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Jens Olaf Jolowicz


Focus on axiological lacunae

1. Introduction texts as this paper is written in English.

The matter of intercultural All English translations of German
communication has become quotes are made by myself except
omnipresent due to the increasing otherwise stated.
contacts between members of
different cultures and their impacts on 2. The Lacuna Model
everyday life, business issues etc..
This paper presents a still pretty 2.1 What are lacunas?
unknown model in the Western The concept of lacuna was developed
scientific community – the lacuna within the Russian ethnopsycho-
model – and its utility for the field of linguistics [see as well chapter 2.3
intercultural communication. Starting History]. It focuses both, on problems
with the explanation of the term of foreign text comprehension as well
„lacuna‟ and introducing its different as on communication problems
classifications, chapter two will end between different cultures.
with a short historical overview about Ethnopsycholinguists state that mutual
ethnopsycholinguistics. In chapter understanding between cultures is in
three the term „intercultural principle possible because no absolute
communication‟ will be defined for original codes of communication exist.
the purpose of this paper as well as However, since within the environment
application possibilities of the lacuna of human cultures no absolute
model in intercultural communication unequivocal codes exist intercultural
will be introduced. In chapter four I understanding is only possible to a
will first present my results of an certain extent. [Antipov et al. in
association experiment (1) about the Schröder 1997]. Due to this limited
German self-perception and then intercultural and as well intracultural
compare these data with the Russian understanding the lacuna model has
perception of the Germans. After been developed as a specific tool to
evaluating the German detect (potential) intercultural and
autostereotypes and the Russian intracultural „gaps‟ (lacunas) which can
heterostereotypes of the Germans I hinder mutual understanding. If the
will conclude in chapter five with comprehension of “single specific
exploring the utility of the lacuna objects or events and specific processes
model in preparing intercultural and situations” [Grodzki 2003: 13] in
encounters. another culture “run counter to the
Most of the literature available usual range of experience” [Dellinger
is in Russian and only some literature 1995b] a lacuna is experienced. Thus,
is written in either German or English. the lacuna theory helps us to recognize
Since I do not speak Russian all the “cultural glasses” [Grodzki 2003:
Russians texts had to be left aside. 13] we wear when encountering an
Quotes are mainly made from English intercultural situation. Through our
“cultural glasses” we filter reality. regarding both linguistic as well as
They determine how we perceive and cultural specifics [in Panasiuk 2002:
thus interpret culture and are 261; Schröder 1997].
responsible for the lacunas one can The following definition of the term
experience. Lacunas are gaps of lacuna are based on Ertelt-Vieth
experience, deficits of knowledge and [2003: 14] and Grodzki [2003:
niches [Ertelt- Vieth 1999: 132]. On 43ff.]:
the one hand, a recipient can perceive 1. Lacunas are elements or aspects of
lacunas as something texts - texts in the broadest sense,
incomprehensible, unusual, exotic, including cultures - that do not
strange, unknown, erroneous or correspond to the experiences of
inaccurate. On the other hand, the individuals of another culture. They
recipient can experience a lacuna as might hamper or prohibit
superfluous, astonishing, peculiar, and understanding of that text but they also
unexpected, as something that cannot motivate towards intercultural
be predicted. Lacunas are fragments communication. Lacunas arise between
that strike the recipient and require cultures - lacunas present in the
interpretation or which are lying interaction of two or more cultures are
beyond the borders of his/her called intercultural lacunas - and
attention. According to Sorokin, the between cultural levels (intracultural
ambivalence is one important lacunas).
characteristic of a lacuna. [Schröder 2. Understanding of texts is an active,
1995a: 12f.] The lacuna model, creative and perspective oriented
primarily introduced by J.A. Sorokin process. This constitution of meaning
and continually established by E. unfolds on the basis of meaning
Tarasov by I. Markovina, represents a potential of the text and of the pre-
framework “for the systematic existing experiences of the reader.
characterization, operationalization 3. Lacunas do not describe stable
and classification of cultural meanings but depend on the respective
differences in communication” conditions of the actual encounter of
[Schröder, 1995a: 10]. Thus, “lacunae exponents of at least two cultures or
are generally speaking a term for cultural levels at a given moment in
describing items that exist in one time. They can vary from long-traded
culture, but not in another” Schröder, relatively stable meanings to ad-hoc-
1995a: 12]. meanings and can be complexly
The origins of this term can be intertwined. They are subject to
found in the Latin language where it individual and subcultural
is explained as a gap, depression, differentiations as well as to historic
hole, pond or precipice. In the field of change. Thus, they may not be thought
medicine it means a bulge on the of as rigid categories but as a dynamic
surface of an organ. Sorokin and model that enables us to differentiate
Markovina defined lacuna as varying levels and aspects such as
phenomena of a culture that have no verbal, psychological or geographical
equivalents in another culture of any situation or action.
4. Culture specific connotations and to observe subtleties, overlappings,
evaluations are called axiological contradictions, individual
lacunas. For in any encounter between characteristics and developments
different cultures any object, any [Ertelt-Vieth 2003: 6].
activity can gain significance Cultural lacunas are classified
independent of whatever significance into four principal groups [Ertelt-Vieth
is attributed to them in their own 2003: 7] (3):
cultural context. Mental lacunas
5. It is to be noted that the lacuna Lacunas of activity
model is open for more categories and Lacunas of objects
lacunas to emerge. It is expected that Axiological lacunas.
with increasing lacuna studies, more Mental lacunas follow two
lacunas will be identified. principles: 1) the naming of the
Taking the Latin meanings of respective perspective or the respective
lacuna (gap, precipice etc.) it is an intercultural constellation is crucial and
adequate metaphor for the underlying 2) frequently different lacunas
problems in intercultural coincide. They denote differences in all
communication: One can trap over cognitive or affective states or models,
them or one can drop into a lacuna as differences in the state of knowledge in
a precipice of lack of understanding its broadest sense, such as conscious
only possible to overcome through the and subconscious, so-called common
aid of e.g. an interpreter. However, a sense and reflected knowledge, rules
lacuna can as well motivate to explore derived from experiences or ethics,
the gap of understanding or fill up expectations and fears. Mental lacunas
with knowledge the precipice of lack are subdivided into culture emotive
of understanding and therefore further lacunas, lacunas related to language
intercultural and intracultural knowledge and lacunas of fond or of
understanding. [Schröder 1997]. knowledge among others. The latter
group is further subdivided into
2.2 Classifications of lacunas –
conceptual lacunas, role related
Cultural Lacunas (2)
lacunas, spatial lacunas, time related
Cultural lacunas can be lacunas, partial and complete lexical
understood as deeply embedded ways lacunas and grammatical lacunas
of communicating within a given [Ertelt-Vieth 2003: 7ff.].
culture, which seem to be odd or The distinction between mental
strange for non-members of the lacunas and lacunas of activity are
culture. A culture builds its identity made to adequately clarify the
by identifying outsiders, creating difference between mental concepts on
subjective viewpoints and opinions of one side and observable behaviour on
others. Members of a certain culture the other side. Both sides seldom
think in a certain way [Grodzki coincide. Additionally, different
2003:46]. Opposite to many „guides‟ scientific research methods are needed.
on intercultural communication which Lacunas of activity denote differing
are often at risk of propagating magic processes of thinking, talking, moving
formulas, the aim of lacuna analysis is and other activities. They can be
caused by peculiar mental and encounter can account for a specific
objective preconditions and their meaning in this concrete encounter that
results in turn can constitute mental is an axiological lacuna. They have a
lacunas or lacunas of objects. The key function in the lacuna model and
following subgroups are an open list only come to existence through the
based on the current state of research: emergence of other lacunas in the way
lacunas of use of language, lacunas of that the interplay of a multitude of
paralanguage and body language, gaps/ differences/misunderstandings
lacunas of etiquette, behaviour, lead to a specific meaning for the
routine and taboo, lacunas of thinking, concrete intercultural encounter.
perception and orientation in space Axiological lacunas are a second
and time which are subdivided into dimension in the lacuna model [Ertelt-
syllogistic lacunas and perceptive Vieth 2003: 7; 1990a: 309-310, 322-
lacunas, lacunas of communicative 323].
means, lacunas of oral texts and If a lacuna is perceived by the
moving pictures and lacunas of virtual recipient as a strange phenomenon
texts and pictures [Ertelt-Vieth 2003: requiring interpretation it is defined as
12f.]. explicit lacuna. In contrast to an
Lacunas of objects denote explicit lacuna an implicit lacuna is
differences in objects and in human imperceptible to the recipient.
environment. Among others Furthermore, intense and deep lacunas
subgroups are lacunas of written or are considered confrontative whereas
otherwise recorded texts and images, weak and not especially deep lacunas
lacunas of public environment, are characterized as contrastive.
lacunas of geographic infrastructure, Lacunas can be either absolute or
lacunas of private environment, relative, depending as well upon the
lacunas of the human body, attributive degree of intensity and depth of the
lacunas and lacunas of food [Ertelt- experience [Schröder 1995a:12f.;
Vieth 2003: 13]. Grodzki 2003: 45].
Axiological lacunas – when
evaluating the association experiment 2.3 History (4)
I will focus on axiological lacunas - in Originally Russian
some way add a special dimension to ethnopsycholinguists have been
the lacuna model because they denote investigating the translation of written
culture specific connotations and texts. Research in this area primarily
evaluations of differing phenomena so focussed on the perception and
that they are often at the heart of understanding of texts written in a
misunderstandings and conflicts. foreign language as well as the
These culture specific connotations problems of communication between
and evaluations can be seen as cultures [Panasiuk, 2002: 257f.;
different interpretation schemes of Schröder, 1997]. Within the field of
reality or as the in chapter 2.1 ethnopsycholinguistics the lacuna
mentioned „cultural glasses‟. In other model has been developed.
words, any object/situation etc. of a Ethnopsycholinguistics has
foreign culture during an intercultural emerged in the seventies within the
frame of the Moscow school of by focussing on the first stage of
psycholinguistic. Research of the speech generation enabled to analyse
Moscow school of psycholinguistic, non-linguistic thought processes as
influenced by A.A. Leontjev, had well as the activity at hand that
focused on the “theory of speech determined those thought processes.
activity”, analysing different models The framework of cultural
of speech generation and perception historical psychology by Wygotski had
as models of psychic processes. The established the thesis of isomorphism
underlying assumption had been that of the internal mental and the external
psychic processes are the same among objective activity. Given this structure,
all human beings. Questions regarding it served as a basis for analysing the
the cultural importance/determination mental activity, which had not been
of psychic processes had been accessible to the researchers till then by
neglected throughout a long period analysing the external activity. Based
and therefore promoted the emergence on Wygotski‟s theoretical background
of a new discipline, the the cultural specifics of verbal and
ethnopsycholinguistics, searching for nonverbal thinking was seen by the
models integrating the cultural ethnopsycholinguists as determined by
dimension into psychic models and the objective activity, as this activity
processes and explaining the verbal only initiates human thinking. Without
behaviour of members of different the stimulation of the objective activity,
languages and cultures. human thinking does not even start the
Researchers have been internal mental activity: Letting
interested in explaining why members individuals from different cultural
of different cultures address the same backgrounds imagine a railway trip
object(s) with different names. One (objective activity) in their respective
common hypothesis had been that the cultures will very likely produce
differences between natural languages differences in statements (reflecting
resulted in different ways of their internal mental activity). These
addressing or describing the same differences about one and the same
idea/object. Yet, activity in different national cultures
ethnopsycholinguistics, drawing its depend on the peculiarities of their
origins both from linguistics and culture. These would be characteristics
psychology, provided new of cultural objects, the activities of
explanations for the reasons producing them and the notional
accounting for the phenomenon of the imagines of these objects and activities.
differences in verbalising the same Hence, for ethnopsycholinguists to be
idea/object. These explanations able to modify models of speech
pointed towards an origin outside the generation and speech perception for
language sphere. their purposes it was crucial to detect
Ethnopsycholinguistic scholars differences in external verbal behaviour
focused on the first stage of speech within similar or same situations.
generation that is the analysis of In order to analyse specifics of
thoughts. This approach of dealing national languages and cultures,
with the problem of cultural specifics scholars within the Moscow school of
ethnopsycholingistic have worked language consciousness can be
with association experiments. These explained by the cultural specifics of
experiments can grasp unconscious communication and activities that are
knowledge, which accompanies customary in this very culture.
processes of speech generation and
speech perception. Nowadays, results 3. Intercultural communication
of these experiments are taken to
explain communicative conflicts 3.1 Definition
which arise in cross-cultural Intercultural communication, though a
exchange. Differences found in widespread and often used term, has no
mental images of different cultures underlying, generally accepted
point to possible “critical incidents“ in definition. For this reason I would like
communication. Scholars classify to approach this term by defining the
these differences as differences of two inherent terms “culture” and
cultural specifics of verbal “communication” [based on Schröder
categorization. Furthermore, 1997]: Communication can be seen as
associative norms are regarded as a symbolic interaction between
base for further interpretation, as the individuals which is either intentional
association experiment is a method of (that is having a specific aim) or social
analysing cultural specific linguistic (acting focused on other individuals).
consciousness. Symbolic interaction consists of signs
Through the last decade, organized in codes attaching meaning
Russian scholars within to the signs. The most important and
ethnopsycholinguistics have focused complicated system of signs is
on cultural specifics of linguistic language which goes along with
consciousness. It has been considered nonverbal communication.
as the main reason for communicative Communication is conducted through
conflicts in cross-cultural signs and therefore not only consists of
communication. Searching for new explicit but as well of implicit
ways of analysis, new concepts to communication. The latter consists of
analyse cultural consciousness have what is meant but not explicitly said; it
emerged. One takes mental images of needs interpretation. To establish
an identical cultural object of two successful communication either a
cultures and compares the results. The common code or the knowledge of the
theoretical background of such foreign code is needed. Codes as
concept focuses on the apprehension systems of signs heavily depend on the
that images of the real world are respective culture - remember chapter
projected into our consciousness in a 2.1: Ethnopsycholinguistis state that
way that these mental images are mutual understanding between cultures
accompanied by such causal, is in principle possible because no
temporal, local and emotional absolute original codes of
relationships which exist between communication exist. However, since
these images in communication and in within the environment of human
activities. To conclude, cultural cultures no absolute unequivocal codes
specifics regarding images of the exist intercultural understanding is only
possible to a certain extent. Culture model in intercultural communication
itself can be understood as a code that the definition of intercultural
is a system of concepts, value communication for this paper based on
orientations and norms which are Knapp & Knapp-Potthof [in Schröder
expressed through the feelings, 1997] is introduced: “[…] we can
thoughts, actions and language of the define „intercultural communication‟ as
individual. Culture helps the taking place whenever participants
individual to structure the world, it is introduce different knowledge into the
the immanent logic how we perceive interaction which is specific to their
the world. Still, cultural rules are respective sociocultural group, which is
mostly not codified or consciously relevant in the sense that it determines
utilized by the members of a culture how a particular interaction should
because the cultural rules are learned normally be verbally or non-verbally
through socialization. Through this accomplished, but which is taken for
early learning of cultural rules they granted and thus can affect the process
are seen as familiar, are taken for of communication.” This definition
granted so that they are not easily holds as well for communication
questioned. Probably, mistakes in among subcultures and for all groups
communication between individuals sharing some specific knowledge.
of geographically closely related 3.2 Applying the lacuna model in
cultures in intercultural intercultural communication
communication count more to the Starting out from the issue of
respective individual than with English as a world language Smith [in
individuals from a geographically Schröder 1997] points out that in all
distant culture due to a certain bonus intercultural encounters a „negotiating
of being “exotic”. of meaning‟ is necessary. Smith
Communication is always proposes five criteria which add up to a
bound by culture because during successful „negotiating of meaning‟: 1)
communication information about the a sense of self, 2) a sense of the other,
communication parties and their 3) a sense of the relationship between
relationship are stated through their self and the other, 4) a sense of the
use of explicit (words) and implicit setting/social situation and 5) a sense of
communication (including nonverbal the goal or objective. Schröder [1997]
communication). Thus, the sees the sense of self as crucial for
prerequisite for successful intercultural communication because
communication is either a more or individuals are usually not aware of
less common culture or cultural their values, communication styles
sensitivity for cultural-bound within their own socio-cultural group
differences. Though, the linguistic (see as well above: definition of
operationalisation of culture-bound intercultural communication). Still
differences is not easy the lacuna “[…] when one communicates across
model solved in my opinion this cultures, a clear sense of self is crucial
problem very impressively [Schröder in negotiating meaning.” [Smith in
1994]. Before continuing with Schröder 1997]. Schröder stresses that
application possibilities of the lacuna
taking Smith‟s five criteria into For example the „sense of self‟ can be
account when encountering an strengthened by becoming aware of
intercultural situation would facilitate typical behaviour, important values,
understanding, not in the sense of communication styles etc. of oneself
adapting totally to the other but by and of the own socio-cultural group by
being sensitive for occurring detecting these commonalities through
problems. lacuna analysis. Lacuna analysis as
Two main advantages of the specific tool to detect (potential)
lacuna model to further intercultural intercultural and intracultural gaps is
communication are the following: either applied as what I call
It is a store of categories enabling „preparation-tool‟ (that is in advance)
to scientifically register, classify for hopefully then successful
and analyse the immense diversity intercultural encounters, e.g. the
of cultural peculiarities. preparation of pupils for a pupils
Inductively various different exchange programme into a foreign
aspects of a conflict situation or country, or as what I named
even of the whole genesis of a „reparations-tool‟ (that is in retrospect)
conflict can be analysed [Ertelt- of intercultural
Vieth 2003: 6]. misunderstandings/miscommunication
Lacuna studies are able to track like misunderstandings based on the
cultural differences by seeing what different meaning attached to a word
seems „strange‟ or „odd‟ for non- (axilogical lacuna). The approach of
members of a given culture. By lacuna analysis to first accept different
being aware of the fact that perspectives and then to compare and
lacunas exist, one is able to try to explain them [Ertelt-Vieth 2003:
attempt to promote better 9] adds to its value as both,
intracultural and intercultural preparation-tool and reparations-tool.
understandings. The lacuna model Ertelt-Vieth [2003: 15] proposes
does not attempt to solve cultural three areas of application of the lacuna
differences, it simply identifies the model in intercultural communication:
differences. However, the lacuna Discovery and analysis of
model can be beneficial by critical incidents in face-to-face
promoting mutual understanding situations or in medially
[Grodzki 2003: 57]. mediated intercultural
Through the „negotiation of encounters,
meaning‟, in my point of view, the Reconstruction of problematic
lacuna model is brought into the game confrontations of even long-
because it is able to linguistically lasting relations,
operationalise the culture-bound Preparing intercultural
differences in intercultural encounters.
communication and consequently, can The latter aspect of preparing
be used as a tool to fill with intercultural encounters will be treated
knowledge the five criteria above more in detail in chapter five.
which I believe serve as a solid basis
for preparing intercultural encounters.
4. Association experiment perception of nations as well as their
The association experiment on perception of other nations, in this
which this paper is based had been specific questionnaire the self-
conducted in the period from October perception of the Germans and their
2003 till January 2004. The perception of the Russians. My wife
distributed questionnaire designed by and I had supplementary mentioned (in
Prof. Dr. Markovina in English German) that we take part in this
covered questions regarding 1) The project based on a seminar we took
Germans – what are they like?, 2) with Prof. Dr. Markovina, we indicated
Name 5 outstanding figures that that respondents should be German
symbolize the German nation to you, university students („Fachhochschule‟
3) The Russians – what are they like? and university), we referred to the fact
and 4) Name 5 outstanding figures that the original questionnaire had been
that symbolize the Russian nation to designed in English and that we had
you. Question one and three offered added a German translation to the
five spaces for answers, that is five English version and we offered to the
responses were requested. respondents to answer questions via
Additionally, the respondents were email. Not to forget we kindly
asked to fill in age, sex, occupation encouraged participation, expressed our
and nationality – the last two pieces of thanks for the participation in our
information were needed to sort out project and signed both with our full
respondents who were neither German names. The respondents made up for
nor university students since our more than 60 questionnaires but some
target group were German university had to be sorted out due to non-German
students. My wife and I distributed nationality so that all in all I had 60
the questionnaires in two periods: in questionnaires as basis for this paper.
October 2003 we approached German Nearly all respondents replied in
university students („Fachhochschule‟ German whereas a few chose to fill in
and university) within Germany via the questions in English. Most
email; in a second period in January respondents named five associations
2004 we asked German students at the for each question yet, some could not
European University Viadrina in think of five associations for each
Frankfurt (Oder), Germany to fill in question. Out of the 60 respondents 23
the questionnaires. My wife and I were male and 37 female university
both, at that time 26 years old were students. The age range was from 19 to
and are students of cultural studies 42 years but the majority of
(M.A.) at the European University respondents, all in all 54, constituted
Viadrina. The questionnaire started the age range of 20 to 27 years.
with an explanation of the background Due to the restricted frame of
of the project stating that it is part of this paper and due to the data available
an intercultural project conducted by to me, I chose question 1) The
Prof. Dr. Irina Markovina from Russia Germans – what are they like? as
from the Sechenow Moscow Medical example of an association experiment.
Academy, Foreign Languages The gained data will be compared with
Department researching the self- the Russian perception of Germans.
The latter data are based on data Prof. seminar at the European University
Dr. Markovina had distributed in our Viadrina.

Association experiment

German self-perception Translation

bürokratisch / Bürokratie; bureaucratic/Bureaucracy; formalistic;
formalistisch, lieben die Bürokratie, love bureaucracy; conventional; not
konventionell;unflexibel; folgsam; flexible; obedient; focussed on hierarchy;
hierarchieorientiert;obrigkeitshörig obey to authorities
direkt, (sehr) /nicht (very) direct/blunt, are no hypocrites
heuchlerisch;direkt/offen direct/open/straightforward (in the sense
(straightforward)/im Sinne von of confrontative); love discussions
freundlich;fröhlich;humorvoll;nett;wit friendly; merrily; funny; kind; social;
zig;sozial;zwischenmenschliche close relationships; warm
Bindungen, enge;;warm
genau/ Genauigkeit;denken sich alles exact/accurate/precise/exactness/
genau durch;diszipliniert; accuracy/precision/meticulousness; think
gewissenhaft; through issues in a very accurate manner;
gründlich;Paragraphenreiter;penibel;p disciplined; conscientious; thorough;
erfektionistisch; stickler for the rules/pedant; pernickety;
pflichtbewußt;sachlich;rational;kühl/k perfectionist; conscious of their duties;
alkulierend;streng;strikt factual; rational; calculability/coldness;
ordentlich, sehr;Ordnung & Regeln (very) neat/tidy; love neatness/tidiness &
liebend;Ordnung/ Ordnungssinn; rules; tidiness/neatness/strong conception
ordnungsliebend;(gut) for tidiness/order; very tidy-minded;
organisiert;korrekt;sauber; (well) organised/structured; (politically)
Sauberkeit;prinzipientreu correct; clean; cleanliness; firm-
pünktlich/ (love) punctual/punctuality

reisefreudig;neugierig;offen;offen love travelling; curious; open(/friendly);

gegenüber Neuem; open to new people/countries etc.;
weltoffen;offen/freundlich; interessiert cosmopolitan; interested
Reserviertheit/reserviert;keine reserved/reservedness; not easy to get to
schnellen Kontakte, dafür dann tiefe know but if a friendship emerges it will
Freundschaften; be profound; distant; grim; hard/rough;
verschlossen;distanziert;grimmig; not very open; serious
grob, wenig offen;ernsthaft/ernst
Überheblichkeit;etwas arrogance; sometimes they act in a
spießig;;beserwisserisch;meckern/d bourgeois way; know-all;
(manchmal konstruktiv) /meckrig; moan/bleat/grouse /sometimes
unfreundlich;;vorlaut;not-char ming; constructive); unfriendly; not-charming;
egoistisch; egoistic; cheeky/impertinent;
eigensinnig;stur;starrköpfig;verbohrt;stubborn/obstinate; inflexible
sam/geld-/karrieregeil;Strebsamkeit; assiduous/industrious/ career-
concentrated; effizient; entschlossen;assiduity/industriousness; self-confident;
;unhappy reliable;selbstbewusst unhappy reliable; hard-working;
concentrated; efficient; resolute; eager;
pessimistic, immer; besorgt; pessimistic; always worried; melancholy;
melancholy; discontent/dissatisfied; complaining; self-
unzufrieden:sorgenvoll;(sich)beklagen critical; self-doubt; feeling guilty;
d/complaining;selbstzweifelnd;self- sceptical; not ambitious in present time;
critical; schuldbewußt; skeptisch; unemployment
Arbeitslosigkeit;ehrgeiz, z.Zt. Ohne

4.1 German self-perception & Russian perception of the Germans

To be able to compare the data I accounted for eleven semantic groups.
first of all grouped the multitude of Each semantic group is labeled with a
responses according to the meaning of major term which is chosen out of the
the words so that different semantic terms mentioned by the respondent
groups emerged. At this point, I need and which I believe to be
to mention that the semantic groups representative for the respective group.
are based on common sense by reason After grouping the responses I
of that I am no student of linguistics. translated them into English, except
In this paper I will present those those few answers already given in
semantic groups being mentioned by English, which resulted in the
at least ten respondents. These groups following table:

German Self-perception
Groups Content
Neat/Tidy (very) neat/tidy; love neatness/tidiness & rules;
tidiness/neatness/strong conception for tidiness/order; very tidy-
minded; (well) organised/structured; (politically) correct; clean;
cleanliness; firm-principled
Accurate/ exact/accurate/precise/exactness/accuracy/precision/
Precise meticulousness; think through issues in a very accurate manner;
disciplined; conscientious; thorough; stickler for the rules/pedant;
pernickety; perfectionist; conscious of their duties; factual;
rational; calculability/coldness; strict
Pessimistic pessimistic; always worried; melancholy; discontent/dissatisfied;
complaining; self-critical; self-doubt; feeling guilty; sceptical; not
ambitious in present time; unemployment
bureaucratic/Bureaucracy; formalistic; love bureaucracy;
Bureaucratic conventional; not flexible; obedient; focussed on hierarchy; obey to
Determined determined/focussed/determination; assiduous/industrious/ career-
mad/avaricious; assiduity/industriousness; self-confident; unhappy
reliable; hard-working; concentrated; efficient; resolute; eager;
Punctual (love) punctual/punctuality
Reserved reserved/reservedness; not easy to get to know but if a friendship
emerges it will be profound; distant; grim; hard/rough; not very
open; serious
Unfriendly arrogance; sometimes they act in a bourgeois way; know-all;
moan/bleat/grouse (sometimes constructive); unfriendly; not-
charming; egoistic; cheeky/impertinent; stubborn/obstinate;
Open love travelling; curious; open(/friendly); open to new
people/countries etc.; cosmopolitan; interested
Blunt/Direct (very) direct/blunt, are no hypocrites; direct/open/straightforward
(in the sense of confrontative); love discussions
Friendly friendly; merrily; funny; kind; social; close relationships; warm
Table 1: Semantic groups of the German self-perception
After receiving table 1 I place, e.g the group „Bureaucratic‟ and
proceeded by ranking the above „Determined‟ are both ranked on place
semantic groups according to how four, and left out the next rank – in this
frequently they were mentioned by case place five – to continue with the
the respondents. If two groups next place but one, here place six.
achieved the same number of Thus, I constituted the following table:
responses I ranked them on the same
German Self-perception
Ranking Semantic Groups How Frequently
Mentioned in
1 Neat/Tidy 39
2 Accurate/Precise 23
3 Pessimistic 21
4 Bureaucratic 19
4 Determined 19
6 Punctual 17
7 Reserved 16
8 Unfriendly 14
9 Open 12
9 Blunt/Direct 12
11 Friendly 10
Table 2: Ranking of semantic groups
To receive a comparative table of the German self-perception and the
Russian perception of the Germans I added the Russian attributions about the
Germans and received the table below:
German Self-Perception Russian Perception of Germans
German university students, Russian schoolchildren,
major age range 20-27 years age range 12-16 years
1 Neat/Tidy Economically
2 Accurate/Precise Business-like (disciplined/inventive)
3 Pessimistic Clever/Intelligent
Bureaucratic (4) Friendly (frank/likeable/open-hearted)
5 Determined (4) Neat/Tidy/Clean
6 Punctual Good Cultural Background
7 Reserved Punctual
8 Unfriendly Reserved in Behaviour
9 Open (9) Good Mixer
10 Blunt/Direct (9) Realistic/No Illusions
11 Friendly
Table 3: Comparative table of German self-perception & Russian perception of
As already mentioned the data
about the Russian perception of 4.2 Evaluation
Germans was given to me by Prof. Dr. Let‟s start with a short review of
Markovina during her seminar at the the research on stereotypes [Hansen
European University Viadrina. I know 2000: 321-327]: Walter Lippmann
about the difficulties of comparing introduced the term „stereotype‟ in
data of such different age ranges as 1922. Later on stereotypes were
schoolchildren and university students subdivided into 1) „autostereotypes‟
notwithstanding the data about the and 2) „heterostereotypes‟.
Russians was the only for me Autostereotypes are the image/notion
accessible data and to be able to of a nation, socio-cultural group,
conduct an intercultural lacuna individual etc. of itself whereas
analysis I needed some comparative heterosterotypes describe the
data regarding the German self- image/notion a nation, socio-cultural
perception, in this case the Russian group, individual etc. has about another
perception of the Germans. In the nation, socio-cultural group or other
following chapter 4.2 I will evaluate groups. Both, autostereotypes and
table 3. heterostereotypes are closely
interlinked: often a positive self- 18f.] point out that groups and
perception goes along with a negative therefore cultures are constituted
perception of the other, for example through stereotypes. Especially
during the Cold War the United States important are positive autostereotypes
and the former Soviet Union had as they are necessary for the integration
respective positive self-images (that of different social and political groups
are positive autostereotypes) and a within a society, that is stereotypes can
very negative image of the other support integration but as well to a
nation (that are negative certain extent leave aside the
heterostereotypes). Tajfel [in Hansen perception of the individuals because
2000: 324] and Ertelt-Vieth [1993a: they focus on groups, esp. nations.
The following evaluation of table 3 will be focussed on the detection of
some axiological lacunas between the German and Russian perceptions. I want to
start with the description of the top three rankings in table 3:
German Self-Perception Russian Perception of Germans
German university students, Russian schoolchildren,
major age range 20-27 years age range 12-16 years
1 Neat/Tidy Economically
2 Accurate/Precise Business-like (disciplined/inventive)
3 Pessimistic Clever/Intelligent
Table 4: Comparative table of the top three rankings of the German self-
perception & Russian perception of Germans
The three major important heterostereotype „economically‟ is
characteristics of the German self- unfortunately not further described in
perception (autostereotypes) (5) are 1) the available data to me and I therefore
neat/tidy, 2) accurate/precise and 3) interpret it in the way of Germany as
pessimistic whereas the Russians successful economic power.
name as the three major important „Economically‟ seems to me to
characteristics of the German correspond to the German
(heterosterotypes) (6) 1) autostereotype „determined‟, ranked
economically, 2) business-like and 3) place 4, as the group „determined‟
clever/intelligent. „Neat/tidy‟ – place includes terms linked to success and
1 as German autostereotype - are business. The group „pessimistic‟ as
ranked as Russian heterostereotype German autosterotype ranked place 3
only on the fifth place whereas the has no corresponding group in the
group „accurate/precise‟ (place 2, Russian heterosterotypes as well as the
German autostereotype) seem to me Russian heterosterotype
to be at least partially congruent with „clever/intelligent‟ ranked place 3 has
the group „business-like‟ (place 2, no corresponding group in the German
Russian heterosterotype) and its autostereotypes.
semantic terms counting up for the As mentioned I will now denote
attribution discipline because the term in the following sequence some
discipline is as well part of the group axiological lacunas to demonstrate the
„accurate/precise‟. The Russian immense potential of the lacuna model.
Remember: axiological lacunas were (about the Germans) besides the by the
defined as „different interpretation majority mentioned characteristic
schemes of reality which come to „Punctuality‟, „Neat/Love for Tidiness‟
existence through the emergence of and „Discipline‟. Based on table 1 and
other lacunas. They are culture thus on my grouping of terms to
specific connotations and evaluations. semantic groups, I define „Discipline‟
For in any encounter between as belonging to the semantic group
different cultures any object, any „Accurate/Precise‟ so that I assume that
activity might gain significance if „Discipline‟ is a positive Russian
independent of whatever significance heterostereotype „Accurate/Precise‟ are
is attributed to them in their own seen as positively as „Discipline‟.
cultural context.‟ Due to the available Eventhough „Neat/Tidy‟ and
data to me I will research the below „Accurate/Precise‟ are positive Russian
chosen German autostereotypes more heterostereotypes Löwe [2003: 142]
in a general sense not in the context of draws the attention to the different
a specific intercultural encounter. meanings Russian attribute to those
Focussing hereby on the top three two groups: Russians are often amused
rankings in table 3 I want to pick out about the Germans being so
the groups „Neat/Tidy‟ (place 1) and „Neat/Tidy‟ and „Accurate/Precise‟ or
„Accurate/Precise‟ (place 2) of the they even feel disturbed by these two
German self-perception: „Neat/Tidy‟ characteristics. Why? By perceiving
and „Accurate/Precise‟ are seen as the Germans as being „Neat/Tidy‟ and
positive characteristics by the „Accurate/Precise‟ besides other
Germans themselves as Schneider characteristics [see Löwe 2003: 142]
[2001: 178] describes in his book. they associate that Germans have a
Schneider [2001] interviewed fixed plan of life and consequently they
(standardized interviews) Germans do not live a real life; their eagerness to
located in Berlin and the surrounding work is seen as a missing depth of the
area, born in the period from 1957 till soul.
1970 and involved in politics, media To conclude I want to note that
business and the field of culture. Russians and Germans interpret the
Based on my research results and same characteristics („Neat/Tidy‟ and
Schneider`s book, I define „Neat/Tidy‟ „Accurate/Precise‟) differently due to
and „Accurate/Precise‟ as important different knowledge, in its broadest
positive elements of the German self- sense, which is specific to their re-
perception. Yet, if for the Germans spective sociocultural group, here the
„Neat/Tidy‟ and „Accurate/Precise‟ nations Russia and Germany - re-
account to a positive autostereotype member intercultural communication
which meaning to the Russians – in was defined as „taking place whenever
my data Russian schoolchildren aged participants introduce different
12-16 years – attach to „Neat/Tidy‟ knowledge into the interaction which is
and „Accurate/Precise‟ by analysing specific to their respective sociocultural
them through their „interpretation group [..]‟ [Knapp & Knapp-Potthof in
schemes‟? Löwe [2003: 142] denotes Schröder 1997]. The different
as positive Russian heterostereotypes knowledge leads to varied
„interpretation schemes‟ or „cultural tionally aim at being useful in drawing
glasses‟ generating different conclusions afterwards and in analysis
meanings. Consequently, the different of possible concrete conflicts Ertelt-
meanings might hamper intercultural Vieth [2003: 16] proposes a checklist
communication („the gap over which divided into a „structural aid towards
one traps‟), prohibit mutual under- cultural knowledge‟ and „normative
standing („the precipice of lack of un- goals‟. The „structural aid towards
derstanding one can drop into‟) or cultural knowledge‟ is called „From
might motivate towards intercultural existing knowledge to new experience
communication („to explore the gap of in six steps‟:
understanding or fill up with knowl- Remember: In (e.g.) Russia and
edge the precipice of lack of under- elsewhere
standing‟). The denoted axiological 1) many things are like they are
lacunas are representative for inter- here,
cultural axiological lacunas occuring 2) many things are like they are in
in intercultural encounters. The dif- many other countries
ferences in „interpretation schemes‟ - only in Germany they are
draw from historical, social and other different,
reasons which are explored in the 3) many things are different indeed,
multitude of literature about intercul- 4) many things might have different
tural communication, the Germans, relations and different meanings,
the Russians etc. but cannot be con- 5) no two persons are alike (and yet
sidered in this paper due to its re- many may be similar in many
stricted frame. respects),
5. Conclusions: One application 6) hardly anything will remain the
possibility – Preparing intercultural same.
encounters. The „structural aid towards cultural
How to avoid as far as possible knowledge‟ covers in simple words the
or overcome possible obstacles of in- principles of lacuna analysis, such as
tercultural communication through perspective or axiological lacunas,
axiological lacunas and lacunas in individual differences etc. Starting out
general? As trainer of intercultural with similarities it leads towards dis-
trainings for children this is a funda- covery and comprehension of differ-
mental question I have to deal with in ences. Its use can promote 1) expres-
my trainings. In chapter 3.2 I listed sion, exchange and differentiation of an
several application possibilities of the existing inventory of knowledge, 2)
lacuna model and on one of them we larger “cultural attentiveness”, 3) better
will have a closer look in this final targeted questioning and 4) better ac-
chapter: preparing intercultural en- tion and more adequate reaction
counters. Astrid Ertelt-Vieth‟s [2003: [Ertelt-Vieth 2003: 15ff.].
15ff.] approach struck me by its sim- The second part of the checklist
plicity and its effectiveness: to be able „normative goals‟ indicates how to
to provide handy formulas easy to react to the through part one detected
comprehend and easy to remember cultural peculiarities. Ertelt-Vieth
during the period abroad which addi-
[2003: 18] proposes as principles for perience when talking to people about
intercultural encounters of any of the their intercultural experiences or ob-
in the „structural aid towards cultural serving them in intercultural encounters
knowledge‟ mentioned headings that that many people are not aware of their
you should: responsibility in contributing to a
1) try and gain much experience in successful intercultural (and even in-
common and in differing and in un- tracultural) communication by being
usual situations and even in misunder- „active, reflective and self-reflective‟
standings, according to Ertelt-Vieth`s „normative
2) often put yourself into the other goals‟. Additionally, many people be-
person‟s shoes in trying to understand lieve they do not have the tools to
them, constructively interact with members of
3) explain your customs and perspec- other cultures. With the lacuna model
tives to the others, the five criterias of Smith`s „negoating
4) in any unfamiliar situation look of meaning‟ can be filled with
for the things that are in common, knowledge and as shown the
compromise but criticize only if „negotiating of meaning‟ is a solid
necessary, and never in an offending preparation tool for intercultural en-
way, make your own points clear but counters – thus the lacuna model and
always stay open for further the „negotiating of meaning‟ model can
communication, be seen as a tool combination to
5) reflect what you would want to constructively interact with foreign
change for yourself or what you want cultures based on Ertelt-Vieth`s as-
to keep – just for your time abroad or sumption of human beings as being
permanently at home, „active, reflective and self-reflective‟.
6) remember that understanding The lacuna model is in my
rises in spirals: you frequently arrive opinion a major important contribution
at similar points, feel like you are (7) to the field of intercultral
starting anew, and yet move on. communication: not only that it pro-
To me Ertelt-Vieth‟s approach is a vides „handy formulas easy to com-
very promising approach in preparing prehend and easy to remember during
persons for a foreign culture. I very the period abroad‟ which is relevant
much appreciate that human beings for the intercultural training sector but
are seen as active, reflective and self- the handy formulas are based on a solid
reflective [Ertelt-Vieth 2003: 19] and scientific method to which different
in my point of view therefore have cultures have contributed and which
both, the responsibility to contribute can therefore claim more than other so
to a successful intercultural called “intercultral” theories to be in-
communication on whatever basic or tercultural. Still, drawing its origins
sophisticated level it takes place and from linguistics and psychology I be-
through the lacuna model and the lieve not only the application of the
model of „negotiating of meaning‟ the lacuna model in areas paid attention to
tools to constructively interact with like international advertising [research
members of other cultures. I often ex- by Grodski 2003] and a „translation‟
into a less linguistic vocabulary - as
already down by Ertelt-Vieth and pre- language in explaining the different
sented in this paper – are very impor- categories of lacunas will help to
tant but a less linguistic and scientific spread its popularity.

1. The through the association 4. The overview is based on the Eng-
experiment generated data can cer- lish translation of a colleague student
tainly be analysed much more in of Tarasov/Ufimceva‟s [1999] article.
depth. However, the intension of this For a detailed overview of the recent
paper is to show the utility of the la- research/development in the field of
cuna model in the field of intercultural ethnopsycholinguistics see Grodzki
communication and not to analyse and [2003: 39-42].
evaluate the complete gained data. 5. Further on referred to as German
2. Due to the restricted framework of autostereotype.
this paper and its intercultural focus, I 6. Further on referred to as Russian
will only focus on cultural lacunas. heterostereotype.
3. For example Ertelt-Vieth [1990: 7. When I was confronted with the
112ff.], Schröder [1995b: 13f] and lacuna theory for the first time I found
Grodzki [2003: 46ff.] use a different it rather an annoying complex scientific
classification of lacunas. tool and questioned its utility for the
field of intercultural communication.

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