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The interplay of prior experience and actual situational context in intercultural first encounters

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Abstract

The study aims to investigate how prior experience of interlocutors interacts with actual situational context in intercultural interactions when the latter is represented by a well-known frame: getting acquainted with others. It attempts to demonstrate how the cultural frame of the target language is broken up and substituted with an emergent frame that is co-constructed from elements from prior experience with the target language, the first language and the actual situational experience.

Getting acquainted with others is a closed social situation, a cultural frame in which interlocutors usually have to follow a behavior pattern dictated by the requirements of the socio-cultural background in a given speech community. There is a ‘skeleton’ of these ‘getting to know you’ procedures that can be considered universal but is substantiated differently in every language. In each conversation in any language, ‘flesh’ is added to the ‘skeleton’ in a dynamic and co-constructed manner. However, there is a difference between how this happens in L1 and in intercultural interactions. While in L1 the ‘flesh’ on the skeleton is predetermined to a significant extent by requirements of core common ground in the given language, in intercultural encounters this ‘flesh building’ process in the target language (in this case English) is not set but is co-constructed by the interlocutors as emergent common ground relying on their prior experience with their own L1 culture, limited experience with the target culture and the assessment of the actual situational context. In this study the co-construction process, i.e. emergent common ground will be analyzed by examining the use of formulaic language and freely generated language in several discourse segments.

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Keywords: actual situational context; co-construction; common ground; getting acquainted; prior context; skeleton

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2019

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