The use of indexicals to co-construct common ground on the continuum of intra- and intercultural communicative contexts
This paper examines the roles of indexicals in explicating speakers’ intentions and constructing common ground (CG) in the context of a continuum with two extreme endpoints, the intracultural at one end, and the intercultural at the other, within the framework of the socio-cognitive approach proposed and developed by Kecskes (2008, 2010, 2014) and Kecskes and Zhang (2009). Thirteen participants from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds were recruited to represent varying degrees on the intra- and intercultural continuum. They were divided into three groups: American English speakers, speakers from Asian countries (Korea, China, and Vietnam), and a group of speakers (China, Vietnam, Brazil, and America), each of whom represents linguistically and culturally different countries. Eight extracts were drawn from the data of up to three hours of recordings, including discussions on one topic, and retrospective interviews retrieving the speakers’ intentions for using deixis. The results reveal that the closer the interlocutors were towards the intercultural communicative context endpoint on the continuum, the more they employed four types of indexicals (person, location or spatial, temporal, and discourse deixis) as common ground construction strategies. Those strategies included the explicit manifestation of intentions, clarification, and confirmation of referent identification in actual situational context, elicitation of information, disambiguation and explanation of similar salient specifics in their home culture in an effort to sustain cooperative communication. This study enhances our understanding of different functions of indexicals in interactions on the intra- and intercultural continuum, which resulted from different levels of context interpretation and common ground.