Requests in Chinese e-mails: Strategy types, discourse patterns and interpersonal variations

TitreRequests in Chinese e-mails: Strategy types, discourse patterns and interpersonal variations
Publication TypeCommunication
Année de publication2013
AuthorsLin, Ting-shiu
Titre de la conférenceThe 8th Conference of the European Association of Chinese Linguistics
Date de publication09/2013

      With the increasing use of the Internet as a means of communication, the study of requests by e-mails has evolved. Most previous researches in this area have been conducted around the use of the English language. This study, however, aims to investigate strategies and discourse pattern employed in Chinese request e-mails, and to explore the influence of interpersonal factors on the choice of requestive strategies. The data include 160 e-mails written in academic situations, elicited from 40 university students in Taiwan, all of whom are native speakers of Mandarin Chinese. The result reveals that, on average, a Chinese request email include 1 to 2 head acts accompanied by 9 to 10 supportive moves. Most of the head acts are realized through direct strategies, among which, “hedged performatives” and “want statements” are the two most preferred ones. As to supportive moves, “grounders” outnumber all the other strategies in the e-mails. In relation to the information sequence, Chinese e-mail requests prefer an “indirect discourse,” where the first head acts could be seen only after 59% of the supportive moves are used. Regarding interpersonal variants, the present study shows that both “social distance” and “relative power” have significant effects on the choice of strategies. The findings support Gu’s (2011) observation that e-mails, as a communication means, are more similar to personal handwritten letters than to any computer-mediated platforms. Requests made by e-mails are like those made through letters on both strategy and discourse levels. Besides, “reducing status effects,” which could be found in some online communication platforms, are absent in the data of present study.

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