E.T. Hall’s Statement ‘communication is culture and culture is communication’

A discussion and analysis with specific examples

Term Paper, 2013

12 Pages, Grade: 2,7



1. Introduction and Definition

2. Language

3. Religion

4. Rites

5. Fashion

6. Art

7. Signs

8. Summary

Source materials

1. Introduction and Definition

The statement: "communication is culture and culture is communication"by Edward Twitchell Hall tries to sum up what culture and communication means and even, how these words are connected with each other.

But how did he came to this conclusion and why did he believe in this relationship between communication and culture? As a consequence, another interesting question in this context could be: "What was first, communication or culture?"

On the following pages I would like to take a closer look at the statement by Edward T. Hall. In addition to that I will try to give specific examples to find out whether if this statement in my opinion is true or false.

First of all it should be useful to give a definition to the terms "culture" and "communication". Taking a look at a book written by Edward T. Hall called "Understanding cultural differences" we find the following quote:

"Culture can be likened to a giant, extraordinary complex, subtle computer. Its programs guide the actions and responses of human being in every walk of life. This process requires attention to everything people do to survive, advance in the world, and gain satisfaction from life." [1]

I think it is still hard to say whether culture or communication was first. On the one hand people always did certain things to survive in the world but on the other hand I think in the beginning a community was missing to let this behavior become a culture.

Let us take a look at the other important term for our discussion:

"[...] communication can be defined very simply as 'sending and receiving messages' [...] A second and more complex view of communication is that, in addition to the transmission of messages, it involves their interpretation and meaning." [2]

There are a lot of different definitions for the term "communication" but finally I have decided to pick this one. In addition to that it is important to keep in mind that sending messages cannot only be done by speaking. Also actions like writing, facial expression, and gestures are ways to communicate. I think we now do have a good basis to start.

2. Language

Now, I would like to give an example to show on the one hand that communication and culture are quite the same and on the other hand are lost without each other. Because if communication is culture and culture is communication like Edward T. Hall stated, as a consequence they must be the same in some way. I think the most apparent example is the language itself.

"Speakers identify themselves and others through their use of language; they view their language as a symbol of their social identity. The prohibition of its use is often perceived by its speakers as a rejection of their social group and their culture. Thus we can say that language symbolizes cultural reality."[3]

The interesting question in this context is: Would there be a culture without language? Looking at this quote of Claire Kramsch we see that language is some kind of glue for people. By using language we get and even stay in contact with each other. Animal may not have that kind of language we do but they communicate with each other as well.

We can search definitions for the term culture wherever we want to:

"Definition of culture [...] the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievment regarded collectively: [...]"[4] or "the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society: [...]"[5] or "Culture is the systems of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people".[6]

If there is one thing they all have in common it is the aspect that culture needs more than one life form. One man or one animal by itself is not able to have or to be something like a culture.

We do need language or at least communication in some way to get in touch with other life forms. Only if this is possible a community is able to be formed. Without more than one life form in human definition no culture is possible. As a consequence we must say that the statement of Edward T. Hall is true. I would say that this is one of the most significant examples to show the interdependence between culture and communication.

But where else do we see examples for the validity of the statement "culture is communication and communication is culture"?

3. Religion

"There are very many statements of what particular religions are, an example being that of Sykes (1984, p.246): Christianity from the Christian standpoint is the response appropriate to the undeviating goodness of God. If the words Islam, Muslim and Allah were substituted in this sentence, it would probably be acceptable to a further large section of the world."[7]

I think another good example is that there are in fact many different religions in the world. As a result communication must be at least one of the most important parts when it comes to what we believe as a culture. If it was not so as a consequence there only should be one religion. People are sharing their thoughts, experiences and who knows maybe even enlightenments.

Because it was not the case that every community shared the same beliefs, different religions arose. These different religions are influencing our daily lives and are a big part of every culture.

"A religion is a system of beliefs and rules which individuals revere and respond to in their lives and which seen as emanating directly or indirectly from some intangible power."[8]

Maybe this example makes it even more clear how important communication for a culture is and vice versa. We can see that religion is depending on what is being shared between people and carried from one generation to another.

4. Rites

In a book written by Geert Hofstede and Paul Pedersen there is a short story about a Dutchman. He spent a few months in Belgium to study. When he first visited the university in Belgium he saw two girls kissing to say hello. A few minutes later there were more girls and even boys kissing each other. The Dutchman did not know what to do and how to react on what he saw. He even got a little bit scared because he thought they would soon start to kiss him either but it did not happen because they realized how scared he was.[9]

This first example shows some kind of rite which is a part of the Belgian culture. Such rites can be extremely different from country to country. What seems scary to us can be totally normal to someone else. The special fact about this story is that it shows cultural differences by a way of communication.

So we see how complex the whole interdependence can be. It is a part of the Belgian culture to kiss each other even if they may not have such a close relationship as we would expect it for example in Germany.

Looking at this example the statement of Edward T. Hall also seems to be true. We would not realize some sort of "cultural character" without the communication of its characteristics. If Belgians would kiss each other only when being unobserved the Dutchman maybe never knew that it is a part of their culture.


[1] Understanding Cultural Differences, Edward Twitchell Hall, Mildreed Reed Hall, Intercultural Press, 1990, p. 3 par. 4

[2] Introduction to Communication Studies, Sheila Steinberg, Juta and Company Ltd, 01.01.2007, p. 39 par. 3 et seq.

[3] Language and Culture, Claire Kramsch, Oxford University Press, 20.08.1998, p. 3, par. 4

[4] http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/culture, visited 31st May 2013, 09:07

[5] ibid.

[6] http://www.tamu.edu/faculty/choudhury/culture.html, visited 31st May 2013, 09:07

[7] The Evolution of Morality and Religion, Donald M. Broom, Cambridge University Press, 04.12.2013, p. 4

[8] ibid.

[9] Exploring Culture: Exercises, Stories and Synthetic Cultures, Paul Pedersen, Geert H. Hofstede, Intercultural Press, 02.08.2002, p. 21

Excerpt out of 12 pages


E.T. Hall’s Statement ‘communication is culture and culture is communication’
A discussion and analysis with specific examples
AKAD University of Applied Sciences Stuttgart
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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An insightful assignment as such, with an unusual, interesting approach.
communication, culture, edward twitchell hall
Quote paper
Tobias Schiller (Author), 2013, E.T. Hall’s Statement ‘communication is culture and culture is communication’, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/265570


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