Volume title: Ethnopragmatics of English in Australia
The special focus of this issue is on the Ethnopragmatics of English in Australia. It includes the use of English within and between different language, cultural and gender groups, along with an exploration of what it means to be Australian or multi-ethnic. These issues are also explored in a variety of verbal and non-verbal modes.
Each of the papers, based on original data collection and analysis, covers new and interesting areas of research.
Griffith Working Papers Editorial Team
Special Guest Editor: Ms Judith O'Byrne
Judith O'Byrne is a sessional lecturer in the School of Languages and Linguistics at Griffith University. Aside from her broad range of teaching areas in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, her main research area is English as a Second Language grammar.
Dr Michael Haugh
Michael Haugh is a Senior Lecturer convening the International English program in the School of Languages and Linguistics at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. His main research interests include pragmatics and intercultural communication. He has published work in the Journal of Pragmatics, Intercultural Pragmatics, Pragmatics, Multilingua, Journal of Politeness Research, and Discourse, and is co-editing a forthcoming book Face, Communication and Social Interaction (Equinox), as well as editing a special issue on 'Intention in pragmatics' for Intercultural Pragmatics (2008).
Dr Susana Eisenchlas
Susana Eisenchlas is a Senior Lecturer convening the Linguistics program in the School of Languages and Linguistics at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. Her Doctoral Dissertation was in the area of syntactic theory and first language acquisition. She also conducts research and publishes in the area of internationalisation of the curriculum and the teaching of intercultural communication from a linguistic perspective. She is co-editor of the book Australian Perspectives on Internationalising Education (2003).
Swearing in the 'Tradie' Environment as Tool for Solidarity
Author: Lauren McLeod
Lauren McLeod graduated in December 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Languages and Applied Linguistics, majoring in Japanese. She has been accepted into Flinders University in Adelaide where she will be completing a Master of Speech Pathology degree.
Swearing within a social interaction is often considered obscene and offensive, however swear words have many other functions within society that are rarely noted. The social meaning of swear words, such as fuck and cunt, have over time shifted from their offensive nature to having a more rapport‐building function within certain contexts.
This paper will analyse this meaning shift and the social motivations behind the use of the words fuck and cunt in the Australian trade workplace. It has been observed that Australian ‘tradies’ insult and swear at each other as a means of building and maintaining rapport amongst co‐ workers, as well as a means of differentiating themselves from the rest of society.
In order to demonstrate this, ten conversations were recorded between five tradies on their lunchbreaks, with these interactions subsequently being analysed. It is hoped that this study will expose the need for further research in this area of linguistics and demonstrate how words may serve different functions within different cultures.
Back-channelling: The use of yeah and mm to portray engaged listenership
Author: Kathrin Lambertz
This paper is concerned with the use of back‐channels to portray engaged listenership. Specifically, the aim of the research was to investigate the uses of yeah and mm as back‐channelling utterances to show engaged listenership.
The research focused on the different back‐channel functions that can be identified and the locations at which they occur. Data was analysed from the Griffith Corpus of Spoken Australian English (GCSAusE) and some data collected by the researcher. The key findings suggest that yeah and mm can function as continuers, alignment tokens and agreement tokens but mm seems to be weaker in respect to conversational engagement. Also, the functions of yeah and mm can be ambiguous.
Further research should investigate whether cultural or gender issues have an effect on how people portray engaged listenership by back‐channelling.
Proxemic Distance and Gender amongst Australians: A study of Side-On Distances
Authors: Lara Parker and Tara Leo
Lara Parker is currently in her last semester of a BA in Languages and Applied Linguistics at Griffith University, majoring in Japanese languages. She is interested in human behaviour, interaction and culture and hopes to combine and expand these interests in the future with her interest in language and Asian culture, through travel in Japan and Asia for either work or further study.
Tara Leo is currently in her last semester of a BA in Languages and Applied Linguistics at Griffith University, majoring in Japanese and Linguistics. She was boring in Papua New Guinea, but grew up in Australia from an early age. Tara has always had an interest in foreign languages and culture through watching foreign films and the social interactions of others.
The study of personal space, otherwise known as proxemics, has largely centred on the similarities and differences between various cultures, focusing primarily on the areas in front of and behind a person. The research conducted in this report examines the relatively neglected area of proxemic distances to either side of a person’s body, in a bid to contribute to contemporary research into intercultural non‐ verbal communication in this field.
The experiment conducted was modeled on Mazur’s 1977 research into side‐on proxemic distances between strangers but was changed from a cross‐cultural study to an intercultural study of gender. To this end, proxemic distances between all‐male, all‐female and mixed gender groups of Australian students sitting on a public bench were observed. Although the data collected in the experiment was limited, it was found to support gender differences observed by Heshka and Nelson in their 1972 study.
'Who the Bloody Hell are you?': What does it Mean to be (Un)Australian?
Author: Kate Doyle
Kate Doyle is interested in identity, namely how we understand ourselves in relation to others and the role of society in the formation of our sense of self. While the terms Australian and unAustralian are used to represent a sense of self as a part of a nation, our understanding of what these terms mean is vague at best.
This essay addresses the sparsity of information on how Australians understand their national identity. In contrast with previous studies that use government data or prescribed categories, this paper employs an open‐ended survey to allow respondents to ascribe their own meanings to what it means to be (un)Australian.
The findings are in agreement with previous studies, with participants emphasising democratic and citizenship rights and a strong adherence to traditional Australian values. It is concluded that the concept of an Australian identity encompasses a broad set of shared understandings including respect, freedom and equality.
Women's Language in Soap Operas: Comparing Features of Female Speech in Australia and Germany
Authors: Kathryn Lambertz and Melanie Hebrok
Kathrin Lambertz and Melanie Hebrok are German students completing the Bachelor of Arts in Languages and Applied Linguistics at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Kathrin is majoring in Spanish, International English and Linguistics; Melanie’s majors are Linguistics and International English.
This paper is concerned with investigating Robin Lakoff’s claims about tentativeness in women’s language and the influence of media role models on reproducing gender stereotypes.
The aim of this research project was to investigate representations of women’s language in German and Australian soap operas. The project focused on the frequency and the functions of sentence‐ prefacing disclaimers and sentence‐ending tag questions. The data consisted of female dialogues in several episodes of the Australian soap opera Home and Away and the German soap opera Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten. Questionnaires, forums and chat‐rooms were designed to obtain a general background regarding women’s identification with soap operas and their language.
The key findings supported the hypothesis that although the features can be identified in both cultural contexts, they tended to act as boosters rather than hedging devices. The research project confirms empirical studies disproving tentativeness in women’s language.
Intercultural Identity amongst International Students in Australia
Authors: Melanie Hebrok
Melanie Hebrok is a German student who recently completed her Bachelor of Arts in Languages and Applied Linguistics at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. She is currently enrolled in a postgraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication
Identities, personal or social, are not fixed and stable products, but are constructed through communication with others. This paper applies the Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT) to argue that a person’s identity influences their use of language, paralanguage and non‐verbal behaviour to accommodate others through either convergence, divergence or maintenance.
The aim of this research project was firstly, to analyse whether and to what extent members of a cultural group perceive their sociocultural/ethnic identities in an intercultural context; and secondly, to identify the behaviour in intercultural communication used to accommodate their in‐group as well as members of out‐groups. To this end, the paper analyses participants’ construction of an ‘intercultural’ identity.
The data was drawn from an ethnographic interview with four international students at an Australian High School: one Brazilian, one Italian, and two German students. Findings show that the German students use convergent behaviour, while the Italian student seeks to distance herself from the group through divergence. The research project confirms that differences in cultural identity salience, perception and interpretation of out‐groups and interactional context are all contributing factors in the construction of identity in intercultural encounters.
Language Anxiety in International Students: How can it be overcome?
Author: Rebecca Humphries
Rebecca Humphries is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts in Languages and Applied Linguistics at Griffith University. She is interested in the areas of intercultural communication, pragmatics and second language teaching. She is also fascinated by different cultures and languages; her particular regions of interest are China, surrounding Asian countries and Europe.
The ability to communicate in more than one language is widely recognized as a desirable skill, whether to further a career or merely for personal use. Consequently thousands worldwide study second languages, however many factors hinder the learner’s progress and level of proficiency in their target language. This study explores language anxiety, which has shown to have a substantially negative impact on performance.
This paper argues that while it has been widely studied, the focus of the vast majority of studies are classroom‐based and focus on the instructors’ role in lowering students’ anxiety. This study focuses on a largely uninvestigated aspect of language anxiety: how students can reduce their anxiety outside the classroom in a target‐language speaking environment without instructors’ intervention.
It looks at a group of five Chinese students of English, assesses their levels of anxiety upon entering Australia, asks whether or not this has changed over time, and investigates whether there were any strategies they employed which helped to alleviate the initial anxiety they felt when speaking to native speakers of English.
The findings indicate that forming friendships helps to diminish the stress experienced by second language students outside the language classroom, because between friends, the fear of negative evaluation is reduced and the level of confidence increased.