Chapter published in:Current Issues in Intercultural Pragmatics
Edited by Istvan Kecskes and Stavros Assimakopoulos
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 274] 2017
► pp. 129–156
Face-threatening e-mail complaint negotiation in a multilingual business environment
A discursive analysis of refusal and disagreement strategies
This paper builds on an authentic corpus of German- and French-language business e-mails on complaint refusals gathered at the sales department of a Belgian multinational company. Based on existing research in pragmatics and genre-analysis, our study offers a discursive analysis of company refusal strategies and customer disagreement strategies, while introducing a cross-cultural perspective. In particular, we examine the level of directness and the use of internal and external modification in these face-threatening speech acts in both languages. Our study reveals high levels of directness in the complaint refusal corpus, which we relate to the norm of clarity in business communication. However, while employees soften their refusal message through downgraders and neutral/positive external modification, customers tend to formulate their disagreement e-mails in a more aggravating way. For the latter, transactional goals tend to outweigh the interactional goal of interpersonal harmony. Our cross-cultural analysis confirms previous observations on French-German cultural and communicative differences, with French employees and customers displaying a stronger inclination towards elaborateness, dissent orientation, and (possibly) relationship-orientation.
Keywords: refusal, disagreement, German, French, business communication
Published online: 14 June 2017
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