The request speech act in emails by Arab university students in the UAE

Tanju Deveci, Ikhlas Ben Hmida


Advanced computer technology has transformed the way instruction is designed and delivered at all education levels including college. However, today’s younger ‘digital-native’ generation may often take their computer skills for granted, which impacts their interaction patterns with university professors who often encourage electronic communication when communication is required. This appears to put strain on students who are not accustomed to composing formal emails. The deficiency in students’ skills may also have undesirable effects on their professors. The situation can be even more serious for students studying in a foreign language. Given the significance of requestive emails, the current study investigated how the request speech act set is realized by both native speakers of English and Arab university students in an English-medium university in the UAE, as well as whether or not instruction in formal email writing improves students’ pragmatic competence. Data were collected using a discourse completion task requiring the participants to write an email to their professors requesting feedback. Findings revealed that there were some significant differences between the data sets from native speakers of English and Arab learners of English in terms of discourse structure, strategy type, and modifiers employed. It was also found that teaching email conventions in the context of an academic environment has a significant impact on students’ pragmatic competence. The results are discussed, and recommendations are made

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Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies
ISSN 1305-578X (Online)
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