On Euroversals and Culture-Specific Standards of Self-Disclosure in Dialogue

Valerij Demjankov

This page copyright © 2004 V.Dem'jankov.

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Valerij Dem'jankov. On Euroversals and Culture-Specific Standards of Self-Disclosure in Dialogue // Confidence / Dévoilement de soi dans l'interaction (Colloque IADA, Lyon 2004): Résumés. Lyon, 22–24 septembre 2004. Lyon: CNRS et Laboratoire ICAR (Interactions, Corpus, Apprentissages, Représentations), 2004. P.40–41.


There are at least two basic types of self-disclosure in conversation:

- direct or indirect report of facts (about oneself);

- direct or indirect report of ones intentions.

National standards of self-disclosure vary depending on freedom of access to these kinds of personal data. In the framework of every national standard, self-disclosure involves boundaries between free-access facts and intentions, on the one hand, and inner life, on the other. Thus technical aspects of sexual relations belong to what is freely spoken about in some Australian tribes whereas access to it in the European societies is rather restricted. This restricted access constitutes one of Euroversals of social behavior.

People usually have to compute, relying on speech, the degree of sincerity of their conversational partners. Two competitive principles regulate this computation:

1. Wariness principle. Presume everyones right of privacy.

2. Reliance principle. Look for hidden intentions in the actions of your conversational partner only if you have solid grounds not to trust him or her.

These principles give a prototype of actual behavior, cooperative sincerity, when both the speaker sincerely means what he says and the addressee takes the speech at its face value. This sort of cooperation does not always mean telling truth. Even self-disclosure may be used to veil the truth, e.g. if the speaker knows that the addressee overestimates the speakers insincerity.

Techniques of self-disclosure and of interpreting self-disclosure vary across national standards. Comparison of West-European and East-European (e.g. Russian) standards of sincerity / insincerity in everyday dialogues yields a set of Euroversals and of culture-specific parameters of speech pragmatics.