Culture and Interactional Trouble in Formal International Business Meetings: The Effect of Power Distance and Hierarchy on Coping Strategy.

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Achieving mutual understanding is one of the goals of interlocutors in social interactions. If interlocutors fail in establishing this state of understanding, then there exists interactional trouble. People could cope with interactional trouble in different ways. One could initiate repair or one could let it pass. The usage of such strategies in informal settings in the CA literature has seen much research. However, formal settings have not been extensively investigated. An even more overlooked dimension in the literature is how different cultures cope with interactional trouble in formal settings. This study tries to add to the current literature, by investigating which role power distance (based of Hofstede, 1980) and hierarchy play in coping with interactional trouble in formal Business English Lingua Franca (BELF) meetings. In total, more than 15 hours of professional business meetings transcriptions have been analyzed. The data was provided by the VOICE corpus. The results of the present study indicate an overall preference for directly addressing troubles. Furthermore, the qualitative analyses seem to suggest that the hierarchy symbols of role and age in combination with PD did not result in more frequent direct repair initiations for low PD interlocutors compared to high PD interlocutors. Future research should expand and improve on this study by including more interlocutors from different cultural backgrounds and by achieving a symmetrical distribution across groups, in order to statistically compare behavior. This will improve the understanding of the interplay between hierarchy and culture in intercultural communication.
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