Prolegomena to a Better Definition of Intercultural Communication: The Concept of Culture

AuthorCristinel Munteanu
European Integration - Realities and Perspectives. Proceedings 2016
Prolegomena to a Better Definition of Intercultural Communication:
The Concept of Culture
Cristinel Munteanu1
Abstract: The aim o f our paper is to lay the foundations for an adequate definition of intercultural
communication, a very important and highly used no tion nowadays due to the present complex reality it
refers to. Since the terminological phrase “intercultural communication” involves the previous knowledge of
two other concepts, communication and culture, both equally “polysemantic”, we will try to establish, first of
all, the “common core” for each of them in turn. For the beginning, we will attempt to clarify here, by means
of essential distinctions, the concept of culture, planning to discuss the concept of communication in another
Keywords: intercultural communication; culture; communication; essential distinctions; unitary designation
1. Introduction
In a famous and influential American handbook of intercultural communication, Communication
between Cultures, written by Larry A. Samovar and Richard E. Porter, it is stated, from the very
beginning, the fact that “intercultural communication involves interaction between people whose
cultural perceptions and symbol systems are distinct enough to alter the communication event”
(Samovar & Porter, 2004, p. 15). The two authors do not forget to add that their book “is about the
role of culture in communication”. However, when dealing with the notion of culture, Samovar and
Porter deplore “the elusive nature of the term”, observing that “culture is ubiquitous,
multidimensional, complex, all-pervasive, and difficult to define” (Samovar & Porter, 2004, p. 32),
also quoting the opinion of authorities such as L.E. Harrison and S.P. Huntington (the editors of the
volume Culture Matters. How Values Shape Human Progress, published in 2000), according to whom
“the term culture, of course, has had multiple meanings in different disciplines and different
contexts” (apud Samovar & Porter, 2004, p. 32). What is more, they also mention A.L. Kroeber and C.
Kluckhohn’s book from 1952, Culture. A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions, in which are
listed 164 definitions of culture found in the anthropology literature. The conclusion is the following:
“Definitions of culture range from those that are all-encompassing (it is everything) to those that are
narrow (it is opera, art, and ballet).” (Samovar & Porter, 2004, p. 32).
1 Senior Lecturer, PhD, “Danubius” University of Galati, Faculty of Communication and International Relations, Address: 3
Galati Boulevard, 800654 Galati, Romania, Tel.: +40 .372.361.102, fax: +40.372.361.290, Corresponding author:

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