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Troubled Talk in Cross-cultural Business Emails. A digital Conversation Analysis of Interactions


This study analyses the troubled talk occurring in an exchange of business emails between an Italian manufacturing company's general manager, his staff and their Pakistani consultants. The exchange is a communicative event in which conflicts (i.e. troubles) arise due to a variety of causes: the computer-mediated communication, the use of English as a Lingua Franca, the cultural differences between interactants and the stressful nature of the situation. Set in the tradition of studies which look at issues of intercultural differences in communication, (Katan 2006; Cucchi 2010; Manca 2016), this research addresses the question of the ongoing adaptation between high context and low context communication preferences (Hall, 1976) embraced by the Italian and the Urdu speakers. Politeness strategies have already been studied in the context of email writings (e.g. Poppi, 2012) and as an interactional event (Herring 1996; Baron 1998, 2003; Cho 2010; Gimenez 2000, 2002; Giles, et al., 2015) but to the best of my knowledge, this is the first study involving Italian and Pakistani intercultural interaction of any kind. This research attempts to make a contribution to linguistic studies by verifying whether: 1) emails can be studied using interactional methodological tools; 2) both positive and negative politeness strategies are used in the exchanges; and 3) language and cultural attitudes may favour misunderstandings and misinterpretations, thus being an obstacle in intercultural business interactions. Results show that linguistic research can contribute to online interactional events by identifying linguistic and pragmatic markers that could be associated with cultural dimensions (Hall 1976; Katan 2004; Hofstede 2004)