Interpreting the culture in intercultural rhetoric: a critical perspective from English as a lingua franca studies

Baker, Will (2013) Interpreting the culture in intercultural rhetoric: a critical perspective from English as a lingua franca studies In, Belcher, D. and Nelson, G. (eds.) Critical and Corpus-Based Approaches to Intercultural Rhetoric. Ann Arbor, US, University of Michigan Press


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As Matsuda and Atkinson comment in a recent critique, contrastive rhetoric (CR)/intercultural rhetoric (IR) “…talks about culture without ever telling us what culture is. And without ever theorizing culture, and that’s problematic…” (2008: 297). This represents a major difficulty with IR as without a well theorised view of culture there is a danger of essentialising and stereotyping the communicative practices of different groups. This is not a new criticism of CR/IR (see for example Scollon, 1997), and attempts have been made to address some of these issues through more complex views of culture (for example Atkinson, 2004; Connor, 2008), indeed the move from CR to IR is clearly part of this. Nevertheless, given the range of contextual factors that surround the construction and interpretation of a text can such a large and contested concept as culture be of any value in textual analysis? Such questions are even more pertinent when we consider that for English the ‘non-native’ users far outnumber ‘native’ users (Crystal, 2008) leading to difficulties in identifying which particular cultures are being contrasted.

This paper will argue that the concept of culture can yield valuable insights, but a more critical approach to culture is needed in which the inner circle native speaker communities (often Anglo-American) are no longer viewed as a baseline by which other English writing practices and forms are measured. The extensive use of English as a global lingua franca (ELF) means that a focus on the native speaker is no longer sustainable and runs the risk of imposing the communicative practises of one group over the many (Fairclough, 1999; Cameron, 2002) with the culturalism, linguicism, othering, and inequality this entails. This paper will explore how the insights from critical approaches to culture and language taken in intercultural communication (Kramsch, 2009; Holliday, 2011) and ELF studies (Baker, 2009 and Canagarajah, 2007), which are increasingly turning their attention to writing (for example Horner, forthcoming; Jenkins,2010; Mauranen and Hynninen, 2010), can inform IR and make it relevant to the needs of English users in global settings. It will be suggested that many of the key areas of knowledge and skills identified as necessary to negotiate intercultural communication through ELF are equally relevant to truly intercultural writing practices.

Item Type: Book Section
Organisations: Modern Languages
ePrint ID: 209259
Date :
Date Event
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2012 15:06
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2017 00:31
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