TRAMES 1, 2, 1998

Piibi-Kai Kivik. What silence says: Communicative style and identity

University of Tartu, Department of English


Silence as used in interpersonal communication can be regarded an aspect of communicative style. Because of its ambiguity, silence is a rich medium of communication, but at the same time has a high potential for miscommunication, especially in intercultural encounters. The role of silence in Estonian communicative style is explored against the background of research in cross-cultural communication and a comparative study of attitudes towards silence in communication (conducted among Estonian and Canadian students as well as North American students visiting in Estonia). Attitudes towards silence in conversation are linked to dimensions of culture and constructs in social psychology. The relationship between changes in national identity and communicative style is examined. The use and appreciation of silence is identified as a valuable resource for both communication and identity, and in need of recognition by professional communicators.

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