- 神戸市外国語大学研究叢書 (ISSN:13458604)
- vol.28, pp.1-211, 1997-12-15
The importance of the nonverbal aspect in all communication has been well recognized. It is also known that the code (i.e. the relationship between signs and meanings) is different from culture to culture. In this book, we will discuss and analyze the meaning of behaviour, gestures, or nonverbal actions. Verbal actions (greeting, addressing, using polite expressions, etc.) will also be taken up. Compare the following typical actions of a maid in Japanese scenes. In example A from Natsume Soseki's The Wayfarer (Kojin), the narrator is a young man. The maid at his boarding house comes to his room to announce with a smirk that there is a lady visitor. "You are standing to speak to me!" I said sharply. The maid immediately kneeled down just outside the door sill. Example B from Soseki's Botchan is in a similar situation, but the woman is the old keeper of the boarding house: She was waiting for his reply after kneeling in the corridor and saying that a student wanted to see him. The period of the two quotations above is the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of this century. Example C is taken from Tanizaki's The Fine-flaked Snow or The Makioka Sisters. The time is the 1930s. The mistress of an upper-middle class family sends for her maid, O-haru. "Did you call me, Madam?" O-haru opened the paper door fearfully. She had kneeled just outside the door sill, her hands on the floor. The color had left her face, since she had expected that she would be scolded. The positioning and posture of these women are similar to each other, but different in a meaningful way. They are sitting in the wood-floor corridor, just outside the doorsill, on which paper doors slide. When they speak to a superior, they are supposed to kneel, not keep standing. Note that superiors are also sitting on the tatami-floor. The woman in A has forgotten this rule, so she is reminded of that. In A and B, the women kneel down, but not sit back, implying that their business is something of minor importance and to be finished soon. But in C, the maid sits on her heels, and put her hands on the floor, so that she leans forwards. This is a polite and obedient posture expressing that one is ready to listen to one's superior. In "The Human Element", Somerset Maugham makes a good use of the meaning of positioning. Carruthers, a diplomat and novelist, visited Betty, whom he loved, on Rhode Island. He was met at the pier by Betty's chauffeur-a young British man. He thought that "it would be nicer of him to offer to sit by the chauffeur rather than behind by himself and was just going to suggest it, when the matter was taken out of his hands," since "the chauffeur told the porters to put Carruthers' bags at the back, and settling himself at the wheel said: 'Now if you'll hop in, we'll get along.'" Carruthers was Betty's guest. So it was proper for him to sit on the back seat, but he tried to show that he was a "nice" person by sitting next to the driver's seat. The matter proceeded as he had wanted, but not of his own will. He felt discontented and uncomfortable. Through these examination and analysis of examples from Japanese and British/American literature, we try to describe the meaning of verbal and nonverbal actions and the difference between the two language-cultures.