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(Im)politeness in email communication: how English speakers and Chinese speakers negotiate meanings and develop intercultural (mis)understandings

Hsieh, Shin-Chieh (2009)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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This thesis looks at the way in which Chinese and English speakers employ (im)politeness strategies in their emails to develop intercultural understanding. From a theoretical perspective, this thesis contributes to the discussions of intercultural communication in relation to the negotiation of (im)politeness meaning. From a pedagogic perspective, the thesis reveals the potential for using email to experience culture as a process of meaning negotiation and construction and has relevance to teachers of EFL.

Ethnographically-informed discourse analysis is employed to investigate discursively the negotiation of meaning in email interaction. The interplay between the computer-mediated communication, speech acts and (im)politeness are explored by using the analytical frameworks of Hymes’ ethnography of communication, Searle’s speech act theory (1969) and Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory (1987).

This research shows that ‘(im)politeness’ is not a stable construct. Rather, it is constantly (re)negotiated by the interactants, who take into account the relevant contextualisation cues. It finds that the functions and (im)politeness meanings of speech acts can vary from situations to situations. In addition, this research finds that the computer-mediated paralanguages, such as emoticons and written out laughter, are also important in realising (im)politeness intent and developing intercultural understanding in emails.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
Department:School of Education
Subjects:P Philology. Linguistics
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:337
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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