Clyne's Revision of Grice's Maxims

2171 words 9 pages
Grice’s Maxims have been criticised for being too Anglo-centric. Michael Clyne proposes revisions to the four maxims in his 1994 book Intercultural Communication at Work. Do Clyne’s revisions of this model go far enough in universally accounting for intercultural conversation? Why or why not?

Grice’s General Cooperative Principle has been under continuous debate for the past three decades. It is mainly through the maxims that Grice’s paradigm has been challenged as highly ethnocentric, however such readings may tend to take the maxims too literally rather than as “reference points for language interchange” (Allan as cited in Clyne, 1994, p. 11). There is some agreement in this, but as suggested by Mey (1994, p. 74), the principle and
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This is reinforced by Hymes (1986), who notes that Grice was correct in assuming that any culture will have some sort of orientation towards telling the truth (quality), being informative (quantity), staying on topic (relation), and being clear (manner), but that this orientation and how it is articulated cannot be assumed to be the same in all cultures. It is necessary then to recognize that each language and/or culture will have its own settings for each of the maxims (Bowe & Martin, 2007).

In an attempt to reduce the cultural bias of Grice’s maxims, Clyne (1994) has proposed revisions to the four maxims (quantity, quality, relation, manner) by considering different cultural norms and expectations. An example of this is the modification of the maxim of quality so that it reads ‘do not say what you believe to be in opposition to your cultural norms of truth, harmony, charity, and/or respect.’ This revision accounts for situations in which the hearer may not want to respond truthfully in order to preserve face or harmony (Lakoff, 1973). This cultural value of harmony is especially prevalent in Chinese and Vietnamese cultures. Nguyen (1991) claims that communalism and collectivism has enforced harmony as a central cultural value in the Vietnamese people. Because of this emphasis on harmonious relations, Vietnamese frequently utilise ambiguous communication behaviours in order to avoid