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Review of Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Cross-Cultural Communication
EDITOR: Adam Bednarek TITLE: Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Cross-Cultural Communication SERIES TITLE: LINCOM Studies in Pragmatics 21 PUBLISHER: LINCOM GmbH YEAR: 2012
Vasilica Le Floch, IDEA Research Group, IUT Charlemagne, Université de Lorraine, France.
“Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Cross-Cultural Communication” is the fourth of a series of volumes devoted to communication. This volume is a collection of eleven research papers that focus on communication and cross-cultural communication. Researchers from Poland, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Germany bring their perspectives to linguistics and its relations to sociolinguistics, anthropology, social psychology, cognitive linguistics, pragmatics and culture studies. Particular aspects of several languages are brought to the reader’s attention, giving rich interdisciplinary insights into language and interesting suggestions for further research.
The first paper, by Barbara Lewandowska Tomaszczyk, is “Blurring the Boundaries: A Model of Online Computer-Mediated Communication Activities (OCA).” She begins with a description of computer mediated communication (CMC), and of its specific parameters; a new type of Author-Addressee relationship is thus defined. As far as the communicative functions of language are concerned, they are all present in CMC. Nevertheless, in CMC, paralinguistic signals are not accessible to the addressee, since the message sender is generally distant from their audience. The researcher also introduces a new language function, “the Ludic Function, when the user employs the medium to play and get entertainment” (p. 10). With the development of CMC, a new type of language user has been evolving: a hybrid between Author and Addressee. In the communication world of arts and media, authors are no longer the only active language providers. Given the specific context of Internet technologies, boundaries between active language providers and silent audiences are blurred: audiences are no longer silent, addressees are no longer passive. Addressees not only receive messages, they also reshape and reconstruct knowledge. It is shown that web tools and modern communication technologies allow the addressee to become “an active participant who does not passively receive the message but who contributes to the incoming knowledge, shapes it and gives the receiving message the final form” (p. 11). This reshaping process has several sources: the social and cultural parameters of the interaction, the context and the way the addressees construct their identities in the virtual world. As Lewandowska Tomaszczyk further demonstrates, there is also a blurring of boundaries “between the language modes -- spoken and written, between types of genres such as a conversation, narration or description..., between private and public domains, between the real and the virtual worlds” (p. 11).
The second part of the paper offers an interesting case study, which aims at identifying the strategies that users apply to express their perception of a selected political event (Polish Parliamentary Elections, 2011). The researcher proposes a Model of Overall Online CMC Activities (OCA), which takes into account quantitative parameters (interconnectivity value, utterance length, etc.) as well as qualitative parameters (lexical choices, syntactic patterns, etc.). Interconnectivity, defined as “the strength of connection of each individual user with all other users in the same topic domain” (p. 12) is given detailed description; four graphs are also provided. English and Polish newspaper articles and their respective commentaries are analyzed and research results indicate differences between English and Polish language users. As the researcher states, the results of her study can only be treated as tentative: English and Polish texts have different structures; the two corpora are of different size and commentaries seem to be of different types. Interdisciplinary perspectives are needed here to account for all aspects of CMC and to describe commentary writers in terms of cultural, political, social and linguistic background. Appendices give detailed information about corpora; text examples are also included.
Paper 2, by Louis Wei-lun Lu and Lily I-wen Su, is “Antonymous Polysemy: The case of -shang in Mandarin.” This study focuses on polysemy and contradictory meanings developed by the suffix -shang in Mandarin. To illustrate this phenomenon of semantic opposition, the authors start by giving an example taken from Lee (2001), of the English preposition ‘out’ (‘The stars are out/A cloud blotted out the sun’). In the first part of the paper the authors introduce the concept of “antonymous polysemy”, that was first used by Lewandowska Tomaszczyk (1998) and give a rich literature review on this topic. In Mandarin, cases of antonymous polysemy have been found in prepositions and in suffixes. The authors provide examples of the suffix -shang allowing two opposite readings: completive and inceptive. The analysis takes into account the collocating verbs of this suffix and focuses on two factors: the conceptual profile and the conceptual content of each cluster. While it is shown that there are distinct completive and inceptive clusters for -shang, the researchers also provide examples of collocating verbs being “ambiguous tokens that can be considered a transitional stage” (p. 43). Antonymous polysemy is shown to be a result of a twist in the perspective on conceptual content. The authors also discuss metaphor and attenuation as factors to the semantic opposition of the completive -shang and the inceptive -shang. The study offers an analysis from two complementary perspectives: conceptual and constructional.
The third paper, “Repetition of Conceptual Content/Reformulation and Lexical Borrowing,” is by Jerzy Tomaszczyk,. This study describes and analyzes repetition and reformulation in relation to lexical loans, which are “sometimes used in company of native synonyms” (p. 51). The corpus was drawn from 500 hours of Polish conversation, recorded from 2008 to 2011. The researcher offers detailed description of the linguistic data, coming from speakers with a very wide range of ages, topics and professional backgrounds. A clear distinction is made between repetition of conceptual content: “the speaker appearing to be saying the same thing twice, but using different words” (p. 52) as opposed to reformulation, which involves generally a reformulation marker, usually a copula, between the two elements (Hyland 2007). Repetition and reformulation instances are counted and clearly described. It is asserted that at an early stage in their life, lexical loans are gradually integrated into the linguistic system by means of native forms that are likely to be understood by all speakers. The study brings in interesting conclusions on discourse synonymy and speaker behavior.
In “Taking Stock in Audiovisual Translation” Łukasz Bogucki reports on the state of the art regarding audiovisual translation (AVT). The author starts by reviewing the range of names that have been used to refer to AVT. In this paper, the term AVT refers to two distinct things: “preparing foreign language versions of audiovisual material” (p. 65) and “making the audiovisual content accessible to the blind as well as the deaf” (p. 65). The author proposes ten adjectives to characterize AVT: attractive, under-researched, dynamic, intersemiotic, ominous, varied, imperfect, divisive, elitist and omnipresent. These adjectives are explained and interesting data about the industry in Poland is provided. The impact of technology on audiovisual translation is also described and analyzed. While AVT is a fertile research field and an increasing number of students want to become translators, training opportunities at advanced levels are rare and professionals complain about their work conditions.
Adam Bednarek’s paper “Localization and Translation in Cross Cultural Environments: Issues of Website Localization” focuses on quality assessment aspects of localized websites. The term “localization” is defined as “the second phase of translation project work, accounting for distinctions, both socio-cultural, linguistic and technical within appropriate markets” (p. 71). It is stated that as a new and developing field, localization lacks methodological background. In the specific case of website localization, several elements are to be taken into account: contents, communication tone, graphical components. The author asserts that localization puts stronger emphasis on technology and translation tools, as compared to standard translation. Cultural aspects, pragmatic and lexical elements as well as marketing strategies also suggest interesting insights into localization.
The second part of the paper is devoted to a case study through a student project; it aims at reaching a set of criteria for quality assessment of website localization. The students were presented with a website for a holiday destination. The project addressed three main aspects: cross-cultural communicative strategy, market function and digital acceptability. Based on a literature review and project work, the study presents a range of parameters to be used in website localization quality assessment: skopos, functionality, technicality, encoding of text elements, displayability, HTML/XML acceptability, marketing value, and target audience (p. 79).
The sixth paper, “Do Companies Need Routine in Business Communication?, by Elżbieta Jendrych, discusses routine formulas and conventions in business communication. A formula is defined as “a sequence, continuous or discontinuous, of words, or other elements, which is, or appears to be, prefabricated: that is, stored and retrieved whole from memory at the time of use, rather than being subject to generation or analysis by the language grammar” (Wray, 2002). The author describes typical situations in which formulas are used, and analyzes their function inside companies and at a global business level. Interesting insights are given for teaching English for business communication. It is argued that business conventions come from two sources: business culture and tradition, and the need for predictability and logical structure (p. 82). In speaking, formulas appear in typical business situations; in writing, they are an essential element in letter and e-mail structure. Conventions are also found and described in text organization. Conventions in text structure are accompanied by appropriate formulas and style. Conclusions point out the importance of conventions for good business practices as well as for effective language teaching.
Halina Wisniewska, in “Written Business Discourse in Lingua Franca: a pedagogical perspective,” proposes a pedagogical approach to written business discourse, based on communicative, sociolinguistic and pragmatic considerations. The introductory part offers a review of communication models as they are described by Shannon and Weaver (1949), Schramm (1954), and Grice in his maxims of conversation: “maxim of quantity, maxim of quality, maxim of relevance, maxim of manner” (p. 91). As far as English as a business lingua franca is concerned, non-native speakers need to possess linguistic competence and cultural awareness of national cultures as well as of specific company cultures. In the case of written communication, the author mentions several recurrent types of discourse, corresponding to important communication goals such as: explaining, introducing news/information, and inducing action. Relational strategies in written communication are also discussed, in relation to audience awareness, discourse types and metadiscourse signals. The list of textual metadiscourse markers suggests an interesting method of analysis. The final part of the paper discusses business writing skills in course curricula. It brings in interesting data and pertinent pedagogical recommendations regarding the content of business communication courses and the intercultural communicative competence they are expected to provide.
In “The Persuasive Nature of Letters to the Editor: The case of deontic attitudinal meanings expressed by Polish and English writers,” Tatiana Szczygłowska examines discourse strategies and persuasion techniques used in letters to the press. The corpus is composed of 100 Polish and English letters published in 2004. The author defines the letters to the editor as “a type of written discourse, whose argumentative dimension is emphasized by a set of interlinked argument-claim sequences, all meant to come to a shared stance on some issue” (p. 103). The paper gives an interesting literature review of the argumentative attitude as a linguistic feature. The methodological framework is clearly described and the deontic argumentative strategies are explained through examples. It is shown that the aim of letters to the editor is to advance a personal opinion to a wide audience and to give recommendations for action. The concept of “deontic claim” holds a central role in the analysis, which compares the Polish and English corpora. The research results from these two corpora are compared and several figures throughout the paper illustrate the differences and similarities noted. Two variables are used to summarize and interpret the research results: the frequency of deontic claims and the linguistic features that express the writers’ deontic attitude (such as direct imperatives, modal operators, and lexicalized deontic context). The analysis of deontic argumentative strategies and the figure displaying their distribution (p. 113) provide interesting data and research perspectives that can be applied to other types of corpora. The comparison between English and Polish writers points out certain differences in the way they express opinions.
The ninth paper, Die Korpuslinguistik und der Sprachgebrauch in einer theoretischen Betrachtung unter Berücksichtigung der Kernbegriffe einer Diskursanalyse, by Dorota Biadala (Universität Heidelberg) is written in German. It focuses on corpora and their use in discourse analysis, and suggests common research areas for corpus linguists and “armchair linguists” as Fillmore (1992) ironically calls them. Important concepts in corpus linguistics are listed and defined. The article offers an extended list of German and Polish language corpora available to date.
Paper 10, “Pragmatic Functions of the ‘Purse Hand’ Shape in Everyday Greek Discourse,” is by Agata Blichewicz,. The ‘purse hand’ shape as a specific gestural modality marker is studied here from a pragmatic point of view. The author notes important variation in gestures and gesture meanings across cultures. It is shown that the purse hand has several meanings, going from requesting information (in Italy) to showing satisfaction and the excellence of something (in Greece), showing sarcasm and criticism (in Malta), or signaling fear (in the French-speaking part of Belgium). Previous research on the topic (most notably Kendon 2004) is identified and constitutes the framework for the present study. Contrary to emblems, gestures accompany words but cannot be used to replace them.
The research corpus is composed of four hours of video recordings, collected in ten days in Crete; 15 people, males and females of different ages, took part in the recordings. The researcher identified 89 occurrences of the purse hand in the corpus, complete or incomplete, moved sagitally, vertically or horizontally. Several pictures of speakers are provided as part of the description. The research results highlight four distinct functions of the purse hand gesture in Greek: the expression of question, the expression of essence, topic specification and disagreement. The forms and functions of the purse hand gesture “are similar in the case of essence and specification, the use of it with questions is similar, but the movement differs” (p. 141). Interesting suggestions for further research are given in the conclusion.
The final paper is by Anna Pałczyńska, “Generic Usage of Nouns and Pronouns in Selected English, German and Polish EU Documents.” This article deals with the issue of naming and semantic representation of women, and the use of gender nouns as part of language conventions. The first part is devoted to a fairly complete literature review of the feminist critique of language (Lakoff 1975, Cameron 1990). The examples given mainly illustrate English and German; nevertheless, the author notes that “Polish language has also been described as sexist” (p. 149). The second part of the article gives a detailed analysis of gender generics (nouns referring to both sexes) as opposed to feminine and masculine forms. The author focuses on three language versions, English, German and Polish, of the Directive 2010/41/EU (on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women) and notes that “English in this legal document is in accordance with all linguistic solutions to the problem of sexism in language” (p. 150). The Polish and German documents still provide examples of the sexist use of gender nouns. Clear examples are given to support this argument. It is thus shown that documents do not have the same pragmatic value in the three languages. Authors’ and translators’ lexical choices may partly account for this situation. Nevertheless, it is suggested that the structure of certain languages (Polish and German) should be considered, since in such languages nouns are ascribed a grammatical gender and gender markers are more visible.
This volume is part of a research project of the Lodz International Studies Academy, focusing on “communication and organization of various parameters of analysis” (p. 3). It is the fourth volume of a series devoted to communication; several conferences have also been organized in relation to this research project. The volume brings together different perspectives into the changing field of communication studies. “Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Cross-Cultural Communication” is interesting in many respects: it offers original contributions to the field of cross-cultural communication and brings in methodological aspects of the study of communication in its relations to sociolinguistics, anthropology, social psychology, cognitive linguistics, pragmatics and culture studies. The research papers focus on several languages: English, Polish, German, Mandarin, and Greek, and they are likely to be of interest not only to researchers working in communication studies, but also to linguists, translators and language teachers.
The book addresses various traditional and modern modes of communicating, including computer mediated communication, although its primary objective, as stated in the Preface, is to “focus on discourse functional and pragmatic analysis” (p. 3). The scholars who contribute to this volume work with different types of data sets and several case studies focus on relatively new media, such as digitized newspapers, television and radio transcripts, recorded discussions and interviews, e-mails and messages to discussion groups. One interesting aspect of the current volume is the analysis provided for new media data, which clearly opens research perspectives in the field of cross-cultural communication.
A notable merit of the book is that it brings into discussion diverse analytical approaches and various languages. Cross-cultural communication is not only the central object of the book but also one of its most notable achievements. Original research methods applied to certain languages could easily be transposed to other types of data and to different languages; they can thus be viewed as a new form of intercultural communication among scholars.
All of the papers focus on communication, and most of them propose interdisciplinary perspectives, as announced in the title. It should nevertheless be noted that the quality of the papers varies across the volume. Most articles offer rich literature reviews, but they sometimes lack explanations as to the choice of specific methodologies used. Research results invite reflection and open up interesting research perspectives; more comprehensive and detailed research results could be expected in some articles. The paper written in German, and some Appendix documents in Polish might be inaccessible to certain readers. However, it should be noted that data is presented clearly throughout the book; graphs, pictures, figures and lists help the reader understand research methods and results; nevertheless, certain graphs do not allow the actual reading of data, due to unsatisfactory picture quality. Foreign language examples are accompanied by their translation into English. To conclude, the volume offers original insights into communication and will undoubtedly provide interesting perspectives for future research.
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Fillmore, Charles. 1992. Corpus Linguistics vs. Computer-aided Armchair Linguistics. In Directions in Corpus Linguistics. (Proceedings from a 1992 Nobel Symposium on Corpus Linguistics, Stockholm.) Mouton de Gruyter.
Hyland, Ken. 2007. Applying a Gloss: Exemplifying and Reformulating in Academic Discourse. Applied Linguistics 28/2 : 266-285.
Kendon, Adam. 2004. Gesture: Visible Action as Utterance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lakoff, Robin, 1975. Language and Woman’s Place. New York: Routledge.
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Lewandowska Tomaszczyk, Barbara. 1998. Dynamic Perspectives on Antonymous Polysemy. In Schulze, Rainer (ed.). Making Meaningful Choices in English. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag Tübingen.
Schramm, Wilbur. 1954. How Communication Works. In Schramm, Wilbur, ed. The Process and Effects of Communication. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
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Wray, Alison. 2002. Formulaic Language and the Lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Vasilica Le Floch is a lecturer at IUT Charlemagne, Lorraine University,
France. She belongs to the IDEA research group (Interdisciplinarity in
English Studies). Her main research interests include language
subjectivity, punctuation, translation and corpus linguistics. She is also
working in the field of computational linguistics.