturethatgivesitcolor COHERENCE / 19 2 The pieces fall together when you figure out a different languaClilture,andtheblendtakesyou somewhere new VARIATIONS ON A FRAME /21 I Just when you think you've got itstraight, same new bit of languacullurealwaysspringsup SAILORS AND IMMIGRANTS /24 2 Whypeoplewhoknow wherethey'refrom butlivesomeplace elsearegUidesintothenext century NOTES / 259 INDEX /273
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Preface B ACK in the eighties I went off to live for the summer on the island of Skyros in Greece. I went for all the obvious reasons, but I also had two projects in mind. I wanted to try my hand at demotic Greek, a language with a fascinating history and strong current political passions behind it, with the idea of writing some- thing about what it was really like to learn a second language in a new place. My second project involved fiction. I'd 'been a profes- sional ethnographer for many years, but I wanted to experiment and see if I couldn't build a book using scenes from life on the island to create a novelistic portrayal rather than an academic one.
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