The cognitive and communicative processes involved in situations of unequal encounters between non-western supplicants (i.e., African immigrants and asylum seekers) and western experts in authority shall be explored through a number of case studies aimed at illustrating that the ELF variation that each contact group uses obeys different linguacultural conventions entailing a detachment of ELF from ENL, since ELF is seen as developing from non-native speakers’ processes of transfer into their English uses of their L1 typological, logical, textual, lexical-semantic and pragmatic structures. A number of case studies will illustrate how the lack of acknowledgement of other ELF variations – due to the fact that they are often perceived as formally deviating and socio-pragmatically inappropriate in intercultural communication – may have serious consequences in contexts involving social, legal, health and religious matters, thus giving rise to misunderstandings that often raise ethical issues about social justice. It is therefore argued that principled pedagogic initiatives aimed at making western experts in authority aware of the strategies for achieving a ‘mutual accommodation’ of ELF variations could, on the one hand, protect the social identities of the participants in unequal encounters and, on the other, facilitate the conveyance of their culturally-marked knowledge, thus fostering successful communication in cross-cultural immigration encounters with the ultimate aim of developing a ‘hybrid ELF mode’ of cross-cultural specialized communication that can be acknowledged and eventually shared by both interacting groups.
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