Slot:       29D–6          Dec. 29, 3:45 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.                                                

Panel:     L2 Competencies and Cross-Cultural Communication

Chair:     Jeffrey D. Holdeman, Indiana University


Title:       Cultural Conflicts in American-Russian Business Communication: An Example from the Civil Aircraft Industry

Author:   Elena Denisova-Schmidt, Humboldt University, Berlin

After the fall of the Iron Curtain the representatives of the US-American aerospace industry were looking for new suppliers and focused on Russian suppliers of metallic raw materials. In the past, these companies produced just for the military industrial complex of the former Soviet Union. The companies of both competitive sides and past enemies have become useful partners.

Their business relationships entail many aspects – political, judicial, economic, as well as human ones. In this presentation, the author focuses attention only on the human aspect. This investigation is based on open narrative interviews with US-American experts, who are working closely with their Russian colleagues in the civil aircraft industry. These people are metallurgists. The actions take place only in Russia. Based on these interviews the author wrote critical incidents and analysed them according to the lacuna model. All critical incidents and their analysis were submitted and discussed with the US-American partners (communicative validation) and with experts in intercultural communication with emphasis in Russia (argumentative validation).

What are some of the impressions of differences from US-Americans when they visit their Russian colleagues? How do US-Americans evaluate such behaviour? What consequences does it have to the business?



Denisova-Schmidt, E. (forthcoming). Using the Lacuna Model to Detect Cultural

      Problems in American-Russian Business Communication. An Example from the Civil Aircraft Industry.

Ertelt-Vieth, A. 2003. How to Analyze and to Handle Cultural Gaps in German

      Everyday Life. In The Perspective of Exchange Students. Interculture-Online, 4.

Ertelt-Vieth, A. 2005. Interkulturelle Kommunikation und kultureller Wandel - Eine empirische Studie zum russisch-deutschen Schüleraustausch. Tübingen.

Grodzki, E. 2003. Using Lacuna Theory to Detect Cultural Differences in American and German Automotive Advertising. Kulturwissenschaftliche Werbeforschung, 3. Frankfurt a. M.

Panasiuk, I. & Schröder, H. (Eds.). 2005. Die Lakunen-Theorie: Ethnopsycho-linguistische Aspekte der Sprach- und Kulturforschung. Münster:Lit Verlag.


Title:       Acquiring L2 Pragmatic Competence: How is Input Not Enough?

Author:   Jane Hacking, University of Utah

Since Schmidt (1993) posited a crucial relationship between “attention to input” and “learning” (35), it has generally been accepted that input alone is not sufficient for the successful acquisition of pragmatic competence in an L2. This study explores the pragmatic competence of adult learners of Russian who have had significant in country experience. Working with these students suggests that some aspects of socio-pragmatic competence are particularly difficult to acquire. In other words, exposure or unstructured input has not been sufficient for them to acquire reliable socio-pragmatic competence. The aim of this study was to fine-tune this general observation. What types of situations were more or less difficult? Did performance vary according to speech act, status of the participants or both? Were there any personal attributes of the participants that correlated with performance?

All participants completed a background questionnaire (questions on age, sex, etc.), and a written test in a Discourse Completion Task format. The written test consisted of 12 scenarios representing three different speech acts (request, refusal apology). Scenarios manipulated the variables of status and familiarity. Two native speakers of Russian rated responses on tests using an instrument that had four questions designed to measure both the pragmatic appropriateness of the responses and elicit commentary on what aspects of the participants’ performance were more or less successful.

Overall, the findings are consistent with the general notion that input alone does not result in reliable levels of pragmatic competence. More importantly, however, they indicate that certain aspects of pragmatic competence are more elusive than others. For example, participants had more difficulty with requests than either apologies or refusals. The paper will present a detailed review of the quantitative and qualitative results.


Schmidt, Richard. (1993). Consciousness, Learning and Interlanguage Pragmatics. In Gabriele Kasper (Ed.), Interlanguage Pragmatics. Cary, NC, USA: Oxford University Press, pp. 21-42.


Title:       Rethinking the "Communicative" in Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Competence

Author:   Lynne deBenedette, Brown University

Published FL teaching materials routinely advertise themselves as “communicative” or including “communicative activities” (CAs) However, the status of “communicative” as all-purpose buzzword has led to blurring or erosion of its meaning. It is not difficult to find described as CAs nearly any exercise wherein it is stipulated that students work in pairs or groups. Exceptions notwithstanding, instances of this phenomenon abound in FL beginning and intermediate textbooks. Example: given a three-column list of 1) people; 2) the verbs eat and drink; 3) common foods/dishes, students must tell one another what their loved ones do (not) consume. As described the task may be completed by someone who does not know what all listed dishes are--to say nothing of how their appearance, ingredients or role played in the second culture (C2) may differ from what first culture (C1) students expect; nor, unless the instructor provides appropriate follow-up, is it incumbent upon any participant to attend to or demonstrate comprehension of what is said by others. Furthermore, these exercises, which tend to exist under the content umbrella “talking about oneself,” rarely extend to any interculturally oriented considerations, except perhaps on the level of crudest comparison: We do it this way; they do something else. Content topics not readily adaptable to the “o sebe” level still most often lead a peripheral existence in “culture capsules”. Finally, we still have difficulty integrating CAs with work on language forms (grammar) in ways that enable form-meaning mappings.

The presentation will consider traditional (but perhaps not usually fully exploited or realized) features of Communicative Language Teaching such problem-solving activities and range of authentic input (text) types. It will assess several typical CAs for intermediate Russian in terms of the above-listed difficulties and will refer to accounts of intercultural approaches (Kramsch, Schulz, Chavez, Byram) as well as Structured Input (VanPatten) in offering differently focused alternatives to them.


Title:       Russian Request Speech Acts and the Art of Persuasion

Author:   Jeanette Owen, Arizona State University

While considerable research in cross-cultural speech act theory has been conducted across a number of languages since the 1980s, most notably the Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project, or CCSARP (Blum-Kulka, House & Kasper 1989), studies involving Russian language data had been curiously few and far between with the exception of Mills (1991, 1992, 1993). In recent years, however, interest has been growing, resulting in a handful of Russian-related cross-cultural speech act studies such as those presented by Belyaeva (1996, 2001, 2004), among others, and investigations of the development of pragmatic competence among learners of a second language (Owen 2001, Frank 2002,  Shardakova 2004).

The proposed paper will present the results of a cross-cultural comparison of over 100 native and non-native Russian speakers' approach to the request speech act based on data gathered from a discourse completion task survey. The presentation will draw on previous research in cross-cultural speech act theory for the purposes of categorizing various components of the request, specifically the linguistic means employed by the speaker to persuade the hearer to comply with the request. Such measures, generally referred to as supportive moves, may include everything from a promise of a reward to a threat or an effort to invoke guilt. While previous investigations generally outline variation across cultures in the approach to the request based on the age, status, gender, and degree of familiarity of the interlocutors, as well as the degree of imposition of the request, the proposed presentation will further the range of inquiry to include differences based on the transparency of the request context (i.e., the extent to which the request can be surmised based on the location and prescribed roles of the participants). In particular, the researcher will present data demonstrating similarities and differences between NS and NNS regarding the persuasive measures employed in the articulation of the request speech act, as well as similarities and differences within NS and NNS  groups that can be attributed to the context of the request speech act.

Belyaeva, E. I. 1996. Advice and Soviet: A Cross-Cultural Perspective on Speech Acts. Proceedings of the 22nd Conference of Berkeley Linguistics Society. 16-23
Blum-Kulka, S., House, J., Kasper, G. 1989. Cross-Cultural Pragmatics: Requests and Apologies. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
Frank, V.M. 2002. “Ponimaesh, k tebe kakoe delo:” The Interlanguage Pragmatic Competence of Classroom-based Learners of Russian. Michigan: UMI Dissertation Services.

Mills, M. 1993. On Russian and English Pragmalinguistic Requestive Strategies. Journal of Slavic Linguistics 1 (1), 92-115.