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Review of Research Trends in Intercultural Pragmatics
The book under review consists of 20 articles looking at current issues in the realm of intercultural pragmatics. The volume is organized in three sections: the linguistic and cognitive domain, the social and cultural domain, and the discourse and stylistic domain. In their introduction, the editors indicate that the purpose of the book is to look at intercultural interaction from a multilingual rather than a monolingual perspective. The chapters in the book provide insightful analyses of real language situations in different languages.
The first section, which looks at linguistic and cognitive aspects of intercultural pragmatics, consists of six articles. In the first article ‘Hate: Saliency features in cross-cultural semantics’, Fabienne Baider attempts to define Cypriot-Greek and Franco-French intra-culturality on the basis of oral and written data in reference to the emotion called “hatred”. The oral data comes from the most conventional conceptual associations related to hate in lexicographic definitions, common sayings, and proverbs. The written data comes from the most frequent conceptual associations in the three most popular daily newspapers in the two countries. The writer observes differences in conceptualizing the words examined and attributes these differences to the different models of social interactions in French and Greek-Cypriot cultures and different cultural attitudes towards emotional expressions. The author also examines saliency in each cultural community with regard to one’s age and sex. She concludes “in order to understand, teach and learn differences, we need as much to describe the core meaning common to both communities, as well as the socio-cultural differences built into this meaning” (p. 23).
The second paper of the first section is by Valandis Bardzokas and is entitled ‘The semantics and pragmatics of casual connectives: Conceptual and procedural aspects of Modern Greek ‘γιati’ and ‘epeiδi’’. In this paper, the writer contrasts the two causal markers ‘γιati’ and ‘epeiδi’ in Greek (both translated as ‘because’ in a wide range of contextual applications) with the aim of uncovering finely grained distinctions in causal meanings. Using Blakemore’s (1987, 2002) proposal for the distinction between conceptual and procedural meaning, the writer examines the use of the aforementioned connectives in various contexts and concludes that these connectives are not intersubstitutable because ‘epeiδi’ “constitutes a vehicle of conceptual cause realizing fully propositional conjunctive relations”, while ‘γιati’ encodes “either a procedural constraint in linguistically undermined conjunctive environments or conceptual information” (p. 52).
In the third article, ‘Being cooperatively (im)polite: Grice’s model in the context of (im)politeness theories’, Marta Dynel argues that some post-Gricean theories on (im)politeness (e.g. Brown and Levinson 1987; Lakoff 1973, 1977, 1989; Leech 1983; Watts 1992, 2003) are based on unfounded interpretations and modifications of the Gricean account and that politeness and impoliteness are rational communicative behaviours which exhibit no incongruity with the Cooperative Principle. Dynel proposes that (im)politeness can be viewed in the light of Grice’s original work on communicative rationality and intentionality, which underlie literal/explicit or implicit meanings.
The fourth article is by Joana Garmendia and is entitled ‘Irony: Making as if we pretend to echo’, which analyses some examples of irony using Sperber and Wilson’s (1981) “Echoic Mention Theory” and Clark and Gerrig’s (1984) “Pretense Theory”. The author concludes that although echo and pretense are not necessary to ironic utterances in general, they do play an essential role in some cases of irony. In order to explain both types of irony, Garmendia proposes “Asif”-Theory, which is grounded in Grice’s (1967/89) claims about irony.
In ‘Pragmatic awareness: An index of linguistic competence’, Elly Ifantidou first provides the theoretical framework for a pragmatic, genre-driven instruction and evaluation tool targeting academic learners’ pragmatic and linguistic competence. In doing so, she redefines pragmatic competence as a complex ability that includes pragmatic awareness, meta-pragmatic awareness and meta-linguistic competences. Ifantidou uses pragmatic awareness as a means of evaluating both pragmatic and linguistic competence. After providing theoretical background, the author provides experimental evidence of its effects when put to practice. For this purpose, the writer uses a pragmatic task (genre conversion) and compares it to two language tasks: outline summary and data description. She concludes that genre conversion can be more reliably used as an indication of pragmatic and linguistic competence in terms of reception and production.
In the final article of the first section, ‘Context dynamism in classroom discourse’, Laura Maguire and Jesús Romero-Trillo explore the acquisition of English by children in a bilingual school in Madrid through the lens of the Dynamic Model of Meaning (DMM). They discuss examples of successful and unsuccessful teacher-pupil interactions and conclude that English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners need to share the same common ground, that is, the same linguistic, private and situational contexts in order to achieve successful communication in the classroom. They take a complementary approach to the DMM model by identifying three modifications that affect common ground: the language proficiency of the interlocutors, the speakers’ maturity, and the activities carried out in the classroom context.
Section two consists of 6 articles focusing on the socio-cultural aspects of intercultural pragmatics. The first chapter is by Lucía Fernández-Amaya and is entitled ‘Simultaneous speech in American English and Spanish telephone closings’. The purpose of the study is, firstly, finding out the frequency and types of simultaneous speech in the two sets of data, and, secondly, examining Spanish and American speakers’ perceptions of this interruptive behavior. Fernández-Amaya concludes that simultaneous speech is commonly used by speakers to collaboratively maintain the floor. The author discusses the results from the point of view of Brown and Levinson’s (1987) Politeness Theory and maintains that simultaneous speech may not be perceived as a violation of turn-taking principles, but rather, it should be perceived as a positive politeness strategy creating a sort of bond between speakers when interacting with relatives and friends.
The second chapter in this section is by Maicol Formentelli and is entitled ‘A model of stance for the management of interpersonal relations: Formality, power, distance and respect’. Maintaining that existing theories of stance neglect the sociolinguistic features of the broader context of situations, the writer presents a model of stance that captures the links between the sociocultural and contextual components of situations and the expression of interpersonal meanings. This model of interpersonal stance is implemented along the four central parameters of formality, power, distance, and respect, as justified by social and contextual categories. The writer, then, examines some excerpts of naturally occurring English Lingua Franca (ELF) with reference to the proposed model.
‘The Russian social category ‘svoj’: A study in ethnopragmatics’, by Anna Gladkova, is devoted to discussing the meaning and cultural salience of the social category ‘svoj’ using an ethnopragmatic approach. The author proposes a semantic analysis of the term ‘svoj’ and explains speech practices associated with it. The aim of the study is to show how this social category term reveals Russian cultural values and attitudes.
The fourth article in this section, by Marinelly Piñango, is entitled ‘Outlining and proposing the constructs of institutional framework and institutional practice for the study of intercultural communication’. The aim of the article is to outline and propose an institutional framework and institutional practices for the study of intercultural pragmatics. The writer believes that misunderstandings happen in intercultural communication because participants who assign different meanings, values, and functions to different things may possess different institutional frameworks and practices. Piñango illustrates the above-mentioned point by referring to a book on parenting written by a Chinese mother and the subsequent reaction of American society.
Geneviève Tréguer-Felten’s article, ‘Can a lingua franca bridge the communication gap between corporations set in different cultures?’, investigates the cultural implications of using ELF for French and Chinese corporations as a means of communication. The writer chooses rhetoric, and more specifically, Aristotelian “ethos”, as a point of comparison. The author maintains that the rhetorical context in which discourse is set is of utmost importance since it influences the meaning values of lexical terms, the discourse, and the audience’s perception. She concludes that “ELF alone cannot bridge the communication gap between corporations set in different cultures” (p. 280).
The last paper in this section, ‘Variational pragmatics in Chinese: Some insights from an empirical study’, is by Wei Ren, Chih-Ying Lin and Helen Woodfield. It focuses on the actional level of Variational Pragmatics (VP) by studying the speech acts of compliments and refusals between Mainland Chinese and Taiwan Chinese undergraduate students. The intralingual analysis of the data suggests some similarities and differences in the explicit/implicitness and direct/indirectness of the Chinese and Taiwanese modes of compliments and refusals.
The third section presents eight articles revolving around discourse and stylistics in intercultural pragmatics. In the first chapter, entitled ‘The evaluative function of cohesive devices in three political texts’, Ana Belén Cabrejas Peñuelas and Mercedes Díez Prados attempt to find out to what extent cohesion and evaluation are intertwined. They study three political texts -- ‘The Gettysburg Address’, ‘I have a dream’ and Obama’s ‘Inaugural Address’ -- using Halliday and Hasan’s (1976) coding system, and Martin’s (1994) classification of evaluative resources. They conclude that “the aesthetic effect achieved by an effective use of cohesive devices may incline the listener to share the valued defended by the orator. That is the power of effective rhetoric, which, in a global world like ours, can become intercultural rhetoric” (p. 339).
The second chapter in this section, ‘Relational work in anonymous, asynchronous communication: A study of (dis)affiliation in You Tube’, is a joint paper by Pilar Garcés-Conejos Blitvich, Nuria Lorenzo-Dus and Patricia Bou-Franch. They conduct a micro-analysis of the communication used to construct dis/affiliation in YouTube postings. They believe that on YouTube, disaffiliation may be conveyed through impoliteness strategies and affiliation through politeness strategies. They combine the frameworks of Brown and Levinson (1978/1987), Culpeper (1996) and van Dijk (1998) in order to explain how dis/affiliation is constructed at the micro-level. They then relate it to the construction of social identity.
The article entitled ‘Manipulation and pragmatics in political discourse’, by Agnieszka Grzywna, explores speeches of the prime ministers of Spain and Poland with the aim of revealing the influences and origins of political discourse and manipulation from a pragmatic perspective. The author concludes that the orators used a variety of tools to attract attention, to convince, and to manipulate; however, the most important point is that a proper text interpretation depends on cultural environment and traditions.
Victoria Guillén-Nieto, in her article entitled ‘Intercultural business pragmatics: The case of the business letter of introduction’, focuses on the business letter of introduction (BLI) in order to explain the problem of mistranslation. The writer analyses three excerpts: a BLI (of a Spanish toy company) originally written in Spanish, the English translation of the Spanish BLI, and a reproduction of this BLI written in English done by a specialist informant from the toy making sector in the UK. Guillén-Nieto examines these excerpts in terms of text length, genre rhetorical patterns, type of language used to linguistically embody moves, and interactional metadiscourse patterns indicating the writer’s stance. Observing differences in the way a BLI is written in Spanish and Anglo-Saxon professional writing cultures, the author suggests that the following factors may influence the different socio-cultural expectations in the two cultural communities: an uncertainty avoidance index, individualism, and masculinity. The writer recommends that companies should hire highly qualified language consultants, translators, and interpreters in order to meet their market expansion requirements.
In ‘Zoo-pragmatics: Performative acts among animals’, Katya Mandoki attempts to prove that performativity (as intentional communicative action) need not be a verbal form exclusively belonging to humans. In her article, Mandoki first proposes Jakobson’s (1960) functions as performatives. In the second part of her paper, the author argues that there are two conditions for performative acts: directionality and communicability, both of which need not be exclusively verbal. In the last part of her paper, some non-verbal speech acts, including expressives, commissives, directives, assertives, declaratives, metalinguistic, phatics, and poetics are illustrated among animals.
José Santaemilia Ruiz and Sergio Maruenda Bataller’s article is entitled ‘Naming practices and negotiation of meaning: A corpus-based analysis of Spanish and English newspaper discourse’. The aim of the writers of this paper is to document and analyze the concepts, the discursive processes, the ideological tensions and the semantic negotiation resulting from two legal measures granting full marriage rights to gay couples in the UK and Spain. For this purpose, they combine Critical Discourse Analysis and Relevance-Theoretic Lexical Pragmatics (Carston 2002; Sperber & Wilson 1998; Wilson 2003; Wilson & Carston 2007) to analyze key semantic sets regarding naming practices for ‘people’ and ‘relationships’ in Spanish and British newspaper discourse.
Carmen Santamaría-García, in her chapter entitled ‘A compelling need to evaluate: Social networking sites as tools for the expression of affect, judgment and appreciation’, explores the expression of evaluation on Face Book (FB). The writer applies Martin and White’s (2005) Appraisal Theory to the study of evaluation and carries out a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the data. The analyses reveal that social networking site (SNS) users make frequent use of appraisal resources and positive politeness strategies “in order to claim common ground and establish rapport “ (p. 462). The writer also observes some new ways of expressing appraisal, like using emoticons, and concludes that the success of social networking sites “may lie in their use of the formal features in order to stimulate engagement of users through the communication of attitude” (p. 467).
The last paper of this edition is entitled ‘Strategies of discursive manipulation in the headlines of articles about Russia in the quality British press’. In this article, Alla Smirnova combines Intercultural Pragmatics and Critical Discourse Analysis in order to show how discursive strategies in the headlines of 80 articles devoted to the Russian President, Dimitry Medvedev, in British quality newspapers function to mediate dialogue between cultures. The findings of the research suggest that the following discursive strategies are used: metaphor, analogy, stereotype, allusion, and irony. Using examples from the corpus, the writer illustrates how these discursive strategies become a means of power abuse in the sphere of intercultural communication. The corpus analysis suggests that these strategies were used to delegitimize the Russian president and, consequently, the country as a whole.
As the title of the book suggests, this volume brings together research on a variety of issues in intercultural pragmatics in real language situations. It focuses on intercultural communication from a variety of perspectives. The articles in the volume focus on a range of written and spoken texts, including those that are political, computer mediated, and business-centered.
Some of the articles in the volume are particularly interesting because they apply intercultural pragmatics to practical domains. For example, Geneviève Tréguer-Felten’s article discusses the common problem of miscommunication in business environments, and Carmen Santamaría-García looks at evaluation and politeness strategies in the widely used social networking sites.
In sum, this book will be of primary interest to researchers of pragmatics around the world working on intercultural communication. The results gained from the articles based on corpus analysis, for example, Guillén-Nieto’s work on intercultural business pragmatics, and Tréguer-Felten’s article on using EFL to bridge the communication gap between corporations, could be of interest beyond academia. This book will likely have limited use as a textbook, except for advanced graduate-level seminars.
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ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Leila Khabbazi-Oskouei finished her PhD in language and linguistics at the University of East Anglia/UK in Dec. 2011. The title of her thesis is 'Interactional Variation in English and Persian: A Comparative Analysis of Metadsicourse Features in Magazine Editorials'. It focuses on comparing and contrasting the use of interactional devices in English and Persian, and discussing the similarities and differences in the light of the cultural expectations and political settings in some British and Iranian news magazine editorials. Her first thesis-driven paper ‘Propositional or Non-propositional, That is the Question: A New Approach to Analyzing Interpersonal Metadiscourse in Editorials’ was published in the Journal of Pragmatics in 2013. She is interested in the following subject areas: intercultural communication, the expression of interactional metadiscourse in the media, particularly the press, patterns of cross-cultural variation in British and Iranian discourse.