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Re: CHAT: culture clash (was Re: Phonemic status of English interdentals

From:Douglas Koller, Latin & French <latinfrench@...>
Date:Thursday, October 10, 2002, 17:36
Roger writes:

>Possibly not religious, but also cultural. My teacher, who had experience in >Burma, Thailand and Indonesia, claimed that Asians in general consider it >rude to point directly at someone-- and sticking your tongue out counts as >pointing. He even went so far as to claim that was the reason Japanese >"rounded" vowels feature very little lip-rounding (another form of >pointing). (I take that with a grain of salt, however)
I can only speak to China and Japan, but I didn't see much inhibition about pointing at Westerners and screaming, "Foreigner!" (à la "Invasion of the Body Snatchers": reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!) Mainland Chinese were big into pointing at things or people with their lips. Looked like everyone was doing Tony Curtis impersonations from "Some Like It Hot". For some reason, it used to kinda gross me out (I wasn't alone in this). As for Japan, lots of teeth in polite situations is uncool and I would imagine contorting your face for o's, u's, ü's, and ö's (latter three non-existant) falls under the same category, but not 'cause of pointing; you just need to maintain a composed, but friendly, countenance. *Lots* of covering one's mouth with a hand when laughing and even sometimes when speaking, though this occurs much more frequently with women.
>Sitting with one leg crossed over the other, foot dangling in air (and >pointing), is also rude-- it's my preferred way of sitting, and on more than >one occasion I could tell that people opposite me were uncomfortable with >it.
I *think* I sit this way in informal situations. When it's more somber, toes of the crossed leg aim well more to the floor. As for interdentals, sticking out one's tongue is a fairly extreme way of pronouncing these for me (I use it only to show non-natives in ESL classes how to nail it; once you've got it, then you can go for less exaggerated pronunciations so you don't look like you're in a Maori war stance). Tongue behind upper teeth usually works for me in regular conversation. Kou