English versions of corporate websites. A linguacultural contrastive study of Germany and Spain


If local companies in Europe target international visitors as well as national ones, they generally set up an English version of their corporate websites alongside the version in their native language. In their attempt to portray themselves in ways that are engaging to visitors, companies address topics such as corporate history, values and practices on their websites. However, the relevance given to the various topics and the style used may vary across cultures. The present study aims, first, to unveil whether discursive differences exist in website versions in English which were set up by European local companies. Second, it is investigated whether the differences may be explained with reference to Hofstede’s model. Because of its importance in Europe, the companies belong to the dairy sector. The countries chosen for the present investigation are Germany and Spain, the cultural differences of which, with reference to Hofstede’s model (Hofstede et al. 2010), are less marked when contrasted with the countries in previous linguistic studies on corporate websites (Cucchi 2010a, 2012, 2015, 2016). Methodologically, the study, based on a corpus of self-representative discourse from the websites of 12 German and 12 Spanish companies, draws on the Corpus-Assisted Discourse Studies tradition (Partington 2004; Baker 2006), so as to verify the extent to which the findings are compatible with those obtained, within linguistics, from other countries and/or other genres, and with those in other disciplinary domains. The study relies on Wmatrix (Rayson 2009) for content analysis and on WordSmith Tools (Scott 2012) for the analysis of dispersion plots. Results show that German websites are more informal and give more prominence to data, while Spanish websites rely more on ‘self-celebratory’ discourse, emphasising tradition, quality and awards. Overall, the findings show that Hofstede’s model is helpful for the study of the English versions of websites of European local companies, even in countries where cultural differences are less marked. Since cross-cultural differences still exist among the websites of European companies, future research should address the issue of what content and style are appropriate when targeting international customers in English used as a lingua franca.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v29p225

Keywords: corporate websites; Hofstede’s model; ELF; BELF; language and culture


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