29.2857, Review: Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics; Translation: Assimakopoulos, Kecskes (2017)

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Subject: 29.2857, Review: Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics; Translation: Assimakopoulos, Kecskes (2017)

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Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2018 11:26:25
From: Dongmei Cheng [dongmei.cheng at tamuc.edu]
Subject: Current Issues in Intercultural Pragmatics

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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/28/28-3053.html

EDITOR: Istvan  Kecskes
EDITOR: Stavros  Assimakopoulos
TITLE: Current Issues in Intercultural Pragmatics
SERIES TITLE: Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 274
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2017

REVIEWER: Dongmei Cheng, Texas A&M University

Current Issues in Intercultural Pragmatics. Istvan Kecskes & Stavros
Assimakopoulos (Eds.). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing
Company. 369 pp. Hardback, ISBN: 978-90-272-5679-9. 


Targeting intercultural communication, this volume is the newest volume of the
new Pragmatics & Beyond  series published by John Benjamins. Papers included
in this volume were selected from those presented at the 6th International
Conference on Intercultural Pragmatics and Communication, which took place in
May/June 2014 at the University of Malta. These papers represent a wide array
of interdisciplinary works, all focusing on pragmatics in social interactions
in different contexts, including lingua franca communication, business
communication, cultural perceptions, translation, and pragmatic development. 

The first part contains two papers that are more theoretical in nature. In
Chapter 1, Robert Crawshaw argues for an emancipatory approach to pragmatic
analysis. An emancipatory approach analyzes real-life data by considering
contextual meaning which emerged from the negotiations between conversation
participants. Interpersonal relations are placed at the center of this
approach. Three features of communication are illustrated in this chapter
through a case study of student-mentor conversations: determinacy, or how
determined the speaker is in making a statement, power/distance, and
intensity. Results show that personality factors and affect played an
important role in the intercultural communication between the English language
assistant and her French faculty mentor. Chapter 2 by Jörg Meibauer argues
that Grice’s first maxim of quality is largely based in Western cultural
beliefs and cannot be used to interpret the lying behaviors in non-Western
cultures due to social and cultural variations. For example, in collectivist
cultures such as China, lies are more acceptable when they are told for the
purpose of face-saving and modesty, usually for the benefit of others, whereas
in individualistic cultures such as the U.S., lies told to benefit the self
are more acceptable. 

Part two focuses on lingua franca communication. In Chapter 3, Arto Mustajoki
provides explanations for the seemingly controversial observation that more
cases of miscommunication are found in everyday life than in lingua franca
conversation. The key for any successful communication lies in the proper use
of recipient design, which is the adjustment speakers make in their language
use for the recipients of the conversation. In daily life conversations with
acquaintances, people seldom conduct recipient design because they do not view
it as necessary; however, the lack of recipient design usually leads to
miscommunication due to the differences in the mental world of the
conversation partners. However, in lingua franca conversation, the
participants are aware of their cultural and language differences at the
beginning and thus are more careful in adjusting their language use for the
clarity of meanings. In Chapter 4, Fabienne Baider and Maria Constantinou
identify a newly emerged lingua franca in a transnational corpus containing
online posts by supporters of the extreme-right Greek political party Golden
Dawn. Analyses of the avatars, pseudonyms and lexical units used in the corpus
show the discussants’ common values related to Christianity, the pride in the
Self (i.e., the Greek people), and the threat seen from the Other (i.e., the
non-Christian immigrants). 

Business communication is the targeted area in Part Three. In Chapter 5,
Belinda Camiciottoli reports a contrastive analysis of European versus Asian
business conference calls. Analyses of pragmalinguistic features in the Euro
and Asian corpora indicate different intercultural communication approaches
affected by not only cultural orientations but also the participants’
professional goals and the technology-mediated setting. For example, speakers
in the Asian corpus used more formal forms of address and fewer intensifiers,
which was influenced by the emphasis placed on social status in the Eastern
cultural orientation; however, their verbal choices in asking questions
contained fewer hedging terms and were rather direct, which was against the
indirectness style emphasized in the Eastern cultural orientation but resulted
from the goal-oriented interaction style of business communication. Speakers
in the Euro corpus used more informal forms of address and more intensifiers,
corresponding with the Western cultural orientation; however, more features of
indirectness (e.g., hedges) were used in the Euro corpus, which was against
the presumed cultural orientation but was a way for the speakers to establish
rapport and extract more information from the business executives. In Chapter
6, Sofie Decock and Anneleen Spiessens discuss the company refusal strategies
and customer disagreement strategies in two corpora of German and French
business emails. Results show that while business employees utilized more
downgraders and external modification to soften their refusals to customers’
complaints, customers were more direct in their disagreement. Comparisons of
the two corpora also revealed differences in the communication styles of
French and German speakers in business settings. French business employees and
customers were shown to use more direct strategies and to adopt a more
elaborative style, compared to their German counterparts. 

The three chapters in Part Four are about cultural conceptions of speakers of
different language and cultural backgrounds. Chapter 7 by Jessica Haß and
Sylvia Wächter reports the self- and mutual perceptions of two cultural groups
in Spain, Germans and Spaniards, during the European debt crisis. Interview
results show that both groups held mostly positive mutual perceptions,
although their perceptions of self were more critical. The European debt
crisis did not seem to impact the mutual perceptions of the two cultural
groups, yet the Spaniards’ self-perceptions were shown to deteriorate during
the debt crisis. Chapter 8 by Ulrike Schröder presents conversation analysis
results from a group of Brazilian and a group of German students who were
studying abroad. Participants from both groups reflected on key concepts of
cultural evaluations, namely punctuality, openness, directness, and
individualism. Chapter 9 by Gila Schauer investigates the English and German
native speakers’ impoliteness perceptions in a questionnaire and post-hoc
interviews. Results suggest that the two groups shared similar views about
impolite behaviors; however, their views about inappropriate behaviors
differed, with German speakers holding more negative perceptions of verbal
attacks compared to British speakers. 

Part Five includes two chapters on the topic of intercultural pragmatics in
translation. Chapter 10 by Monika Pleyer analyzed the impoliteness strategies
used by the characters in the German translation of Harry Potter novels. Text
analysis results reveal that impoliteness strategies are used throughout the
story as a way to attack the opponent’s identity. Also, German translation of
the Harry Potter novels demonstrates many simplifications to appeal to
children, who are seen as in need of more help in understanding the character
development in the original story. Chapter 11 by Olaf Seel presents examples
from German-Greek language pairs to demonstrate the misunderstandings caused
by lack of cultural and pragmatic knowledge of the translators and
interpreters. For instance, the Greek free hand gesture has eight possible
interpretations depending on different contexts and speaker goals. Therefore,
successful interpretation of the Greek free hand gesture is a rather complex
task for interpreters, who have to be not only culturally competent in both
cultures but also experienced in recognizing and interpreting non-verbal cues
in communication. 

The last part of this volume consists of four chapters on different aspects of
pragmatic development. Chapter 12 by Naoko Osuka reports a study of the
development of pragmatic routines of Japanese learners of English over a
one-semester study-abroad in the U.S.  Data collected via a multimedia
elicitation task was analyzed for the frequency of pragmatic routines.
Japanese learners were shown to experience little development of pragmatic
routines over the one-semester of studying abroad, and they were either not
aware of the routines or were hesitant to use them since they did not appear
in formal language instruction. Chapter 13 by Ziyad Ali and Helen Woodfield
presents a cross-sectional study of Syrian EFL learners’ development in
interlanguage requests. Learners from three different proficiency levels
supplied English requests in a written discourse completion task. Results show
that learners of higher proficiency levels had a higher frequency of usages of
both external and internal request modification devices, although the type and
frequency of these modification devices used by EFL learners were not
comparable with the ones used by English native speakers. Chapter 14 by
Phyllisienne Gauci, Elisa Ghia and Sandro Caruana examines the pragmatic
competence of Maltese future teachers of Italian, who produced requests and
complaints through role-play and discourse completion tasks (DCTs). Their
pragmatic performance was then rated by native speakers of Italian. Results
show that student-teachers of Italian L2 encountered difficulties in pragmatic
productions due to their lack of awareness of contextual variables and that
more difficulties were shown in role-play than in DCTs.  Finally, Chapter 15
by Laura Maguire and Jesús Romero-Trillo investigates the bilingual teacher’s
use of pragmatic markers through analyzing a corpus of bilingual classroom
interaction over a span of six years. Results show that teachers used
pragmatic markers as topic starters and attention-getters more frequently in
the early stages of bilingual education. 


The chapters in this volume illustrate the socio-cultural turn in the field of
pragmatics, a multifaceted field bridging different areas of interests.
Kecskes (2013) explains the pragmatics of intercultural communication using
the socio-cognitive approach, which “unites the societal and individual
features of communication, and considers communication a dynamic process in
which individuals are not only constrained by societal conditions but they
also shape them at the same time” (p. 74). In other words, meaning conveyed in
communication is co-constructed by participants, who utilize both their prior
experiences and actual situational experiences as they are interacting with
others. At the center of intercultural communication are the concepts of
interpersonal relations and recipient design. These two concepts are
manifested in multiple chapters of this volume. In Chapter 1, the emancipatory
approach places a great emphasis on interpersonal relations, and the relevant
power and distance between the conversation participants are analyzed. In
Chapter 3, the proper use of recipient design in lingua franca communication
is shown to reduce misunderstanding from happening.  In Chapter 5, the
interpersonal relations between the business analysts and executives play an
important role in shaping the communication styles of business conference
calls of companies in different world regions. In Chapter 6, the interpersonal
relations between the business employees and customers help to explain the
differences found in refusal and disagreement strategies used in business

The wide range of authentic communicative contexts included in this volume
illustrates that the current trend of intercultural pragmatics focuses on
meanings as they are being negotiated in social interactions. This trend
differs from the traditional notion of pragmatics, which analyzes utterances
obtained via artificial means, such as via a discourse completion task.
Researchers in pragmatics should be excited to see that more real-life
communication data has been gathered and analyzed in this volume. For example,
four chapters in this volume report the use of corpus analysis in different
aspects of intercultural pragmatics. Chapter 4 analyses the lingua franca
features in a transnational computer mediated corpus. Chapter 5 includes a
semantic analysis of the European and Asian corpora of financial discourse.
Chapter 6 builds on a German- and French-language business email corpus and
analyzes the speech acts associated with customer complaint emails. Chapter 15
reports a longitudinal corpus-based analysis of pragmatic markers in bilingual
teachers’ talk of classroom management. 

The different communication contexts included in this volume are eye-opening
for researchers in pragmatics who are looking for new paths to explore. This
volume also adds a welcoming addition to pragmatic research in instructional
settings with the last five chapters on pragmatic development, which are
empirical studies that are either longitudinal or cross-sectional in nature.
Compared to the huge number of previous studies which describe the production
or perceptions of pragmatic utterances of certain speaker groups in only one
setting, more studies reporting L2 users’ developmental trajectory in
pragmatics need to be conducted, following the examples included in this

In all, “Current Issues in Intercultural Pragmatics” is a comprehensive volume
of new pragmatics studies that should be of interest to not only pragmatic
researchers but also scholars in related fields, such as corpus linguistics,
communication, cultural studies and translation practices.  


Kecskes, I. (2013). “Why do we say what we say the way we say it.” Journal of
Pragmatics, 48, 71-84.


Dongmei Cheng earned a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics with distinction from
Northern Arizona University in 2013. At Texas A&M University-Commerce, Dr.
Cheng teaches both face-to-face and online courses in TESOL and Applied
Linguistics to graduate and undergraduate students. As a sociolinguist, she is
primarily interested in interlanguage pragmatics, especially the acquisition
of speech acts from second language learners. Another research interest of her
is second language writing, which is resulted from her years of composition
teaching to students from different cultural backgrounds and experiences in TA
training. Additionally, she is interested in adapting new technological tools
in language teaching and teacher training programs. She has presented
regularly in TESOL, Applied Linguistics, and second language writing
conferences and published her research in a number of peer-reviewed journals.
Her recent work also includes a monograph on China’s Generation Gap (in press
by Routledge), an interdisciplinary study she co-authored with a sociologist,
Dr. Jiaming Sun. She taught a wide range of TESOL, linguistics, and ESL
courses at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Northern Arizona
University, and Winona State University. She also worked as an English
language instructor in different institutions in China and as a translator in
the past.


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