An Intercultural Analysis of Proxemics

Abstract: People’s communication is not only in verbal ways, but also in nonverbal ways. According to the relevant researches, nonverbal communication takes almost 70% part of the whole process of communication, and in the process of intercultural communication, the nonverbal behavior plays an even important role. Proxemics is a kind of social language used by people to express their thoughts and information through the using of space. It is a type of silent language that can transfer meaning by its form, so it is an important part of nonverbal communication and one part of the deep structure of culture. Proxemics not only influences our communication activities, but also plays a more important role than in verbal ways. As a nonverbal element, proxemics is often ignored in communication because people have different understandings to the messages sending by space, which is an important factor leading to a failure or conflict in intercultural communication. Currently, Chinese scholars have made fewer researches in the field of proxemics than the western scholars, and the researches lack of cultural perspective and lack of case studies and empirical research. Thus the author in this paper focuses on the analysis and researches on the influential factors and cultural roots as well as the particular manifestation modes of proxemics using from the angle of comparison between the eastern and western cultures.The current study is based on Edward. T. Hall’s proxemics theory. Based on the theories on intercultural communication and proxemics, the author makes a comparison and careful analysis of the collected 100 validated questionnaires and makes interviews with several people from home and abroad, as well as makes some observations in different occasions by using the intercultural comparative method and qualitative and quantitative method, with the purpose to make a comprehensive and multilevel analysis of proxemics, and then to reveal the reasons of proxemics using in deep levels, also to play a better guiding role in intercultural communication theoretically.According to the study, the author finds that proxemics has abundant meaning for communication and culturology. The meaning for communication is reflected in nonverbal levels, which is mainly conveyed through the following factors such as concept of territoriality, concept of body distance and spatial orientation, etc. The principles on proxemics can influence people’s communication in many aspects through the concept of territoriality. The body distance and spatial arrangements of communicators reflect their type of communication. Proxemics has also its cultural connotations. There are obvious differences of proxemics using on aspects of body distance, body contact, attitudes to crowding and so on between the eastern and western cultures. People from different cultures have different understandings of proxemics. The differences of proxemics between the eastern and western cultures are influenced by their different worldviews, value systems, and spatial arrangements and so on. Due to the eastern worldview of Oneness between man and nature and the collectivism value system, Chinese people have a strong sense of unity, so they pay more attention to the protection of the group’s privacy; while the western world view of Dividedness between man and nature and the value system of individualism makes the western people pursue independent of individual, so they pay more attention to the protection of the individual’s privacy. Chinese using of proxemics is not only restricted by traditional cultures, but also influenced by the western concepts. Moreover, the author in the thesis proposes that proxemics using is also influenced by other factors such as gender, personal relationship and psychology, etc…
Key words: proxemics; personal space; intercultural communication; eastern and western culture

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