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marja meinl


dr. marja meinl

Phd project: ?ROTTEN SERVICE!!? or ?Nie wieder!!!!!!? ? British and German Electronic Complaints

 Online publication of Marja Meinl's phd thesis hosted by Bonn University

My research focuses on cross-cultural communication in written interaction on the Internet, so called "computer-mediated communication (CMC)" (HERRING 1996: 1). If you ever wondered whether Brits or Germans behave in the same way when giving negative feedback on online platforms such as eBay, my findings will give you interesting insights into cultural patterns inherent in those complaints.

Given my focus on a cross-cultural comparison, my research project is clearly based on studies conducted by, for instance, CLYNE et al. 1991; HOUSE 2000; HOUSE & KASPER 1981; MILLER 2000; MURPHY & NEU 1996; TYLER 1995, who revealed that different cultural norms of interactants can result in misunderstandings, communication breakdown, and/or the formation of stereotypes. The presence of cultural differences, together with the possibly arising negative consequences, have also been shown to hold true for the speech act of complaining (cf. COHEN & OLSHTAIN 1993; HOUSE & KASPER 1981; KRAFT & GELUYKENS 2002, 2004; MÖHL 1996; MURPHY & NEU 1996; NAKABACHI 1996; OLSHTAIN & WEINBACH 1987, 1993; TROSBORG 1995). However, these studies have focused on spoken interaction only, hence leaving a large research gap I would like to contribute to by analysing data of CMC, a rather new modality of language, whose importance is rapidly growing.

Apart from its worth for research on CMC, my study is further significant for three major reasons. Firstly, it is central for the improvement of cross-cultural communication. Secondly, it makes a valuable contribution to intercultural language in use. And finally, the results of my study are fundamental for interlanguage research on German learners’ of English, since the knowledge of native speakers’ cultural norms is an essential prerequisite for further in-depth analyses of learners’ interlanguage and thus the production of effective teaching materials.


  • CLYNE, Michael; BALL, Martin & NEIL, Deborah (1991): "Intercultural communication at work in Australia: Complaints and apologies in turns", Multilingua 10: 251-73.
  • COHEN, Andrew D. & OLSHTAIN, Elite (1993): ?The production of speech acts by EFL learners?, TESOL Quarterly 27 (1): 33-56.
  • HERRING, Susan (ed.) (1996): Computer-Mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social and Cross- Cultural Perspectives. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • HOUSE, Juliane (2000): "Understanding misunderstanding: A pragmatic-discourse approach to analysing mismanaged rapport in talk across cultures", in: Spencer-Oatey, Hellen (ed.): Culturally Speaking. Managing Rapport Through Talk Across Cultures. London/New York: Continuum, 145-164.
  • HOUSE, Juliane & KASPER, Gabriele (1981): "Politeness markers in English and German", in: Coulmas, Florian (ed.): Conversational Routine. Explorations in Standardized Communication Situations and Prepatterned Speech. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 157-185.
  • KRAFT, Bettina & GELUYKENS, Roland (2002): "Complaints in French L1 and L2: A cross-linguistic investigation", in: Foster-Cohen, Susan; Ruthenberg, Tanja & Poschen, Marie-Louise (eds.): Eurosla Yearbook Volume 2. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 227-242.
  • KRAFT, Bettina & GELUYKENS, Roland (2004): "Beschwerdeverhalten in Muttersprache und Lernersprache: Eine kontrastive Analyse der Sprachen Deutsch und Franz�sisch", in: Pittner, K.; Pittner, R. J. & Sch�tte, J. (eds.): Beitr�ge zu Sprache und Sprachen 4. Vortr�ge der Bochumer Linguistik-Tage. Munich: Lincom, 257-265.
  • MILLER, Laura (2000): "Negative assessments in Japanese-American workplace interaction", in: Spencer-Oatey, Hellen (ed.): Culturally Speaking. Managing Rapport Through Talk Across Cultures. London/New York: Continuum, 240-254.
  • M�HL, Silke (1996): Alltagssituationen im interkulturellen Vergleich: Realisierung von Kritik und Ablehnung im Deutschen und Englischen. M.A. thesis, University of Hamburg.
  • MURPHY, Beth & NEU, Joyce (1996): "My grade�s too low: The speech act set of complaining", in: Gass, Susan & Neu, Joyce (eds.): Speech Acts Across Cultures. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 191-217.
  • NAKABACHI, K. (1996): "Pragmatic transfer in complaints: Strategies of complaining in English and Japanese by Japanese EFL speakers", JACET Bulletin 27: 127-142.
  • OLSHTAIN, Elite & WEINBACH, Liora (1987): "Complaints: A study of speech act behaviour among native and nonnative speakers of Hebrew", in: Bertuccelli-Papi, Marcella & Verschueren , Jef (eds.): The Pragmatic Perspective: Selected Papers from the 1985 International Pragmatics Conference. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 195-208.
  • OLSHTAIN, Elite & WEINBACH, Liora (1993): "Interlanguage features of the speech act of complaining", in: Kasper, Gabriele & Blum-Kulka, Shoshana (eds.): Interlanguage Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 108-122.
  • TROSBORG, Anna (1995): Interlanguage Pragmatics. Requests, Complaints and Apologies. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • TYLER, Andrea (1995): "The construction of cross-cultural miscommunication", Studies in Second Language Acquisition 17 (2): 129-152.



  • "'ROTTEN SERVICE!!' oder 'Nie wieder!!!!!!' ? British and German complaining behaviour in e-commerce." Paper accepted for the 15th World Congress of Applied Linguistics (AILA): Multilingualism: Challenges & Opportunities, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, 24-29 August 2008.
  • "Linguistische Forschung im Unterricht ? Ein Bericht aus der Praxis." Paper presented at the Kongress des Gesamtverbands Moderne Fremdsprachen (GMF): Qualit�t entwickeln. Neue Wege in Unterricht und Lehrerbildung, University of Leipzig, Germany, 27-29 March 2008.
  • "'never received' oder 'GLATTER BETRUG!' ? Textproduktion in elektronischen Feedbackforen." Paper presented at the 38. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft f�r Angewandte Linguistik (GAL): Schl�sselqualifikation
  • "'still not received' oder �typisch Newbie!!' ? Beschwerdeverhalten im elektronischen Sprachgebrauch." Poster presented at the 22. Kongress f�r Fremdsprachendidaktik der Deutsche Gesellschaft f�r Fremdschprachenforschung (DGFF), University of Gie�en, Germany, 3-6 October 2007.
  • "'ROTTEN SERVICE!!' or 'Nie wieder!!!!!!' ? British and German complaining behaviour in computer-mediated communication." Poster presented at the 10th International Pragmatics Conference, G�teborg, Sweden, 8-13 July 2007.
  • "'ROTTEN SERVICE!!' oder 'Nie wieder!!!!!' ? Selbstdarstellung im elektronischen Beschwerdeverhalten." Paper presented at the Arbeitstreffen Liguistischer Pragmatik (ALP): Theatralit�t des sprachlichen Handelns, University of Siegen, Germany, 27th February 2007.
  • "'ROTTEN SERVICE!!' oder 'Nie wieder!!!!!' ? Beschwerden im elektronischen Sprachgebrauch." Paper presented at the 37. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft f�r Angewandte Linguistik (GAL): Globalisierung, University of M�nster, Germany, 21-23 September 2006.
  • "'ROTTEN SERVICE!!' or ?Nie wieder!!!!!' ? Complaining in British and German Electronic Discourse." Paper presented at the 31th International LAUD Symposium: Intercultural Pragmatics, University of Koblenz/Landau (at Landau), Germany, 27-30 March 2006.
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