Can a lingua franca bridge the communication gap between corporations set in different cultures ?

Tréguer-Felten, Geneviève – in Kecskes, I. et Romero-Trillo, J., eds., Research Trends in Intercultural Pragmatics, Amsterdam, Mouton de Gruyter. 2013. p. 263-282.

This article reports on an empirical study performed on French and Chinese Companies’ corporate self-presentations written in English as a lingua franca (ELF). Such a linguistic choice implies that the targeted audience is foreign, a fact that should have an impact on the rhetoric at play in both corpora. The objective in performing this research was to gauge whether this was indeed the case or whether the rhetorical discourse pointed to dissimilar audiences. To reach this goal, the author collected some 20 corporate self-presentations for each culture and analyzed the Aristotelian ethos displayed in each corpus. The discourse analysis performed highlighted different ethical qualities. Whereas Chinese corporations put forward the reputation acquired and work at building a sort of communion with their audience through 1st person discourse, reported speech and various kinds of dialogical recalls, the goodwill French companies’ discourse exudes is of a professional type. French corporations use impersonal discourse to showcase a leadership the veracity of which statistics and various arguments concur to prove; their goodwill consists in making their customers benefit from their expertise. These tendencies, which had been detected in the initial late 1990’s corpora, were confirmed in website self-presentations downloaded in 2008. In spite of the fact that the documents analyzed are not numerous in regard to the number of corporations producing corporate self-presentations in each of the given cultures, such results point to the fact that using ELF in corporate self-presentations is not sufficient to bridge the communication gap between companies set in different cultures.

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