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

Key findings of our research project


During the first year of the project, we compiled representative corpora in each of the specialised fields identified by the research units. The corpora were drawn from print and/or digital sources, or consisted of audiorecordings and videorecordings. The units have produced CD-ROMs of the files forming such corpora.

Subsequently, the units analysed each corpus with digital and manual tools to extract results ranging from micro to macrotextual data, following common procedures adopted in corpus linguistics (with digital corpus queries) and approaches provided by contrastive rhetorics, text linguistics, pragmatics, discourse analysis and sociolinguistics. The bilingual corpora (English/Italian) were investigated contrastively and multidimensionally (discourse functions, lexis, syntax, semantic and pragmatic values). Targeted features included degree of qualification, binomial/multinomial expressions, specification, the spread of information, semantic inclusiveness and transparency. We also assessed the macrostructure of these texts, divided into subgenres and other diatypic features realised by single sections or paragraphs. The focus was on textuality as a place where given social practices and values are fixed by emphasising the argumentative structure and its web of representations and resources; the tools employed were provided by text linguistics and digital text query, as well as sociolinguistics, pragmalinguistics and discourse analysis. For privacy and copyright reasons, some corpora can be consulted only off-line in CD-ROM format by single researchers.

The investigation of these documents was carried out both from a purely linguistic standpoint and in wider semiotic terms, taking into account the frequently multimodal nature of computer-mediated communication. An important area of our research targeted discourse and rhetoric, concentrating on the less evident rhetorical strategies, especially on the rhetorical deployment of such “standard” linguistic resources as transitivity, personal pronouns and certain types of adverbial clause (e.g. concessive clauses). In this area, special care was taken to identify variants in English texts produced by subjects of different nationalities and business cultures, particularly evidence of linguistic and cultural markedness found in English texts drafted by Italian businesses.

The analysis of promotional material from small and medium-sized companies focused not only on the linguistic realisation of evaluative and interpersonal features distinctive of the text types considered, but also on how typically native aspects are conveyed internationally in a foreign language, highlighting the strategies of linguistic/cultural adaptation employed. The linguistic analysis of local cultural features in English for international communication was extended to tourist information and promotional material. Also prior recordings of spoken texts made by the researchers were widely used to investigate the intercultural features of business meetings among company managers and their overseas agents. This strand of our research includes a study of the language mediator’s role in international business negotiations, drawing on authentic recordings with a focus on intercultural issues.

Some of the research units took into account the construction, use and simplification of legal documents within single legal and linguistic contexts, as well as the interpretation of statutes and regulations. They first concentrated on specialised English discourse in the law, and especially on international commercial arbitration. Starting from the principal genres used in this area, our analysis centred on the contrastive features found by comparing Italian and international law, with special regard for converging/diverging aspects on the semantic, pragmatic, legislative and interpretative plane. In particular, we studied how normative discourse (laws and regulations) functions in different cultural, linguistic and legal contexts. First of all, a reconstruction was made of the drafting and interpretative process associated with such documents, drawing on a suitable corpus. The results showed that the relevance of textual information is instrumental to its legal background and its practices. Such issues were later discussed in the light of sociocultural considerations related to common law, on the one hand, and to civil law on the other.

In the second phase of the programme, each unit applied to the corpora both digital and manual tools for analysis at micro- and macro-textual level, in line with the approaches adopted in corpus linguistics, contrastive rhetorics, text linguistics, pragmatics, discourse analysis and sociolinguistics.


The outcome of the research is presented and discussed in the following publications (listed alphabetically, by author):


1. Gotti, V.Bhatia, C.Candlin (eds): Legal Discourse in Multilingual and Multicultral Contexts. Arbitration Texts in Europe. Bern: Lang, 2003.
2. Gotti, C.Candlin (eds): Intercultural Discourse in Domain-Specific English, numero monografico di TEXTUS, XVII/1,2004.
3. Gotti, C.Candlin (eds): Intercultural Aspects of Specialized Communication. Bern: Lang, 2004.
4. Cortese, A.Duszak(eds): Identity, Community, Discourse: English in Intercultural Settings. Bern: Lang, cds.
5. Evangelisti, V.Bhatia, C.Candlin, (eds) The Formulation of Legal Concepts across Systems and Cultures. Bern: Lang, cds.
6. Gotti, V.Bhatia, J.Engberg, D.Heller, (eds) Vagueness in Normative Texts. Bern: Lang, cds.
7. Gotti, P. Gillaerts (eds): Genre Variation in Business Letters. Bern: Lang, cds.
8. Garzone, S. Sarangi (eds): Discourse, Ideology and Ethics in Specialized Communication. Bern: Peter Lang, cds.
9. Garzone, C. Ilie (eds): The Role of English in Institutional Settings: An Intercultural Perspective. Bern: Peter Lang, cds.
10. Lima (cur.): Language, Culture and Politics: Issues and Debates in Political Science. Napoli: CUEN.
11. Belotti: Generic Integrity in Italian Arbitration Rules. In [1] 19-40.
12. Belotti, Facchinetti, Giannoni: An Introduction to the Legal System in Italy. In V.Bhatia et al. (eds). Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts of Legislation, Frankfurt: Lang, 2003, 193-224.
13. Caliendo: Translating Legal English, in [10], 37-49.
14. Caliendo: The Multilingual Voices of Europe. In [10], 11-20.
15. Caliendo: EU Language in Cross-boundary Communication. In [2] 159-178.
16. Caliendo: Modality and Communicative Interaction in Eu Law, in [3], 241-259.
17. Caliendo: Intercultural Traits in Legal Translation, in Proceedings of LSP2003, cds.
18. Caliendo, Di martino, Venuti: Language and Discourse Features of EU Secondary Legislation. In [4]
19. Campagna: Investigating Discourse Strategies On-line. Torino: Cortina, 2003.
20. Campagna: Discoursal Strategies On-line. Torino: Cortina, 2004.
21. Campagna: Investigating 'Virtual' Virtues. In [2]111-25.
22. Campagna: Persuasion in 'Virtual' Good Causes. In M. Bondi et al. (cur.) Cross-cultural Encounters, cds.
23. Conoscenti: Virtual Diplomacy. In [3] 343-360.
24. Conoscenti: Language Engineering and Media Management Strategies in Recent Wars. Roma: Bulzoni, 2004.
25. Cortese: "The Shipment Kind Salutes”. “Marry Christmas!”. Aspects de l’acquisition du plurilinguisme à l’écrit. Le Français dans le monde. Numéro spécial: Vers une compétence plurilingue, F. Carton e P. Riley (eds.), Juillet 2003, 67-85.
26. Cortese: Pro-social Advocacy on the Web: The Case of Street Children. In [3] 283-309.
27. Cortese: LSP: multilingual deficiency, multicultural ambiguity. In Rogers M. & K. Ahmed, eds., New Directions in LSP Studies, cds.
28. Cortese: Indeterminacy in ‘Rainbow’ Legislation: The Convention on the Rights of the Child. In [6].
29. Cortese : On Children’s Right to Life: Virtuous Management of Intercultural Conflict. In [4].
30. Cortese: Introduction. In [4].
31. Cortese : The right to be just other children: protectionist and liberationist ideologies in the discourse of children’s rights. In [8].
32. Dossena: Arbitration in Scotland. In [1] 87-109.
33. Dossena: The Abolition of Feudal Tenure Act 2000 and Linguistic Strategies of Popularization. In [5].
34. Dossena: New Studies on Intercultural Discourse in Domain-specific English, Linguistica e Filologia 17, 2004.
35. Evangelisti: International Arbitration in Different Settings: Same or Different Practice?. In [3] 223-240.
36. Evangelisti: International versus National Regulations: Rules and Practices from Two Codes for Arbitration in Sport. In V.Bhatia et al (eds), Legal Discourse across Cultures and Systems, Amsterdam: Benjamins, cds.
37. Evangelisti: Metaphors they report by: Identity through metaphor in sports commentaries. In [4]
38. Facchinetti: The 1998 Rules of the International Court of Arbitration as Implemented in Italy. In [1] 155-176.
39. Gagliardi: DITELI: Dizionario TEMATICO ITALIANO INGLESE. In [5]
40. Garzone: Domain-Specific English and Language Mediation in Professional and Institutional Settings, Milano, Arcipelago.
41. Garzone: Arbitration Rules Across Legal Cultures. In [1] 177-220.
42. Garzone: Italiano e inglese nella comunicazione specialistica. In L. Schena, L. Soliman (cur.) L'italiano lingua utilitaria. Milano: EGEA, 2003, 69-86.
43. Garzone: What can corpus linguistics do for Critical Discourse Analysis?. In A. Partington et al. (eds) Corpora and Discourse. Bern: Peter Lang, 2004, 351-368.
44. Garzone: Annual Company Reports and CEOs' Letters: Discoursal Features and Cultural Markedness. In [3] 311-41.
45. Garzone: Strategie di hedging e modulazione della forza illocutoria nel testo scientifico. In G. Bernini et al. (cur.) Atti del 3° Congresso dell'AILA, Perugia: Guerra, 2004, 213-235.
46. Garzone: Pragmatic and Discoursal Features of Annual Executive Letters. In M. Bondi et al. (cur.) Cross-cultural Encounters, cds.
47. Garzone: Osservazioni sull’assetto del testo italiano tradotto dall’inglese, Atti dell'Incontro di Studio, Intorno all’italiano contemporaneo. Milano, FrancoAngeli, cds.
48. Garzone: Discorso e dinamiche linguistiche nella comunicazione professionale, in L. Schena e L. Soliman (cur.) Uno sguardo alle lingue professionali. Milano. Egea, cds.
48. Garzone: Egemonia linguistica, traduzione e interferenza. in L. De Michelis et al. (cur) L'inglese da lingua imperiale a lingua egemonica? Milano, FrancoAngeli, cds.
49. Garzone: Letters to shareholders and Chairman's statements: textual variability and generic integrity. In [7]
50. Garzone: International commercial artbitration rules as Translated/rewritten texts: an intercultural perspecive. In [5]
51. Giannoni: The UNCITRAL Model and Italian Statute Law. In [1] 221-246.
52. Giannoni: Standardisation and Modality in Directive Texts. Linguistica e Filologia 16, 7-28.
53. Giannoni: A study of vagueness in international model arbitration clauses. In [6].
54. Gotti: Specialized Discourse: Linguistic Features and Changing Conventions. Bern: Lang, 2003.
55. Gotti: Legal Discourse in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts, Linguistica e Filologia 16, 2003, 227-8.
56. Gotti: Legal Discourse in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts: Arbitration Texts in Europe, The European English Messenger XIII/1, 2004, 30-1.
57. Gotti: English Across Communities and Domains: Globalising Trends and Intercultural Conflicts. In M. Bondi et al. (cur.) Cross-cultural Encounters, cds.
58. Gotti: Cultural Constraints on Arbitration Discourse. V.Bhatia et al. (eds) Legal Discourse across Cultures and Systems. Amsterdam: Benjamins, cds.
59. Gotti: Vagueness in the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. In [6].
60. Gotti: The Formulation of Legal Concepts in Arbitration Normative Texts in a Multilingual, Multicultural Context. In [5].
61. Gotti: Linguistic and Cross-cultural Features of Legal Texts: The case of international arbitration. Proceedings of the 9th Int. Conf. on Language and Law (Beijing, 15-17/9/4), cds.
62. Gotti: English in Intercultural Settings: Globalising Trends and Local Resistance. In [4].
63. Gotti: Legal Discourse across Languages and Cultures: Globalising trends and local identities. Proceedings of the Int. Conf. on Language and Law: Legal Communication in a Interdisciplinary Perspective (Warsaw, 2-4/12/4), cds.
64. Kellett: Intercultural Features of English to Sign Language Conference Interpretation. In [2] 127-42.
65. Kellett: Glossario inglese - italiano - lingua italiana dei segni (LIS). CD-ROM. Torino: Piccola Società Cooperativa Sociale Alba, 2004.
66. Kellett: Investigation into Linguistic and Cultural Mediation between the English-speaking World and the Italian Deaf Signing Community. In In M. Bondi et al. (cur.) Cross-cultural Encounters, cds.
67. Kellett: A Multimodal Approach in a Multilingual Context. In Procedings of 25th ICAME Conference (Verona, 19-23/5/4). cds.
68. Kellett: A Comparative Analysis of Intercultural Disparities during English to Italian Sign Language Interpretation. In [9].
69. Kellett: Una traduzione dalla voce al gesto. In AA.VV., Saggi in ricordo di Carmen Sanchez Montero. Trieste: DISLIT, cds.
70. Kellett: methodological aspects in the compilation of a terminological tri-lingual multimodal dictionary. The Interpreters’ Newsletter, 12, Trieste: Edizioni Università di Trieste, cds.
71. Ochse: Language – English – Difficult//Question – You – Think – What? In [2] 143-58.
72. Ochse: A Language via two others: learning English through LIS. In Streiter O.& C. Vettori, eds., Representation and Processing of Sign Languages. Lisbon: Centro Cultural de Belem, 2004, 68-74.
73. Ochse: LIS/Italian as a Basis for Teaching EFL. In M. Bondi et al. (cur.) Cross-cultural Encounters, cds.
74. Pennarola: Nonsense in Advertising. Napoli: Linguori, 2003.
75. Polese: Language in the Spotlight: News Manufacturing and Discourse. Napoli: Arte Tipografica Editrice, 2004.
76. Poncini: Multicultural Business Meetings and the Role of Languages Other than English. The Journal of Intercultural Studies 24/1, 17-32.
77. Poncini (cur. con F. Frandsen e W. Johansen): 5th ABC Eur. Conf. Proceedings. ‘Communicating in Business: Meeting the Challenges of a Changing World’, Lugano, 29-31/5/3.
78. Poncini: Using the Notion of Business Relationship in Exploring Frames at an Italian Company’s Meetings of its International Distributors, Proceedings of The IMP Group’s 19th Conf., Lugano, settembre 2003.
79. Poncini (con F.Bargiela-Chiappini et al.): Five Perspectives on Intercultural Business Communication. The Business Communication Quarterly, 66/3, 2003: 73-96.
80. Poncini: Communicating Local Elements to International Audiences: Promotional Materials for Wineries, In [3] 173-96.
81. Poncini: Discursive Strategies in Multicultural Business Strategies, Bern: Lang, 2004.
82. Poncini: Exploring common ground and roles at multicultural business meetings. in C. Gouvedia et al (eds) Discourse, Communication and the Enterprise. Lisbon, ULICES, 2004, 99-114.
83.Poncini: Exploring the image of New World wine producers. Lugano: Università della Svizzera Italiana, 2004.
84. Poncini: The challenge of communicating in a changing tourism market. in O. Palusci (cur.) Atti del convegno 'Translating Tourism'. Università di Trento, cds.
85. Poncini: Constructing an international event in the wine industry. In [7]
86. Poncini: Intercultural interactions during a winery vist in Italy. In [9]
87. Poncini: Can a geographical indication help rewrite local history and traditions? In C. Jullion (Cur) Linguistica e proprietà intellettuale. Milano, FrancoAngeli, cds.
88. Poncini (& L.Hiris): When (un)ethical behaviour is an issue for the industry. In [8]
89. Vaghi, Venuti: Euro Currency in the British Press, in [10], 59-69.
90. Vaghi, Venuti: British Media and the Euro. In L. Ruiz Miyares et al.(eds.) Actas VII Simposio International de Comunicacion Social. Santiago de Cuba: Centro de Lingüistica Aplicada, 2003, 571-574.
91. Vaghi, Venuti: Metaphor and the Euro, In A.Partington et al. (eds) Corpora and Discourse. Bern: Peter Lang, 2004, 369-382.


Its innovative nature with regard to current scholarship


With a few exceptions, current scholarship includes no studies focused specifically on intercultural issues approached through the analysis of (written, spoken and multimodal) texts viewed closely but also broadly, understanding textuality as the place where communicative practices are established in response to social groups, contexts, motives and purposes of which little is known in terms of linguistic and textual negotiation of their cultural and identity values.

The analyses developed by our research units highlighted the variety and complexity of pragmatic functions present in such texts, which often involve strongly connotated cultural values. By investigating the international “image” projected by major economic and social actors, as compared to the scenario suggested by their Italian counterparts, we were able to assess: (a) to what extent textual models and values perceived as Anglocentric – spread by English as the lingua franca of international communication, especially through the Internet – resemble those described in the literature on interculturality; (b) whether and by what communicative strategies the negotiation of identity-building values obliterates or stifles “local” native values; (c) if, and to what extent, the international version is “hybridised” by the local one, thus contradicting the fears of pervasive Anglicisation.

Also from a methodological viewpoint, the approach taken is highly innovative. Building on a theoretical framework centred on the sociocultural dimension of discourse as social action, our analyses examined each corpus at the microtextual (lexicogrammatical) level and macrotextual (pragmatic status of utterances, text types, rhetorical configuration) level, searching for the textual-linguistic features that negotiate a relationship with other related sociocultural systems. The results suggest that intercultural issues often emerge as a resistance to external values in both “local” and international discourse among social actors, in order to spread and implement values asserted in international documents. Furthermore, our linguistic analysis of multilinguistic and multicultural settings draw attention to the growing need – on the international stage – for accurate, authoritative translation of documents into various languages, in a way that safeguards the original text’s pragmatic intentions and functional implications, providing an accurate representation of the conceptual area considered.

As for linguistic and intercultural variation within single nations, it is noticeable that even across different cultural systems the nature of a text does not always reflect such differences, which are conveyed to the public by other means. In particular, text analysis has shown how single documents are presented to the public (especially to an international audience) so as to facilitate intercultural interaction by implementing what is recognised as “good practice” in the international arena.

The work on English vis a vis ISL (Italian Sign Language) and Italian is almost unique for Italy as to innovation and importance. Drawing from linguistic research on special-needs subjects, i.e. deaf adults, we collected videorecordings focused on linguistic mediation between English/ISL/Italian, in conferences and teaching settings. These studies investigate, describe and discuss: (i) the limited access of Italy’s deaf people to English-speaking cultures and the ensuing lack of scholarship on interculturality among such cultures; (ii) the fields and genres of communication where English/ISL mediation is most required; (iii) the consequent urgency to identify intercultural as well as communicative skills in the training programmes of language mediators working between a verbal code (the English language) and a visual-gestual code (ISL); (iv) the retrieval and sampling methods used in this research to compile digital corpora for electronic analysis through special software for the extraction of multimedia data; (v) the analysis of videorecorded or partly transcribed communicative events in English learning by deaf ISL adults. This last aspect, approached ethnographically, suggests the presence of a double intercultural filter and a process of double linguistic interference for deaf ISL subjects, viewed as a bilingual minority.

Highly innovative is also our work on the intercultural aspects of computer-mediated communication. Starting from a critical sociolinguistic and ethnographic conceptual standpoint that emphasises cultural identities and their representations/negotiations, we experimented a simulated case of virtual diplomacy. An international Special Interest Group was set up to observe its self-generated interaction through analysis of the intercultural processes triggered by e-text production – especially its norm-giving effects – within a theoretical framework provided chiefly by conversational analysis and by Computer-Supported Cooperative Work theory. The targeted communicative practices provided pointers to the construction of identity in a virtual environment, with interesting implications both for cyberdiplomacy and, in theoretical terms, for the intercultural and linguistic-textual differences of computer-mediated communication as compared to settings where the interactants are physically present.

Also the research into legal language is highly innovative, as it targets the language of arbitration, a field of law largely overlooked by linguists. This was approached by several research units looking at the cultural and systemic features of international commercial arbitration; one unit carried out a linguistic analysis of legal language in sports arbitration – a field that is attracting a great deal of attention from legal practitioners as sports legislation adapts to the changing needs of this field, both nationally and internationally. A bilingual (Italian-English) legal dictionary was also compiled in digital format (CD-ROM) to provide a parallel corpus with the conceptual terminology needed to understand Italy’s legal system.