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Literature Review Computer Mediated Communication English Language Essay

The growth of Internet communication is affecting the way people communicate; whether it is through a job, in a long distance relationship, social networks, criminal activity as well as games and gambling. The Internet has become a "universal community", and at the same time exists in multiple locations, cultures and societies. The Internet is a community with vague and frequently changing standards and behaviours (Ballard, Nornick & McKenzie, 2002, p. 1000). Rapid changes in communications technology not only stimulate interest in continuing to search for knowledge and interactions but also make it difficult for such activities to remain constant. The search for technology is always changing and adapted constantly to meet the communication requirements.

The existing literature on the effects of using CMC to support social interactions within a social network; has produced mixed results. Various studies have reported that increases the use of the CMC has no effect on the decreases of the individual's number of social binds (Wellman et al., 2001). Interestingly, the result of studies carried out by the same team of investigators using the same sample (and a subset), same designs, and measures has also resulted in the conflicting findings (Kraut et al., 2002; Kraut et al., 1998).

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Contradictory findings of CMC use have produced a great deal of discussions about the nature of CMC's effects on social interactions. Many questions remained unanswered: for example - How does a medium created to facilitate interactions end up increasing isolation? How does the use of CMC tools, claimed to interrupt relationships and make individuals isolated, also function as a channel for creating new and enduring social binds within and across communities? Some recent discussions proposed that the average number of close binds an individual maintains has decreased from three to two in the past twenty years (McPherson et al., 2006) as higher use of CMC reduces the time one spends with friends and family (Nie et al., 2005).

Thus important to a reduction in social networks of close binds (McPherson et al., 2006). Ironically, Boase et al (2006) provide evidence that CMC helps people maintain their social networks and creates networks across communities (Plickert et al., 2007, Wellman et al., 2006).

CMC might be split into synchronous and asynchronous methods. In synchronous communications all participants are generally online at the same time (e.g. Internet Reality Chat or IRC), while asynchronous communications occurs with time limitations (e.g. email). Email the primary issue under study in this research will be text-based. Text-based computer-mediated communication (CMC) includes email, whether or not one-to-one or even one-to-many, email-based discussion databases, advertising boards, computer conferencing situations, and the actual expanding amount of Web-mediated symptoms of these types of communication (Romiszowski & Mason 2004).

Research examining the social and emotional factors of CMC has been conducted since early as the 1980s. The technological dynamics of the actual moderate continues to be known as the root cause of a lot of negative benefits including depersonalization, impoliteness and 'flaming'. It is because email filter away selected individual, social and behavioural hints used by people whenever they indulge in face-to-face communication, e.g. intonation and body language cues (Kiesler, Siegel & McGuire 1987).

However, there are positive effects. The cultural conventions that usually exist during manual social interactions are frequently lacking in CMC and it has significant outcomes upon people's behaviour. For example, signs to the social position of participants are often lacking and altering regular styles of dominance from time to time along with valuable benefits.

In one study, for illustration, made use of CMC which resulted in a change of group dynamics: members participated more equally and just as higher position members failed to dominate the actual interaction to the equal scale while in face-to-face meetings (Kiesler, Siegel and McGuire 1987).

Waldvogel (2005) further noted that computer-mediated communication has been shown to result in evident consequences in communication competence, although that particular route is essentially one might have anticipated. For example computer mediated groups got extended to reach comprehensive agreement compared to face-to-face groups, even though they have been just like task-oriented. Three achievable answers have been provided to explain these specific phenomena including lack of information feedback, lack of leadership and depersonalized medium (Waldvogel, 2005).

During the procedure of email language or linguistics approaches, scholars have tried to describe the language and style of the computer-mediated communication and email by analyzing the distribution of lexicon grammatical features and compare the features of written language and spoken language. Email text linguistics techniques, such as the internal organization of written texts, were studied. Finally, the computer-mediated communication and email have been studied as interactive or conversational session (Waldvogel, 2005).

When text-based CMC made its way into the organization and workplaces, questions among linguists (and among people in general) were raised; how does this technology influence language and what actually are the features of the language which appear online. This points to the many terms for describing online language where linguists have suggested using the words "electronic language" (Baron 1998), "netspeak" (Crystal 2001), "e-style" (Hård af Segerstad 2002), or simply "email style" (Baron 2002).

In the early stage of email research, scholars in general first tried to understand the "nature" of the electronic language by comparing it with spoken and written language (Gains, 1999; Baron, 1998; Sims, 1996; Yates, 1996; Collott & Belmore, 1996; Maynor, 1994; Uhlíøvá, 1994; Ferrara et al. 1991), and to identify particular features of orthography, typography and grammar in electronic texts (Waselesky, 2006; Hård af Segerstad, 2002; Gimenez, 2000; Crystal, 2001; Murray, 1990).

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Most of the recent studies for example, Hård af Segerstad (2002), investigated how written language (email language) is modified and extended in the electronic means with the intention of relevant factors of context which are implanted in the communicative functions, such as genre, goal of interaction, relationship between communicators. Her study involves an evaluation of three different forms of CMC; email, web chat, instant messaging (IM) and SMS.

Comparing email texts from citizens to the city council in Göteborg with email texts to the same council, she identifies a number of linguistic features and characteristic of the medium. Hård af Segerstad found that the styles in her email materials varied from being practically formal email to extremely informal Hård af Segerstad (2002).

Email language varied from the other types of communication with the exception of features such as "all capitals", "mixture of lower case and capitals", "repetition of letters and words", "consonant writing", asterisk" and "addressivity markers" (Hård af Segerstad 2002, p. 257). Hård af Segerstad (2002) made two remarkable observations. First, "the more synchronous the mode, the more features it shares with spoken face-to-face conversation" (Hard af Segerstad 2002, p. 241). Finally, verifying Baron's (1998) hypothesis, she noted that the purpose of the communication influences how the messages were formulated.

Scholars and applied linguists reviewed the language of emails (interpersonal features) in the field of business communication and this is seen in the works of Nickerson (2000) and Luohiala-Salminen (2002). In terms of information exchange, Nickerson (2000) recognized interpersonal features as, first and second person pronouns, private verbs (such as "think" and "know"), hedges, contractions and abbreviations, block capitals, emphatics and exclamations. Some of Nickerson's (2000) findings matched with Hård af Segerstad (2002) findings, such as abbreviations, contractions and non-normative use of punctuation marks (including exclamations).

Most of the researchers focused on the linguistic analysis of email discourse and conclude their findings to Baron's (1998) point of view which is states that the aim of communication influences the style of messages communicated. This is further supported by Gain's (1999) study which compared features of email text in two different settings; in business emails and in educational emails and the results illustrated that: a) On the one hand, the business emails appear to have developed a consistent style, b) there was lack of openings (salutations), and most used thanks and name-only as closings, used a clear subject and were written in a semi-formal regular style, most of the emails looked like the conventional style of the business letter. On the other hand the results demonstrated that the educational (academic) emails in general included some form of opening greeting (salutation), and when compared to the business emails, academic emails included diversity of stylistic register, from very formal style, through the semi-formal and to the informal style Gain's (1999) .

So far, linguistic studies of email show that there are two major distinguishable they approaches; those that compare computer-mediated communication (email) with written communication and attempt to recognize how online technologies influence t how we write and find out characteristics of language of CMC, and those that compare CMC (email) with spoken communication and describe on knowledge regarding face-to-face conversation with the intention of describe online communication.

According to Herring, text linguistic approaches illustrate that emails are written texts with internal consistency (Herring 1996 p. 234). The interactional approaches show how email messages comprise contributions and turns, similar with turns in conversations, and thus involve particular standards for turn-taking (Kalman et al. 2006, Severinson Eklundh 1986).

Previous research on the linguistic features of CMC seem to suggest that most of the studies in general agree that email messages are characterized by features which are characteristic for both written and spoken communication, and the styles of emails ranges from formal to informal style. A recurring subject in many studies (especially in the beginning) shows that it is possible to address how technology plays a major role in influencing the use of language. Many studies emphasised that language cannot be extended to incorporate features of CMC (e-mail), because the structure and style of the email varies according to contextual factors (Hård af Segerstad, 2002; Gains, 1999; Baron, 1998).

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As it can be seen from the above discussion, email communication is a type of CMC and since the objective of this study was to investigate the discourse of the email exchanges in workplace, more detailed discussion is presented in the next session.

2.2 Email Communication

According to Waldvogel (2005) the introduction of email in the closing years of the 20th century and its widespread adoption as a means of workplace communication brought about a great change in workplace communication. Email is now a fact of life in many workplaces, where it has largely replaced written memos and most telephone and face-to-face interaction. In some workplaces in the corporate world, email has become the primary communication medium, and many of today's workplaces could no longer function without it. It plays an important role in the transmission of information and, in general, in dealing with everyday administration at work (Waldvogel, 2005).

The main advantage of email over other modes of communication is that it enables people to communicate speedily the same information to many others in diverse locations and time zones. It is also valued because it provides an audit trail and record of the communication. Although there is much experiential research on technological theories of e-communication, there is much a smaller amount on sociological theories of e-communication (Waldvogel, 2005).

As Adler & Elmhorst (2002) have stated; there is a major gap in the research on the sociological and behavioural effects of recurrent e-communication on individuals in virtual environments that would form predictive and prescriptive approaches to understanding contextual and social cues of emails and needed to impel performance improvement.

A growing interest in e-mail communication studies have looked at the emails as texts, with a focus on their linguistic and rhetorical components. Many of these studies have focused on the dual nature of the spoken-written dichotomy of emails (Baron 2002, 2000; Crystal, 2001; Gimenez, 2000; Gains, 1999; Collot & Belmore, 1996) and have provided specified descriptions of the nature and features of the emails language.

No research was found specifically carried out identifying and adapting email styles as interpersonal communications and relationship building tools, it is quite the reverse; some experts believe that all emails should be written in one specific style - short, to the point and with the details frontloaded (Firari, 2007).

Seeley and Hargreves (2003) suggest using the same style as the person being communicated with but in the context of formal style versus informal style rather than by adapting to emulate the employee's e-style. Kock (2001), Murero (2001), and Arling (2006) also agree that little research has been done regarding email communication and its effects, and that more needs to be done.

According to Lee (2006) the challenge is to develop effective email communication strategies to manage employees in multiple locations who are sometimes scattered all over the country or the world. Most practitioners agree that the number of organisations with offsite offices is increasing and therefore admonish managers to work at improving internal communications to enhance productivity of this new virtual society (Mayor, 2001; Melcrum, 2000). A key element to the success of an organisation moving to a virtual environment is the implementation of effective e-communication techniques. Lee wrote, "Communication is an organisation's lifeblood. The fundamental purpose of communication in an organisation is to enable and energize employees to carry out its strategic intent" (Lee 2000 , p. 1).

In a virtual environment perfecting email communication is important. Joiner & Salmon (2005) identified a relationship between the use of emails and the distance between employees; the farther away employees are from each other the less in-person communication and the greater the email communication.

According to Gains (1999), a study of the text features in business emails which is used for internal communication, show that the most general features of email discourse are subjects, closings, openings, as well as linguistic features like compression, abbreviations, omissions and register. Gain exposed a high degree of reliability in the way writers in his samples used most of these categories. He has no evidence of spoken discourse features in the analysis of his texts, nor are any button or omissions words incorporated. Gains concluded that the analysis of his data does not support the existence of type of a new business.

On the other hand, this lack of evidence may be is due to the kind of data analysed and the type of method for analysis. He collected his data from a "closed system for internal electronic mail" (p. 82) which could have a "permanent legal status" (p. 90) for the company under his researched. This may explain the observed standard language forms. Since email users knew that their messages will become legal records, therefore there is a high chance that they chose the standard forms to write their messages.

A study of external business email communication by Gimenez (2000) focused on the textual features of business emails. His data showed a convenient mode in the style and register of business emails. The language used in his data "contains simple, straightforward syntactic structures, showing a preference for co-ordinated rather than subordinated ideas" (p. 241). Gimenez also found in his study, standard as well as personalised uses of abbreviations, contracted forms and capitalisation and spelling mistakes. He concludes that "efficiency, one of the features of email messages frequently mentioned by email users, seems to equate with informal and flexibility of style" (p. 250). Gimenez's data, though, consisted of messages exchanged between the export manager of a UK based company and some of his traditional international clients. This may help to explain, for example, the informal style of the texts analysed and some of the language choices made by the international clients.  

In recent studies, Mallon and Oppenheim (2002) examined the textual features that are limited to email messages by attempting to produce a list of 'emailisms'. They define 'emailisms' as those features 'associated with email which may or may not appear in other forms of communication (2002, p.9). Mallon and Oppenheim (2002) found out that the most common emailism in their data was contracted forms, "appearing 142 times in 100 emails" (p. 16), followed by spelling mistakes (57 times per 100 emails). The third most common emailism was quoted text which was used by 30% of (200) writers in their sample (p. 16).

According to Samar, Vavidian and Mehrani (2010), there is a complexity of email communication issue for second language learners than it is for native speakers. This is because email communication is, typically, the only option for English learners, especially those who learn English as a foreign language (L1) rather than a second language (L2), to communicate with native speakers. However, it is the most general way for distance communication in academic settings. In addition, second language(L2) learners may perhaps not know how to use their communication styles to the new medium of using English since there is no standard rules in email writing for them to observe (Chen, 2006).

Furthermore, according to Ogan et al. (2005) the second language users of language are influenced by both L1 and L2 cultural ideology and politeness (Ogan et al, 2005). While Bloch (2002) declares "For L2 speakers challenges in using English email arise not only from whether their English writing is intelligible or not , but also form whether their socio-culturally shaped views of how people communicate and how people present themselves through this medium"(p.119). Consequently, L2 learners may encounter a problem; while they are happy that they do not have to follow the traditional rules of writing, they are not sure whether the messages which they write in their own ways can be communicated appropriately and effectively or not (Lapp, 2000).

Referring to statement above by Samar, Vavidian and Mehrani (2010) that email communication for second language learners is more complex than for native speakers, it is suggested that the issue is much more complex than it is realized. This is because English is generally accepted as the international business language and therefore business communication should always be in English. However, Hadina & Rafik Galea (2002) highlighted the fact that employees within organization, in particular in international organizations always face a dilemma when communication in writing; as to whether they should write any communication in their own language or use English when communicating with other fellow compatriots. If they use English they may appear to be unpatriotic as well as not able to express themselves in proper English. On the other hand if the native language is used it may be preserved that the organization cannot communicate in English and possibly unable to perform internationally trading. Therefore there are many other hidden issues which may not be detected or able to measure when emails are not constructed in the native speaker's own language. However this study is only concerned with emails composed in English in an Iranian environment, although it would be very interesting to compare the perceived meaning by the receiver of the same message when sent by email using English and the native language.

Previous studies show that having only linguistic proficiency is not adequate for successful communication. Also a language speaker must master socio-pragmatic and sociolinguistic standards of the target language to achieve appropriate communicative purposes (Samar, Vavidian and Mehrani, 2010). This is also applicable to the context of email communication.

Findings on cross-cultural pragmatics have shown important experimental findings, mainly through the identification and comparison of linguistics features and different languages speech acts (Flynn & Flynn, 2003; Bloch, 2002; Taleghani-Nikzam, 2002; Liaw, 1998). These findings are highly relevant to the study of email discourse because in general, socio-pragmatic studies have illustrated some specific culture differences in the ways certain speech acts are performed. Some of these researchers have discovered how these features are extended and used by non-native speakers. These researchers have focused on "socio-pragmatic transfer", for example, speakers of native language's impact on their speech act knowledge and performance of speech acts in the foreign language (Taleghani-Nikzam, 2002). In studies of speech acts in conversational interactions, researchers have attempted to find out the sources of miscommunication and failures in understanding intention of a speaker. These findings can be used to explain similarities in email discourse.

2.2.1 The Language Structure of Email

The language of business email communication has been investigated from different viewpoints; therefore, it provides different views on email discourse. For example Baron (2002, 2000), examined stylistic features such as the length of messages, abbreviated and elliptical forms, and informality. According to Baron these features, have made the style of email 'reminiscent of telegraphic language' (2002, p. 410). In the same way, Crystal (2001:238) carried out a comprehensive study of internet language, declares that "the electronic revolution has brought about a linguistic revolution, resulting in 'Netspeak', 'a genuine new medium" (p.238). In addition, Collot and Belmore (1996) found that the characteristics of the language used in emails is closer to the spontaneous types like speeches and interviews than it is to the informational types such as official documents.

According to (Gimenez, 2005) in the last decade the language of business email has attracted a lot of attention. Language research studies, style and register of business email have been published in many journals, books and other publications. On the other hand, many of these studies have been theoretical forms and failing to make a link between theory and practice. It is then the mission of the ESP (English for Specific Purpose) teacher to make such a link.

According to Management professionals, from the perspectives of organisational effectiveness and strategic constituency they acknowledge interdependencies within an organisation, and between an organisation and how its environment affects its employees. A purposeful environment adds to a sense of belonging and contributes to an organisation's strength (Jablin & Putnam, 2001). Focusing on communication efforts on the components of its environment is critical to an organisation's success and growth.

An integral component of the corporate environment is its employees, who are able to hamper or enhance an organisation or constrain the ability of an organisation to meet its goals. Employees decide whether to hamper or enhance based on job satisfaction, of which internal communications has a measurable affect (Grunig, 1992). Structural elements

It can be said that emails carry some functional elements found in traditional memos and letters. This is because letters are the earliest medium of written communication in organisations compared to the memorandum that came about much later. The memo was created, transmitted and stored on paper and it has become a new form of organisational communication (Holmes, 1995).

According to Williams (1998) the advent of computer mediated communication saw the birth of email and this has been increasingly used as another form of organisational communication. The availability of email extends the available range of communication and decision making option. The creation of email as an option for organisational communication has influenced designers to embed memo features into the medium, specifically the To:, From:, and Subject: format. These functional elements are similar in purpose to those found in traditional letters and memos (Williams, 1998). Headers

There are four main elements in the format of headers. The elements vary from one system of email to another and the order of display also varies. The main elements suggested by Angell and Heslop (1994) are:

To: - the address to which the message is being sent, typed in manually or inserted automatically, this is an obligatory element.

From: - the address from which the message has been sent, inserted automatically this is also an obligatory element.

Subject: - a brief description of the topic of the message insert manually, this is an opinion element but its inclusion helps later retrieval.

Date: - the date and time, at which the message is sent, interned automatically by the soft ware.

Crystal (2001) has explained that the above elements are considered core elements because they are electronically recorded once a message is sent. He further describes several option elements that are available within the header area as follows:

Co: - a space for address that is to receive a copy of the message; inserted manually or automatically; this lets the message's prime recipient know that these copies have been sent.

Boc: - a space for address that also receive a copy of the message but without the prime recipient's knowledge.

A space in which a symbol (such as paper- clip) appears to indicate that an attachment has been added to the message; this depends on the software used.

A space in which a symbol (such as an exclamation mark) appears to indicate that the message should be given priority when received; the level of priority is usually recognized as low, normal and high priorities.

The language of the subject line has received a great deal of attention because it is the first thing that the recipient reads besides the sender's name. Thus, it is a deciding factor as to what importance to assign to the message. Crystal (2001) maintained that clear, brief, relevant, and concrete subject description are recommended and the most important bit of information should be put at the beginning of the line. It is important for correspondents to use the same subject line in a series of related message for the purpose of maintaining continuity and grouping together message especially if the messages are forwarded. Greetings and Farewell

This section deals with body of the email. The email messages are usually opened with a greeting and followed by a farewell or closing (DeVito 1999). Some emails do not have greeting and this is normal when the message is sent for the first time from the people who do not know the recipient, as in the case of public announcements. Other openings can be Dear_ and Hi, there are also automatic acknowledgments that are sent whenever a message is received, indicating that a message has been received by a system, or that the recipient is away from the office (Waldvogel, 2007).

Crystal (2001) explains that within institutions where emails are mainly used for sending out information and instruction to all members of staff, a personality greeting is not necessary. 'Greetingless' messages are usually message having just a one-line or two-line message and thus, they require no introductory greeting. For those messages containing introductory greeting, the greeting range from most formal to most informal, thus indicating several kinds of social relationship.

One of the types of greeting which is more commonly practiced is the use of an initial endearment which Crystal (2001, p.101) termed as + Dear message (+Dear refers to then use of Dear preceding the name while-Dear does not have Dear preceding the name) an example of each type is given here:


Dear Sir or Madam

(+ Dear)

Dear Personnel Director

Dear Dr., Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms. Smith

Farewells have fewer variations in their usage and Crystal (2001) named two elements: a pre-closing formula (for example, best wishes) and the identification of the sender. He reported that in his data, most interpersonal message end with both elements present, and there is evidence of the influence of the tradition letter writing in the tendency to place each element on a separate line, usually ranges of formulae which is exported from traditional letter-writing is adopted with the same range of functions such as affection, gratitude, expectation and so on. In email, the farewell element has two important functions as opposed to traditional letters. Firstly it acts as a boundary market to indicate that further scrolling down is unnecessary. Secondly the farewell offers an extended identifies function by providing information which is not present in the header. As an example it makes identification available to other who may eventually the message such as in the forwarded or attached mail. Body of the Message

The body of the email message is characterized by a relatively short length of text Witten in the paragraph structure. The content includes an explicit acknowledgement of the existence of previous message which is a common practice. There are instance of misspelling- as a result of fast typing and lack of editorial reversion and punctuation is underused. Message coherence is often questioned as email messages are inherently dialogic in nature. Some emails are sent without any expectation of a response, even though the vast majority expects a reply. There is reduction in the use of capitalization but the range of punctuation expressiveness may be seriously extended (Rice, 1997).

As reported in the literature and discussed above, email is widely used in organisations as a communication medium. Therefore, there is a need to survey the literature on communication in organisations and this is achieved in the following section.

2.3 Communication and Organisation

Behind a vital and growing organisation is an effective communication system (Mesquita, 2002). Communication can be top-down; bottom-up; vertical; peer-to-peer; verbal or non-verbal; written or face-to-face; formal or informal; interpersonal; in groups; delivered via email, phone and the grapevine; and should be strategic.

Scholars and practitioners, such as Jablin & Putnam (2001) agree that all of the above are natural and acceptable with the exception of the first, top-down, when used as the dominant form of communication. Many organisations are virtual organisations and have remote locations, depend on email as the primary communication channel, require responsive employee communications. Management is challenged by how best to motivate and effectively communicate with employees rarely seen in-person (Mayor, 2001), working from distant facilities.

Corporations may want to consider adopting effective email communication protocols as part of a strategic internal communications plan to improve staff relations, trust, and productivity; and to increase profitability (Arling, 2006 & Golob, 2001). Experts and managers know that employee or worker productivity is directly related to and affected by internal communication.

According to Lee, "The fundamental purpose of workplace communication is to enhance business performance of the organisation. Communication succeeds only to the extent that it enables and energizes employees to align their work with the organisation's strategic intent" (2006, p. 2); therefore strategic employee or internal communications when deemed substandard, during a needs assessment, indicates a performance gap and should be corrected with HPI and training solutions using a "results-based" approach (Piskurich, 2002).

A 'results-based' approach differs from the "wants-based" and "needs-based" approaches in that focus is on first understanding business goals and desired performance; and then on analyzing the causes of the substandard performance which sequentially drives the development, implementation, and results evaluation of an intervention or improvement strategy (Piskurich, 2002). As stated earlier Management professionals, from the perspectives of organisational effectiveness and strategic constituency; they acknowledge interdependencies within an organisation, and between an organisation and how its environment affects its employees and should strive to make employees feel a sense of belonging and loyalty to the organisation.

2.3.1 Organisational Culture

Organisational culture can affect the way people communicate in an organisation. Organisations are expected to be guided by their mission and vision statements as well as their own set up and therefore, inherently have their own culture and way of doing things. Thus, organisational culture may influence the way people communicate and vice versa. Culture has been defined in many ways. A consensus of anthropological definitions culture as quoted by Kluckohn (1951, p. 86, 5), is as follows:

"Culture refers to the patterned ways of thinking, feeling and reacting, acquired and transmitted mainly by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artefacts; the essential core of culture consist of tradition ideas and especially their attached values".

A culture exists when people come to share a common frame of reference for interpreting and acting toward one another and the world in which they live (Daniels et al., 1997). Eisenberg and Goodall (1993) who are organisational communication scholars, define culture in terms of practices rather that values. In contrast anthropologist Havilans' (1993, p.29) opinion is "that culture consists of abstract values, beliefs, and perceptions that lie behind people's behaviour". They are shared by members of a society, and when acted on, produce behaviours considered being acceptable within that society". Therefore Haviland's opinion of culture rests essentially on shared values. Organisational culture arises from dynamic tension and interplay among different groups within the organisation. It may depend on shared values, but it is also an ongoing dialogue among diverse subcultures (Clifford, 1983; Eisenberg & Goodall, 1993). Daniels et al. (1997) maintain that it is necessary to examine the role which employee play in creating and sustaining culture through their interactions with one another at work although managers and corporate owners play an important role in shaping or influencing an organisation's culture. Low and High Context

According to Hall (1982), context is the information or circumstances that surround a particular situation or event. It refers to the array of stimuli surrounding every communication event and how much of those stimuli are meaningful. A low context culture is characterized by a direct communication where what is said is what is meant: "mean what you to say, say what you mean" (Asma, 1990, p. 213). Information is conveyed in a direct manner, specific and to the point.

People tend to classify their lives and relationships and little "interference" or " extraneous" relationships are permitted to the task at hand.

People in low context cultures regard time as straight line, linear and sequential event. Time is monochromic, tightly compartmentalised and schedulers are almost sacred and communication takes are sequenced. The United States of America and other Western countries such as France, Germany and Canada are examples of countries with a low context culture according to Asma (1990).

On the other hand, the high context culture is characterized by a less direct form of communication in which the 'unsaid' carries the same importance as what is said. The communication in more inferential, implicit, and more detailed information is transmitted through continues and imprecise, sometimes non-verbal format. Verbal message have little meaning and need to be interpreted within the context, taking into account the overall relationship between all people engaged in communication activities. People in the high context culture depend on extensive informal information networks across various sectors of the society that include family, friends, associates and clients (Asma, 1996). Power Distance

According to Asma (1990) Power Distance in organisations is understood as the degree to which an employee is comfortable in communicating or negotiating with a boss, and the degree of comfort the latter feels in encouraging this behaviour (Asma 1990). In large power distance societies, individuals tend to value hierarchy and they are more likely to show respect for superiors. Superiors are expected to take the lead while those who are junior in age and position are not expected to contradict the decisions and viewpoints of seniors and superiors. In small power distance societies, the relationships of people are more equal. The factors of seniority, age and rank are given little consideration and both the senior and junior employees tend to relate on a more equal basis. Individualism and Collectivism

The concept of self in individualistic societies is that of the 'separated self' one that is independent and autonomous. Members are expected to look after themselves and their immediate families. Identity is established through emotional independence from the family of orientation and individual achievement. Individualised beliefs and goals are preferred over those of the group.

People in collectivistic societies tend to perceive organisations as a collection of working people managed through formal hierarchy. Authority is attached more to individual in senior positions than to their functions and identify is established through emotion interdependence and membership in a group. The concept of self in this society is that of the ''related self'' and the individual's duty is to serve the group.

A study by Asma, 1996 revels that Malaysia falls into the high context culture, which is characterized by the following cultural dimensions, as summarized by Asma (1996:223):

Information network- kinesics, inferential, implicit, informal network

Time orientation- flexible, open-ended, polychromic

Large power distance - hierarchical, respect for superiors

Collectivism - group as more important than self ''related self''

The effect of the workplace culture in the manner in which email messages are written does not appear to have been the object of study by linguists. Only one reference related to this has been found which was a study by Gains (1999) cited in Murray (2000). Gains examined 116 randomly selected email messages exchanged within an insurance company and within and between universities.

He found standard written business English in the insurance company data but conversational features in the academic data. The insurance company messages used a semi-formal style, did not incorporate features from conversational discourse, tended not to include an opening greeting and used few features of simplified register. On the other hand, there was a range of styles in the university emails. These latter emails adopted features from conversational discourse, (e.g., well, you see) included some form of greeting, and referred often to the medium itself.

Most studies of the style of computer-mediated communication have had universities as their data source and have either addressed the 'is it speech or is it writing' debate or focused on micro-level features such as the use of greetings. The email corpora used as the data source for this study comes from an industrial organisation and the analysis extends to looking at how people actually write workplace messages.

2.4 Theoretical Framework

In order to investigate the discourse of any specific organisation, the contexts in which the texts are produced by members of the organisation have to be understood. This is because the meaning of the text is formed by the environment. Therefore, understanding a text requires observing the discourse that contains the context and the members which produced that context (Tregidga, 2006; Hadina, 2003).

Since the study examined the meaning assigned to the texts produced by members of the organisation in the pursuance of their daily operations, the notion of speech act fits the description. As this research is a discourse analysis study based on pragmatic theories the speech act theory has been employed to categorise and analyse the emails in this study to explain, what it is that people are doing in their email messages. This is because the theory explains utterances in terms of functions that the language presents. To support the pragmatic point of view, this study adopts the Speech Act Theory (Searle, 1969) related to communicational requirements modelling because this theory explains how people in a organisation use a language to communicate and how they use language within the society (Agerfalk and Erisson, 2004).

2.4.1 Speech Act Theory

Speech acts are basic units of linguistic communication (Searle, 1969, p. 16). Speech act theory originates with Austin and in his work How To Do Things With Words (1962). Austin declares that speaking is a type of action, which is more specified by Searle (1969, p. 16) that "[a] in linguistic communication involves linguistic acts". Thus, a theory of speech acts is in fact part of a theory of action (Searle, 1969, p. 17).

The entire speech act is classified into three stages by Austin (1962, p. 91-131): locutionary act, illocutionary act and perlocutionary act. A locutionary act is the act of saying something, explicitly, the creation of sounds directed by rules of pronunciation and grammar.

An illocutionary act refers to the act performed in saying something, for example, requesting or promising. A perlocutionary act refers to the important effect of the performance of the illocutionary act by the hearer. By uttering; The bar will be closed in five minutes, the speaker may actually perform three acts simultaneously. A locutionary act is performed when the sounds of The bar will be closed in five minutes are uttered. An illocutionary act is performed because the speaker informs the audience that the bar will be closed in five minutes and perhaps advises the audience to order a last drink. A perlocutionary act is performed because the audience believes that the bar is to be closed soon, and order the last drink. Pragmatists are mainly interested in illocutionary acts, and the term speech act often refers to an illocutionary act.

Searle (1969, p. 23-31) declares that when an entire illocutionary act is performed, three different acts take place at the same time: an utterance act, a propositional act, and an illocutionary act. A propositional act is combined with an illocutionary act. Therefore, a propositional act is part of a whole illocutionary act. Two elements in the linguistic form of an utterance are identified by Searle (1969, p. 30): the illocutionary power indicator and the propositional indicator. The previous provides to indicate the type of speech act and the concluding is the indicator of the propositional act. The illocutionary power indicators are formed by word order, the mood of the verb, explicit performative verbs, stress, intonation, punctuation, etc.

The propositional indicators are normally represented by that before the embedded clauses as in I promise that I will come, in which I promise is the illocutionary force indicator of promising, and the underlined part is the indicator of the propositional content. The propositional content indicator is implied in the utterance I promise to come, which is equivalent to I promise that I will come (Searle, 1969, p. 30-31).

Searle (1976, 1969) has classified utterances in terms of functions that include directives, commissives, representatives, declaratives and expressive. Coulthard (1985) claims that, Searle proposed the five functions as macro-classes of illocutionary act, by the same names.


A directive can be represented by a request made by a speaker to a hearer to be complied. It is an attempt by the speaker to get the hearer to do something. Coulthard (1985, p. 24) explains that "the speaker is WANTING to achieve a future situation in which the world will match his world and thus this class includes not simply 'order' and 'request' but more subtly 'invite', 'dare' and 'challenge''. There are two forms that serve the directive function: the imperative and the polite imperative. However, there are many possible structures used by native speakers of a given language that serve the function.

Ervin-Tripp (1972) cited in Hatch (1992, p. 122) classified directives into five types. They are illustrated bellow:

Table 1: Types of directives classified by Ervin-Tripp (1972)

Type of directives



Personal need/desire statements


I need/want X


Subordinate or familiar equals

Give me X

Imbedded imperative

Unfamiliar people, people who differ in rank or who are physically distant; someone who is in his or her own territory, someone whose willingness to comply is in doubt

Could you give me X

(Please, ok)?

Permission directive

Someone who might not comply; also used when there is an obstacle to compliance

May I have X? Is there any X left? Do you have X?

Hint (sometimes with humour)

Persons with sheared rules such as members of a family, people living together, and work groups.

This has to be done over, what about the X?

Another factor that influences our choice of directive forms includes the sensitivity to social groups. This is highlighted by Hatch (1992, p. 123) who states that, ''all languages have directive but the variation in directive forms within a language must be sensitive to social constraints''.


Commissives are statements that purpose as promises or refusals of an action. According to Coulthard (1985), commissives are like directives but the point is to carry out the speaker himself to acting and commissives essentially involve intention. Commissives differ in strength and thus, may be very strong or highly dodged in any positive or negative directions. Two examples are provided in Hatch (1992, p. 125): 1) maybe I can do that tomorrow. 2) Don't worry I will be there. Like directives, the forms used for commissives vary according to social relationships or ritual constraints at work. The appropriateness of commissives as well as directives varies across language and culture groups. Thus, it is an interesting area for further research in cross-cultural communication.


A representative speech act is one that can be jugged for its truth value. The purpose is to 'commit the speaker to something being the case' which means that it is utterance in which the speaker fits his words to the world and this incorporates his 'BELIEF that p' (Coulthard, 1985, p. 24). The truth value may vary in terms of how hedged or motivated the assertion might be. The claims made can be softened with lexical hedges. Some examples of lexical items that function as hedges are "approximately", "very", "almost" and "extremely" and they act to weaken or strengthen the assertions. Thus hedges are used to qualify, soften, or make claims more polite. They also serve a ritual function that acts like disinfluencies in smoothing over disagreement with conversational partner (Hatch, 1992).


Declaratives are speech acts that bring about a new state of being once uttered and Austin (1962) refers to these as per formatives. A few examples were given by Hatch (1992, p. 129) include the following: (a) if a judge declares "I find you guilty as charged," (b) a change takes place when students get up and leave. However, the utterance "I declare these truths to be self-evident…" is not declarative if everyone thought the truths were self-evident prior to the procumbent since there is no real change occurring as a result of the uttering. In conclusion, the person who utters a declarative must have the power inherited from the role or rank to perform the utterance.


Expressives are utterances that reflect our feelings of joy, disappointment, likes and dislikes. Coulthard (1985, p. 24) explains that there is no dynamic relationship between words and world and no primitive psychological verb. He states that 'the point of this class is to express the psychological state specified in the sincerity condition about a state of affairs specified in the propositional content'. The examples given are 'thank', 'apologize', and 'deplore'. The expressives can be arranged along a continuum of strength from indirect to direct or from hedge to aggravated expressions. In expressives, the range is mediated by social factors that are ritual constraints in a society. In addition, the form of expressive and expectations regarding when expressive are appropriate vary across language groups while the form and intensity or expressive may also differ.

2.4.2 Halliday's Theory of Mood

In addition, to find out what different types of messages are communicated via email and what their functions are including that of the Speech Act theory, the theory of Mood by Halliday (1994) has also been incorporated into the present study. Halliday (2000) suggests that language has three meta-functions, the ideational, the interpersonal and the textual. The interpersonal function plays the role of setting up and maintaining social relations, and point outs the roles of the communication participations (Halliday, 2002).

One of main type of interpersonal metaphor is the metaphors of mood. According to Halliday (1994a, p. 363) "mood expresses the speech functions of statement, question, offer and command. Statements are expressions which give information, questions are expressions which ask information, offers are the expressions which propose something to be considered and accepted or refused and commands are expressions which ask for something to take place. Each of these functions has its standard and the default type is supported: statements are encoded by the declarative, questions by the interrogative, and commands by the imperative clauses".

For example:

a. Where did you park the car?

b. The car is in the garage.

c. Show me the car!

The examples a and b above illustrate the expression of question and statement and they are fairly straightforward, but with regard to command c, the situation is different Halliday (1994a, p. 363). There is a large variety of expressions that can be used to express the same command:

d. Tell me where you parked the car, please.

e. Could you tell me where you parked the car, please?

f. I would advise you to tell me where you parked the car.

g. You are kindly requested to tell me where you parked the car.

h. It is recommended that you tell me where you parked the car.

i. It is advisable to tell me where you parked the car. Halliday (1994a, p. 363)

According to Halliday (1994a, p. 363), the various expressions above are under the heading of the notion of interpersonal metaphor of mood because they are considered as metaphorical and depart from the standard, most simple understanding of a command by means of the imperative mood. Interpersonal metaphor is mostly associated with mood which expresses the speech function.

2.4.3 Hofstede's Theory of Organisational Culture

In order to answer research question no. 4 the Theory of Organizational Culture by Halliday's (1997) has been adopted in this study. Hofstede's culture dimension model is used in this study to examine the effect of culture on email communication to find out how is organizational culture represented in email messages in Iranian business setting.

The researcher used this theory mainly because the Hofstede culture dimension index value is generally used and well valued, and the index is "one of the most commonly applied universal criteria in international comparisons of culture" (Alexandre, Martin, Wei, Tim, & Reed, 2006, p. 96).

For any communication to be successful, executives must take into account the economic, political, cultural, and behavioural factors in determining the best method of communication channels to be used (Harris, 1999). Due to the dynamic nature of culture, analysis and definition of each of these factors is a nearly impossible task. Hofstede's (2001, 1991) work in grouping these factors into four Dimensions of Culture is considered the seminal situation in identifying and measuring cultural characteristics (Geissler, 2006).

Geert Hofstede's enormous research attempt beginning in 1980 is the most notable of its kind (Bond 2002; Hofstede 1997). The study included 116,000 questionnaires; over 60,000 people responded over 50 countries. Hofstede worked with IBM (at the time identified as Hermes) staff over the years 1967 to 1978 to carry out this research.

The findings of his research presented feature of culture from the analyses of 32 questions in 40 countries and helped in the explanation of some cultural and behavioural concepts in organisations in different countries. According to the findings he identified four dimensions (Power Distance; Individualism /Collectivism; Uncertainty Avoidance; Masculinity/Feminity).

Power Distance

Based on this dimension, there is difference between nations in the way which they communicate. In every society there is variation; some of these societies allow people to grow so that these variations result in the difference in power. At this time, the variation turns into a standard in society and lasts (Hofstede, 1997). The power distance exposes the relationships which are dependent; in countries with low power distance, the subordinates have restricted dependence to the superiors and there is the intendancy to discussion, and this issue means mutual dependency. In these cultures, subordinates simply differ with superiors. In countries with high power distance, subordinates have high dependency to superiors and do not differ with superiors in a straight line. The power distance dimension is described with valuing organisation of lower power members.

Uncertainty Avoidance

The Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) dimension refers as to how society members deal with the future possibilities. In fact, this dimension describes the attempts of society members to attain a certain position and the certainty they feel in conflicting situation (Triandis, 2004). In cultures with high UAI, people try to be structured, and behave how they are expected to and want to know that what will happen in the future.

Individualism Versus Collectivism

This dimension is refers to the amount of peoples' feelings which belonged to a group and the characteristics of relations between groups and peoples. Individualism is present within societies in which the people's relations are weak; everybody is expected to only watch for himself or his family. Alternatively, collectivism is present within societies in which theirs people connect to powerful and incorporated groups. These groups, protects their members because of theirs unrestricted confidence in groups (Hofstede, 1997).

Masculinity Versus Femininity

This dimension estimates the allocation of tasks between males and females in societies. In some societies, children in spite of their sex are advanced with values related to both sexes. In these societies, both women and men contribute to some sets of related values to life quality, modesty, cooperation between people and helping others. While in masculine societies, the focus is on opposition and adversity in ideas and materiality, in feminine societies, a person who is treated with unfairness are more visible and others paid attention to. In masculine societies, managers who are hostile and tough despite women, flexible, admirer and responsive are believed to be successful. Work is the direction of life and is distinct with the prosperity and qualified circumstances. In the other hand, in societies with less masculine tendencies, collaboration and safety is precious for employees, work is of less direction and development is defined based on human communications.

Long Term Perspective Versus Short Term Perspective

Long term perspective are societies which support virtuous (endurance and finances) for future rewards. Short term perspective describes societies that support virtuous concerning now and the past like as respect concerning habits and following society's provisions (Hofstede, 1997).

Hofstede argues that he created a comprehensive conceptual framework concerning essential issues of human societies and bearing in mind that cultures and nations are univalent and equal; he reduced the diversity in analysis parts. Even though Hofstede emphasizes on his reason regarding to the strength of impartiality of nationality and civilization, and honesty of his research method, cross-cultures researches should regard as that behaviour diversity to some extend is resolute by people ethnicities, rather than by political and national categorizations (Hofstede, 1997).

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