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English as a Lingua Franca in Cross-cultural Immigration Domains


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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Part Two: Conversation Analysis of Immigration-advice Encounters 119


Part Two: Conversation Analysis of Immigration-advice Encounters 121 V. Schema Conflicts in ELF-mediated Legal Interactions 1. Introduction: the role of schema divergences in cross-cultural miscommunication This chapter presents a study in cognitive sociolinguistics concerned with an application of Schema Theory to cases of intercultural and interlingual miscommunication occurred in Italian situations of ‘legal advice’ to African economic migrants and asylum seekers. In such situations, the professional interactions were carried out through the use of lingua-franca English (ELF). The focus of this study is specifi- cally to investigate the cognitive processes and pragmatic strategies by which Italian legal advisors try to convey to their African clients not only their culturally-marked knowledge of the law, but also the con- ceptual procedures by which they come to apply it. This seems to occur by means of particular pragmalinguistic routines that, though actualized through the use of ELF, are here assumed to originate from the advisors’ own legal-discourse experience developed within West- ern – in this case, Italian – specialized contexts. The assumption is that, precisely because the knowledge and applications of the law which the advisors rely on are the products of a Western legal tradition, they are often unavailable to the immigrants’ conceptualizations and actualiza- tions of their own legal systems. This can thus explain the difficulty that they often meet in accessing legal concepts that are alien to their own native cultures. To investigate such cognitive difficulties that eventually hinder the successful development of cross-cultural legal interactions through ELF, this chapter advances a...

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