Ikhsanudin Ikhsanudin Author
Title: SEMANTICS GROUP PRESENTATION “Cultural Script”
Author: Ikhsanudin
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It is a truism that in different societies people not only speak different language, but use them in radically different way. In some societ...
It is a truism that in different societies people not only speak different language, but use them in radically different way. In some societies, for example, conversations bristle with disagreement, voices are raised, and emotion are conspicuously vented, while in others people studiously avoid contention, speak in mild, and even tones, and guard against any exposure of their inner selves. In this section we will see how such culture-specific ‘ways of speaking’ can be described by means of ‘cultural script’ written in lexical and semantic universal.


Anthropological linguists and ethnographers of communication have long recognised that different speech communities have different ‘ways of speaking’, not just in the narrowly linguistic sense but also in the norms or conventions of linguistic interaction. “Cultural scripts” are a way of spelling out different ‘local’ conventions of discourse using the metalanguage of universal semantic primes. Using this method, cultural norms can be spelt out with much greater precision than is possible with technical labels such as “direct”, “polite”, “formal” and so on. Because they are phrased in simple and translatable terms, the danger of ethnocentric bias creeping into the very terms of the description is minimized.
Cultural scripts are not intended to provide an account of real life social interactions, but rather as descriptions of commonly held assumptions about how “people think” about social interaction. Because people bring these assumptions with them into everyday interactions, cultural scripts influence the form taken by particular verbal encounters but they do not in any sense determine individual interactions. Individuals can and do vary in their speech behaviour. The claim of the cultural scripts approach is merely that the scripts form a kind of interpretative background against which individuals position their own acts and those of others.

Cultural Scripts of Japanese
a. often it is good not to say anything to other people
b. it is not good to say thing like this to other people:
‘I want this’, ‘I don’t want this’
‘I think this’, ‘I don’t think this’
c. before I say something to someone
It is good to think something like this:
I can’t say all that I think
If I do, someone could feel something bad

One cultural source of verbal restraint is the Japanese ideal of Enryo, usually translated as ‘restraint’ or ‘reserve’. Enryo inhibits Japanese speaker from saying directly what they want, event in response to direct questions, and it also makes it culturally inappropriate to ask others directly what they want. Mizutani and Mizutani (1987:49) explain that except with family and close friends it is impolite to say such things as *Nani-o tabetai-desu-ka ‘what do you want to eat?’ and *Nani-ga-hoshii-desu-ka ‘what do you want to have?’ A guest in Japan is not constantly offered choices by an attentive host, as in United States. It is the responsibility of the host to anticipate what will please the guest and simply to present item food and drink, urging that they be consumed, in the standard phrase, ‘without enryo’.

Cultural Scripts of Malay
The traditional culture of the Malay people places great emphasize upon patut ‘proper’ and sesuai ’appropriate’ conduct and, as an integral part of this, upon speaking in the proper way. Observers describe Malay culture as valuing ‘refined restraint’, cordiality, and sensivity, and Malays themselves s courteous, easy-going, and charming. The norms of refined (halus) speech in Malay somewhat resemble those of Japanese, but on closer examination the similarities turn out to be superficial.
Halus speech is especially valued in formal situations, or when talking with orang lain ‘other/different people’, that is, people outside the immediate family circle. One always feels such people are liable to be watching and passing judgement, ready to disparage those without verbal finesse as kurang ajar ‘uncoth, (lit.) under-taught’. On the other hand, a cultivated way with words wins admiration. The overall complex of cultural attitudes can be captured s follows:

When people hear someone saying something
Sometimes they think something like this:
‘This person knows how to say things well to other people,
This is good’
Sometimes they think something like this:
‘this person doesn’t know how to say things well to other people,
This is bad’


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