Text and Context in International Trade Communication: A Case Study of Email Business Communication Among Professionals in the Asia-Pacific Region

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Swangboonsatic, Compol (2006) Text and Context in International Trade Communication: A Case Study of Email Business Communication Among Professionals in the Asia-Pacific Region. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


The study employs an innovative interdisciplinary research methodology to investigate text and context in international trade email communication. The approach combines analysis of communicators' email texts with conceptual analysis of their introspections while they are engaged in communicative situations and their retrospective reflections on their interactions. The study uses a series of simulated tasks and scenarios designed to reflect actual international trade email communication in the Asia Pacific region. Although the study does not start with a pre-determined view of static ethnic or national culture-based traits, participants with similar sociolinguistic and national cultural backgrounds are grouped and assigned the same task and scenario. This provides the possibility of considering their possible shared behavioural characteristics, whilst also exploring a number of other dimensions impacting on their communicative behaviour. The interdisciplinary theoretical framework combining insights and concepts from the disciplines of genre studies, pragmatics and cognitive message production has enabled the study to claim that there is a genre of international trade email communication in the Asia Pacific based on the established communication conventions evident in the shared communicative purposes, textual structures, and contextual knowledge, and distinctive generic characteristics. The shared communicative purposes and textual structure are demonstrated in a number of similar moves and acts from the analysis of email texts written by the four groups of participants who have different socio-cultural and socio-linguistic backgrounds in the six tasks. The similar communicative purposes are also recognized in participants' introspections related to the main business goal and their emphasis on certain goals across the five identified goal types in each task. These common communicative purposes are posited to shape the email generic structure and the email compositional conventions of professionals of the international trade discourse community. The semantic content, and the hybrid and dynamic nature of the texts are common distinctive characteristics of the international trade email communication. The common semantic content of moves and acts stem from the specific type of international trade business. The hybrid characteristic is evident in the variability in acceptable syntax in the linguistic realisation of some moves and acts, with full sentences right through to sentence fragments composed of various lengths, and the inconsistent and variable usage of the formulaic moves of the Addressing, the Expressing gratitude/respect/etc., and the Signing moves. The dynamic nature is evident in the similarities and differences in the usage of moves and acts and in the inconsistent usage of formulaic moves in the international trade email. It is contended that shared contextual knowledge of international trade email communication operates in the configuration of context that leads to common realization of moves and acts in the generic structure and communicative purposes of this email communication. The findings from the study have also led to a conceptualized model of these email communication practices. The model posits that contextual factors, goals and email texts relate dynamically and interactively. The professional business culture, the virtual culture and the formulaic interpersonal compositional conventions interact through the contexts of culture, situation, and text and determine potential meanings to be communicated in the overall environment of this communication. The interaction of these contextual factors leads to communication conventions in the generic realisation of moves and acts and the format of email to achieve collective communicative purposes among members of the electronic international trade discourse community. Variations in the generic structure of the email communication are postulated to stem from several contextual factors that are specific to individual trade transactions. In these transactions national/regional cultures, business relationship, traders' roles, counterpart, number of tasks in the email, turns in email exchanges have been shown to be important in contributing to the variability in how the genre of international trade email communication is realised in different specific international trade scenarios.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/480
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > RFCD Classification > 350000 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Keywords trade communication; business communication; Asia-Pacific; email
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