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LINGUIST List 23.5125

Sat Dec 08 2012

Review: Discourse Analysis; Pragmatics: Auger, Béal & Demougin (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 08-Dec-2012
From: Fabienne Baider <fabienneucy.ac.cy>
Subject: Interactions et interculturalité: variété des corpus et des approaches
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-1053.html

EDITORS: N. Auger, C. Béal and F. Demougin
TITLE: Interactions et interculturalité: variété des corpus et des approaches
SERIES TITLE: Transversales 31
YEAR: 2012

Fabienne Baider, University of Cyprus, Cyprus


Published in ''Transversales'' (Peter Lang), a series that publishes works
focusing on plurilingualism and pluriculturalism, ''Interactions et
interculturalité: variété des corpus et des approaches'' is a collection of
fifteen articles which identify and contrast interactional strategies
(linguistic, social or cultural) that occur in everyday situations and
communication. The articles present a variety of approaches and disciplinary
orientations in the field of intercultural studies, which attempt to identify
not only general trends in interactional behavior, but also communicative
styles (ethos) that are culture-specific. Fields as varied as language
teaching, conversational analysis and cross-cultural semantics are addressed
in these articles, all but one written in French. Languages and cultures such
as French, English (e.g., Australian English), Arabic (e.g., Tunisian and
Syrian Arabic) and Italian are contrasted, French being the pivotal language
of most studies. This is a plus in itself, given the few pragmatic studies
with French as the focus -- as the editors remind us. The linguistic aspects
examined cover terms of address, conversational sequence analysis, speech acts
and contextual analysis of interactions. The articles analyse a wide range of
communication contexts including naturally occurring conversations, film
dialogues, classroom interactions, answers to questionnaires, and
computer-mediated communication.

The volume is divided into two parts, each section prefaced with an
informative introduction explaining the rationale underlying the division as
well as a summary of the key points of each chapter. According to the preface,
the first section focuses on cross-cultural aspects of communication; the
second on the intercultural aspects.

The guiding notion of the first section is the concept of ‘communicative
ethos’ (cf. Kerbrat-Orecchioni 2002) that would be specific to the languages
studied. More precisely, the five articles in this first section use
conversation and pragmatic analysis of interactions in order to contrast
linguistic strategies across languages and to decide whether they are
universal or specific to different cultural values.

In the first study of this section, Catherine Kerbrat-Orecchioni compares
discursive functions of nominal terms of address in English and in French. The
study focuses especially on the important pragmatic function of this type of
address; i.e., framing the interpretation. Contrasting the usages found in
French (France) and Arabic (Tunisia or Syria) in taped conversations,
Kerbrat-Orecchioni shows that two styles can be distinguished by focusing on
these forms of address alone. Indeed the same form of address can be used for
opposite illocutionary forces, a polite tone or a spiteful remark. The chapter
draws on this case study to reflect on the methodological and theoretical
pitfalls of studying such linguistic particles and of contrastive studies in
general, pointing out, for instance, the difference between pragmalinguistic
and sociopragmatic conventions (Thomas 1984).

In the second chapter, Eva Elisabeth Havu compares the use of pronouns of
address in French and Italian in a pilot study. After having reviewed the
pronoun systems in both languages, her analysis focuses on the pragmatic force
of each pronoun when used in authentic interactions as well as dialogues from
TV programmes. These pronouns manage distance in interpersonal relationship
and this management differs between cultures. A case in point is in the
Italian culture, where the less formal forms of address are used more often
than in French. Also, French speakers tend to use the polite form of address
combined with the interlocutor’s first name, whereas this form of address is
uncommon in Italian.

In the following chapter, Chantal Claudel explores French and Japanese
computer-mediated communication, and focuses on opening rituals in emails.
Drawing on the most well-known politeness theories (such as that of Brown &
Levinson) but also Japanese studies, she analyses the most frequent speech act
in this opening ritual, i.e., enquiring about the other’s well-being.
Interestingly, her findings offer evidence of many intercultural similarities
(same generations across languages will have much in common, for instance) as
well as intra-cultural variations.

In a very precise and careful study based on taped naturally occurring
conversations, Veronique Traverso in the fourth chapter focuses on the speech
act of ‘objecting to an offer’ in small businesses in France and Syria.
Although the customer’s expressing dissatisfaction follows the same pattern of
interactions, the style of the interaction differs in the two cultures. In
France the interactions tend to be more consensual, both parties managing the
face of the other, and therefore the interactions tend to be lengthier. In
Syria, a more confrontational and rather brisk style seems to be favored (for
instance there is no concession on the part of the dissatisfied customer).
Given her other contrastive studies involving interactions in these two
cultures, she makes an argument for a different style of interaction in the
two cultures.

In chapter 5 Hassan Atifi, Sacha Mandelcwajg and Michel Marcoccia examine
cybermedia and the display of communicative ethos. More precisely, they
explore further the concept of ‘online communicative ethos’ that they had
suggested in their previous works drawing on the concept of ‘speech community’
(Gumperz 2001 (1968)). Analyzing messages posted on Internet fora addressed to
three different diasporic communities (Moroccan, Jewish Tunisian and French),
they identify the specific routines and speech acts (such as the use of
code-switching) that are expected of insiders or that indicate belonging to
the specific online community.

Bert Peeters’ chapter on Natural Semantic Metalanguage concludes this section,
offering a very useful overview of the approach as developed by Anna
Wierzbicka and Cliff Goddard. Peeters demonstrates that because the
methodology uses a finite list of semantic universals (a limited number of
grammatical structures, lexical components and syntactic values) that have
been proven to be common to all languages, the researcher is able to describe
in the most ‘neutral language’ possible concepts specific to cultures. Peeters
uses the speech act of gratitude to illustrate his argument and explain
further the use of cognitive scenarios whether at the level of
ethnopragmatics, ethnosyntax, ethnosemantics and so forth.

The second part of the volume focuses on the relationship to ‘otherness’ in
situations where language is crucial, such as in foreign language teaching,
and in the professions where socio-pragmatic competence is important to avoid
misunderstanding or mistakes (film dubbing, for instance).

The eight chapters address issues of intercultural competence in language
teaching and the professions involving translations, as these ethno-socio
cultural aspects are often neglected because of the focus on developing
linguistic and discursive abilities. Indeed, considering the concept of
identity as fundamental to language learning or to the act of translating, the
second section focuses on how to foster an awareness of cultural differences
-- as this will allow the foreign speaker to manage potential ‘culture
shocks’, ‘identity clashes’ or misunderstandings independently of the level of
language proficiency.

In the first chapter, Jean-Marc Dewaele explores new ways of understanding
sociopragmatic competence (the appropriate usage of linguistic forms) in
language classes. He focuses on the notion of ‘script’ (Schank & Abelson
1977), a script being defined as a schema of a cognitive structure that
applies to daily situations and defines social roles, expectations and
registers. From results obtained with an online questionnaire, Dewaele studies
the meta-discourse used by multilingual adults and their preferences for a
specific language to express specific social contexts. In conclusion, the
author argues that L1 scripts dominate even in bilingual adults and influence
their sociopragmatic competence in L2, a conclusion that is confirmed by the
subsequent Guillot and Hascoët studies.

In the second chapter, Marie-Noëlle Guillot compares the use of the particle
‘mais’ by native French speakers and English students of French during
conversation management before and after their year abroad. The particle
‘mais’ is important since it plays a key semantic and interactional role in
turn-taking and transactions, and it also functions somewhat differently in
French than the English, but at the onset of turns. Her study shows that after
a year abroad learners of French are aware of the pragmatic use of ‘mais’ and
take advantage of it. However, they do so to a greater extent than L1 speakers
of French and they seem not to have grasped the “greater range of pragmatic
values of ‘mais’” (p. 247), or at least they do not use them.

In the following chapter, Corinne Weber underlines the gap between the
register spoken in the classroom and the speech of reference used in daily
communication by the learners. Since textbook explanations and ritualized
classroom speech are insufficient in explaining and exemplifying how language
work in situ, she favors using authentic documents and focusing on typical
speech acts or conversational styles (such as irony) as well as on explaining
the differences of daily spoken French compared with classroom speech. The aim
is to help students develop a metalinguistic awareness.

The need to develop language learners’ awareness of differences in
conversation management in L1 and L2 is also Nathalie Hascoët’s conclusion in
chapter 4. The author builds on the Brown & Gullberg (2008) study on the
influence of L1 on L2, and in particular investigates how a French native
speaker of English expresses his or her point of view in L2, especially at the
onset of the conversation. Three elements are taken into account: the use of
discourse markers at the start of the conversation, the repetition of the
other person’s discourse and the phrases used to state one’s opinion. For
instance, French colloquial exchanges are marked differently than those in
English (using a ‘preface’ such as ‘mais enfin’, for example). Indeed,
Hascoët’s study attests to how L1 influences conversation management in L2.
Discussing the differences and using authentic conversation could be two means
to foster awareness and two research areas that her study might pursue.

Computer-mediated communication is Lorenzo Devilla’s focus in the fifth
chapter, and especially the opening and closing rituals among Italian and
French students communicating on the Galanet platform, a European project
created to promote and improve communication between speakers of Romance
languages. Working only on usages found when communicating in L2, the author
describes how French students use more opening and closing rituals than
Italians do, and use them more often. Moreover, these rituals in French have a
neutral tone (“routine standardisée”, p. 305), which combined with the
frequency of usage indicate a distant ethos (“ethos de distance”, p. 314).
Italians, in contrast, tend to use longer and more affectionate rituals and
also frequently use other languages in their opening and closing expressions
(“marqueur transcodique de proximité”, p. 311), which result in more convivial
exchanges. They tend then to display an ethos of closeness (“ethos
émotionnel”, p. 313).

Based on Brown and Levinson’s concepts of face-threatening acts and of
preference in Conversational Analysis, Kerry Mullan’s chapter (chapter 6)
argues that “disagreements are not viewed or managed interactionally in the
same way by French and Australian English speakers” (p. 320). Agreement being
the preferred response, disagreements are known to be longer in American
English and prefaced by hedges (Pomerantz 1984). Comparing three types of
conversation (among native speakers and among non-native speakers), the author
analyses the cultural differences in the speakers’ negotiation of
disagreements and management of faces. French speakers tend to accept and use
more disagreements in their conversational style than Australian English
speakers, a case in point being the several instances of French speakers
relishing the fact of not agreeing (‘je suis ravie de notre désaccord’ ‘I am
delighted we do not agree’).

In the seventh chapter, Caterina Falbo explores the role of interpreters in
media events such as staged exchanges (debates, speeches, etc.).
Intercultural communication being at the heart of interpretation work, the
interpreter has to respect the explicit and implicit cultural norms and values
at stake in each communicative event. Falbo argues, therefore, that both
speakers play an active role, which is not always acknowledged in televised
and ritualised exchanges.

In the last chapter of the book, Carlotta Cini compares how forms of address
in Italian and French, as well as ‘small words’ such as ‘un attimo’ (‘one
moment’), interjections and politeness routines are rendered in the
translation into French (dubbed version as well as subtitles) of Italian
films. Using the concepts of ethnolect, the study confirms the difference in
communicative ethos in the French and the Italian cultures, i.e., the French
data showing a more egalitarian and less intimate style (fewer forms of
address being used, for instance) than the Italian data. Furthermore she
concludes that inconsistencies in the translation are not only due to
practical constraints; it is important to take into account the differences in
the two cultures’ communicative ethos.


As mentioned in the introduction, the fact that French language and culture
(from France) is the common denominator of all articles in the book, make the
book a valuable reference tool given the rarity of work in pragmatics that
concentrate on French. Moreover, the wealth and the diversity of data
explored (especially welcome is the analysis of new media data, for instance),
as well as the range of communicative events taken into account (naturally
occurring conversation, language learning situations, translations), open new
research perspectives in the field of cross-cultural communication. There are
some editing problems (bibliographical references missing, spelling mistakes,
differing reference styles, etc.), which testify to the pressure under which
editing work is done today. In the last chapter, for instance, some key
concepts, such as low-kinesic or high-kinesic style, are neither explained nor
referenced. Moreover, the quality of research and writing is uneven.

Despite these shortcomings, however, most articles offer precise and
significant insights into the behaviors and styles examined, and into how
language functions in a certain society and at a certain point in time -- a
case in point are the studies in second language acquisition as well as
Traverso and Orecchioni’s studies, state of the art works of the French school
(so to speak) in conversational analysis. Also appreciated is the fact that
without undermining their own work, most authors acknowledge the limitations
of their conclusions and call for cautiousness in drawing generalisations
(“vigilance dans la portée des résultats”, p.121), given the generally small
size of the corpora under investigation and the non-asserted representativity
of the data studied. Indeed, in the presentation of the first section is
found an appeal to work within an interface of a socio-cultural theoretical
framework and conversational analysis. Surprisingly, a lengthy explanation of
the MSN framework (pp. 14-15) is provided in the same presentation, although
only one article focuses on Wierzbicka’s theory and only sporadic references
to this theoretical framework are found in the rest of the book. The point is
well taken, though, since this type of interface could be useful to frame
micro-analysis in order to extend, strengthen and broaden the conclusions, as
Wodak’s works anchored in her discourse-historical approach demonstrate
convincingly (e.g., Kwon, Clarke, and Wodak 2009).


Brown, Amanda & Marianne Gullberg. 2008. Bidirectional crosslinguistic
influence in L1- L2 encoding of manner in speech and gesture: A study of
Japanese Speakers of English, Studies in Second Language Acquisition 30,

Gumperz, John. 1968. ''The speech community.'' International encyclopedia of
the social sciences: 381-6. Macmillan . Reprinted in Alessandro Duranti, ed.,
2001. Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader, pp. 43-52. Malden, MA: Blackwell

Kerbrat-Orecchioni, Catherine. 2002. Système linguistique et ethos
communicatif, Cahier de praxématique 38, 37-59.

Kwon, Winston, Ian Clarke & Ruth Wodak. 2009. Organizational decision-making,
discourse, and power: integrating across contexts and scales, Discourse &
Communication 3 (3): 273–302.

Pomerantz, Anita. 1984. Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments. Some
features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In J. Maxwell Atkinson and
John Heritage, eds., Structures of Social Action, pp. 57-101. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Schank, Roger C. & Robert P. Abelson. 1977. Scripts, Plans, Goals, and
Understanding: An inquiry into human knowledge structures. Hillsdale: N.J.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Thomas, Jenny. 1984. Cross-cultural discourse as unequal encounter: toward a
pragmatic analysis, Applied Linguistics 5-3, 226-244.


Fabienne Baider is an Associate Professor at the University of Cyprus, Cyprus.
Her main research interests include language and gender, cross-cultural
semantics, and discourse analysis.
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