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ET211-30 Culture and Interpersonal Relations

Applied Linguistics
Undergraduate Level 2
Module leader
Troy McConachy
Credit value
Module duration
20 weeks
50% coursework, 50% exam
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

Why does intercultural misunderstanding occur in communication? Conversely, what do we need to know and do in order to be able to effectively build and maintain relationships across cultures? This module provides an introduction to the nature of the cultural expectations that shape how linguistic and non-linguistic behaviour is interpreted, how social attitudes shape our perceptions of self and other, and the various strategies by which rapport can be managed within the context of intercultural relations.

Module web page

Module aims

The aim of this module is to provide students with a critical understanding of concepts, theories and research findings associated with culture and interpersonal relations. They will collect and analyse a small amount of research data, and through the multidisciplinary design of the module, they will examine the strengths and weaknesses of different conceptual approaches. They will apply their conceptual analyses to the challenges of managing interpersonal relations in professional contexts.

The module will contribute primarily to the achievement of Course Aims #1 and #4, but will also contribute to #5 and #3:
#1: Provide a thorough grounding in theories and research findings related to intercultural interaction and linguistics;
#4: Enable students to analyse cross-linguistic features and contexts, and authentic cross-cultural and intercultural discourses using both quantitative and qualitative methods;
#5: Develop students’ ability to use language sensitively and effectively in intercultural contexts;.;
#3: Provide a solid foundation in relevant research skills and methods, both quantitative and qualitatively.

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

Speech acts across cultures:
e.g. Requests, apologies, compliments, offers etc. in different languages and cultures
Communication styles across cultures:
e.g. high/low context, direct–indirect, emotional–restrained styles across cultures
Theories of relational management:
e.g. Politeness theory, face theory, rapport management theory, relational dialectics
Personal relationships across cultures:
e.g. Relationship formation, sexual attitudes, family relations, friendships, work relations
Emotion in Social Relations
e.g. Emotional meaning across cultures, group & intergroup emotion, facial meaning across cultures, interpersonal emotion
Social change and interpersonal relations:
e.g. Impact of gradual social change, rapid social change, traumatic events

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Understand and explain key concepts, models and research findings on interpersonal relations in the fields of intercultural pragmatics and cross-cultural psychology.Communicate effectively and sensitively in English in mixed cultural groups;Work effectively with others in group tasks;Plan and manage time in projects;Use a range of tools and resources effectively in the preparation of course work.
Indicative reading list

Bowe, H. & Martin, K. (2007) Communication across Cultures. Cambridge: CUP.
Culpeper, J. (2011). Impoliteness. Using Language to cause Offence. Cambridge: CUP.
Domenici, K., & Littlejohn, S. W. (2006). Facework. Bridging Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Goodwin, R. (1999) Personal Relationships across Cultures. London: Routledge.
Goodwin, R. (2008) Changing Relations. Achieving Intimacy in a Time of Social Transition. Cambridge: CUP.
Parkinson, B., Fischer, A. H., & Manstead, A. S. R. (2005). Emotion in Social Relations. Cultural, Group, and Interpersonal Processes. Hove: Psychology Press.
Spencer-Oatey, H. (ed.) (2008) Culturally Speaking. Culture, Communication and Politeness Theory. 2nd edition. London: Continuum.
Wierzbicka, A. (1999). Emotions across Languages and Cultures. Diversity and Universals. Cambridge: CUP.
Zhu, Hua (ed.) (2011) The Language and Intercultural Communication Reader. London: Routledge.

Research element

Students engage deeply with empirical research articles and present critical analyses of articles with peers.


This module pulls together theories, perspectives, and empirical studies from fields such as anthropology, social psychology, cross-cultural psychology, linguistics, and intercultural communication studies.


This module deals with theories and examples from multiple national, cultural, and linguistic contexts. The module also promotes active learning and intercultural reflection amongst a highly international cohort of students.

Subject specific skills

Understand and explain key concepts, models and research findings on interpersonal relations in the fields of intercultural pragmatics and cross-cultural psychology.
Design research instruments for collecting a small amount of data on culture and interpersonal relations;
Analyse research data on culture and interpersonal relations using relevant concepts and frameworks;
Apply conceptual and empirical insights to analyse challenges in managing interpersonal relations.

Transferable skills

Communicate effectively and sensitively in English in mixed cultural groups;
Work effectively with others in group tasks;
Use a range of tools and resources effectively in the preparation of course work;
Understand the different ways in which people communicate and how this can affect interpersonal relations;
Critically evaluate key concepts, models and research findings associated with culture and interpersonal relations.

Study time

Type Required
Lectures 18 sessions of 2 hours (12%)
Seminars 18 sessions of 1 hour (6%)
Other activity 4 hours (1%)
Private study 242 hours (81%)
Total 300 hours
Private study description

Reading subject materials, homework tasks, assignments and revision.

Other activity description

Revision sessions


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You do not need to pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group C6
Weighting Study time
3000 word assignment 50%
Online Examination 50%

~Platforms - AEP

  • Online examination: No Answerbook required
Feedback on assessment

Written feedback on the assignment will be provided on the Centre's standard feedback sheets, which conform to Faculty regulations. This will include both summary and detailed feedback. Where appropriate, additional feedback may be provided via personal meetings with the tutor.

Past exam papers for ET211


This module is Core for:

  • Year 2 of UETA-X3Q5 Undergraduate Language, Culture and Communication
  • Year 2 of UETA-X3Q8 Undergraduate Language, Culture and Communication (with Intercalated Year)
  • Year 2 of UETA-Q1R1 Undergraduate Linguistics with French
  • Year 2 of UETA-Q1A1 Undergraduate Linguistics with French (with Intercalated Year)
  • Year 2 of UETA-Q1R2 Undergraduate Linguistics with German
  • Year 2 of UETA-Q1A2 Undergraduate Linguistics with German (with Intercalated Year)
  • Year 2 of UETA-Q1A8 Undergraduate Linguistics with Japanese (with Intercalated Year)
  • Year 2 of UETA-Q1A4 Undergraduate Linguistics with Spanish (with Intercalated Year)