Although much research and discussion about culture and communication focuses on the importance of cultural specifics, efforts to theorize in that area tend to begin from apparent universals, and then move to examination of cultural practices as diverse realizations of those universals. This article examines a particular case of cross-cultural theorizing, in regard to preferences for expression of directives. Speakers can opt to express directives, as well as other speech acts, in either a direct or indirect way. A preference for indirect directives has often been assumed in cross-cultural theorizing. Yet a close examination of data from three cultures characterized by a preference for directness in directive pegormance, indicates that culture-specific factors eclipse the universal ones that have been discovered so far. The analysis indicates that cross-cultural theorizing is at least premature, if not in principle impossible. We conclude that preferences for directives are formed within three levels of constraints: praatic differences between direct and indirect forms; social factors made recant in specific instances; and cultural beliefs about personhood, relationships, and the exercise of power.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/kristine_munoz/15/