LINGUIST List 23.4453

Thu Oct 25 2012

Review: Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics; Discourse Analysis: Bednarek (2012)

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



Date: 25-Oct-2012
From: Vasilica Le Floch <Vasilica.Le-Flochuniv-nancy2.fr>
Subject: Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Cross-Cultural Communication
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Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-467.html
EDITOR: Adam BednarekTITLE: Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Cross-Cultural CommunicationSERIES TITLE: LINCOM Studies in Pragmatics 21PUBLISHER: LINCOM GmbHYEAR: 2012

Vasilica Le Floch, IDEA Research Group, IUT Charlemagne, Université de Lorraine,France.

SUMMARY

“Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Cross-Cultural Communication” is the fourthof a series of volumes devoted to communication. This volume is a collection ofeleven research papers that focus on communication and cross-culturalcommunication. Researchers from Poland, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Germanybring their perspectives to linguistics and its relations to sociolinguistics,anthropology, social psychology, cognitive linguistics, pragmatics and culturestudies. Particular aspects of several languages are brought to the reader’sattention, giving rich interdisciplinary insights into language and interestingsuggestions for further research.

The first paper, by Barbara Lewandowska Tomaszczyk, is “Blurring the Boundaries:A Model of Online Computer-Mediated Communication Activities (OCA).” She beginswith a description of computer mediated communication (CMC), and of its specificparameters; a new type of Author-Addressee relationship is thus defined. As faras the communicative functions of language are concerned, they are all presentin CMC. Nevertheless, in CMC, paralinguistic signals are not accessible to theaddressee, 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). Withthe development of CMC, a new type of language user has been evolving: a hybridbetween Author and Addressee. In the communication world of arts and media,authors are no longer the only active language providers. Given the specificcontext of Internet technologies, boundaries between active language providersand silent audiences are blurred: audiences are no longer silent, addressees areno longer passive. Addressees not only receive messages, they also reshape andreconstruct knowledge. It is shown that web tools and modern communicationtechnologies allow the addressee to become “an active participant who does notpassively receive the message but who contributes to the incoming knowledge,shapes it and gives the receiving message the final form” (p. 11). Thisreshaping process has several sources: the social and cultural parameters of theinteraction, the context and the way the addressees construct their identitiesin the virtual world. As Lewandowska Tomaszczyk further demonstrates, there isalso 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 atidentifying the strategies that users apply to express their perception of aselected political event (Polish Parliamentary Elections, 2011). The researcherproposes a Model of Overall Online CMC Activities (OCA), which takes intoaccount 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 eachindividual user with all other users in the same topic domain” (p. 12) is givendetailed description; four graphs are also provided. English and Polishnewspaper articles and their respective commentaries are analyzed and researchresults indicate differences between English and Polish language users. As theresearcher states, the results of her study can only be treated as tentative:English and Polish texts have different structures; the two corpora are ofdifferent size and commentaries seem to be of different types. Interdisciplinaryperspectives are needed here to account for all aspects of CMC and to describecommentary writers in terms of cultural, political, social and linguisticbackground. Appendices give detailed information about corpora; text examplesare also included.

Paper 2, by Louis Wei-lun Lu and Lily I-wen Su, is “Antonymous Polysemy: Thecase of -shang in Mandarin.” This study focuses on polysemy and contradictorymeanings developed by the suffix -shang in Mandarin. To illustrate thisphenomenon of semantic opposition, the authors start by giving an example takenfrom Lee (2001), of the English preposition ‘out’ (‘The stars are out/A cloudblotted out the sun’). In the first part of the paper the authors introduce theconcept of “antonymous polysemy”, that was first used by Lewandowska Tomaszczyk(1998) and give a rich literature review on this topic. In Mandarin, cases ofantonymous polysemy have been found in prepositions and in suffixes. The authorsprovide examples of the suffix -shang allowing two opposite readings: completiveand inceptive. The analysis takes into account the collocating verbs of thissuffix and focuses on two factors: the conceptual profile and the conceptualcontent of each cluster. While it is shown that there are distinct completiveand inceptive clusters for -shang, the researchers also provide examples ofcollocating verbs being “ambiguous tokens that can be considered a transitionalstage” (p. 43). Antonymous polysemy is shown to be a result of a twist in theperspective on conceptual content. The authors also discuss metaphor andattenuation as factors to the semantic opposition of the completive -shang andthe inceptive -shang. The study offers an analysis from two complementaryperspectives: conceptual and constructional.

The third paper, “Repetition of Conceptual Content/Reformulation and LexicalBorrowing,” is by Jerzy Tomaszczyk,. This study describes and analyzesrepetition and reformulation in relation to lexical loans, which are “sometimesused in company of native synonyms” (p. 51). The corpus was drawn from 500 hoursof Polish conversation, recorded from 2008 to 2011. The researcher offersdetailed description of the linguistic data, coming from speakers with a verywide range of ages, topics and professional backgrounds. A clear distinction ismade between repetition of conceptual content: “the speaker appearing to besaying the same thing twice, but using different words” (p. 52) as opposed toreformulation, which involves generally a reformulation marker, usually acopula, between the two elements (Hyland 2007). Repetition and reformulationinstances are counted and clearly described. It is asserted that at an earlystage in their life, lexical loans are gradually integrated into the linguisticsystem by means of native forms that are likely to be understood by allspeakers. The study brings in interesting conclusions on discourse synonymy andspeaker behavior.

In “Taking Stock in Audiovisual Translation” Łukasz Bogucki reports on the stateof the art regarding audiovisual translation (AVT). The author starts byreviewing 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 versionsof audiovisual material” (p. 65) and “making the audiovisual content accessibleto the blind as well as the deaf” (p. 65). The author proposes ten adjectives tocharacterize AVT: attractive, under-researched, dynamic, intersemiotic, ominous,varied, imperfect, divisive, elitist and omnipresent. These adjectives areexplained and interesting data about the industry in Poland is provided. Theimpact of technology on audiovisual translation is also described and analyzed.While AVT is a fertile research field and an increasing number of students wantto become translators, training opportunities at advanced levels are rare andprofessionals complain about their work conditions.

Adam Bednarek’s paper “Localization and Translation in Cross CulturalEnvironments: Issues of Website Localization” focuses on quality assessmentaspects of localized websites. The term “localization” is defined as “the secondphase of translation project work, accounting for distinctions, bothsocio-cultural, linguistic and technical within appropriate markets” (p. 71). Itis stated that as a new and developing field, localization lacks methodologicalbackground. In the specific case of website localization, several elements areto be taken into account: contents, communication tone, graphical components.The author asserts that localization puts stronger emphasis on technology andtranslation tools, as compared to standard translation. Cultural aspects,pragmatic and lexical elements as well as marketing strategies also suggestinteresting insights into localization.

The second part of the paper is devoted to a case study through a studentproject; it aims at reaching a set of criteria for quality assessment of websitelocalization. The students were presented with a website for a holidaydestination. The project addressed three main aspects: cross-culturalcommunicative strategy, market function and digital acceptability. Based on aliterature review and project work, the study presents a range of parameters tobe 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?, byElżbieta Jendrych, discusses routine formulas and conventions in businesscommunication. 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 beingsubject to generation or analysis by the language grammar” (Wray, 2002). Theauthor describes typical situations in which formulas are used, and analyzestheir function inside companies and at a global business level. Interestinginsights are given for teaching English for business communication. It is arguedthat 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 anessential element in letter and e-mail structure. Conventions are also found anddescribed in text organization. Conventions in text structure are accompanied byappropriate formulas and style. Conclusions point out the importance ofconventions for good business practices as well as for effective language teaching.

Halina Wisniewska, in “Written Business Discourse in Lingua Franca: apedagogical perspective,” proposes a pedagogical approach to written businessdiscourse, based on communicative, sociolinguistic and pragmatic considerations.The introductory part offers a review of communication models as they aredescribed by Shannon and Weaver (1949), Schramm (1954), and Grice in his maximsof conversation: “maxim of quantity, maxim of quality, maxim of relevance, maximof manner” (p. 91). As far as English as a business lingua franca is concerned,non-native speakers need to possess linguistic competence and cultural awarenessof national cultures as well as of specific company cultures. In the case ofwritten communication, the author mentions several recurrent types of discourse,corresponding to important communication goals such as: explaining, introducingnews/information, and inducing action. Relational strategies in writtencommunication are also discussed, in relation to audience awareness, discoursetypes and metadiscourse signals. The list of textual metadiscourse markerssuggests an interesting method of analysis. The final part of the paperdiscusses business writing skills in course curricula. It brings in interestingdata and pertinent pedagogical recommendations regarding the content of businesscommunication courses and the intercultural communicative competence they areexpected to provide.

In “The Persuasive Nature of Letters to the Editor: The case of deonticattitudinal meanings expressed by Polish and English writers,” TatianaSzczygłowska examines discourse strategies and persuasion techniques used inletters to the press. The corpus is composed of 100 Polish and English letterspublished in 2004. The author defines the letters to the editor as “a type ofwritten discourse, whose argumentative dimension is emphasized by a set ofinterlinked argument-claim sequences, all meant to come to a shared stance onsome issue” (p. 103). The paper gives an interesting literature review of theargumentative attitude as a linguistic feature. The methodological framework isclearly described and the deontic argumentative strategies are explained throughexamples. It is shown that the aim of letters to the editor is to advance apersonal opinion to a wide audience and to give recommendations for action. Theconcept of “deontic claim” holds a central role in the analysis, which comparesthe Polish and English corpora. The research results from these two corpora arecompared and several figures throughout the paper illustrate the differences andsimilarities noted. Two variables are used to summarize and interpret theresearch results: the frequency of deontic claims and the linguistic featuresthat express the writers’ deontic attitude (such as direct imperatives, modaloperators, and lexicalized deontic context). The analysis of deonticargumentative strategies and the figure displaying their distribution (p. 113)provide interesting data and research perspectives that can be applied to othertypes of corpora. The comparison between English and Polish writers points outcertain differences in the way they express opinions.

The ninth paper, Die Korpuslinguistik und der Sprachgebrauch in einertheoretischen Betrachtung unter Berücksichtigung der Kernbegriffe einerDiskursanalyse, by Dorota Biadala (Universität Heidelberg) is written in German.It focuses on corpora and their use in discourse analysis, and suggests commonresearch areas for corpus linguists and “armchair linguists” as Fillmore (1992)ironically calls them. Important concepts in corpus linguistics are listed anddefined. The article offers an extended list of German and Polish languagecorpora available to date.

Paper 10, “Pragmatic Functions of the ‘Purse Hand’ Shape in Everyday GreekDiscourse,” is by Agata Blichewicz,. The ‘purse hand’ shape as a specificgestural modality marker is studied here from a pragmatic point of view. Theauthor notes important variation in gestures and gesture meanings acrosscultures. It is shown that the purse hand has several meanings, going fromrequesting information (in Italy) to showing satisfaction and the excellence ofsomething (in Greece), showing sarcasm and criticism (in Malta), or signalingfear (in the French-speaking part of Belgium). Previous research on the topic(most notably Kendon 2004) is identified and constitutes the framework for thepresent study. Contrary to emblems, gestures accompany words but cannot be usedto replace them.

The research corpus is composed of four hours of video recordings, collected inten days in Crete; 15 people, males and females of different ages, took part inthe recordings. The researcher identified 89 occurrences of the purse hand inthe corpus, complete or incomplete, moved sagitally, vertically or horizontally.Several pictures of speakers are provided as part of the description. Theresearch results highlight four distinct functions of the purse hand gesture inGreek: the expression of question, the expression of essence, topicspecification and disagreement. The forms and functions of the purse handgesture “are similar in the case of essence and specification, the use of itwith questions is similar, but the movement differs” (p. 141). Interestingsuggestions for further research are given in the conclusion.

The final paper is by Anna Pałczyńska, “Generic Usage of Nouns and Pronouns inSelected English, German and Polish EU Documents.” This article deals with theissue of naming and semantic representation of women, and the use of gendernouns as part of language conventions. The first part is devoted to a fairlycomplete 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 assexist” (p. 149). The second part of the article gives a detailed analysis ofgender generics (nouns referring to both sexes) as opposed to feminine andmasculine forms. The author focuses on three language versions, English, Germanand Polish, of the Directive 2010/41/EU (on the application of the principle ofequal treatment between men and women) and notes that “English in this legaldocument is in accordance with all linguistic solutions to the problem of sexismin language” (p. 150). The Polish and German documents still provide examples ofthe sexist use of gender nouns. Clear examples are given to support thisargument. It is thus shown that documents do not have the same pragmatic valuein the three languages. Authors’ and translators’ lexical choices may partlyaccount for this situation. Nevertheless, it is suggested that the structure ofcertain languages (Polish and German) should be considered, since in suchlanguages nouns are ascribed a grammatical gender and gender markers are morevisible.

EVALUATION

This volume is part of a research project of the Lodz International StudiesAcademy, focusing on “communication and organization of various parameters ofanalysis” (p. 3). It is the fourth volume of a series devoted to communication;several conferences have also been organized in relation to this researchproject. The volume brings together different perspectives into the changingfield of communication studies. “Interdisciplinary Perspectives inCross-Cultural Communication” is interesting in many respects: it offersoriginal contributions to the field of cross-cultural communication and bringsin methodological aspects of the study of communication in its relations tosociolinguistics, 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 ofinterest not only to researchers working in communication studies, but also tolinguists, translators and language teachers.

The book addresses various traditional and modern modes of communicating,including computer mediated communication, although its primary objective, asstated in the Preface, is to “focus on discourse functional and pragmaticanalysis” (p. 3). The scholars who contribute to this volume work with differenttypes of data sets and several case studies focus on relatively new media, suchas digitized newspapers, television and radio transcripts, recorded discussionsand interviews, e-mails and messages to discussion groups. One interestingaspect of the current volume is the analysis provided for new media data, whichclearly opens research perspectives in the field of cross-cultural communication.

A notable merit of the book is that it brings into discussion diverse analyticalapproaches and various languages. Cross-cultural communication is not only thecentral object of the book but also one of its most notable achievements.Original research methods applied to certain languages could easily betransposed to other types of data and to different languages; they can thus beviewed as a new form of intercultural communication among scholars.

All of the papers focus on communication, and most of them proposeinterdisciplinary perspectives, as announced in the title. It shouldnevertheless be noted that the quality of the papers varies across the volume.Most articles offer rich literature reviews, but they sometimes lackexplanations as to the choice of specific methodologies used. Research resultsinvite reflection and open up interesting research perspectives; morecomprehensive and detailed research results could be expected in some articles.The paper written in German, and some Appendix documents in Polish might beinaccessible to certain readers. However, it should be noted that data ispresented clearly throughout the book; graphs, pictures, figures and lists helpthe reader understand research methods and results; nevertheless, certain graphsdo not allow the actual reading of data, due to unsatisfactory picture quality.Foreign language examples are accompanied by their translation into English. Toconclude, the volume offers original insights into communication and willundoubtedly provide interesting perspectives for future research.

REFERENCES

Cameron, Deborah. 1990. The Feminist Critique of Language. London: Routledge.

Fillmore, Charles. 1992. Corpus Linguistics vs. Computer-aided ArmchairLinguistics. In Directions in Corpus Linguistics. (Proceedings from a 1992 NobelSymposium on Corpus Linguistics, Stockholm.) Mouton de Gruyter.

Hyland, Ken. 2007. Applying a Gloss: Exemplifying and Reformulating in AcademicDiscourse. Applied Linguistics 28/2 : 266-285.

Kendon, Adam. 2004. Gesture: Visible Action as Utterance. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.

Lakoff, Robin, 1975. Language and Woman’s Place. New York: Routledge.

Lee, David. 2001. Cognitive Linguistics: An Introduction. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press.

Lewandowska Tomaszczyk, Barbara. 1998. Dynamic Perspectives on AntonymousPolysemy. In Schulze, Rainer (ed.). Making Meaningful Choices in English.Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag Tübingen.

Schramm, Wilbur. 1954. How Communication Works. In Schramm, Wilbur, ed. TheProcess and Effects of Communication. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Shannon, Claude E. & Weaver, Warren. 1949. The Mathematical Theory ofCommunication. Urbana: The University of Illinois Press.

Wray, Alison. 2002. Formulaic Language and the Lexicon. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.

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.


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