Pragmatic Failure of Turkish EFL Learners in Request Emails to Their Professors

  •  Assiye Burgucu-Tazegul    
  •  Turgay Han    
  •  Ali Engin    


In an established convention regarding the e-mail communication setting, the e-mails should be linguistically polite to facilitate interaction by reducing the likelihood of conflicts and preventing pragmatic failure regarding the comprehension of any meaning conveyed by what is stated. These are potential problems for most English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL)/English-as-a-second-language (ESL) learners. Therefore, it is the aim of this study to investigate the issue in Turkish EFL context (i.e. the English request emails of Turkish EFL university students to their non-native professors). Specifically, the extent of directness used and the extent and nature of lexical modification employed by Turkish EFL students to mitigate their requests were examined by using authentic data. The data is a part of natural e-mail corpus of 34 Turkish EFL students’ e-mail requests to their two non-native foreign professors over a period of 2 months at English-medium University in Turkey. First, the corpus was coded via coding schemes, (see Appendices A and C) and ranked with a rubric (Appendix B). The results indicated that the Turkish EFL students’ e-mails involved a) direct strategies rather than conventional indirect strategies, b) overusing direct questions and ‘want’ statements, c) underused query preparatory questions, d) insufficient mitigation causing directness and impoliteness, and e) inappropriate greetings and closing statements affecting degree of direction. It is implicated that e-mail instruction (to recipient in various degrees) should be included in EFL books and curricula.

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