Face and Power in Intercultural Business Communicatin: The Case of a Japanese Company in Australia

Thumbnail Image
File version
Primary Supervisor

Haugh, Michael

Other Supervisors

Eisenchlas, Susan

Loke, Kit-Ken

Stockwell, Glenn

File type(s)

In intra-company intercultural business communication, an accurate exchange of information between co-workers is necessary to efficiently conduct business as a company. The norms of communication to be followed as well as knowledge of work being conducted that is shared by all involved, i.e., common ground (H. H. Clark, 1996), must be fully utilised in order to communicate smoothly between workers who do not share the same first language. Communication strategies, such as repair and codeswitching, are also used as necessary to achieve transactional goals in an interaction (Spencer-Oatey, 2005). However, at the same time, there is also a need to achieve relational goals in an interaction in order to maintain the interpersonal relationship between interlocutors. This can emerge in an interaction as sensitivity to the face of the interlocutors. Furthermore, being in an intra-company setting, the position, the knowledge of the products and the motivation to interact held by each interlocutor, all of which can be seen as an emergence of power held by each interlocutors (Raven, 1965, 1993), also play a role in shaping an interaction itself through the choice of language, norm of interaction and face being achieved in interaction. This thesis investigates the video-recorded interactions between Australian employees working for a Japanese company in Australia and their Japanese superiors. Conversation analysis in conjunction with ethnographic approach is used to analyse interactions in intra-company business settings. The Rapport Management Framework proposed by Spencer-Oatey (2000, 2005) was applied to analyse interactional achievement of face, which takes into account factors such as face needs of and power held by the individuals and attitude of interlocutors towards each other. Common featuers of intercultural communication, namely repair and codeswitching, and their effects on face achievement of interlocutors are also analysed. The analysis has found that face and power are two fundamental and inter-related notions that shape the interaction in intra-company intercultural business communication. The norms of communication are already set amongst the co-workers as common ground, which includes aspects of individual workers such as the ability to complete work and proficiency in language. Face-threats seem to be interpreted by individuals when he/she perceives others undermine his/her expectation, which are already shared as common ground. Such threats to face may arise through repairs and codeswitching in interactions, as well as through utterances made by each other. What individuals claim as his/her face can also be recognised as the social power bases held by him/her. Power relationship between interlocutors seems to determine the degree of face-threat the interlocutor with more social power bases are allowed to project over the interlocutor with less power bases, and the degree of face sensitivity that the interlocutor with less power bases must employ. Sometimes, it appears that excercising of power bases is a strategy to uphold his/her face in interaction, thus a necessary part of an intra-company business communication. Repairs and codeswitching are used as necessary in intercultural business communication in order to smoothly achieve the transactional goals, but at the same time, they also foster the negotiation and projection of face and power, i.e., relational goals in interactions between interlocutors who share more than two languages. The future research in face can further investigate intra-company intercultural business communication, or goal-oriented interactions between interlocutors who have long-standing relationship, to analyse the inter-relationship between situation-specific face and pan-situational face. Ethnographic information may be necessary to understand the contexts of the interaction that are crucial in such analysis. Business people intending to enter into an intercultural business communication are advised to observe the power relationship between interlocutors as it determines the norms of communication. It can be accomplished by being aware of the claims on face that have been made by the interlocutors, not only in the current interaction but also in the past that may constitute his/her pan-situational face, or also known as reputation or expectations.

Journal Title
Conference Title
Book Title
Thesis Type

Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

Degree Program

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Languages and Linguistics

Publisher link
Patent number
Grant identifier(s)
Rights Statement
Rights Statement

The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

Item Access Status


Access the data
Related item(s)

intercultural business communication

intercultural business

business communication




power relationship


Persistent link to this record