Analysing English as a Lingua Franca in Video Games

Linguistic Features, Experiential and Functional Dimensions of Online and Scripted Interactions

by Pietro Luigi Iaia (Author)
©2016 Monographs 158 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 220


This book examines the English Lingua Franca (ELF) uses in a corpus of online and scripted video-game interactions. While research generally explores the playful and technological aspects of computer-mediated communication, this study focuses on the strategies of cooperation, language simplification and authentication, lexical creativity and meaning negotiation that are generally activated within the «community of practice of gamers» to facilitate cross-cultural conversations. The scripted exchanges, instead, are examined by means of the ALFA Model (Analysis of Lingua Franca in Audiovisual texts), which is devised to enquire into the extent to which the non-native participants’ language variations are part of the multimodal actualisation of the cognitive construct of «non-native speakers», to which authors resort in order to prompt specific reactions on the part of the receivers. Finally, since the participants’ turns in both online and scripted interactions are visually represented as written messages on screen, this research also contributes to the development of the description of written ELF variations, so far not thoroughly explored in the literature.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Content
  • Introduction
  • 1. Book objectives
  • 2. Structure of the book
  • Theoretical Model
  • 1. Exploration of English as a Lingua Franca
  • 1.1 English as a Lingua Franca: contextualisation
  • 1.2 From speakers to ELF speakers
  • 1.3 ELF research from present to future
  • 2. Human dimension of Computer-Mediated Communication
  • 2.1 Video-game studies
  • 2.2 The translation of video games
  • 2.3 Individual and social identities in online interactions
  • 3. An introduction to the analysis of the selected corpus of interactions
  • 3.1 The socio-cultural grounds of human communication
  • 3.2 The selected corpus of video games
  • 3.3 Conclusions
  • Analysis of in-game interactions
  • 4. Analysis of typographic deviations from standard norms
  • 4.1 Analysis of the selected corpus of interactions
  • 4.2 Conclusions
  • 5. Analysis of lexical and structural deviations
  • 5.1 Analysis of the selected corpus of interactions
  • 5.2 Actualisation of the native linguacultural background
  • 5.3 Conclusions
  • 6. Analysis of speakers’ behaviour
  • 6.1 Analysis of lexical creativity
  • 6.2 Analysis of speakers’ behaviour
  • 6.3 Conclusions
  • Analysis of in-game scripted interactions
  • 7. In-game scripted interactions
  • 7.1 ALFA Model: rationale
  • 7.2 ALFA Model: description
  • 7.3 The selected corpus of video games
  • 8. Analysis of in-game scripted interactions
  • 8.1 Analysis of Final Fantasy IX
  • 8.2 Analysis of Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3
  • 8.3 Analysis of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • 8.4 Analysis of Alpha Prime and League of Legends
  • 8.5 Analysis of Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen and Dragon Quest Heroes
  • 8.6 Conclusions
  • Conclusions
  • 1. Summary and results of the analyses
  • 2. Evolution of this research
  • References

← 6 | 7 →


Technological development is allowing human beings to be in touch anywhere in the world, to tear down the spatial distance by activating interactions between participants that do not need to live in the same country, or even in the same hemisphere, but who may feel that the exchange is taking place as if senders and recipients were conversing in the same room. Yet, this communicative dimension originated from the mediation of technology could not have been fully exploited, if humans had not resorted to a shared language that enables cross-cultural communication, and which generally coincides with English.

In this sense, the international use of English has determined a shift from local speakers to cross-cultural speakers, who develop specific strategies to use, model, re-invent and re-shape this linguistic means in order to pursue specific communicative functions. The research area that goes under the label of “English as a Lingua Franca” (ELF) investigates the distinguishing aspects of cross-cultural encounters, detailing the linguistic and communicative characteristics of human communication when different linguacultural backgrounds interact (cf. Jenkins 2000, 2007; Seidlhofer 2011; Guido / Seidlhofer 2014). ELF research enquires into how English is constructed, modified, adapted, “authenticated” (Widdowson 1979) due to the influence of the speakers’ native linguistic and cultural backgrounds on the features of their lingua-franca variations. Scholars explore the influence of the political, economic, social, and cultural factors on the characteristics of the ELF variations that are actively selected and used by the participants. Academic research focuses on a number of specific communicative contexts, such as education (Mauranen 2012; Gotti 2014; Jenkins 2014), cross-cultural unequal encounters (Guido 2008) and computer-mediated business interactions (Poppi 2014). At the same time, audiovisual communication and translation are being included in the group of fields that are explored, in particular for the production and translation of film scripts, to investigate the rendering into dubbing and subtitles of the ← 7 | 8 → ELF variations found in the “migration movies” (Iaia / Sperti 2013; Iaia 2015a), which deal with the life conditions and issues of migrant workers and families in foreign countries.

In general terms, the studies on English as a Lingua Franca contend that non-native speakers do not resort to English as a second language that is acquired through education or personal experience. In fact, their uses of English are meant to activate intercultural communication by means of an interactive relationship between the schema dimensions and the semantic, syntactic and pragmatic structures of the speakers’ native language. In other words, it is claimed that in the course of cross-cultural interactions, ELF speakers tend to transfer their native structures to the English variations that they use (Guido / Seidlhofer 2014: 10). In this way, some deviations from the standard norms – generally at the lexical and structural levels – should not be considered as defective English uses, but as active processes of negotiation of the meaning and structures of Standard English, in order to convey the sender’s will in the most accessible way. It seems obvious, then, that the achievement of intelligibility in cross-cultural interactions requires an effort on the part of both senders and receivers to cooperate in order to refer and infer the appropriate semantic and communicative dimensions. Hence, native and non-native speakers have specific roles to allow successful communication: the latter can be seen as creative contributors that aim at pursuing the “fullest communication possible” (Seidlhofer 2011: 18-19), justifying in this light the differences from the standard norms; native speakers are expected to show a peculiar attitude towards the deviations that inform the non-native speakers’ English variations, or towards the activation of symmetric exchanges, according to which the cooperative imperative prevails over the territorial one (Widdowson 1983). Due to the cooperative imperative, achieving a successful conveyance of the speakers’ intentionality is more important than notifying and correcting misspellings or mispronunciations, which may pass unnoticed (Mauranen 2012) along with the lexical and syntactic deviations. In other words, the participants in cross-cultural ELF interactions are members of communities of discourse and practice that share a common communicative purpose (Swales 1990; Seidlhofer 2011: 87), according to which the illocutionary forces and perlocutionary effects (Austin 1962) ← 8 | 9 → are transferred in accessible ways to receivers by means of accommodation and meaning-negotiation strategies (Jenkins 2000; Cogo / Dewey 2006; Mauranen 2007). Yet, when cooperation is not activated, or when the native schematic dimension prevails at the time of producing and receiving one’s messages, the distance between the participants’ linguacultural backgrounds may trigger miscommunication or misinterpretation, it may prompt a clash between high-status and low-status participants, between dominant and dominated cultures, for example in exchanges occurring in socio-cultural and political scenarios connected with migrations (Guido 2008).

1.    Book objectives


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (September)
English as a Lingua Franca ELF video-games studies cross-cultural communication computer-mediated communication CMC translation
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 158 pp.

Biographical notes

Pietro Luigi Iaia (Author)

Pietro Luigi Iaia is Researcher of English Linguistics and Translation at the University of Salento (Italy) and holds a Ph.D. in English Linguistics applied to Translation Studies. His research interests and publications focus on the cognitive-semantic and socio-cultural dimensions of audiovisual translation, and on ELF variations in cross-cultural audiovisual and computer-mediated communication.


Title: Analysing English as a Lingua Franca in Video Games
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142 pages