"Please answer me as soon as possible": Pragmatic failure in non-native speakers' e-mail requests to faculty

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78 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The present study examines e-mail requests sent by Greek Cypriot university students (non-native speakers of English) to faculty at a major, English-medium university in Cyprus, over a period of several semesters. It examines forms of address (salutations), the degree of directness employed, and the degree and type of supportive moves and lexical/phrasal modifiers used by students in order to soften or aggravate their e-requests. Findings from the study have shown that the NNS students' e-mails are characterized by significant directness (particularly in relation to requests for information), an absence of lexical/phrasal downgraders, an omission of greetings and closings and inappropriate or unacceptable forms of address. This paper argues that such e-mails can be perceived as impolite and discourteous and therefore capable of causing pragmatic failure. This is primarily due to the fact that they appear to give the faculty no choice in complying with the request and fail to acknowledge the imposition involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3193-3215
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Volume43
Issue number13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011

Keywords

  • Directness
  • E-mail
  • Modification
  • Politeness
  • Pragmatic failure
  • Requests

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