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English as a Lingua Franca in Cross-cultural Immigration Domains

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Maria Grazia Guido

This book explores the cognitive and communicative processes involved in the use of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) within cross-cultural specialized contexts where non-native speakers of English – i.e. Western experts and non-Western migrants – interact. The book argues that the main communicative difficulties in such contexts are due precisely to the use of ELF, since it develops from the non-native speakers’ transfer of their native language structures and socio-cultural schemata into the English they speak. Transfer, in fact, allows non-native speakers to appropriate, or authenticate, those English semantic, syntactic, pragmatic and specialized-discourse structures that are linguistically and conceptually unavailable to them. It follows that there are as many ELF varieties as there are communities of non-native speakers authenticating English.
The research questions justifying the ethnographic case studies detailed in this book are: What kind of cognitive frames and communicative strategies do Western experts activate in order to convey their culturally-marked knowledge of specialized discourse – by using their ELF varieties – to non-Westerners with different linguistic and socio-cultural backgrounds? What kind of power asymmetries can be identified when non-Westerners try to communicate their own knowledge by using their respective ELF varieties? Is it possible to ultimately develop a mode of ELF specialized communication that can be shared by both Western experts and non-Western migrants?

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Introduction: A Cognitive Model of L1-Transfer as ELF-Authentication 21

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21 Introduction: A Cognitive Model of L1-Transfer as ELF-Authentication 1. Defining ‘English as a Lingua Franca’ in specialized domains It is a truth universally acknowledged that English is today’s global ‘lingua franca’ for international communication. Statements like this are typical of historical periods and societies when the dominant eth- nocentric beliefs of a ruling class with the economic and political power determine what is true and can be taken for granted and what is not. Taken for granted, for instance, is the idea that the grammar code of Standard English – and, implicitly, also native-English pragmatic behaviours – are shared norms in intercultural transactions across the world, ranging from the domains of economics and politics to the fields of law, environment, social sciences and so on, until it encom- passes every domain wherein Western culture exerts its influence over the other non-Western civilizations. The starting point of the research presented in this book is precisely this: such unconditional recognition of the privileged status of the English language in the world does not in fact acknowledge the communicative needs of other non-native – and, crucially, non-Western – speakers of English. This lack of ac- knowledgement of other pragmatic modes of communication may have very serious socio-political and personal consequences, particu- larly when domains of cross-cultural specialized communication re- lated to immigration are involved. This book, therefore, intends to explore communication precisely in such domains, by presenting an ethnomethodological research focused on the cognitive and communi- cative processes involved in the production and reception of discourse...

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