A New English Course (Level
  7) Unit One Text I English and American Concepts of Space I. About the Author Edward Twitchell Hall (1914 ), U.S. anthropologist, author, and teacher, received his Ph.D. degree in anthropology from Columbia University. He has taught at various institutions, such as Harvard Business School, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Northwestern University. His works include: The Silent Language (19
  59), a study of nonverbal communication, and The Hidden Dimension (19
  66), a study of “social and personal space and man’s perception of it.” The present text, a selection from The Hidden Dimension, gives a contrast between English and American concepts of personal space. About the author: Down the drain Edward T.Hall’s The Hidden Dimension, perhaps the scariest book (even scarier than 19
  84) I ever read. Scary, because it isn’t fiction, but a rather elaborate essay on anthropology and proxemic behavior. If Hall’s right, things as disregard for other cultures, mindless urban development and demographic growth have generated a behavioral sink in which stress, crime, intolerance and physical and psychic disease grow everyday, and to make things worse, our governments take measures that only accelerate the process. We are all going down the drain. Put Ed Hall’s Insights to Work in Your World Ed Hall is one of the preeminent cultural anthropologists of all times. His works, studies, and insights into the rich modern anthropology reflect a life long passion he developed as a teenager in the 1930’s Southwest U.S. assigned to work on white-managed WPA crews alongside Navajo workers whose cultural bearings and world views were vastly different than his own people’s views. Hidden Dimensions examines the cultural contexts of space, how people define their personal and community spaces as part of their cultural norms. How far apart or close do people of a similar culture feel comfortable standing or sitting next to one another and in what circumstances? When do you feel someone is “in your space”? This personal comfort zone differs culture to culture. Yours may be different than mine. Hall develops these “proxemics” (proximity) in this book by observing and visiting with peoples from around the globe, and shares the wisdom gained with you so that you might expand your own world views and spatial orientations when mixing with foreign cultures to your own. Well worth the sheckles to add this great work to your life’s library. Collect all of Hall’s works.
Best of the Best A fabulous writing on how human beings react to and make use of special distance from a physical and psychological viewpoint, i.e. the study of proxemics. The type of book that should be reissued without fail by the publisher, though it is old, since it is a classic in its field. Actual numerical distances and their effect / use / experience by humans are explained as well as much about eyesight and its abilities. Hall also explains how different Euro cultures (German, French, and others) plus how Americans use space differently. I’m seldom this positive about any book but must give this one a highest rating.
II. Organization and Development Like most writings of an academic nature, this article is neatly-structured. Its thesis is clearly stated in the first paragraph and is developed in the rest of the article by contrast. Can you identify the sentence in the first paragraph that states the thesis? The sentence in the 1st paragraph that states the thesis: If there ever were two cultures in which differences of the proxemic details are marked it is in the educated English and the middle-class Americans. The contrasts Hall has made are frequently marked by words or phrases generally known as sentence adverbials or connectives. Locate such items throughout the writing and try to tell what contrast they introduce. Words or phrases used to indicate contrasts: Paragraph 1 “whereas” contrasting space for Americans with the social system for the English as a factor determining a person’s social status “however” contrasting the importance of one’s address in the United States with that of the position in the social system into which a person is born in Britain Paragraph 3 “on the other hand” contrasting what is said in the 2nd paragraph with what is said in the 3rd, i.e. the American’s sense of space that can be called his own with the Englishman’s sense of shared space Paragraph 5 “on the other hand” contrasting the different ways in which Americans and the English behave when seeking seclusion The contrast Hall has made serves to explain the apparent clash between the English and Americans, i.e. why they behave differently when they have the same need to satisfy.
III. Notes
  1. In what sense does Hall use the word “separated” in the first sentence? Made culturally different.
  2. What, according to the author, has really separated the English and the Americans? Not the different ways in which the English language is used as assumed by most people, but the different ways of handling time, space and materials.
  3. communications on other levels Broadly speaking, communication is of two kinds: verbal and nonverbal. Verbal communication consists of word language and the variations in meaning which a person puts into words through the way they are said. Thus different intonation may impart different meanings. Nonverbal communication consists of non-word language such as gestures and bodily action, visual aids like graphs and photos, certain activities, and time, space, and materials as mentioned by the author. What the author means here is that words do not account as much for the differences of the two peoples as the other levels of communication.
  4. ego
  1) self, especially as contrasted with another self or the world;
  2) one’s opinion of oneself; self-esteem, e.g.: He has an enormous ego. (= thinks he is a very fine person).
  3) tech. (in Freudian psychology) the one of the three parts of the mind that connects a person to the outside world, because it can think and act; conscious self
  5. rephrase the sentence: The differences for which language gets blamed may not be due so much to words as to communications on other levels beginning with English intonation (which sounds affected to many Americans) and continuing to ego-linked ways of handling time, space, and materials. Some people complain about the English language for its being so different in the two countries. These differences, however, may have resulted not from the words people use, but rather from individual linguistic habits, which are displayed in the adoption of a particular intonation (English intonation sounds unnatural to Americans), and extend down to the way people look at the world.
  6. Proxemics is the study of the communicative value of space and distance in various cultures. It includes the study of the physical distance between people when they are talking to each other, as well as their postures and whether or not there is physical contact during their conversation. These factors can be looked at in relation to the sex, age, and social and cultural background of the people involved, and also their attitudes to each other and their state of mind. Of interest are such features as the physical distance considered proper or comfortable between two people engaged in conversation or standing near each other in public places. These
and other nonverbal behavioral features, which vary from culture to culture, have been called “silent language” by Edward T. Hall. “The proxemic details” (
  6) refers to facts or pieces of information related to proxemics, e.g., how closely two people should stand or sit apart when talking to each other, whether one should have his office door open or closed, etc.
  7. A public school in Britain is a private secondary boarding school with a pre-university curriculum. Admission is by entrance examination. The term “public school” emerged in the eighteenth century when the reputation of certain grammar schools spread beyond their immediate environs. They began taking pupils whose parents could afford residential fees and thus became known as “public schools”, in contrast to “local schools”. A public school is different from a comprehensive school, where children of all abilities and social backgrounds are taught together. A public school generally prepares students academically for higher education. Therefore, students who go to public schools are supposed to be better educated than those who go to comprehensive schools.
  8. Middle-class Americans are a heterogeneous socioeconomic grouping composed principally of business and professional people such as managers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, government officials, some farmers and skilled workers. They are characterized by a comfortable material standard of living, and respect for property. Since World War II, the middle class has been the largest social class in the United States. In the U.S.A., most people identify themselves as “middle-class.”
  9. disparity (C,U) (between, in, of) fml (an example of) being completely different or unequal; a noticeable difference e.g. There is (a) considerable disparity in the rates of pay for men and women.
  10. What does the “social system” in England refer to? The traditional way of stratify societying into classes, which remains important / influential even today.
  11. Rephrase the sentence: One of the basic reasons for this wide disparity is that in the United States we use space as a way of classifying people and activities, whereas in England it is the social system that determines who you are. One of the important factors that has contributed to such a big difference is that the place where one lives, to Americans, can present a symbol of one’s status or activity, while in England, the class one belongs to identifies one’s position in society.
  12. Why do you think one’s spatial location means almost as much to the Americans as one’s social location does to the English? Think of the different history of the two countries. Britain has a long history of
feudal social hierarchy, which had been firmly rooted and survived the bourgeois revolution in the 17th century. This system has not been completely overcome and the country is still a kingdom today. Aristocratic titles have been hereditary and are still regarded as a mark of a person’s social status. On the other hand, the United States has a short history of about 200 years, which began with a vast expanse of land that provided abundant space for people to fully exercise their imagination and develop their talent. A person’s background is far less important than what space he can find for himself and what he can achieve in that space.
  13. prestigious having prestige, i.e. general respect or admiration felt for someone or something, because they have high quality, social influence, success, etc.
  14. fishmonger a person who owns or works in a shop (fishmonger’s) which sells fish: I bought a nice piece of cod from the fishmonger / at the fishmonger’s.
  15. stall a table or small open-fronted shop in a public place: a market stall
  16. allot give as a share or set apart for a purpose e.g. Most of the money has already been allotted. They allotted us three weeks to finish the job. We were unable to finish it in the allotted time.
  17. What conclusion has the author reached by the end of the first paragraph? Spatial allocation does not have the same implication for the English and for Americans.
  18. How is the first paragraph related to the second one? The last sentence of the first paragraph introduces the next two paragraphs, which illustrate differences between the English and the Americans in the allotment of space.
  19. den infml. a small quiet comfortable room in a house, where a person, usually a man, can be alone (小书斋; 小巧而舒适的私室) e.g. Father’s in his den. the home of a usu. Large fierce wild animal, such as a lion a center of secret, esp. illegal, activity, e.g. a den of thieves
  20. “the shop” a place where things made or repaired “工场”
  21. What does the author try to contrast in the second and the third paragraph? How differently space is allotted in Britain and the United States, the former having a strong sense of “shared space” and the latter of “one’s own space.”
  22. vacate give up the occupancy of; stop using; leaving (a room or place) so that it is available for someone else to use

  23. inconsequential unimportant; insignificant
  24. be entitled to possess the right to have or to do something
  25. Rephrase the sentence: As a consequence, the English are puzzled by the American need for a secure place in which to work, an office. As a result, it is hard for the English to figure out why Americans invariably feel it is necessary to find themselves a space, such as an office, where they may work without being disturbed.
  26. implication something that is suggested or implied by a particular situation, event, or statement
  27. typify v.
  1) (not in progressive forms) be a typical example of; show all the most usual characteristics of something, e.g. The shoe-shine boy who becomes a millionaire typifies the American Dream.
  2) (not in progressive forms) to be a typical mark or sign of 成为…的标记: the high qualit



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