Journal of Intercultural Communication, issue 17, June 2008

Gabriele Pallotti & Cecilia Varcasia

Service telephone call openings: a comparative study on five European languages


The paper presents the results of a comparative study on how speakers of different languages (English, French, German, Italian and Spanish) manage the opening of service phone calls. Previous research has focussed on cross-cultural variability in telephone conversations, but this is the first attempt to systematically compare several European languages at the same time. The communicative strategies speakers use in each language are analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively, allowing a systematic comparison across cultures and languages and the observation of intra-cultural variability. Comparative analysis is based on five fundamental moves that may be performed in a telephone call opening: summons-answer, identification, greetings, how-are-you’s, getting-down-to-business. Implications are drawn for cross-cultural research on interaction and for training staff working in multi-lingual and multi-cultural settings.

Keywords: telephone calls, conversation analysis, cross-cultural pragmatics, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish.

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