Grammar of culture

Taken from Intercultural communication & ideology, Sage, 2011, p.131.

Beginning with the publication of my ‘small cultures‘ article in 1999, I have been developing an original model of culture which has culminated in a new ‘grammar of culture’ which was published in my 2011 book, Intercultural communication & ideology. In my 2018 2nd edition of Understanding intercultural communication: negotiating a grammar of culture, I take every aspect of this grammar and present an analysis of how it operates in everyday life. A summary of its basic features can also be found here.

The grammar is characterised by loose relationships which represents a dialogue between the individual and national structures which are spread across three broad domains, particular social and political structures, underlying universal cultural processes and particular cultural products. It is the interaction between the particular and the universal which will be basis for much of the discussion in my recent work. It is what we all share in the universal which enables us all to make sense of, read and interact with the particular wherever we encounter it.

I was inspired in formulating the grammar by going back to primary texts which I read as an undergraduate in sociology at Portsmouth Polytechnic, and rediscovering the social action theory of Max Weber. This image is taken from Weber’s text, The theory of social & economic organisations, Free Press, 1947/1964, p.116. The pencilled markings are my own as an undergraduate in c1970.

Since deciding to use the term, I discovered, on re-reading C Wright Mills, The sociological imagination, Pelican, 1959/1970, p.235, that he used ‘grammar’ to mean the basic tool of the social scientist in sorting out the nature of social life. I also reads this primary text as an undergraduate student.

In a number of seminar and workshop events I apply the grammar to the teaching of English.