Constructing Common Ground in High-Context Cultures: The Case of Quranic Intertextuality

Thulfiqar Hussein Altahmazi[1], Rasim Taeh Jahjuh, Abbas Lutfi Hussein

DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.10290585

[1] Mustansiriyah University, Department of English Language & Literature, email:



The paper explores the construction of common ground in Arabic. The paper is premised on the view that Quranic intertextual references are “situation-bound utterances” (Kecskes, 2012), that trigger presupposed contextual knowledge necessary for common ground construction. Such a conceptualization provides an opportunity to test Edward Hall’s (1976) classification of Arabic as a high-context culture. Methodologically, the paper first develops a questionnaire to probe Arabic native speakers’ perception of a number of Quranic verses/phrases that are frequently cited in everyday language use. The questionnaire identifies which of these Quranic verses/phrases can be identified as situation-bound utterances. Then, the Arabic Web 2018 corpus is used to identify the frequencies and analyze the concordance of the high scoring Quranic situation-bound utterances. Based on the corpus linguistic analysis, examples of Quranic SBUs are identified and subjected to a qualitative analysis to provide in-depth insights as to how these Quranic SBUs are produced and interpreted in interaction. The results of the questionnaire and the corpus linguistic analysis of frequency and concordance indicate that these Quranic SBUs form the basis of an extensive communal common ground shared by Arabic speakers. The qualitative analysis highlights the fact that this extensive communal common ground is necessary to facilitate the transition from the implicated premises to the implicated conclusions about speaker’s meaning. This provides empirical support to Hall’s (1976) categorization of Arabic as high-context culture. From a theoretical perspective, the paper highlights the role of “associative reasoning” (Recanati, 2004) in processing presupposed contextual information and schematic knowledge necessary for strengthening existing contextual assumptions or for drawing further inferences about the speaker’s intended meaning.

Keywords: Common ground; high-context cultures; presupposition; Quranic intertextuality; situation- bound utterances.


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