Openings and Closing in institutionally-situated email requests

Halenko, Nicola orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9906-6418 and Winder, Lisa (2022) Openings and Closing in institutionally-situated email requests. Study Abroad Research in Second Language Acquisition and International Education, 7 (1). pp. 54-87. ISSN 2405-5522

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The study abroad experience presents opportunities to enrich linguistic and cultural knowledge, but learners also face challenges negotiating within and between language systems. This chapter describes one such interlanguage challenge: managing online pragmatic interactions in upward email requests. Openings and closings sequences in emails of two academic discourse communities are examined: (L1) experts (n=162) and (L2) novices (n=159) from China. The request data are analysed for evidence of variance between the groups and to what extent a ten-month sojourn changes novice email practice. Results revealed that novices and experts adopt markedly different strategies for doing interpersonal work. Experts tend to take a less formal, egalitarian stance when composing emails while novices opt for increased levels of formality in structure and style. Most novice mismanagement of openings and closings can be traced back to either L1 influences or, more commonly, an overreliance on formal letter writing techniques.

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