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Backchannels across cultures: A study of Americans and Japanese1

  • Sheida White (a1)

The frequency of listener responses, called backchannels, was studied in English conversations within and across two cultural groups: Americans from the midwestern United States and Japanese who were born and raised in Japan. The findings reveal that backchannels of several types are displayed far more frequently by Japanese listeners. This appears to be related to the greater use by Japanese of certain discourse constructions that favor backchannels, and to the Japanese culture. The Japanese listening style remains unchanged in cross-cultural conversations, but Americans alter listening style in the direction of their non-native interlocutors. The study found no evidence for the hypothesis that backchanneling conventions that are not shared contribute to negative personality attributions or stereotyping. (Conversational analysis, intercultural communication, Japanese and American English discourse)

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Language in Society
  • ISSN: 0047-4045
  • EISSN: 1469-8013
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