The process of intercultural communication: A semiotic perspective

Juming Shen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Intercultural communication has been a popular topic both in and outside academic studies, yet most researches in this field have been conducted with the methodology of comparative anthropology while the studies on the dynamic process of intercultural communication have been limited, which serves as the primary motivation to write this paper. The thorniest obstacle to conduct the study is to find a feasible and applicable methodology for the analysis of the process of intercultural communication, which deflated and even impaired the author's confidence to do the study from time to time. Fortunately, months of meditation finally saw the enlightenments from semiotics, a profound science that can provide insights into various humanity and social sciences. A thorough introduction to semiotics is impossible in an MA paper; therefore, only the related theories helpful to study intercultural communication are presented, including the dichotomy theory by Saussure, trichotomy theory by Peirce, theory of cultural semiotics by Lotman, and the semiotic concept of code by scholars such as Eco and Barthes. With this semiotic theoretical framework, the present paper elaborates the definitions of culture and communication and explains their semiotic features from different perspectives. Culture is semiotic in that it refers to not only the metaphysical existence but also the psychological traces, both of which are related with sign. The semiotic feature of communication is explained by identifying the sign as the carrier of information and semiosis as the realization of meaning. In this sense, intercultural communication as a subject based on culture and communication should be understood via semiotics as well. Limited by the size of the present paper, this study focuses exclusively on the process of intercultural communication. The ingredients involved in the process are figured and their roles are identified to the semiotics theories, based on which a semiotic model of intercultural communication is established. This model as the core of the present paper is described in detail and the mechanism of intercultural communication revealed by the model is explained accordingly. The relationship between the semiospheres, the nature of representamen, and the psychological processes as interpretant, are three most significant factors affecting intercultural communication. The findings of this paper explain the humanity subject of intercultural communication in a scientific view, which provides new understandings as well as indicates new research methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-133
Number of pages59
JournalChinese Semiotic Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2010
Externally publishedYes


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