In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Worldview in Intercultural Communication

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Intercultural Worldview and Cultural Elements
  • Intercultural Worldview and Interpersonal Relations
  • Intercultural Worldview Influencing Intercultural Communication Theory
  • Intercultural Worldview and Professional Practices in Health and in Education
  • Intercultural Worldview Differences in Cultures and Organizations
  • Intercultural Worldview Measurements

Communication Worldview in Intercultural Communication
Carley Dodd
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0256


Worldview in intercultural communication represents an intercultural adaptation of worldview research originally from the humanities, theology, philosophy, and social sciences, particularly anthropology and linguistics. The concept refers to cognitive structures and holistic belief systems often shared by members of a culture perceived to influence one’s life space intersecting with deeply held assumptions on topics such as events, relationships, natural forces, deity, power, social hierarchy, and change that explain not only one’s cognitive map but also communication regarding current experiences and future event predictions. The notion can be said to inform the deepest layers of a culture’s experience. Some scholars trace the modern use of the concept to the 19th century with Humboldt’s application of the terms Weltanschauung and Weltbegriff, referring to beliefs defining how a culture or an individual interprets and interacts with the world. In sum, intercultural worldview is a quasi-metaphysical mental map influencing one’s thinking, doing, communicating, and discernment of others, nature, and self.

General Overviews

Worldview in intercultural communication has early roots in linguistics, such as from Wilhelm von Humboldt’s 19th-century underpinnings, as thoroughly reviewed in Underhill 2012. Lucy 1997 articulates additional developments in early language and culture research and theory, captured in the well-known Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Anthropologists noting worldview were highly influenced in the early 20th century by Ruth Benedict’s holistic culture and functionality, as Redfield 1953, Hall 1976, and Kearney 1984 describe. Philosophical interests persist in understanding orientations and practices, as Note, et al. 2009 states. In texts focused on intercultural communication, intercultural worldview was specifically addressed in Sarbaugh 1979, with an early emphasis on identifying control over nature, as multiple cognitive orientations, and as religious outlooks such as those in Kraft 1978 reveal. Gudykunst and Kim 1997 emphasizes the need to deepen our understanding of worldview. According to Dodd 2017, intercultural worldview research identifies numerous elements, or underlying factors, in new developments of assessing worldview in intercultural communication. Overall, intercultural communication researchers appear to consider worldview as a deeply structured, fundamental cultural model functioning to interpret communication and understanding among cultures.

  • Dodd, C. H. 2017. Worldview in intercultural communication. In The international encyclopedia of intercultural communication. Edited by Y. Y. Kim. John Wiley & Sons.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781118783665.ieicc0077

    This chapter traces worldview trajectory from Weltanschauung (world perception or world view) in anthropology and linguistics to current meanings for the field of intercultural communication and intercultural worldview measurements. The essay summarizes many of the common elements, such as meaning of life, time orientation, deity, luck, spiritual forces, self-value, nature, and fatalism and presents developments in theory and in assessing intercultural worldview.

  • Gudykunst, W. B., and Y. Y. Kim. 1997. Communicating with strangers: An approach to intercultural communication. 3d ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

    This work presents a holistic view of intercultural communication and its multiple topics, along with early definitions of intercultural worldview.

  • Hall, E. T. 1976. Beyond culture. New York: Anchor.

    This book, and the other numerous works by Hall, embody classic reading in underlying, hidden assumptions about culture, which is composed of many nonverbal elements, especially cultural information such as direct-indirect (low context is direct, high context is indirect) and linear-nonlinear time orientation (monochronic-polychronic).

  • Kearney, M. 1984. World view. Novato, CA: Chandler & Sharp.

    Kearney’s earlier articles and this book reflect worldview studies not only associated with language and culture, but also including worldview as a part of cognitive anthropology, including nonverbal studies and a broad taxonomy of a culture’s implicit assumptions. The text also traces shifts in anthropological paradigms and emphases.

  • Kraft, E. 1978. Worldview in intercultural communication. In International and intercultural communication. Edited by F. Casmir, 47. Washington, DC: Univ. Press of America.

    This work asserts that a culture’s worldview is mostly an unconscious set of patterned perceptions of reality categorizing actuality, what should be, and what is possible and impossible. Kraft identifies features such as control over nature, multiple cognitive orientations, and religious outlooks.

  • Lucy, J. A. 1997. Linguistic relativity. Annual Review of Anthropology 26:291–312.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.anthro.26.1.291

    This article analyzes the important contributions of Benjamin Whorf and Edward Sapir and the development of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, or linguistic relativity and linguistic determinism, which influenced the theory that language influences how people perceive reality.

  • Note N., R. Fornet-Betancourt, J. Estermann, and D. Aerts. 2009. Worldview and cultures: Philosophical reflections from an intercultural perspective: An introduction. In An introduction in worldviews and cultures. Edited by N. Note, R. Fornet-Betancourt, J. Estermann, and D. Aerts, 1–9. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-5754-0_1

    This work defines the cognitive nature of intercultural worldview with concepts like basic beliefs, truth, cultural categories, and being. The authors apply worldview as an orienting and comprehending function and point out how worldview can be used as a political or other ideology rather than a fundamental understanding of cultures. Key presuppositions behind worldviews and culture are articulated.

  • Redfield, R. 1953. The Primitive world and its transformations. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

    This work represents early efforts by a group of University of Chicago scholars interested in understanding traditions and cultural beliefs that appear to influence interactions, particularly differences and misunderstandings between Native American cultures and a larger culture. Redfield was influenced by Franz Boas’s work in language and culture and saw parallels in his work with Ruth Benedict’s theory of culture involving a holistic set of patterns.

  • Sarbaugh, Larry A. 1979. Intercultural communication. Rochelle Park, NJ: Hayden Press.

    This book presents a significant framework offering an early and brief assessment to measure three positions of the human-nature control continuum (humans control nature, humans in harmony with nature, nature not meant to be controlled). More importantly, this work extends implications for explaining cultural differences and how communities react to cultural differences, such as in crafting public policy.

  • Underhill, J. W. 2012. Humboldt, worldview, and language. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh Univ. Press.

    Underhill reviews early worldview conceptualizations from Wilhelm von Humboldt’s comparative linguistics organizing thought and worldview as cultural mindset, personal world, perspective, world-perceiving, and world-conceiving. Von Humboldt employed the word Weltanschauung (used by Kant and promoted by Hegel), referring to a system of thought or ideology illustrated as political, ideological, or religious worldviews). He further applied the term Weltbegriff to how speech and writing express shared worldview.

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