Volume 9, Issue 1  April 2013, pp. 23–57          Download PDF

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(Mis)use of e-mail in student-faculty interaction: Implications for university instruction in Germany, Saudi Arabia and Japan

Anna Danielewicz-Betz1

1 University of Aizu, Japan abetz@u-aizu.ac.jp

DOI: https://doi.org/10.29140/jaltcall.v9n1.147


This paper examines student-faculty communication by email and the lack of clear guidelines that leads to misuse of email in student-faculty interaction, whereby status-incongruent pragmatic markers are employed, resulting in impoliteness and inappropriateness. The main objective is to bridge the gap in research on other than requestive speech acts in this particular type of e-interaction, taking into account various pragmatic markers and cultural determinants of the subjects’ email communication styles. The main purpose of the study was to determine whether and to what degree the use of pragmatic markers by students is congruent with the English netiquette in this specific domain. Moreover, the aim was to investigate the relation of the usage of speech acts and pragmatic markers by students to politeness, as well as to cross-culturally compare the data obtained. The research questions were as follows: Which pragmatic markers distinguish students of different nationalities and in different university settings? What are other than requestive purposes for which students deploy email communication? Which pragmatic markers, in general, are associated with student-faculty email? Is there a correlation between the three countries represented in the corpus and (im)politeness based on the data found in all the emails? What are the implications of the study for computer-mediated language learning? The corpus consisted of 1,200 student-faculty emails written in an academic domain by university students from a German university, a Saudi Arabian university, and two Japanese universities (400 emails per country). The research method employed was of mixed qualitative-quantitative nature, with the focus on pragmatic analysis of speech acts with their illocutionary force and functions, as well as on their impact on the receiver (perlocution). It was determined that the impolite acts occurred most frequently in the corpus. This shows that students appear not to be aware of the role their email messages play in creating an impression on faculty and that structured instruction in email writing is required to improve the situation. The lack of pragmatic competence was found in all three groups of students, independent of the proficiency level and seniority; whereby explicit course guidance in email writing and its netiquette had a clear positive effect on the student-faculty interaction in terms of appropriateness and the level of politeness.


© Anna Danielewicz-Betz

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Suggested citation

Danielewicz-Betz, A. (2013). (Mis)use of e-mail in student-faculty interaction: Implications for university instruction in Germany, Saudi Arabia and Japan. The JALT CALL Journal, 9(1), 23–57. https://doi.org/10.29140/jaltcall.v9n1.147

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