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Organisational Conflict Talk Across Cultures. Verbal Conflict Management Between Superiors and Subordinates in Chinese, German and US American Medical Dramas

  • This socio-pragmatic study investigates organisational conflict talk between superiors and subordinates in three medical dramas from China, Germany and the United States. It explores what types of sociolinguistic realities the medical dramas construct by ascribing linguistic behaviour to different status groups. The study adopts an enhanced analytical framework based on John Gumperz’ discourse strategies and Spencer-Oatey’s rapport management theory. This framework detaches directness from politeness, defines directness based on preference and polarity and explains the use of direct and indirect opposition strategies in context. The findings reveal that the three hospital series draw on 21 opposition strategies which can be categorised into mitigating, intermediate and intensifying strategies. While the status identity of superiors is commonly characterised by a higher frequency of direct strategies than that of subordinates, both status groups manage conflict in a primarily direct manner across all three hospital shows. The high percentage of direct conflict management is related to the medical context, which is characterised by a focus on transactional goals, complex role obligations and potentially severe consequences of medical mistakes and delays. While the results reveal unexpected similarities between the three series with regard to the linguistic directness level, cross-cultural differences between the Chinese and the two Western series are obvious from particular sociopragmatic conventions. These conventions particularly include the use of humour, imperatives, vulgar language and incorporated verbal and para-verbal/multimodal opposition. Noteworthy differences also appear in the underlying patterns of strategy use. They show that the Chinese series promotes a greater tolerance of hierarchical structures and a partially closer social distance in asymmetrical professional relationships. These disparities are related to different perceptions of power distance, role relationships, face and harmony. The findings challenge existing stereotypes of Chinese, US American and German conflict management styles and emphasise the context-specific nature of verbal conflict management in every culture. Although cinematic aspects affect the conflict management in the fictional data, the results largely comply with recent research on conflict talk in real-life workplaces. As such, the study contributes to intercultural trainings in medical contexts and provides an enhanced analytical framework for further cross-cultural studies on linguistic strategies.

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Author:Isabella Tegethoff
Referee:Yong Liang, Martin Wengeler
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of completion:2022/05/05
Date of publication:2022/05/05
Publishing institution:Universität Trier
Granting institution:Universität Trier, Fachbereich 2
Date of final exam:2021/11/03
Release Date:2022/05/05
Tag:cross-cultural; directness; disagreement; rapport; workplace
GND Keyword:Arztserie; Chinesisch; Deutsch; Diskursanalyse; Englisch; Grey's Anatomy; Identität; In aller Freundschaft; Kommunikation; Konfliktregelung; Kontrastive Linguistik; Rollenverhalten; Soziolinguistik; Status; Umgangsformen
Number of pages:355
Institutes:Fachbereich 2 / Sinologie
Dewey Decimal Classification:4 Sprache / 40 Sprache / 400 Sprache
Licence (German):License LogoCC BY-NC-ND: Creative-Commons-Lizenz 4.0 International

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