An analysis of requests produced by second language speakers of English and how these requests are received by English first language speakers

Ganchi, Fatima (2012-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: During the course of my work as Communications lecturer at a multicultural university, I have noticed differences in the manners in which Sesotho-speaking and Afrikaans-speaking students make the same requests to me while speaking English. There exists a possibility that these second language (L2) requests could be deemed inappropriate and/or unintelligible by first language (L1) speakers of English. It is possible that miscommunication may result when requests by one culture group is judged as inappropriate and/or unintelligible by another. The aims of my study were to investigate (i) whether there are indeed differences in the manners in which L1 Sesotho and L1 Afrikaans speakers make requests when speaking English and (ii) how the differences in the (a) politeness, (b) formalness, (c) appropriateness, (d) grammaticality and (e) intelligibility of these requests made by the above-mentioned two groups manifest, as judged by L1 speakers of English. In terms of research methodology, I elicited requests in English from two culturally and linguistically different groups of students (17 L1 Afrikaans and 17 L1 Sesotho) by means of a written scenario completion task. One scenario involved a high imposition situation and the other a low imposition. The requests made by the two groups were then analysed using the Cross Cultural Speech Act Realisation Project (CCSARP) framework of Blum-Kulka, House and Kasper (1989a). Each request was also judged by eight L1 English speakers. Data analysis showed that there are indeed differences in the way in which Afrikaans- and Sesotho-speaking people put forth English requests. In terms of CCSARP categories, the Sesotho speakers used more alerters and more politeness markers than the Afrikaans speakers did. Sesotho and Afrikaans speakers also differed in their responses to high and low imposition situations – for example, Sesotho speakers used more grounders in the low imposition request than in the high imposition request, whereas Afrikaans speakers’ requests showed the reverse pattern. In terms of ratings received by L1 speakers, although Sesotho speakers’ requests were judged as more polite, Afrikaans speakers’ requests were judged as more appropriate and grammatically correct. The findings have implications for curriculum design: By being mindful of the workings of intercultural verbal and nonverbal communication and by acknowledging that people from different cultural backgrounds bring to a conversation certain culturally inherited factors which influence them and the interlocutors, I can use the results of this study to better inform the different L1 groups in my classes how to change their requesting behaviour so as to make requests that are judged by L1 English speakers as being appropriate.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Tydens my werk as Kommunikasie-dosent aan ‘n multikulturele universiteit het ek verskille opgelet in die manier waarop Sesotho-sprekende en Afrikaanssprekende studente dieselfde versoeke aan my rig wanneer hulle Engels praat. Die moontlikheid bestaan dat hierdie tweedetaal- (T2) versoeke as ontoepaslik en/of onverstaanbaar beskou kan word deur eerstetaal- (T1) sprekers van Engels. Dit is moontlik dat miskommunikasie kan ontstaan wanneer versoeke deur een kultuurgroep as ontoepaslik en/of onverstaanbaar beoordeel word deur ‘n ander kultuurgroep. Die doelstellings van my studie was om die volgende te ondersoek: (i) of daar inderdaad verskille bestaan in die manier waarop T1 Sesotho- en T1 Afrikaanssprekendes versoeke in Engels rig en (ii) hoe verskille in die (a) hoflikheid, (b) formeelheid, (c) toepaslikheid, (d) grammatikaliteit en (e) verstaanbaarheid van hierdie versoeke deur bogenoemde twee groepe manifesteer, soos beoordeel deur T1-sprekers van Engels. In terme van navorsingsmetodologie het ek versoeke in Engels van twee kultureel en talig verskillende groepe studente (17 T1 Afrikaans en 17 T1 Sesotho) ontlok deur gebruik te maak van ‘n geskrewe scenario-voltooiingstaak. Een scenario het ‘n versoek met ‘n hoë afdwingingsvlak (imposition) behels en die ander met ‘n lae afdwingingsvlak. Die versoeke gerig deur die twee groepe is toe geanaliseer deur gebruik te maak van die sogenaamde Cross Cultural Speech Act Realisation Project (CCSARP)-raamwerk van Blum-Kulka, House en Kasper (1989a). Elke versoek is ook deur agt T1-sprekers van Engels beoordeel. Data-analise het aangedui dat daar wel verskille is in die manier waarop Afrikaans- en Sesotho-sprekendes versoeke in Engels rig. In terme van CCSARP-kategorieë het die Sesotho-sprekendes meer attentmakers (alerters) en meer hoflikheidsmerkers as die Afrikaanssprekendes gebruik. Sesotho- en Afrikaanssprekendes het ook verskil in hul reaksie op hoë en lae imposisie-situasies – Sesotho-sprekendes het meer redeverskaffers (grounders) in die lae afdwingingsversoek as in die hoë afdwingingsversoek gebruik terwyl Afrikaanssprekendes die teenoorgestelde gedoen het. Alhoewel die Sesotho-sprekendes se versoeke as meer hoflik beskou is deur die T1-sprekende beoordelaars, is Afrikaanssprekendes se versoeke as meer toepaslik en grammatikaal korrek beskou. Die bevindinge het implikasies vir kurrikulum-ontwerp: Deur bewus te bly van die aard van interkulturele verbale en nie-verbale kommunikasie en deur te erken dat persone van verskillende kulturele agtergronde sekere kultuur-inherente faktore na ‘n gesprek toe bring wat hulle en hulle gespreksgenote beïnvloed, kan ek die resultate van hierdie studie gebruik om die verskillende T1-groepe in my klasse beter in te lig hoe om hul versoekgedrag aan te pas om versoeke te kan rig wat as toepaslik beskou word deur T1-sprekers van Engels.

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