Università di Bergamo > Cerlis > English Version > Projects > Intercultural Discourse in Domain Specific English

Intercultural Aspects of Specialized Discourse

Panel Discussion

Convenor: Maurizio Gotti

(CERLIS - Università di Bergamo, Italy)


This panel will focus on intercultural communication in specialist fields and its realisations in language for specific purposes. Special attention will be given to legal, commercial, political and institutional discourse used in particular workplaces, analysed from an intercultural perspective (i.e. in the ethnolinguistic/social sense and/or in the inter-institutional and intra-institutional culture sense).


The panellists will explore to what extent intercultural pressure leads to particular discourse patternings, and also the extent to which textual re-encoding and recontextualisation serve to obscure/emphasize particular locally-relevant aspects of the communication in question (whether in terms of content, discourses and realisations) and thus alter the pragmatic messages of the texts taken into consideration.


The panel is organised by CERLIS (Centro di Ricerca sui Linguaggi Specialistici), a centre operating at the University of Bergamo (Italy) to promote research in the area of languages for specific purposes along two main methodological lines: one focussing on description and theoretical issues, the other on application and teaching perspectives (http://www.unibg.it/cerlis). One of the projects on which members of CERLIS are working at present is the international research project entitled Generic Integrity in Legislative Discourse in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts coordinated by the GILD-MMC Project Team of the City University of Hong Kong (http://gild.mmc.cityu.edu.hk). Members of CERLIS are also involved in a national research programme funded by the Italian Ministry of Research on Intercultural Discourse in Domain-specific English coordinated by the University of Bergamo in collaboration with the Universities of Milan, Naples , Turin , Verona and IUSM Rome.



Intercultural Business Discourse : a crucible for cross-disciplinary dialogue

Francesca Bargiela ( Nottingham Trent University , Britain )


In my presentation I will outline some of the current concerns for researchers in intercultural communication and business discourse that intersect in the new field of intercultural business discourse. Intercultural communication has been the object of research and teaching in America since the 1960s but scholars have been somewhat slow to test their theories in business and corporate settings. Twenty years later, northern European countries were pioneering empirical research on, for e.g., intercultural business negotiation, which highlighted the defining role of language(s) and discourse strategies in communication across cultures.


More recently, the disciplinary diversification within the social sciences has opened up new lines of enquiry that are more than peripheral to the interests of the emerging field of intercultural business discourse (IBD). Cross-cultural and international management, cross-cultural psychology, cultural psychology, as well as cultural studies and neo-colonial studies, all offer valuable insights for IBD researchers. Applied linguists and business discourse analysts, but also business communication and management scholars are invited to join in this cross-disciplinary dialogue that will afford new perspectives on traditional themes and concerns but also point to novel, increasingly multi-disciplinary research avenues that will shape and enrich intercultural business discourse.







Global genres in local contexts

Vijay K Bhatia (City University of Hong Kong , China )


Most of the professional genres have often been regarded global in nature, partly because of the universal nature of human emotions and communicative intentions, and partly because of the recent expansion of trade and commerce across geographical and often socio-political concerns. Corporate advertising is a typical example; universal as a genre, but extremely sensitive to local contexts, often entirely carried by local phenomena. The product may be a universal brand name, meant for global consumers, but can still be constrained by purely local sensitivities, highlighting a unique tension between global concerns and local contexts, which can be a challenge to most forms of genre theories.


Based on the analysis of a global brand name, Coca Cola, advertised in a typical local Indian context, the paper will highlight some of the interesting issues for the current theories of discourse and genre.







Intercultural re-encoding within the EU

Gabriella Di Martino (Università di Napoli, Italy)


The contribution with focus on the work in progress by the Naples local unit as part of a national ESP research project focussing on the study of English in the domains of law, politics, economics and the media. Parliamentary communication within the EU is investigated as a discursive practice from a pragma-linguistic viewpoint; particular reference is given to the cross-cultural elements within texts in parallel versions and the interpretative issues connected to social, political and legal matters in parliamentary questions.


The centralising role of English as an instrument of global communication is matched by the specific nature of cultural and discursive practices. The aim of this project is to highlight cultural and discursive features within the genre of parliamentary questions and to invalidate the hypothesis of a levelling English monoculture. To this purpose the texts included in the corpus will be analysed as expressions of intercultural and interlinguistic mediation within the discursive practices in the EU, following an approach which is both theoretical and practical.


By studying the relationship between source and target texts and their re-encoding structures, the analysis will focus on how the institutional and the international communicative contexts affect translators’ choices in the field of European political discourse (namely EU enlargement and community legislation).







International Arbitration in different settings. The UNCITRAL vs the ICAS codes

Paola Evangelisti Allori (Istituto Universitario di Scienze Motorie di Roma, Italy)


The paper will take into consideration two different international arbitration codes, the code for arbitration in international trade (UNCITRAL) and the code for arbitration in Sport (ICAS). While exhibiting many common surface features, the two codes, at the same time, seem to show some distinctive traits possibly due to the different status of their respective audiences, i.e. States and their governments vs sports federations, and to the legal systems they stem from, i.e. the eminently American Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration and the Swiss Federal Code on Private International Law, respectively.


The investigation will focus on such aspects as the textual organization of the two codes and the specific lexico-grammatical features which contribute to the generic integrity of the documents.







Annual reports on the Internet : an analysis of intercultural variables

Giuliana Garzone (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy)


Traditionally, annual reports were documents describing companis' activities (results, operations, strategies) and accounts, essentially addressed to insiders - distributed to executives and officiers, sent to shareholders, sometimes also transmitted to financial analysts; only in the case of the largest companies were they published in one of the national papers. Today most multinational companies publish their annual reports also on the World Wide Web. This has broght about a radical change in the status and semiotic configuration of reports, as in addition to their original function as messages for 'inside' organisational communication they have now also become instruments for 'outside' organisational communication, as they are made readily available to an audience of experts and laymen alike the world over. So, many companies use the publication of annual reports on the Internet as occasions for image building and promotion.


Often, the reports are not published alone on the Internet; they are accompanied by a letter to the shareholders and often by an independent auditor’s report. In some cases, they are preceded by a presentation of the Company (typically: “who are we?”) and in others they are embedded in a frame of promotional pages, which exploit the visual/multimodal options offered by a hypermedia Computer Mediated Environment (Hoffman and Novak 1996). Thus, different types of discourse are brought together in cohesive hypertextual structures with substantial variations in the structure and quality of reports and companion texts.


This contribution analyses a small corpus of reports and companion texts of multinational companies based in Italy , other European countries and the US , focusing on such variations and considers them in terms of intercultural variables, with reference both to the national culture of the parent company and its organisational culture. Special attention is set aside for the non-neutral and evaluative elements present in texts aimed at company image building and promotion, an aspect which is all the more interesting in the case of companies in difficulty or with unsatisfactory results.




Hoffman D. L., Novak T. P., 1996, ‘Marketing in the Hypermedia Computer-Mediated Environment, Conceptual Foundations’, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 60, nr. 3, July: 50-68.







Websites for wine and food companies in Italy, the U.S. and New Zealand: Relationships between the company, the reader/customer and the natural environment

Gina Poncini (University of Lugano/Università della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland)


This contribution reports on the preliminary phase of a wider study focusing on discourse in intercultural business settings involving Italian companies. The wider study analyzes authentic written business texts as well as spoken interactions in Italian and in English among members of different cultures. This contribution first describes the rationale for focusing on the food and wine industry in collecting both written and spoken data for the wider study. It then examines selected linguistic features in sets of brochures and websites in Italian and English for wineries and selected food companies in Italy , and in sets of websites in English for wineries in New Zealand and the U.S. These linguistic features include personal pronouns (we, you and I) and evaluation, with evaluation used as a cover term “for the expression of the speaker’s or writer’s attitude or stance towards, viewpoint on, or feelings about the entities or propositions that he or she is talking about (Thompson and Hunston 2000: 6-7). An examination of evaluation provides indications of the ideology or values underlying a text (see e.g. Hunston 1994, Thompson and Hunston 2000) and is therefore significant; in addition, it is closely tied to social interaction (see e.g. Hyland 1999). Consequently, investigating how evaluative language is used in the texts can illustrate how it reflects and constructs shared values. This contribution explores explicit, implicit and other selected kinds of evaluation, and in doing so it considers the evaluative status of specialized lexis related to aspects of winemaking and wines.


The presentation of preliminary findings and the discussion first consider the variety of ways in which the companies present themselves to local, national and/or international audiences, and in particular the degree to which the texts (and thus the company) may appear ‘company-centered’ or ‘audience-oriented’. Related to this is the second area considered, which involves the kind of relationship between the company, the reader/consumer and the natural environment that is constructed in the texts, and whether these three entities are presented as separate or interconnected. The discussion then turns to the kinds of shared knowledge and shared values the texts appear to presuppose; it also considers the features of the texts that actually contribute to building shared knowledge. This knowledge involves agriculture, land and climate, winemaking processes, wines and the specialized terms related to these areas. Finally, the concluding comments consider the implications for the wider study.





Hunston, S. 1994. Evaluation and organization in a sample of written academic discourse. In Coulthard, M. (ed.) 1994. Advances in Written Text Analysis. London : Routledge, 191-218.


Hyland, K. 1999. Disciplinary Discourse: writer stance in research articles. In Candlin, C. N. and Hyland, K. (eds.) 1999. Writing: Texts, Processes and Practices. Essex : Longman, 99-121.


Thompson, G. and Hunston, S. 2000. Evaluation: An Introduction. In Hunston, S. and Thompson, G. (eds.). Evaluation in Text: Authorial Stance and the Construction of Discourse. Oxford , Oxford University Press, 1-27.







Intercultural Negotiations

Anna Trosborg (The Aarhus School of Business , Denmark )


There is a growing need to communicate adequately in English as a lingua franca in the still more competitive world of intercultural communication and negotiation. This paper takes up a number of critical issues:

  • How do deal-focused negotiators manage in relationship-focused markets?
  • How do fairly straight-forward people interact with indirect, high-context customers?
  • How do informal, egalitarian people communicate with formal, hierarchical trading partners?
  • How do reserved speakers negotiate with expressive, demonstrative counterparts?

Among other things, we will discuss the problems which may arise in negotiations between Scandinavian and Southern European people and between negotiators from Northern Europe and U.S.A. and Eastern countries such as Japan and China . These and many other aspects related to intercultural communication and negotiation will be discussed with due respect to proper language and successful negotiation tactics.







The discursive construction of meetings across cultures : time, space, sequence and participation.

Christopher Candlin / Fran Byrnes (Department of Linguistics, Macquaire University , Sydney ).


In this paper we offer some critical re-appraisal of recent work [1] on the discursive construction of meetings and meeting behaviours in organisations from the perspective of four key pragmatic/discourse analytical and inter-culturally relative concepts: time, space, sequence and participation. Drawing on empirical studies of meeting behaviour in a South Pacific site concerned with international aid and development [2], and insights from recent theoretical/descriptive work in institutional discourse analysis and mediated action theory, the paper proposes an additional mode of approach and analysis for such organizational data in inter-cultural contexts and sites.


[1] See, for example, Boden, D. (1994) The business of talk: organization in action. Cambridge . Polity Press


[2] Byrnes, F. (in preparation) Interpersonal communication in an intercultural context: an ethnographic interpretation of an international AID project in Samoa