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English for Specic Purposes 29 (2010) 191203



Conict or cooperation: The use of backchannelling in ELF negotiations

Anne Kari Bjrge *
Department of Professional and Intercultural Communication, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH), Helleveien 30, N-5045 Bergen, Norway

Abstract The international business community relies heavily on English Lingua Franca (ELF) as a shared means of communication, and English business language programmes thus feature prominently within the eld of English for Specic Purposes (ESP). Business ESP programmes, however, have little focus on active listening, which previous research has pinpointed as an important negotiating skill. One aspect of listener behaviour is the use of backchannelling, for example, to signal understanding, which is central in ELF interaction. While previous corpus-based research has focused on verbal backchannelling, my analysis sees the verbal and non-verbal aspects in context, based on 13 video recordings of simulated negotiations involving 51 students from 16 nationalities (total negotiating time 3 h 46 min). Seven negotiations were carried out in an exam situation and six as coursework. The prociency level of those participating in the former is advanced, the latter upper intermediate/advanced. Non-verbal backchannelling in the form of head nods was found to be the most frequent form, while verbal backchannelling was mainly restricted to yes/yeah and to items not exclusive to English, such as mhm and okay. Backchannelling behaviour was also found to vary according to conict level, as giving or withholding support may be used as a negotiation strategy. 2009 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.

1. Introduction 1.1. Background Global business activities require a global language, a role that in todays world is played by English, both as used among native speakers and as English lingua franca. Teaching English to non-native speakers is a major industry, both for building general prociency and for specic purposes. A case in point is business communication programmes, focusing on vocabulary-building, written business communication genres and oral activities like negotiations, meetings and presentations. Business English may be described as a form of English for Specic Purposes (ESP), whose coherence is based on the business studies domain, language

Tel.: +47 55 959 331; fax: +47 55 95 93 28. E-mail address: anne.bjorge@nhh.no

0889-4906/$36.00 2009 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.esp.2009.04.002


A.K. Bjrge / English for Specic Purposes 29 (2010) 191203

programmes taught for business communication and the activities associated with international business. ELF used for business purposes is a well-established eld with an identiable discourse community, which has led to the coining of the acronym BELF (Business English Lingua Franca) (Louhiala-Salminen, Charles, & Kankaanranta, 2005). Research on the use of English in globalised companies has demonstrated that business sets great store by communication know-how, language skills like directness and politeness, and also the courage and willingness to speak a foreign language (Charles, 2008). These are features emphasised in teaching ELF negotiation skills to business students, who need to develop their ability to cooperate in international contexts that may involve conicting interests. There is also the intercultural dimension to take into account, as notions and practice of directness and emphasis on relationship-building show great variation between cultures (Hall, 1976; Victor, 1992). While the use of ELF may neutralise some aspects of national culture in these respects, awareness of how to get ones message across in an unambiguous way without causing oence is a prerequisite for successful ELF communication. A number of studies emphasise the cooperative aspect of ELF interaction. Cases in point are negotiations with a common goal (Firth, 1990, 1996; Poncini, 2004; Ulijn & Gorter, 1989, p. 497) and small-talk sessions (Meierkord, 2000, 2002). In such situations, the participants are generally oriented towards giving feedback in order to bring the conversation forwards, thus creating a positive atmosphere. Turning to conict situations, however, we may have a dierent scenario (Knapp, 2002, pp. 240241). When participants pursue interests according to dierent goals, this will be reected in the way they contribute to the dialogue. Situational variation should thus be taken into account when analysing ELF interaction, making room for data-driven studies of ELF interaction in dierent types of context (Schirin, 2001, p. 62). The situational context also includes dierent levels of speaker competence (Meierkord, 2002, p. 129), as one would expect this aspect to inuence turn length, ability to develop an argument and choice of vocabulary. The present paper explores ELF interaction in a situational context that involves both cooperation and conict, namely, negotiations. The corpus used for the analysis consists of video-recorded simulated negotiations carried out by international students. 1.2. Active listening In a negotiation, two or more parties present their points of view and bargain to reach a conclusion. With this in mind, business EFL (English as a foreign language) programmes focus on the production of speech. However, listener behaviour is also an aspect of the negotiation process. Thus, Ulijn and Strother (1995, p. 265) refer to active listening skills as a factor distinguishing between skilled and average negotiators. This includes the ability to give verbal and non-verbal feedback, for example, by using verbal signals like oh yes and non-verbal strategies like smiling, making intensive eye contact and nodding, in addition to asking questions and summarizing during the negotiation process (1995, p. 268). Active listening is thus a part of an interactive process, where the interlocutors make explicit that they are paying attention and contributing towards a common understanding of the topics being debated. Such behaviour contributes to rapport management (Spencer-Oatey, 2000, p. 20, Planken, 2005), and is an aspect of interlocutors pragmatic competence (House, 2002). According to McCarthy (2002, p. 49), however, good listenership. . . is an under-researched area of spoken discourse analysis. Listening behaviour has also been in focus when discussing intercultural communication. Thus, Ting-Toomey (1999, p. 224) advises representatives from individualist cultures to use nods to signal attentive listening when communicating with collectivists, and Gudykunst and Kim (2003, p. 226) also stress the importance of backchannelling techniques to facilitate eective communication. White (1989) found Japanese to use more backchannelling than Americans, but also that the latter were more active in this respect when interacting with Japanese than in communication among Americans, which she attributes to accommodative behaviour on the part of the Americans with the aim of expressing encouragement and comprehension. In an ELF context, Mauranen (2006, p. 147) points out that minimal responses, for example, yes, yeah and ok, are frequently used to signal understanding. In a negotiation situation, this is a very important function, as misunderstandings may have expensive consequences. Not including active listening skills in EFL programmes may thus have negative consequences. Indeed, Gardner (1998) claims that ignoring such skills is as serious as not teaching central aspects of grammar.

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1.3. Backchannelling Backchannelling is a central aspect of active listening. The term backchannel (Yngve, 1970) refers to verbal and non-verbal listener feedback in spoken interaction that does not involve a speaker shift, but functions as a turn-continuer (Scheglo, 1982). Verbal backchannelling may be expressed by means of items at the non-lexical, lexical, phrasal and syntactic levels, viz. ah, aha, ne, good, good heavens, I see, mhm (includes references to hm, hmm, m, mhm, mmhm, unh/hunh, unhhunh/uhuh), no, of course, oh, oh my goodness/dear/God, ok, quite, really, right, so, sure, thats nice/right/not bad, yes/yeah, yes I know (Maynard, 1986; Scheglo, 1982; Stenstrom, 1994; Tottie, 1991; Yngve, 1970). McCarthy (2002, p. 55) also refers to adjectives and adverbs that may function as backchannelling items, viz. absolutely, brilliant, certainly, cool, denitely, exactly, excellent, ne, good, gosh, great, lovely, marvellous, perfect, quite, really, right, sure, true, wonderful and wow. Non-verbal backchannelling may be signalled by facial expressions, laughter, eye-glances, leaning forwards or backwards, or by head nods (Maynard, 1986; Scheglo, 1982; Stenstrom, 1994; Tottie, 1991; Yngve, 1970). According to Stenstro (1994, p. 81), a listener is not allowed to provide only silent feedback, such as m head nods, smiles, and eye-glances. Some kind of oral responding is expected, minimally in the form of backchannels. Watching verbal interaction, however, it becomes clear that some interlocutors do occasionally restrict their feedback to non-verbal signals. cf. the following speech: A2: we have a very nice 2 days here in bergen (B2 mhm) and weve seen your products how they work and its ah impressing what a quality (INB061)1 Here, the speaker, A2, makes a statement during the initial small talk phase of the negotiation, and receives positive feedback mhm from B2. We are left with the impression that there are two participants in this interaction. However, if we include reference to non-verbal backchannelling the picture changes: A2: we have a very nice 2 days here in bergen (B2 mhm) and weve seen your products how they work (A1 nods, B2 nods) and its ah impressing (B2 nods) what a quality (INB061) We now see that A1 supports her team member by nodding, and that B2 nods twice to give positive feedback. There is thus every reason to include non-verbal backchannelling in analysing interaction, and perhaps specically in an ELF context where nodding is an easy way to give feedback, even easier than using verbal backchannelling. Thus, analysing a negotiation without taking into account non-verbal signals misses vital information as to how interaction takes place. Backchannelling is associated with a number of functions. On the positive side it is said to signal support, attention, empathy, enthusiasm, agreement, evaluation, acknowledgement of what the current speaker says; to express but not to guarantee understanding; it is used to request clarication; to respond to new information and also to encourage the speaker to continue his/her turn (Fries, 1952; Gardner, 1998; Maynard, 1986; McCarthy, 2002; Orestrom, 1983; Scheglo, 1982; Stenstrom, 1994; Tottie, 1991; Yngve, 1970). On the neg ative side, it has been pointed out that backchannelling may indicate lack of interest (Scheglo, 1982, p. 85; Stenstrom, 1994, p. 81), and even be used to signal indignation, indierence and impatience (Stenstrom, 1994, p. 81). Thus, backchannelling may express emotions on a gradience from indierence to strong involvement (Stenstro 1994, p. 82). m,

1.4. Backchannel or turn? It will be clear that many of items referred to in 1.3 can have a number of functions, and whether an item is to be classied as a backchannelling item or as a turn will depend on its role in the interaction. A case in point is when items that are frequently used as backchannels are used to introduce a turn, for example,
INB061 = Negotiation carried out as a course activity in the Intercultural Business Communication course in 2006 (Negotiation 1). Team A = A1 (Dutch), A2 (German); team B = B1 (Chinese), B2 (Chinese). For transcription conventions, cf. Appendix 2.


A.K. Bjrge / English for Specic Purposes 29 (2010) 191203

B1: yes (B1 nods) we are very interested in your market so thats why we want to (A2 nods) talk with you mhm A2: mhm well weve actually a very interesting oer for you (to make) (B1 [mhm, B2 mhm]) ah we would like to invite you to build a joint venture with us in caracas and come over to our plant and build your own plant there (B2 mhm nods) and to make an integrated supplying with us (A1 nods) (INB061) In this passage, the non-lexical item mhm occurs ve times. In the rst instance, B1 uses it to close her own turn; it occurs at the end of a syntactically complete statement, and can be interpreted to the eect that she is yielding the oor to the next speaker. The second mhm is used by A2 to initiate his turn. In the nal three cases, B1 and B2 use it during A2s turn. In my analysis, I shall not include the rst two types among backchannels, as their function is not to give feedback during someone elses turn, but rather to yield and claim the oor respectively. As the negotiation develops, it becomes clear that B1 and B2 are opposed to the oer made by A2 in this turn. It is therefore reasonable to assume that their mhms serve to signal attention and understanding rather than agreement. The same applies to other backchannelling items used in the same function, for instance, yes in the example following: A1: we are certainly more condent in a long-term relationship I think (A2 yeah) if we get yeah some benet on the pricing B2: yes were really interested in selling this equipment and we understand our customers demand in terms better in regard to in terms of the quality . . . (INB061) In the rst turn, A2 uses yeah as a backchannel to support his team fellow A1, while B2s yes serves to introduce a new turn. In addition, yeah is used by A1 to perhaps strengthen her claim for a concession on price. In my analysis, it is only A2s use that will be classied as a backchannel. Finally, when nodding is used to support own statements, it is not analysed as backchannelling behaviour, such as in B1s yes (B1 nods) we are very interested. Tottie (1991, p. 260) points out that when an item elicits a response, there is a case for classifying it as a turn, that is, its status can be determined only on the basis of the following utterance. That is, backchannels are distinguished from turns by not involving a speaker shift (Stenstrom, 1994, p. 5). However, backchannels tend to be inserted at syntactic and semantic completion points, where even a takeover would have been natural (Stenstrom, 1994, p. 6). On the basis of the above, I shall dene a backchannelling item according to function: (a) It represents listener behaviour and does not interrupt someone elses turn. (b) It does not elicit a response from any of the interlocutors. (c) It does not represent a bid for the oor, thus unsuccessful bids like yes but are not counted as backchannels, but transcribed as turns. As far as form is concerned, backchannelling items belong to a limited class of lexical items, minimal responses and non-lexical items that may function according to the criteria listed above. In addition, the repetition of another speakers utterance may function as backchannel. Non-verbal behaviour like nodding is included due to its having similar functions to items such as yeah and mhm. 1.5. Previous corpus-based research A number of corpus-based studies have dealt with backchannelling in a native speaker context (Drummond & Hopper, 1993; Fries, 1952; Gardner, 1998; McCarthy, 2002; Orestrom, 1983; Scheglo, 1982; Stenstrom, 1994; Tottie, 1991). The general conclusion to be drawn is that those who include quantitative data nd the most frequent backchannelling items to be yes/yeah and forms of non-lexical verbalisations like mhm/m/ uh-uh/hmm (Tottie, 1991, pp. 257258, 264). While some of these studies include reference to non-verbal backchannelling, this aspect is not included as a part of the linguistic analysis of their corpora. Dittmann and Lle-

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wellyn (1968), however, found that nods tended to co-occur with vocal responses. This research identies a number of functions of backchannelling (cf. 1.3 above). Studies of backchannelling in interaction involving non-native speakers are less common. In her analysis of dyadic conversations between American and Japanese speakers in English, White (1989) found a higher frequency of backchannelling among the Japanese (a ratio of 3:1), which she attributes to features of Japanese language and culture, in addition to lack of uency. The Americans were found to use more backchannelling when interacting with the Japanese than in native-only interaction, thus accommodating their behaviour to their Japanese interlocutors to give encouragement to the non-native speaker. Gardner (1998) analyses nativenon-native interaction based on a corpus of transcriptions of articles and book chapters in applied linguistics publications and face-to-face dyads. He found that the core use of backchannelling was to continue the current speakers turn, in addition to expressing acknowledgement and agreement. Meierkords (2000, 2002) analysis of lingua franca small talk among students also concludes that expressing support is a central function (2000, p. 9). Mauranen (2006) employs the corpus of English as a Lingua Franca in Academic Settings (ELFA) to discuss the how misunderstandings are signalled and prevented in ELF interaction, and also points out that ELF speakers make frequent use of items like yes, yeah and ok to signal comprehension (2006, p. 147). 1.6. Present corpus and situational variables To my knowledge, no previous research has focused on backchannelling behaviour in ELF negotiations involving only non-native speakers. As the development of negotiation skills gure prominently in ESP/ EFL programmes for business, this under-researched area merits more attention. With this in mind, I have established an ELF corpus of simulated student negotiations. These negotiations involve a number of situational variables, which are outlined below (cf. 2.3 for further details). The students are either students in the CEMS (Community of European Management Schools) programme, or attend the INB (Intercultural Business Communication) course at Authors home institution. The INB students have upper intermediate to advanced level prociency, while the CEMS students are all advanced level speakers. The students have to negotiate in order to solve a problem under time pressure. Their challenge is to handle conicting interests while cooperating with the other side to get a good outcome. The INB data set comprises six negotiations, where the students bargain as two opposing teams of two or three participants, but without specic roles. They are videoed without a supervisor present in the room. There is no pass/fail requirement. The CEMS data set comprises seven negotiations, where the students bargain according to individual roles, one of which is that of chair. The session is part of an oral exam graded on a pass/fail basis, and the students are monitored by two examiners in the room. 1.7. Research questions By analysing the CEMS and INB data sets, I will try to answer the following research questions: 1. Does the choice of verbal backchannelling items in the CEMS and INB data sets dier from that found in native speaker interaction? 2. What is the relationship between verbal and non-verbal backchannelling in the CEMS and INB data sets? 3. Do the CEMS and INB data sets demonstrate dierent turn lengths? 4. Does backchannelling behaviour dier according to negotiation phase?

2. Materials and methods 2.1. Transcription The transcription conventions are based on the transcription guidelines developed by the English as a Lingua Franca in Academic Settings (ELFA) project (cf. Appendix 1). However, I have also included reference to


A.K. Bjrge / English for Specic Purposes 29 (2010) 191203

one important aspect of non-verbal language, that is, nodding. The speaker references are also dierent. In the INB material, I have two teams for each negotiation referred to as A and B. Thus, A1 and A2 are members of the same team, and the same applies to B1 and B2. The CEMS data are referred to by numbers reecting their roles (from 1 to 4), and gender. Thus, F1 represents a female student having the role of chair in the interaction sequence. As gender is not subject to discussion in this paper, I have not included gender reference in the INB data set. Unlike ELFA, my transcription does not include angle brackets. I have not included references to intonation, nor to pauses. Finally, laughter has been transcribed, but its function is not subject to analysis in the present paper. Getting a comprehensive overview of all non-verbal features would require recording from more than one camera angle, and even then, it would be dicult to capture all the signals. I have therefore limited my task to including references to nodding in the transcription. This is a frequently occurring activity and a major contributing factor to the interaction process. It is also relatively easy to observe, even when the participants are all lmed from one angle, and thus gives reliable data. In the few cases where a participant nods repeatedly, only the onset has been noted in the transcription. 2.2. Backchannelling items researched for the present article The backchannelling items studied for the present paper include the following items that have been included in previous studies of native speaker interaction (cf. 1.3): (a) Non-verbal manifestations: head nods. (b) Non-lexical items: mhm, ah, oh. (c) Lexical, phrasal and syntactic items: absolutely, brilliant, certainly, denitely, exactly, excellent, ne, good, great, I see, of course, ok, perfect, quite, really, right, so, sure, thats nice/right/not bad, true, yes/ yeah, yes I know. (d) Repetition of other speakers utterance. The following items that were also included in these studies were left out because they in my opinion belong to the small-talk/private conversation sphere: cool, good heavens, gosh, lovely, marvellous, oh my goodness, oh dear, oh God, wonderful, wow. I may add that my material has so far not yielded any of these items, nor any obvious candidates to add to the list. No has also been referred to as a backchannelling item. However, as no is used to object to a statement it impacts on the following turn rather than functioning as a turn-continuer, and frequently represents an unsuccessful bid for the oor. It does thus not fulll the criteria set up under 1.4 above. 2.3. Corpus The corpus used for the present paper consists of two sets (INB and CEMS, cf. 1.6) of video-recorded data of simulated negotiations carried out by international master students; 13 negotiations in total. All the speakers are aiming for a professional career in international business. The INB set consists of six negotiations carried out as part of a masters course in intercultural business communication. The participants negotiate as opposing teams of between two or three participants each, but without specic roles. Preparation time is 30 min; negotiation time is 2530 min, and they are videoed without being monitored. Their prociency level is upper intermediate to advanced. While there is no pass/fail requirement, the fact that they are being lmed and that the recording may be shown in a plenary session in class means that they are keen to display their negotiation skills. The CEMS set consists of seven negotiations carried out as part of an exam, where students bargain according to individual roles, one of which is that of chair. Preparation time is 30 min; negotiation time 1015 min, and they are monitored by two examiners. Their prociency level is advanced. They are graded on a pass/fail basis. To pass, the student must be actively involved in the discussion, express his or her arguments accurately and respond in an appropriate manner. Linguistically, coherence/cohesion, vocabulary range, grammatical accuracy and phonological control are evaluated. Interaction skills are also subject to

A.K. Bjrge / English for Specic Purposes 29 (2010) 191203 Table 1 Overview of transcribed corpus as of September 2008. Setting Number of negotiations Total negotiation time (rounded) Words Participants (each neg.) Participants (total) Age (most candidates) Gender Year Nationalities INB (course activity) 6 127 min 18,934 46 27 2025 17F, 10M 2006, 2007 14, Austria, Belgium (French), China, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden CEMS (exam activity) 7 99 min 15,008 34 24 2025


10F, 14M 1995, 1997, 2006 9 Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland (Swiss German)

evaluation, but backchannelling behaviour is not referred to. CEMS students must also reach a conclusion to their negotiation. In the extracts I use for analysis, reference is made to the nationalities of the individual participants. However, the material is not comprehensive enough to draw conclusions concerning a potential link between variation in backchannelling behaviour and national features or stereotypes. For an overview of the corpus, cf. Table 1.

3. Results and discussion 3.1. Research question 1 Does the choice of verbal backchannelling items in the CEMS and INB data sets dier from that found in native speaker interaction? The most frequent verbal backchannelling items in my material were yes/yeah (47%), mhm (non-lexical vocalisation) (31%) and ok (7%). The other backchannelling items used were ah, denitely, exactly, excellent, good, of course, oh, right, so and sure (12%), while repetition of the previous speakers words accounted for 3%. Yes/yeah, mhm and ok are also among the most frequent items in native speaker interaction (Tottie, 1991, pp. 257258, 264; McCarthy, 2002, p. 55). Oh and right are also mentioned as frequent items, but are not so in my material. These results indicate that ELF interaction favours relatively few types, two of which, mhm and okay, are not exclusive to the English language. Comparing the CEMS and INB sets, we see the same dominance of yes/ yeah, mhm and okay. Backchannelling by repetition of the previous speakers words, however, is only found in the INB corpus. This may be due to the situational variable of dierent prociency levels, as the lower level of the INB students may lead to more need for clarication or redundancy in general.

3.2. Research question 2 What is the relationship between verbal and non-verbal backchannelling in the CEMS and INB data sets? Non-verbal backchannelling items in the form of head nods make up 70% of the total, while verbal backchannelling makes up 30%. The proportion of non-verbal backchannelling is higher for the CEMS corpus


A.K. Bjrge / English for Specic Purposes 29 (2010) 191203

(75%) than for the INB corpus (66%). With respect to the individual negotiations, the INB set spans from 61% to 72%, while the corresponding range for the CEMS set ranges from 62% to 88%. It will thus be clear that non-verbal backchannelling in the form of head nods is the predominant form of backchannelling in the material analysed here. Head nods are used by the negotiators to signal understanding, which is important for the exchange of information and exchange of bargaining positions involved in a negotiation context. They are also used to indicate attention, which in general contributes to a positive atmosphere. A third function is to signal support during someone elses turn, both for ones own side and as part of general rapport management. Head nods may of course also signal agreement to what is being said, but the deal itself will not be settled by non-verbal signals only. Analysing backchannelling in interaction without taking into account the contribution of non-verbal signalling thus carries the risk of missing central information included in the negotiation interchange. The higher frequency of non-verbal backchannelling gives the impression that using a head nod is a weaker form of backchannel than the verbal ones like yeah and okay. It is thus my tentative conclusion that used by itself nodding is a useful way of signalling attention, support and perhaps even agreement without the interlocutors committing themselves to a specic position. Head nods are also frequently used together with verbal backchannelling. Thus, 36% of the CEMS verbal backchannels co-occur with a head nod, while this is the case for 48% of the INB backchannels. One may speculate that the ELF speakers do not trust the verbal backchannel to convey the message, and therefore include redundancy in the form of a nod to get their meaning across. 3.3. Research question 3 Do the CEMS and INB data sets demonstrate dierent turn lengths? The CEMS negotiations have an average turn length of 36 words, whereas the INB set has 20 words. This dierence may be discussed with reference to the situational variables distinguishing between the two data sets (cf. 1.6 above). Based on my admittedly limited material, it will appear that prociency level could inuence turn length in an ELF context. As the CEMS students are all advanced level speakers, they are able to develop their arguments at greater length than many of the INB speakers, whose prociency levels range from upper intermediate to advanced. There are, however, also other situational variables to take into account. Thus, the INB negotiations are carried out by two opposite teams, which may permit a team member to be relatively passive. The CEMS exam scenario, however, assigns separate roles to each individual student, who is expected to present his or her side of the issue to pass the exam. This could give them both more scope and a higher motivation to develop their position, which in turn could inuence turn length. These tentative results may indicate that it could be worthwhile to investigate turn length vs. prociency level further in ELF negotiations. As research has shown that business sets great store by the courage and willingness to speak a foreign language (Charles, 2008), less procient speakers should be encouraged to speak up despite their feeling that their linguistic ability is not adequate. While condence in itself may not be conducive to improved prociency, increased self-condence may result in a negotiator speaking up and persisting in a line of argument despite feeling inadequate linguistically. ESP business courses should therefore take into account that condence-building may be part of the process of teaching ELF for business purposes. 3.4. Research question 4 Does backchannelling behaviour dier according to negotiation phase? To discuss this issue, I shall divide the negotiation process into three phases2:
2 Adapted from Beamer and Varner (2008, p. 326), whose stages are as follows: 1. Development of a relationship, 2. Information exchange, 3. Persuasion, 4. Concessions and agreement. My phase II includes their second and third stages, in addition to Concessions, as this is part of the give-and-take bargaining process involving conicting interests.

A.K. Bjrge / English for Specic Purposes 29 (2010) 191203 Table 2 INB negotiations. INB061 Phase I Words BC items Ratio Words BC items Ratio Words BC items Ratio 200 15 13.3:1 3167 109 29.1:1 0 0 0 INB062 88 16 5.5:1 2252 131 17.2:1 110 11 10:1 INB063 110 16 6.9:1 3105 152 20.4:1 0 0 0 INB071 75 5 15:1 3490 143 24.4:1 62 7 8.9:1 INB072 610 68 9.0:1 2577 136 18.9:1 271 21 12.9:1


INB073 27 1 27:1 2899 81 35.8:1 85 11 7.7:1

Phase II

Phase III

Phase I refers to relationship-building; phase II includes information exchange/persuasion and phase III the conclusion. BC items refer to backchannelling items; and ratio to number of words per backchannelling item. Thus, a low ratio indicates a high frequency of backchannelling items (e.g. ratio 10:1 = 10 words per item). Contracted forms are counted as one word.

I Relationship-building (initial introductions, words of welcome, small talk) e.g. ok, gentlemen (CEMS971), hello welcome to our meeting (INB061). II Information exchange/persuasion (bargaining, resolving conicting interests) e.g. introduced by I have called this meeting to discuss the plans for Sunday trading (CEMS992). III Conclusion (summing up the agreement) e.g. introduced by yes I think we can agree on that (INB072). It will be obvious that all 13 negotiations used for this study include a phase II section. However, there is considerable variation as to phases I and III. Thus, two negotiations of the INB set do not arrive at a conclusion to the deal, which may be due to this not being a pass/fail situation. For the CEMS set, four negotiations do not include a relationship-building phase, perhaps because of the higher task-orientation of this group, but all have a conclusion phase due to the pass/fail requirement. However, all 13 negotiations include at least one phase that is not part of phase II. I will argue that phases I and III are less conict-oriented than phase II. In phase I, the social aspect is in focus, and the aim is to build a relationship that will create a positive atmosphere to facilitate agreement. In phase III, the conict has been resolved, and the parties can relax because they have handled the task successfully. If we analyse the frequency of backchannelling items in these three phases, we nd a considerably higher frequency in phases I and III than in phase II, cf. Tables 2 and 3 . In all six INB negotiations the parties use more backchannelling in phases I and III than in phase II. In INB073, the second phase starts almost immediately, which may explain the low gure, viz. 27 words with only one backchannel. The negotiators in INB061 and INB063 did not manage to arrive at an agreement and thus did not include a conclusion phase. The CEMS negotiators spend less time on phase I, perhaps because they have to introduce themselves to the camera before starting, and do not see relationship-building as part of their task. However, we note that there is a higher frequency of backchannelling in phase III than in phase II. To illustrate the process, I shall present two extracts from one negotiation. The context is as follows: Team A (Role: China, buyer) and Team B (Role: Norway, Seller) are negotiating over who should pay for servicing a piece of equipment that broke down 2 weeks after the warranty ran out. Team A (China) does not want to pay and claims that non-payment is a condition for a long-term relationship Chinese style, while Team B (Norway) wants to be paid according to the contract. 3.4.1. Extract I (INB073, from phase II information exchange/persuasion)3 A3: yeah i think i mean er if you er if the machines lasts only a few weeks longer than after the warranty its easy to see that we wont do so much business in the future but if you help us a little bit so i mean even if
INB073 = Negotiation carried out as a course activity in the Intercultural Business Communication course in 2007 (Negotiation 3). Team A = A1 (Finnish), A2 (Austrian), A3 (Swedish); team B = B1 (Swedish), B2 (Swedish).

200 Table 3 CEMS negotiations.

A.K. Bjrge / English for Specic Purposes 29 (2010) 191203

CEMS971 Phase I Words BC items Ratio Words BC items Ratio Words BC items Ratio 2 0 0 1404 67 21.0 304 35 8.7

CEMS972 15 1 15 1973 73 27.0 323 19 17

CEMS991 6 0 0 1772 14 126.6 352 13 27.1

CEMS992 42 3 14 2026 99 20.5 68 6 11.3

CEMS061 89 0 0 2270 114 19.9 412 49 8.4

CEMS063 91 8 11.4 1674 147 11.4 243 35 6.9

CEMS064 30 0 0 1919 102 18.8 108 12 9

Phase II

Phase III

they break down a few weeks after the the warranty er then we can develop so to speak a closer relationship in the future with you B1: well if you said like okay we can expand the warranty for er half more year maybe in the future in the coming investment er how do you see that is that one option to this A1: well that that is a good option but but were here today to talk about this this invoice that you gave us cause we think that er well 50% discount would be would be better option for us right now A3 and A1 set out their teams position which is to get a 50% discount on the invoice, while B1 tries to introduce promises of an extended warranty in the future, thus avoiding the issue. During these turns, there is no non-verbal feedback from the opposite team. As backchannelling creates a supportive atmosphere, the absence of such signals may be taken to indicate that the negotiators do not want to give such support, or to indicate a lack of agreement to the proposals being made. 3.4.2. Extract II (INB073, from phase III conclusion)4 A2: yeah so if this is okay for you that we are not buying it within the next say 3 months (A1 yeah, nods; B1 yeah, nods) because we dont need it actually now B1: no of course we just make a contract (B2 yeah, nods) that in the future A1: yeah (nods) B2: its a long-term relationship B1: yeah A1: yeah (nods) i think thats acceptable (A3 nods, B1 good, B2 okay) okay so we can agree on that A2: we can agree on that yes In this passage, there is ample use of backchannelling to express agreement, including redundancy or double backchannelling, as A1, B1 and B2 nod in addition to saying yeah. However, in the following exchange included in Extract II, A1s yeah has been interpreted as a turn interrupting B1s speech rather than as a backchannel. B1 does not continue his speech after A1s interruption, which may be interpreted as signalling understanding of B1s incomplete statement. B1: no of course we just make a contract (B2 yeah, nods) that in the future A1: yeah (nods) Extracts I and II signal dierent aspects of the use and non-use of backchannelling. Extract I illustrates a situation of conict, and there is no backchannelling. This may mean that the interlocutors do not wish to give the other side the support by signalling attention or agreement, which contributes to a tense atmosphere. In
Backchannelling during other speakers turn is given in brackets, e.g. (B2 yeah, nods). This means that B2 says yeah and nods at the same time.

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Extract II, on the other hand, backchannelling is used in the conclusion of the deal; it signals agreement and contributes to a more relaxed atmosphere. 4. Conclusions In this paper, my aim has been to discuss active listening in the form of backchannelling behaviour in an ESP/ELF context, namely, that of simulated business negotiations carried out by international students. When it comes to choice of backchannelling items, there is a clear predominance of non-verbal manifestation, followed by the verbal items, yes/yeah, mhm and okay. In an ELF context, it may be of interest to note that mhm and okay are not exclusive to the English language, and that the same may to a certain extent be said of yes/yeah. The same applies to nodding. When it comes to items that perhaps signal a more extensive vocabulary, like right, absolutely and certainly, we see that these are considerably less frequent. The high frequency of non-verbal backchannelling in my material means that it has to be taken into account when analysing listening behaviour in an ELF context, as it is used to signal meanings that are central in negotiations, such as attention, support and agreement. Its absence, on the other hand, may have a negative impact on rapport management. I have also approached the issue of whether prociency is an issue in analysing ELF interaction, by comparing two sets of data at intermediate/advanced (INB) and advanced (CEMS) levels. The CEMS speakers had longer turns, which supports this claim. However, other situational factors may also inuence this result, as the CEMS set negotiated on the basis of individual roles in an exam situation requiring active participation, while the INB set negotiated in teams and were not graded according to their performance and ability to develop an argument. Gender may also be a factor here, but the material has at present not been analysed with this factor in mind. It is, however, an issue that may be well worth exploring. Finally, I have addressed the issue of whether backchannelling behaviour varies according to negotiation phase. Previous research has found ample evidence of supportive behaviour in ELF settings, but also pointed to the fact that conict situations may bring out dierent behaviour. I have shown examples of backchannelling behaviour in dierent phases of one of my negotiations that indicate that this may be the case. If we divide the negotiations into three phases, that is, the relationship-building, information exchange/persuasion, and conclusion phases, we nd that backchannelling is considerably less frequent in phase II, the information exchange/persuasion phase. This is the phase where the bargaining takes place and where conicts come to the surface, which may be a factor leading to less backchannelling so as not to give support to the other side or to unintentionally signal an agreement. ESP programmes directed at the business community mainly focus on the production of speech. However, active listening skills are also important for the professional negotiator. As part of their training, business students should have their attention drawn to the fact that signalling attention when the opposite party holds the oor is an important aspect of communicative ability that contributes to rapport management. They should also be made aware of the fact that most of the people they will meet in their professional capacity are ELF speakers, and that they will have to develop strategies to deal with dierent levels of prociency. Awareness of how backchannelling may be used to build rapport may thus be said to be a skill that is well worth developing for the future negotiator. Acknowledgements I would like to thank my two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on my paper. The reference to redundancy in 3.1 was suggested by the second reviewer. I would also like to thank my colleague Gisle Andersen for his comments on an earlier version of this paper. Appendix 1. Abbreviations/acronyms CEMS = Community of European Management Schools. http://www.cems.org/general/index.php. ELF FORUM. The First International Conference of English as a Lingua Franca. University of Helsinki, March 68, 2008. http://www.eng.helsinki./elfa/elorum08.htm


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ELFA (English as a Lingua Franca in Academic Settings). Transcription Guide 7/2004. http://www.uta./ laitokset/kielet/engf/research/elfa/transcription-guide.pdf Accessed 11.01.06. ELFA is a research project in the Department of English at the Universities of Tampere and Helsinki in Finland. The aim of the project is to study academic speech in intercultural contexts, using English as a lingua franca. http://www.uta./laitokset/kielet/engf/research/elfa/ Accessed 22.12.08. Project leader Professor Anna Mauranen. INB = Intercultural Business Communication. Master level course at the authors home institution. Appendix 2. Transcription conventions cf. ELFA (English as a Lingua Franca in Academic Settings). Transcription Guide 7/2004. cf. also 2.1 above. Speakers (CEMS) F FC M Speakers (INB) A B Unidentied speaker Simultaneous speakers Utterances Uncertain transcription Unintelligible speech Laughter Spoken laughing Overlapping speech (word level) Backchannelling (non-lexical) Female participant (F1, F2, etc.) Female participant, chair Male participant (M1, M2, etc.) Member of team A (A1, A2, etc.) Member of team B (B1, B2, etc.) (A1) (A1, A2) Speaker reference + space + utterance (text) (xx) @@ @text@ [text] [A1 text, B1 text] A1 mhm A1 ah A1 oh Only in acronyms: EU, NHH As numbers (10,000, 2008), except those smaller than 10 (two, second, etc.) (nods) (A1 nods) INTERRUPTION: TIME IS UP

Capital letters Numbers Non-verbal language (nodding) During own turn During others turn Other event aecting the negotiation

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