Identities in and across Cultures

by Paola Evangelisti Allori (Author)
©2014 Edited Collection 315 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 189


This volume is a collection of empirical studies investigating the ways and means through which culturally-shaped identities are manifested in and through discourse in documents and texts from multiple spheres of social action. It also looks at possible ways in which understanding and acceptance of diverse cultural identities can be moulded and developed through appropriate education.
Language being one of the most evident and powerful ‘markers’ of cultural identity, discourse and text are sites where cultures are both constructed and displayed and where identities are negotiated. The approaches to the analysis of culture and identity adopted here to account for the multifaceted realisations of cultural identities in the texts and documents taken into consideration span from multimodality, to discourse and genre analysis, to corpus linguistics and text analysis. The volume then offers a varied picture of approaches to the scientific enquiry into the multifaceted manifestations of identity in and across national, professional, and disciplinary cultures.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Discourse and Identity. Representations in and across Cultures: Paola Evangelisti Allori
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Summaries
  • 2.1. Framing identities through the media
  • 2.2. Academic and professional identities
  • 2.3. Identities in cross-cultural encounters
  • References
  • I. Framing Identities through the Media
  • Political Identity on the Net: David Cameron’s Blog: Maria Cristina Paganoni
  • 1. Background and scope of the study
  • 2. Methodology and selected website
  • 2.1. Webcameron
  • 3. Website analysis
  • 3.1. Video clips
  • 3.2. Written posts
  • 4. Concluding remarks
  • References
  • Framing Identity through the EU Communication Channels: Giuditta Caliendo, Antonio Piga
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Discourse and society: a dialectical relationship
  • 3. Corpus and methodology
  • 4. Relational function
  • 4.1. Synthetic personalization and technologization of discourse
  • 4.2. Hedging
  • 5. Ideational function
  • 6. Identity function
  • 7. Conclusion
  • References
  • Annex
  • Identity Issues in Audiovisual Translation across the Deaf/Hearing Cultural Divide: Cynthia Kellett Bidoli
  • 1. Deaf versus hearing culture and identity
  • 2. The feature film corpus
  • 3. Transfer of American culture and identity
  • 4. Adaptation to Deaf identity and cultural norms
  • 5. Culture clash
  • 4. Concluding remarks
  • References
  • II. Academic and Professional Identities
  • Cross-disciplinary Identity-forming Strategies in Research Articles: Michele Sala
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Materials and methodology
  • 3. Results
  • 3.1. Knowledge-orientation
  • 3.2. Reader-orientation
  • 3.3. Writer-orientation
  • 4. Discussion
  • 5. Conclusion
  • References
  • The Multiple Identities of the Business Academic: Belinda Crawford Camiciottoli
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. The rise of business studies
  • 3. Methodology
  • 3.1. The corpus
  • 3.2. The analytical approach
  • 4. Results and discussion
  • 4.1. Academic identity
  • 4.1.1. Dialogic episodes
  • 4.1.2. References to research
  • 4.2. Disciplinary identity: hypotheticality
  • 4.3. Professional identity: business lexis
  • 4.4. Cultural identity: references to culture
  • 4.5. Individual identity: idiomatic expressions
  • 5. Concluding remarks
  • References
  • Identity Conflicts in Book Reviews: A Cross-cultural Analysis: Larissa D’Angelo
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Purpose
  • 3. Corpus and methodology
  • 4. An overview of English and Italian BRs
  • 5. Appraisal Theory in English and Italian BRs
  • 6. The use of hedges in Italian and English BRs
  • 7. Conclusions
  • References
  • The Significance of ‘Significant’: Value Marking Across Disciplinary Cultures: Davide Simone Giannoni
  • 1. Introduction
  • 1.1. Disciplines and values
  • 1.2. Object of this paper
  • 2. Material and methods
  • 3. Findings
  • 3.1. Group A (Importance)
  • 3.2. Group B (Relative Prominence)
  • 3.3. Group C (Significance)
  • 3.4. Group D (Relevance)
  • 3.5. Group E (Keyness)
  • 4. Discussion and conclusions
  • References
  • ‘Giving the Graduates an Earful’: Identity and Interaction in Commencement Speeches: Martin Solly
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. CS as a genre
  • 3. Materials and method
  • 4. Setting, purposes and content of CS
  • 4.1. Setting
  • 4.2. Communicative purposes
  • 4.3. Content
  • 5. Genre features
  • 5.1. CS as spoken-written discourse
  • 5.2. CS as interactive discourse
  • 5.3. Stories and narrative
  • 5.4. A personal affair
  • 6. Moves in CS
  • 6.1. Greeting those present / thanking the institution
  • 6.2. Reference to own university career
  • 6.3. Introducing theme of CS
  • 6.4. Conveying of message (giving advice)
  • 6.5. Taking leave of audience
  • 7. Conclusion
  • References
  • Appendix. CS analysed for the chapter
  • Towards the Study of Drifts in the Priming of Anglicisms in Business Communication: Sara Laviosa
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Recent studies of Anglicisms
  • 3. A new study of linguistic borrowing
  • 3.1. Object of study
  • 3.2. Research hypotheses
  • 3.3. Research model and methodology
  • 3.4. Corpus analysis and processing tools
  • 4. Preliminary findings
  • 5. Conclusions
  • References
  • Appendix
  • III. Identities in cross-cultural encounters
  • English as a Lingua Franca: Negotiating Identity in Cross-cultural Encounters between Native and Non-native Speakers: Franca Poppi
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. The spread of English across the world
  • 3. Objectives, method and materials
  • 4. Analysis of the data
  • 4.1. Focus on pragmatics
  • 4.1.1. The use of laughter
  • 4.1.2. Mutual orientation
  • 4.1.3. The use of ‘cajolers’
  • 4.1.4. Uncooperative interaction
  • 4.1.5. Misunderstandings
  • 4.2. Focus on lexico-grammar
  • 4.2.1. Verb forms
  • 4.2.2. Use of articles
  • 5. Conclusions
  • References
  • Constructing Writer Identity across Community Boundaries. The Socialization of a Local-educated Chinese Researcher: Dawang Huang
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. The study
  • 2.1. The participant and setting
  • 2.2. Data collection and analysis
  • 3. Findings
  • 3.1. Writer identity in flux: local → international → local/international
  • 3.2. Writer identity in multiplicity: theoretical vs. applied researcher
  • 3.3. Writer identity at stake: chances vs. challenges in the institutional context
  • 4. Discussion and conclusion
  • Acknowledgements
  • References
  • The Process of Internalising Professional Identity through Specific Disciplinary Knowledge: Jane Lung
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Construction of professional identities
  • 3. Data collection
  • 4. Student perceptions and definitions of the disciplines
  • 4.1. Economics: Student perceptions
  • 4.2. Definitions and orientations of Economics
  • 4.3. Accounting: Student perceptions
  • 4.4. Definitions and orientations of Accounting
  • 4.5. Management: Student perceptions
  • 4.6. Definitions and orientations of Management
  • 4.7. Marketing: Student perceptions
  • 4.8. Definitions and orientations of Marketing
  • 5. Concluding remarks
  • References
  • Supporting the Development of Professional Identity through Intercultural Communication and Language Courses: Liisa Timonen, Marjo Piironen
  • 1. Concept of identity and its layers
  • 1.1. Concept of identity
  • 1.2. Identity as a social concept
  • 1.3. Identity as a psychological concept
  • 2. Professional and cultural identities
  • 2.1. The development of professional identity
  • 2.2. Cultural identity forms the basis of intercultural awareness
  • 3. Practical methods of supporting the development of social and professional identity
  • 3.1. Autobiographical (life-history) approach
  • 3.2. Cases
  • 3.3. Group discussions
  • 3.4. Drama
  • 4. Teacher’s ethical and methodological decisions
  • 5. Conclusion
  • References
  • Identity and Culture in Teaching English as an International Language: A Possible Model for a ‘Third Place’: Paola Vettorel
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Which culture in the language classroom?
  • 3. Target, Source and International cultures materials
  • 4. Learners’ identities: looking for a ‘third place’ in language learning
  • 5. Examples from practice
  • 5.1. Secondary school: Comenius Lingua/Language Oriented School Partnerships projects
  • 5.2. The ‘Progetto Dossier’
  • 6. Conclusion
  • References
  • Notes on Contributors


Discourse and Identity. Representations in and across Cultures

1. Introduction

This volume is a collection of empirical studies investigating the ways and means through which culturally-shaped identities are manifested in and through discourse in documents and texts from multiple spheres of action1. It also looks at possible ways in which understanding and acceptance of diverse cultural identities can be moulded and developed through education. The approaches to the analysis of culture and identity adopted span from multimodality, to discourse and genre analysis, to text analysis.

Discourse is the element through which identity and culture are mainly made evident. Both identity and culture are fuzzy concepts lending themselves to multiple interpretations. Identity is an elusive, yet pervasive, concept which may acquire different meanings in as diverse fields of research as Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Ethnography, and branching disciplines. Accordingly, the concept of identity may apply anywhere on the scale from the individual and his/her perception of self to groups sharing collective psychological processes and social behaviour (collective and social identity), to the way the individual is perceived by others. It is pervasive because identity manifests itself in different ways in all walks of life, both private and public. ← 9 | 10 →

Culture is a concept closely linked to identity. As such, it has traditionally been invoked to explain ethnic or national differences. It has, for instance, been considered as the main identity-forming trait applying uniformly to all members of a group (Sapir 1921, Whorf 1956; Hofstede 1991, Trompenaar/Hampden-Turner 1993).

A more recent approach, considers culture as an equally complex, multi-dimensional concept as identity. Spencer-Oatey (2000: 4), for instance, sees culture as

a fuzzy set of attitudes, beliefs, behavioural conventions and basic assumptions and values that are shared by a group of people, and that influence every member’s behaviour and each member’s interpretation of the ‘meaning’ of other people’s behaviour

At the same time, though, since

[…] group members are unlikely to share identical sets of attitudes, beliefs and so on, but rather show ‘family resemblances’, […] there is no absolute set of features that can distinguish definitively one cultural group from the other (Spencer-Oatey 2000: 4).

So that, the notion of culture being associated with social groups, it is almost impossible to associate one single specific cultural dimension to one national or ethnic group:

All people are simultaneously members of a number of different groups and categories; for example, gender groups, ethnic groups, generational groups, national groups, professional groups, and so on. So in many respects, all these different groupings can be seen as different cultural groups (Spencer-Oatey, 2001: 4–5).

Identity and Culture are therefore, not only socially generated but also reciprocally related; as such, they are dynamic, multi-dimensional and, therefore, ever-reconceptualized notions rather than fixed concepts representing, in fact, “relative points of view” (Stroinska 2001), both at individual and group level.

At the same time, also social identity is an “extremely complex construct” (De Fina 2003: 15) because, according to social situations and/or communicative contexts, interlocutors may draw upon multiple ← 10 | 11 → identities in a given communicative context; conversely, they may attach themselves to different self-identities in different social situations, as pointed out by Hurd (2010). A distinction has also to be made between social identity as revealed in the interaction between individuals in a social context (within a group) and the identity manifested by the members of a group to the outer world. The in-group/out-group identity and belonging, thus, is not, and cannot be, always firmly established; it is dynamic and highly dependent on social and professional factors so that the shift from one in-group to the other is possible for the same individual according to the context of action (Evangelisti Allori 2011).

In discussing the concept of cultural identity from a philosophical point of view, Hall (1996: 16) concludes that

identity is a tangled and unconcluded argument, which demonstrates beyond the shadow of a doubt that the question, and the theorization, is of considerable political significance, and is only likely to be advanced when both the necessity and the ‘impossibility’ of identities, […] are fully and unambiguously acknowledged.

Nevertheless, in spite of the elusiveness of the concepts, both identity and cultural features are made evident through various ‘markers’, of which language is one of the most evident and powerful.

Cortese / Dusak (2005:11) maintain that “discourse and text are sites where cultures are jointly constructed and displayed” and, thus, where identities are negotiated. Language, and discourse features, may contribute to create boundaries2 that define a group as a social, political, geographical or professional community, or as a wider discourse community (Swales 1990) sharing common interests of various kinds over and above national, geographic or ethnic boundaries.

The virtual boundaries created by language work both ways inwards and outwards, i.e. while providing internal cohesion to the ← 11 | 12 → group and excluding ‘strangers’ to it - as originally pointed out by Labov (1966, 1972) in his study of the ‘code’ used by black teenagers in New York – in projecting the group identity, they also provide markers for membership identification by non-members. Thus, language becomes also a marker to single out an individual as belonging, albeit temporarily, to a given cultural group /milieu.

The contributions to this volume explore some of the manifold expressions of identity and culture in social life as manifested through discourse features at all levels of realisation. As such, this collection offers a varied perspective on the notion of identity in cultures. In it, culture is seen as a multifaceted notion relating both to individuals and groups and ranging from ethnic, national and institutional domains to the political, academic and professional spheres. The focus is on the cultural identities manifested through discourse features by institutions, professional groups or individuals in different spheres of action and in different contexts, in and across cultures. It also investigates ways in which neophytes can be introduced to professional or multicultural / multi-ethnic identities through instruction in a learning milieu. The main interest is to investigate the many ways and means in which discourse contributes to reveal individual or collective identity traits, or alternatively, how it can be exploited to provide a specifically intended identity, as in the case of institutional or political identities, for example, in and across cultures.

2. Summaries

2.1.Framing identities through the media

PAGANONI’s is a multimodal analysis of the styling of a political website in view of projecting a specific identity for the candidate. The chapter is a diachronical investigation of the visual and verbal characteristics of David Cameron’s website during his 2008 political campaign. Through an integrated, multidisciplinary approach including ← 12 | 13 → Multimodal Analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis, political and media studies the author demonstrates how the visual and verbal features selected contribute to the construction of Cameron’s political identity. The multifaceted analysis reveals that Cameron’s site is a typical example of the widespread trend towards the use of digital media for political branding, where marketing and celebrity-style techniques are employed in building a political identity through Web tools. At the same time, though, it points to the fact that the interaction potentially allowed by the web medium, is pursued and allowed only insofar as it doesn’t challenge the party line. The lack of proper online interaction with citizens/consumers, thus, results in political issues being trivialised in spite of the initially stated objective.

CALIENDO and PIGA’s chapter analyses the role of discourse in the re-styling of a website with the aim of building and reinforcing a common EU identity by making the image of the Union nearer to the citizens. Drawing mostly upon Critical Discourse Analysis, it presents findings from the analysis of a corpus of EU institutional discourse. In particular, it compares the 2003 version of an online EU publication with its republished 2006 version commenting on the different approach adopted to achieve the goal. Caliendo/Piga’s investigation of the ‘relational’ and ‘ideational’ functions of language in specific traits (such as synthetic personalization and democratization; technologization of discourse; commodification; hedges; etc.) highlights examples of “mixed genre” indicative of intrusion, in EU institutional discourse, of elements of a promotional nature, typical of advertising. Thus, in the new version, the EU presents its intended new identity in a producer/consumer kind of frame, in which the EU institutions are seen as providing services, benefits and tangible achievements and where EU citizens are addressed as users or consumers of such services.

KELLETT BIDOLI’s chapter studies the identity transformation resulting from the transfer of American culture and identity in the process of a double translation: from spoken dialogue to written subtitling and from an English speaking to a foreign Deaf Community, Italian in this case. The author maintains that not only there exists a basic, collective ‘culture as knowledge’ divide between Hearing/Deaf identity and culture, but also that diversity becomes total when a Hearing identity and culture meets a foreign Deaf identity and culture. This is ← 13 | 14 → shown through a micro and macro analysis of the original spoken dialogues from three American feature films compared with the translated subtitles meant for Italian Deaf viewers. Kellet Bidoli is able to show that the translated version, while exhibiting instances of adaptation to Deaf identity and culture as opposed to the Hearing, exhibits, at the same time, instances of culture clash between Anglophone hearing and Italian Deaf cultures which, according to the author, are indicative of lack of sensitivity and awareness of the needs of foreign deaf viewers who share more traits with their native culture than with the collective Deaf.

2.2.Academic and professional identities

SALA’s chapter addresses the issue of identity and culture from the point of view of disciplinary cultures and, therefore, identities, projected by experts in different disciplinary areas in their academic writing. The author investigates different writers’ strategies in the rhetorical construction of their textual persona and professional identity on an intercultural and cross-disciplinary corpus of research articles in English, including articles in Applied Linguistics, Economics, Legal Studies and Medicine. His comparative analysis of various epistemological parameters in different disciplinary domains reveals different cross-disciplinary trends: linguistic and legal experts seem to adopt mainly an “author-revealing style”, unlike economic and medical scholars, who seem to prefer an author-concealing style. On the other hand, in terms of reader-friendliness, linguistic and economic scholars seem to share a “reader-friendly” style, while medical and legal scholars tend to prefer a “reader-responsible” attitude.

The chapter by CRAWFORD CAMICIOTTOLI addresses the issue of the multiplicity of identities manifested by lecturers in the field of business studies during their lectures. Focusing on linguistic and discursive features in five dimensions of identity (academic, disciplinary, professional, cultural and individual), the author analyses a corpus of transcripted authentic business studies lectures both in an L1 and in an L2 teaching context. Building also on insights from comparative analyses with lectures from other disciplines and on interviews with the ← 14 | 15 → lecturers involved, CRAWFORD CAMICIOTTOLI’s study reveals the presence of a multiplicity of identities manifested by the same individual during lectures. Such multiple identities are the expression of the different roles taken by the lecturer in the effort to convey his/her meaning to the students. As such, the author suggests, they collectively contribute to ideational and interpersonal functions in the learning context and to the construction of a multi-disciplinary expertise for business students.

Following the appraisal theory framework, D’ANGELO’s chapter intends to ascertain whether the professional and/or the cultural identity of the author are important factors in epistemic stance and discourse construction in Book Reviews. D’Angelo investigates the pragmatic-rhetorical issue of positive and negative appraisals in Book Reviews published in English and Italian in four Applied Linguistics journals, by authors of different nationality and academic expertise. Through a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the corpus, this study reveals that the reviewers’ pragmatic and rhetorical choices seem to be influenced, besides their academic expertise, also by their cultural identity.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (April)
social action education multimodality
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 315 pp.

Biographical notes

Paola Evangelisti Allori (Author)

Paola Evangelisti Allori is Senior Professor of English and English Linguistics at the Università degli Studi di Roma ‘Foro Italico’ where she also served as Director of the Language Centre and Head of the Department of Education for Sport and Human Movement. Her research has focused on the language/culture interaction in domain specific-discourse both academic and professional, and has published extensively on comparative analyses of specialized discourse in various disciplinary areas and fields of action.


Title: Identities in and across Cultures