Interlanguage Requests: A Cross-Cultural Study of English and Chinese

August 2007. Volume 2 Issue 1

Interlanguage Requests:
A Cross-Cultural Study of English and Chinese

Shu-Chu Chen
Yunlin University of Science and Technology, Taiwan

Shu-Hui Eileen Chen
National Taipei University of Education, Taiwan

Bio Data:
Shu-Chu Chen is a lecturer at Yunlin University of Science and Technology in Taiwan. She teaches freshman English, reading, listening, Introduction to English Linguistics, and English Phonetics. She is also a Ph.D. candidate in the TESOL program at National Cheng-Chi University in Taiwan. Her research interests include L2 reading strategies, speech acts, and interlanguage pragmatics.

Dr. Shu-hui Eileen Chen received her Ph.D. degree in linguistics from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, with specialization in language acquisition, pragmatics, and psycholinguistics. She is currently an associate professor at the Graduate School of Children’s English Education, National Taipei University of Education in Taiwan. She teaches English Linguistics, Pragmatics & English Teaching, Language Acquisition, and Psycholinguistics at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her research interests focus on sentence processing strategies in L1 and L2, interlanguage pragmatics, first and second language acquisition, and English teaching.

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This experimental study aims to explore the performance of requestive speech acts and the effect of social status on Taiwanese EFL learners and American native English speakers. It was carried out through the use of production tasks in which subjects were asked to write down their responses based on three situations embedded with different degrees of social status between speakers and addressees. Fourteen native English speakers and fifty Taiwanese EFL learners participated in this study. Conducted within the framework of the Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (CCSARP) (Blum-Kulka, House, & Kasper, 1989), the researchers combined nine substrategies into three (direct, conventionally indirect, and hints). The results showed that the conventionally indirect strategy was the most preferred choice for both groups, which supports the universal claim of the conventional use of the indirect strategy found in the literature. In terms of the influence of social status, the analysis of the distribution of the main request strategy types in three situations reveals that conventional indirectness is clearly the preferred strategy type for the situation in which both interlocutors have equal social status, and to a lesser extent, in a request situation when the speaker’s social status is inferior to the hearer’s. However, in the professor request situation, in which the speaker’s social status is superior to the hearer’s, the use of impositives dominate. In view of the findings, teaching implications were suggested to help EFL learners develop pragmatic awareness of different request strategies and to enhance their sensitivity to the appropriateness of request behaviors in different social situations.

Key words: request speech act; conventionally indirect request; social status


Category: 2007