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Stefanie Pohle, research assistant

Phd project

"I tell you what we could do, we could say, cut it to a hundred and ninety-five, and offer you a significant discount on breakfast" – Expressing Commitment in Business Discourse: An Empirical Analysis of Offers in Irish English Negotiations

Online publication of Stefanie Pohle's phd thesis hosted by Bonn University

In the present study it is claimed that the outcome or final decision at the end of a negotiation is the result of the interactive dealing with offers. Although the general importance of offers and their strategic potential is recognised by negotiation researchers (e.g. Hammer & Yukl 1977; Roth & Murnighan 1982; Maynard 1984; Tutzauer 1992) and authors of best-selling 'how to negotiate' guides (e.g. Fisher, Ury & Patton 1991; Baguley 2000; Malhotra 2006), there have only been few empirical studies on negotiations which examine offer utterances.

The current PhD project seeks to contribute to filling this gap. Although the focus is on offers, related speech actions through which speakers also express their commitment to do something, such as promises, proposals, concessions, and pledges, are also taken into account. In the following, the capitalised label Offer is used as an umbrella term. It is claimed that the primary function of Offers is to receive something with economic value in return for a product or service (buyer) or money (seller), or the other person's commitment to future business. Offers, therefore, always have a strong directive component.

A major aim of the study is the development of an analytical model that can be used to describe the nature of Offers in business negotiations on different discourse levels. This serves to uncover recurrent patterns on the microlevel and macrolevel of the Irish English interactions under study. Based on these linguistic findings, it will be attempted to shed light on the strategic value of offers in a more general business sense. Following the presentation of the model, two broader topic areas reflecting the patterns that were detected in the data will be discussed in greater detail: a) reciprocity and exchange (anticipated future exchange of goods and services: material co-operation; exchange of information and the role of arguments: linguistic co-operation, cf. Scheiter 2002), and b) recursiveness in negotiations. The results are related to the findings of studies from other disciplines discussed in previous chapters (e.g. economics, business and management studies, social psychology, sociology, political science, communication studies, as well as popular scientific negotiation manuals and textbooks).

The study, mainly rooted in linguistic pragmatics, also takes other approaches into account. Speech act theory plays a major role for the definition of Offers and the identification of realisation strategies. Concepts from the strand of discourse analysis represented by Edmondson (1981) proved suitable to find out which interactional slot Offers may fill, how and why an Offer is triggered by preceding parts of the negotiation, how the other negotiating party responds to it, as well as how Offers are modified externally. The results are complemented by findings from recent strands in the study of argumentation in spoken discourse (e.g. Deppermann 2006; Aijmer & Lauerbach in press). Some features such as multiple Offer turns, patterns of speaker interruptions and overlaps due to backchannelling, or the great variety of reactions to Offers observable in the data, could be explained by insights gained from conversation analytic studies dealing with hospitable offers, offers of assistance and gift offerings typical of everyday conversation (e.g. Davidson 1984, 1990).

The data corpus consists of transcripts of Irish English dyadic face-to-face business negotiations. Eight Irish businessmen took part in four intracultural negotiation simulations. The investigation is a qualitative in-depth case study. Nevertheless, some quantitative aspects (i.e. frequency distributions) are taken into account where appropriate.


  • Aijmer, Karin & Lauerbach, Gerda (in press): Argumentation in Dialogic Media Genres ? Talk Shows and Interviews (Special Issue of the Journal of Pragmatics).
  • Baguley, Phil (2000): Teach Yourself Negotiating. Lincolnwood: NTC.
  • Davidson, Judy Arlene (1984): Subsequent versions of invitations, offers, requests, and proposals dealing with potential or actual rejection. In Structures of Social Action (Studies in Emotion & Social Interaction), ed. by Atkinson, John Maxwell & Heritage, John. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 102-128.
  • Davidson, Judy Arlene (1990): Modifications of invitations, offers and rejections. In Interaction Competence (Studies in Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis 1), ed. by Psathas, George. Washington, DC: International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis etc., 149-179.
  • Deppermann, Arnulf & Hartung, Martin (ed.) (2006): Argumentieren in Gesprächen (Linguistik 28). 2nd ed. Tübingen: Stauffenburg.
  • Edmondson, Willis (1981): Spoken Discourse. A Model for Analysis. London: Longman.
  • Fisher, Roger, Ury, William & Patton, Bruce M. (1991): Getting to Yes. Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In. Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin & Co.
  • Hammer, Clay W. & Yukl, Gary A. (1977): The effectiveness of different offer strategies in bargaining. In Negotiations: Social-Psychological Perspectives, ed. by DRUCKMAN, Daniel. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 137-160.
  • Malhotra, Deepak (2006): Four strategies for making concessions (Harvard Business School Working Knowledge for Business Leaders). Reproduced with permission from ''The fine art of making concessions'', in Negotiation 9 (1), January 2006. [4 November 2006], 26 paragraphs.
  • Maynard, Douglas W. (1984): Inside Plea Bargaining. The Language of Negotiation. New York/London: Plenum.
  • Roth, Alvin E. & Murnighan, J. Keith (1982): The role of information in bargaining: An experimental study. In Econometrica 50 (5), 1123-1142.
  • Scheiter, Susanne (2002): Wie werden in Geschäftsverhandlungen Entscheidungen getroffen? Diskursive Formen des Interessenausgleichs in der Wirtschaftskommunikation. In Unternehmenskommunikation, ed. by Becker-Mrotzek, Michael & Fiehler, Reinhard. Tübingen: Gunter Narr, 35-57.
  • Tutzauer, Frank (1992): The communication of offers in dyadic bargaining. In Communication and Negotiation (Sage Annual Reviews of Communication Research 20), ed. by Putnam, Linda L. & Roloff, Michael E. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 67-82.


  • "Offers in Irish English and German business negotiations. A cross-cultural pragmatic analysis". In The Use of English in Institutional and Business Settings. An Intercultural Perspective, ed. by Garzone, Giuliana & Ilie, Cornelia. Frankfurt et al.: Peter Lang, 199-228.



  • "Reciprocation in business negotiations". Paper presented at the conference "Discourse, Communication and the Enterprise (DICOEN) IV", University of Nottingham/Great Britain, 10-12 September 2007.
  • "Business negotiations in Ireland and Germany ? a pragmatic analysis of offers". Paper presented at the European Convention of the Association for Business Communication, Copenhagen/Denmark, 26-28 May 2005.
  • "Angebotshandlungen in deutschen und irisch-englischen Verhandlungen ? eine kulturkontrastive empirische Analyse mikro- und makropragmatischer Aspekte". Paper presented at the Arbeitstreffen Linguistische Pragmatik (ALP), Köln/Germany, 22 February 2005.
  • "Research methods in a cross-cultural study on Irish English and German business negotiations?. Guest lecture at Trinity College, Dublin/Ireland, November 2004.
  • "Business negotiations in Ireland and Germany ? virtually the same or fundamentally different??. Guest lecture at the University of Limerick/Ireland, October 2004 and at Trinity College, Dublin/Ireland, November 2004.
  • "Offers in German and Irish English business negotiations ? a cross-cultural empirical analysis of micropragmatic and macropragmatic aspects: A Ph.D. Project in Applied English Linguistics?. Paper presented at the European Convention of the Association for Business Communication, Milan/Italy, 20-22 May 2004.
  • "'Germans are very direct ? the Irish talk round the point?. Differences and similarities between Irish English and German business negotiations?. Paper presented at the European Convention of the Association for Business Communication, Lugano/Switzerland, 28-31 May 2003.

master thesis, term papers and essays in linguistics

  • "Pragmatic aspects of Irish and German business negotiations ? an empirical contrastive study" (unpublished master thesis, Philosophische Fakultät Universität Bonn, supervisor: Prof. Dr. Schneider), 175 pages and appendix.
  • "How to research negotiating behaviour in a business context: Some methodological considerations illustrated with the example of an Irish-Irish business negotiation simulation (term paper in the seminar "Cross-Cultural Business Negotiations", Prof. Dr. Schneider, Universität Bonn), 48 pages and appendix.
  • "Erarbeitung einer neuen Kategorisierungsmöglichkeit für Komplimenterwiderungen anhand eines Datenkorpus nordirischer Englischsprecher/innen" (term paper in the seminar "Contrastive Analysis and Translation", Prof. Dr. Schneider, Universität Bonn), 34 pages and appendix.
  • "Analyse und Kritik einer deutschen Übersetzung des Theaterstückes The Importance of Being Earnest von Oscar Wilde" (term paper in the seminar "Übersetzungstheorie", Dr. Harst, Universität Bonn), 21 pages.
  • "Linguistic analysis of part of the newspaper article 'Ford Escort reaches the end of the road'" (essay in the course "Einführung in die englische Sprachwissenschaft", Dr. Schlepper, Universität Bonn), 8 pages.

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