Context Independence and Context Dependence of The Control Verb Function in English and Malay Texts

Author: Siti Afifah Hashim (International Islamic University Malaysia, Malaysia)
Speaker: Siti Afifah Hashim
Topic: Semiotics and Semiology
The GLOCAL CALA 2022 General Session


High and Low Context Cultures, two concepts introduced by an American anthropologist Edward T. Hall, are commonly brought into discussions of intercultural communication and distinctions between cultures. In some countries, speakers rely on highly decontextualized language to communicate with one another (Low Context Culture) whereas, in some other parts of the world, context is very much needed in daily communication (High Context Culture). Understanding cultural differences and how they affect the way human use language are essential so that we could avoid or reduce communication breakdown. People from High Context Cultures are said to be indirect when communicating with others. Whereas, it was claimed that people from Low Context Cultures are more direct in their way; they only rely on language to get messages conveyed and do not rely on context. Active and Passive forms are claimed to be among the devices used to express directness (explicitness) and indirectness (implicitness).

The present study attempts to examine the extent to which language users of English and Malay must rely on context to convey Active (High Control; the Doer is having greater control over the event) and Passive (Low Control; the Object is having greater control over the event) messages. In order to do that, 60 English articles and 60 Malay articles were analyzed. The analysis was based on the Columbia School of Linguistics framework and Saussurian work on the sign. When grammatical signs are found to convey the Active and Passive messages, the language is contextually-independent. The study builds on that in the absence of grammatical signs, language is said to be contextually-dependent. The distributions of the contextually independent and contextually dependent verb features in both languages were examined. Inferential statistics was used to determine if a statistically significant difference exists between the two languages in the use of the contextually independent and contextually dependent verb features. The findings show that both English and Malay rely on grammatical signs and context to convey Active/Passive (Control) messages.

Keywords: Context Independence, Context Dependence, Control Verb Function