Interlanguage requests in institutional e-mail discourse

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This paper reports on a study in Hong Kong that investigates the pragmalinguistic choices and sociopragmatic judgements of 15 American-English-speaking students (NS) and 15 Chinese learners of English (CLE) in making e-mail requests to their professors. The study found that all students tended to be indirect in making such requests. Despite the fairly strong pragmalinguistic control developed by the CLEs in realising specific indirect strategies, they were particularly weak in employing certain syntactic devices as downgraders; to compensate, they made excessive use of lexical/phrasal and external mitigating moves to soften the requestive force. The CLEs were less confident in their judgements of language appropriateness and they perceived such requests as more imposing than their NS counterparts. Implications for methodology and pedagogy are highlighted. Keywords: request modification; academic e-mails; perception


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