How to do things with words

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This cross-sectional and experimental study aims at investigating the performance of requestive speech acts on South Asian youth and local Chinese teenagers so as to justify whether South Asian people are impolite in speech. It was carried out through comparing the requestive patterns of the two subject groups. With the use of Discourse Completion Task (DCT), twenty subjects were asked to write down their responses across twelve socially differentiated situations, with the variables concerning social power, social distances and degree of imposition. Data collected were coded and analyzed using the framework of the 'Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project' (CCSARP) and the 'Five Stages of L2 Request Development'. The results show that South Asian students are not as impolite as expected by the public. When making a request, they could use conventionally indirect strategies and mitigating devices to lower the degree of imposition. From the number of request strategies they use, it indicates that their sociolinguistic competence is not as ideal as that of the Chinese group. Judging from the perspective of pragmalinguistic competence, however, it is discovered that the South Asian group possesses a higher level of pragmalinguistic competence when compared to the Chinese subjects. In view of the findings, implications for teaching were suggested to polish the ways of making requests for the target population.

Keywords: speech act; politeness strategies; sociolinguistic competence; pragmalinguistic competence; conventionally indirect strategies; mitigating devices


Hong Kong population has grown steadily in recent years. The population of the immigrants from South Asian people has increased since mid-1990s. The 2006 census reveals that South and South East Asian minorities form about 5% of Hong Kong population. As Hong Kong is apparently a Chinese-dominant society, many residents treat the minorities as outsiders. Several researches on ethnic minorities have been conducted over the years. A survey on general perception of Hong Kong people over ethnic minorities conducted by HKSAR Home Affairs Bureau in 2004 depicts that over 45% of the respondents agree on the existence of racial discrimination in Hong Kong. (Tang, Lam, Lam and Ngai 2006) Also, about 30% of South Asian students who study in local schools report that they are disliked by their teachers according to the result of a survey conducted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2005. (Ku, Chan and Sandhu 2005) Surveys evidently show that South Asian immigrants seem to be leading quite a difficult life in Hong Kong. There seems to be a shared negative thought among the public that South Asian people are impolite, especially in speech.

As local people do not know the language that South Asian people speak and not everyone in South Asia can master the Cantonese, English has become an important tool for daily communication between them. To a great extent, most locals perceive South Asian people are impolite dependent upon how South Asian group uses English.

In order to justify whether South Asian people are really impolite in speech, it is important to understand how they communicate with others. Our research focuses on how they make requests in communication as requests are used very often in daily communication. Undeniably, making requests is a kind of face threatening act, in which the speaker inserts some pressure on the hearer. In order to mitigate the degree of imposition, the speaker needs to use different politeness strategies. By examining the requests made by these South Asian teenagers, how polite they are can be manifested.

Literature Review

Speech Act Theories

Speech acts are prevailing theories in pragmatics. To name a few functions of speech acts, they are questions, requests, apologies, offers and so on. According to Austin (1975) and Searle (1976), people use languages to achieve different kinds of purposes. Both researchers believe that a variety of acts are performed in speech. However, Austin (1975) emphasizes on how speakers realize their intentions in speaking while Searle (1976) pays attention to the responses of hearers to utterances. Throughout the past three decades, many speech acts studies were carried out aiming at giving illocutors a better understanding of how they should perform effectively and appropriately in communications, and at the same time helping hearers be more aware of the inter-relationship between contexts, sociolinguistic and pragmalinguistic knowledge.

Politeness Theories

Goffman is a pioneer researcher in introducing the concept of politeness. His work (1955, 1967) manifests the importance to protect the faces of both speakers and hearers. Leech (1987) also highlights the elements of social power and social distance in interlocutions between the speaker and the hearer. In general, the greater distance it involves, the more tact should be employed by the speaker in respect to the hearer. He also states that the Politeness Principle has the function to maintain a friendly relationship and cooperation among interlocutors. Based on their contributions, the other renowned researchers, Brown and Levinson (1978) further introduce two kinds of concepts about politeness, namely positive face and negative face. The former highlights the importance of being accepted and admired. The latter stresses on the need to be independent but not to be imposed by others. In other words, speakers should try to act without giving offense to hearers. One way to achieve this end is to use mitigating actions. Brown and Levinson (1978, 1987) further develop two kinds of politeness strategies accordingly. To them, several speech acts are 'naturally impolite', for instance, orders and requests. It is believed that making a request is a kind of face threatening acts (FTA) as it threatens the hearer's action of freedom, ie. his negative face want. In order to save the hearer's face in such a case, negative politeness strategies should be used, in which the speaker tries to show deference to the hearer. On the contrary, positive politeness strategies are employed instead when the speaker wants to show friendliness to the hearer. Another researcher, Yule (1996) defines politeness as a mean to show awareness of another person's face. Like the proposition of Brown and Levinson, Yule also believes a request is an imposition by the speaker to the hearer. To examine whether there is a universal requestive realization pattern across cultures, a group of researchers (Blum-Kulka, House & Kasper) have developed a framework in the project called 'Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project' (CCSARP).

Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (CCSARP)

Speech acts have been a hot topic over a long period of time. As mentioned before, one of the most salient studies is the Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (CCSARP) initiated by Blum-Kulka (1982). According to them, request strategies in all languages consist of three levels of directness, which can be further subdivided into nine levels of increasing indirectness. Blum-Kulka and House (1989) further investigates requesting behaviour, in which the relative importance of power, social distance, situational setting and degree of imposition differ across cultures and languages. The languages that the researchers have studied include American English, Canadian French, Hebrew, Argentinian Spanish, Russian, German and Thai. (Rosina 2000)

Other than these, some researchers like Rose (2000) and Fukushima (1990) have expanded the scope to cover other languages such as Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese. To explore the way of making requests by South Asian youth, who form about 5% of Hong Kong population, this study will be expanded to include both local Chinese teenagers and South Asian youth. Moreover, this cross-cultural comparison of requestive speech act realization patterns is different from other researches, in which L2 but not L1 of both local Chinese teenagers and South Asian youth will be studied.

This research aims at answering the following questions:

  1. Are South Asian youth impolite in speech?
  2. Can South Asian youth employ request strategies appropriately in different social contexts?
  3. Can South Asian youth demonstrate knowledge of various request forms?
  4. Why are South Asian people thought to be impolite in speech? Are there any reasons explaining why they are so?
Methodology Informants

The informants are 20 teenagers from two ethnic groups, 10 in each, aged 16 to 18 years. The 10 informants of the target group are from South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal and the Philippines. The table below reveals the background information of the South Asian group. The other group of local Chinese students will also be asked to complete the same set of questionnaire to validate the findings for South Asian youth. All of the informants are Secondary 5 students in two different schools of similar banding in the same area. They are high intermediate level L2 learners of English. Thus, they should be capable of completing the task required in English and they are mature enough to write their answers sensibly. This helps the data collected more reliable.

Data processing

This is a cross-sectional and experimental study of a group of South Asian youth. The data of this research is collected by means of Dialogue Completion Task (DCT), which is shown in the following example:

Situation: At school --- You have just finished decorating the classroom for the Christmas party tomorrow. The room is in a mess. You need some tools to clean it up.


Janitor: OK, I will get them for you right away.

DCT involves a series of controlled elicitation procedures and has been one of the most widely used methods in pragmatics. There are several advantages in using DCT in our research:

  1. It is a less time-consuming method to collect and process the required data.
  2. It helps to create 'an initial classification of semantic formulas and strategies that will occur in natural speech.' (Beebe, as cited in Wouf, 2006, p.1460)
  3. It enables the researcher to collect the record of what people think they would say although it is not real speech.

However, the DCT that used in this research is a modified version of the traditional DCT in terms of both the content and the form. The twelve situations have been created based on students' experiences at school, at home and at work. Besides, unlike the DCT used in the CCSARP, in which the response of the hearer is given as contextual hints for the participants to give desired acts, the modified version of DCT does not include any response of the hearer. The reasons of making such modifications in our DCT are twofold: Firstly, as Rintell and Mitchell (1989) states that the presence of the hearer's response would somehow affect how the participants give responses to the situations. Secondly, it also limits the range of the participants' responses that may affect the validity of the research. As the twelve situations in this research are all familiar contexts to the target groups, students thus can use their background knowledge to complete the utterances with appropriate responses even though the dialogues of the hearers are not provided.

The survey has been conducted in the classroom. The informants are each given a modified DCT questionnaire with twelve socially differentiated situations. They are asked to complete the task in twenty minutes without the presence of the researchers.

In our DCT questionnaire, the twelve situations are designed based on the three contextual and social variables introduced by Brown and Levinson in their politeness theory. According to Brown and Levinson (1987), the three independent variables in "face threatening acts" are "relative power" (P), "social distance" (D) and "absolute ranking" (R) of imposition. Relative power (P) refers to the power difference between the speaker and the hearer. Social distance (D) describes whether the speaker and the hearer are close in relationship. Absolute ranking (R) of imposition depicts the severity of offence to the hearer. Generally speaking, the higher the P, D and R are involved, the more the politeness strategies should be taken into action so as to make the request less imposing to the hearer. In order to obtain the data more comprehensively, the twelve situations cover scenarios focusing on different power relationship, social distance as well as degree of imposition, which is summarized in Table 2 and the twelve situations are listed in Appendix I.

  • S refers to the speaker whereas H refers to the hearer
  • +SD refers to the situations with great social distance between the speaker and the hearer whereas -SD refers to little social distance between them
  • High ranking of imposition means the request is very imposing whilst low ranking of it indicates that the request is less imposing.

To make the comparison and analysis more systematically, the twelve situations are grouped together when the three variables concerned are more or less the same. As a result, there are six categories in total. However, in the final version of questionnaire that the informants need to complete, the twelve situations are arranged randomly instead of being categorized by the six categories so as to make the informants unaware of what is expected in the research. By doing so, it is hoped that their responses can be as natural and accurate as possible. Below is the table showing the six categories grouped from the twelve situations:

In the questionnaire, there are 4 scenarios describing an equal status (ie. S=H), another 4 scenarios addressing a higher status hearer (i.e. S<H) and the last 4 scenarios depicting a lower status hearer (i.e. S>H). Dealing with the degree of closeness and social distance, 7 out of 12 scenarios involve a high social distance (+SD) whereas 5 of them describe a low social distance (-SD). Concerning the level of imposition, 6 scenarios involve high degree of imposition while the other 6 describe cases of low degree of imposition.

To test whether the South Asian youth are really less polite than the local Chinese students, both of their sociolinguistic and pragmalinguistic competence are evaluated and compared. All the data are analyzed according to the coding system of two different frameworks, namely "Cross-Cultural Study of Speech Act Realization Patterns" (CCSARP) adopted by Blum-Kulka, House and Kasper (1989) and the "Five Stages of L2 Request Development" proposed by Achiba (2002) and Ellis (1992). Nevertheless, unlike most of the previous studies, which mainly assess the level of directness through the coding system of CCSARP, this research also takes the "Five Stages of L2 Request Development" into account in order to examine whether the English proficiency of the informants would affect the way of making requests by the target population. The framework of both CCSARP and the "Five Stages of L2 Request Development" are summarized in Appendix II and III.

Before conducting the real test, a pilot test has been carried out, in which 3 local Chinese Secondary 5 students and 2 South Asian Secondary 5 students have been invited to complete the DCT questionnaire. These 5 students will not be picked as informants again for the real test lest they would feel bored when doing the questionnaire repeatedly, which would in turn affect the results of the research. After taking the pilot test, three situations have been modified so as to ensure that no similar scenarios are repeatedly used in the real questionnaire. By so doing, the twelve situations can cover as many scenarios of the three variables as they can.

For the sake of analyzing the data of the kind of request strategies used, the percentage is calculated with the number of cases using the specific strategy over the total number of responses in each category. A case in point, in category 1, all the South Asian students use strategy 7. As there are 20 responses totally, 100% is obtained by the formula below:

20/20 X 100% = 100%

Additionally, mitigating devices are also analyzed in this study as they are effective tools to soften the degree of imposition. To collect the data ofmitigating devicesusedby the subjects, the percentage is calculated with the total number of a specific item of mitigating devices used in all scenarios over the total number of responses. For instance, in terms of internal modifiers, it is found that 28 grounders are used by the South Asian students. As there are 118 valid responses in total, the following formula helps to show how often the subjects use grounders when making requests:

Findings Request Strategies Mitigating Devices

In short, both the South Asian and local Chinese teenagers are able to make use of more complex sentences. In their requests, bi-clausal sentences can be found, i.e. compound and complex sentences are used.

Results and Discussion

So far we have analyzed the data of sociolinguistic competence, mitigating devices and pragmalinguistic competence respectively. Below is the discussion of the three aspects.

Similarities Sociolinguistic Competence
  1. Distribution of main request strategy types
  2. From the analysis of the strategy used, the most commonly used request strategy type by both groups is 'Preparatory', which is a conventionally indirect request strategy type. (South Asian: 88.9% VS Chinese 78.7%) It matches the finding of most of the previous studies, for example, those conducted by Blum-Kulka, House and Kasper (1989) and Rose (2000). Additionally, the second most used strategy type is direct strategies. (South Asian: 9.4% VS Chinese 16.9%) The least used strategy type is non-conventionally indirect strategies. (South Asian: 1.7% VS Chinese 4.4%)

    Indirectness is certainly not the only dimension of requesting behavior that affects politeness. Various internal and external modifiers also play a vital role in the field of politeness. The external modifiers include alerters together with supportive moves (grounders, promises and sweeteners) whereas internal modifiers consist of the use of modal verbs, past tense and interrogatives.

  3. Use of Alerters
  4. 'According to Blum-Kulka alerters can affect the social impact of the utterance. (Blum-Kulka 1989) It is found that 'Excuse me' is the most common alerter used by both groups. (South Asian: 17.8% VS Chinese: 25%) It is intensely used in a conversation with a stranger. As talking to non-acquaintances, 'Excuse me' is used by the speaker to signal the beginning of a request more naturally. However, when addressing friends or siblings (situation 4, 7, 8, 10 &12), the speakers occasionally begin with 'Hello', 'Hi' or 'Hey' to show intimacy. (South Asian: 20.4% VS Chinese: 58.3%)

  5. Use of Grounders and Promises
  6. According to Edmondson (1981), grounders and promises indirectly modify illocutionary force, thus softening the force of a request. It is especially true when the weight of imposition is high, for example, when asking a manager for a day-off due to a school trip, both groups of students use grounders or reasons in situation 2, 8, 10, 11 and 12. (South Asian: 23.7% VS Chinese: 40.8%)

    Besides using grounders, these teenagers also give promises when the requests are imposing so as to minimize the illocutionary force. (South Asian: 5.1% VS Chinese: 6.7%)

  7. Use of Interrogatives
  8. 82.4% of the requests are used with interrogatives by both groups of students. (South Asian: 88.1% VS Chinese: 76.7%) Three kinds of interrogative sentences are found. The most frequently used is the type starting with modal verbs 'can' or 'could'. Modals have the function of making utterances more polite, which work to further emphasize the speaker's respect to the hearer's freedom of action. A few of the requests begin with the auxiliary 'do' and the rest with question words like 'where' and 'how'. The finding echoes to some of the previous studies, for example, the one conducted by Francis (1997).

  9. Use of Sweeteners
  10. In situations 2, 6, 10, 11 and 12, when the weight of imposition is high, the two groups of students make use of sweeteners in order to please the hearer and achieve their goals more easily. (South Asian: 2.5% VS Chinese: 5.8%) For example, when one of them asks his father for money, he asks his father whether he is tired at the beginning of the conversation. Another interesting example made by one of the subjects is 'I will give you a chocolate bar'. This serves as an alluring incentive to borrow the comic book from a younger brother/sister.

  11. Use of Checking on Availability

To mitigate the face threatening effect, both groups of students make use of a kind of external modifiers, checking on availability, to start the utterances. (South Asian: 1.7% VS Chinese: 3.3%) In situation 2, when asking the younger sibling for a comic book to read, a Chinese asks, 'What are you doing?', while a South Asian says, 'When you are done, let me …' By so doing, the speaker would like to show their friendliness to the hearer.

Pragmalinguistic Competence Use of Fine-tuning

Based on the syntactic and lexical features of their utterances together with the use of fine-tuning devices, both groups have reached the highest stage of pragmalinguistic competence according to the Five Stages of L2 Request Development suggested by Kasper and Rose (2002). It means their requests have become considerably refined, particularly in their ability to fine-tune the force of the requests'. (Kasper and Rose 2002) When asking the manager for a day-off in situation 10, a subject responds, 'I am sorry to tell you that I have a school function next Saturday,' demonstrating a relatively advanced skill of modifying their requests in terms of pragmalinguistic competence.

Insights I

According to Blum-Kulka (1987), the highest ratings for politeness were granted to conventional indirect strategies, i.e. strategy 6 and 7. From the data above, both groups of our target population are polite across different designed situations since strategy 7 is widely used. With reference to Blum-Kulka (1991), the conventionally indirect strategy ('Can', 'Could' and 'May' and 'Would') can serve as a prerequest, the speaker can save face even though the hearer refuses the request. Another researcher Clark (1979) also mentions that the literal meaning of conventionally indirect strategies allow speakers admit a requestive intent more openly and clearly.

Although hints are the most indirect request strategies according to the coding scheme introduced by CCSARP, some researchers like Weizman (1989) argues that hints can hardly be considered as the most effective way to attain the requestive end since the hearer may not recognize what the speaker's request is and the speaker may not achieve his request. As a result, not many of our subjects choose hints as a request strategy. Because of this constraint, even when the speaker uses hints to make a request, the contextual clue should be provided as obviously as possible.

As mentioned before, the target population occasionally employs direct strategies to make a request. It is especially true when the status between the speaker and the hearer is equal (friend-friend) and when the speaker is superior to the hearer (student-younger sibling, student-shopkeeper). In fact, based on some researches like Blum-Kulka (1989), indirectness and politeness do not necessarily correlate with each other. It means using direct strategies to make a request might not be impolite so long as the social distance between the speaker and the hearer is low or equal, and when the interlocutors are close in relationship.

Differences Sociolinguistic Competence
  1. Variety of Request Strategy Types
  2. The local Chinese subjects use all types of request strategies according to the coding system of CCSARP, ranging from mood derivable, hedged performative, locution derivable, want statement, suggestory formula, preparatory, strong hint and mild hint. The South Asian youth, however, employ only four kinds of request strategies, including mood derivable, want statement, preparatory and strong hint.

  3. Request Perspective
  4. From the data, the South Asian youths are more speaker-oriented as 54.5 % of their requests start with 'Can/Could I'. It implies that the speaker wants the hearer to do something for them. However, their Chinese counterparts adopt a different approach. They mostly make requests with 'Can/Could you', which is considered to be hearer-oriented. The illocutionary force of the requests made by the Chinese group emphasizes on the hearers' ability to do something.

  5. Compensation for the use of direct strategies through mitigating devices
  6. As illustrated in the previous part, both groups of students employ direct strategies occasionally when making a request. Yet, there is a considerably difference in the occurrence of direct strategies and the use of imperatives. 9.4% of South Asian students' requests employ direct strategies whereas 16.9% of the Chinese counterparts use them. When talking about the use of imperatives, the Chinese subjects use more imperatives than South Asian youth. (Chinese: 8.3% VS South Asian: 5.1%) For instance, a Chinese says, 'Give me some money.'

    Although the hearer and the speaker are acquaintances or even the hearer is inferior to the speaker, the speaker prefers to use different kinds of mitigating devices such as grounders to lower the level of directness. For instance, when talking to a shopkeeper, the speaker utters, 'Excuse me, I want to buy a birthday present for my mother…'. Apart from this, past tense is used as a softener, for example, 'Could you help me?'. Based on Leech (1987), the use of past tense is considered to be more polite and the most common way of showing deference to the hearer's negative face. Besides, in situation 11, the Chinese group uses 'disarmers' aiming at arousing the speakers' awareness of the potential offense, thereby attempting to anticipate possible refusal so as to save the faces of both interlocutors. Before making the requests, one of them states, 'I am sorry! I hope I can get your forgiveness'. The other makes a similar response, 'I'm sorry. Could you forgive me?'

  7. Show Appreciation
  8. When making a request, showing appreciation to the hearers functions as a kind of compliments. Nevertheless, only the South Asian students show their appreciation by saying 'I would really appreciate it…' in situation 6 and 'I'd appreciate it if ….' in situation 9. Interestingly, Chinese being a culturally-bounded society do not have this kind of compliment.

  9. Use of Hints

When dealing with a situation in which the hearer is superior to the speaker and the request is very imposing, both groups of students try to use the most indirect request strategy, i.e. hints. Obviously, there is a significant difference in using hints between the two groups. 70% of the Chinese students make hints for requesting the manager for a day-off while only 30% South Asian students adopt the same strategy. One of the Chinese participants expresses 'I will take part in a field trip. I think I will find someone to take my work.' Although using hints may hinder the hearer's interpretation of the request as stated by Weizman (1989), but according to Rose (2000), producing an utterance that allows the hearer to intuit the intention of the speaker based on contextual factors is the most appropriate mean when strong imposition and an issue of hierarchy are concerned. Hence, several students still prefer using the non-conventionally indirect strategies with the help of contextual hints for the hearer's interpretation.

Pragmalinguistic Competence Use of bi-clausal sentences

It is found that even bi-clausal sentences (for example, 'Excuse me, may I ask if there is any kind of convenience store nearby?') do not dominate the utterances, the South Asian students use more bi-clausal sentences than the local Chinese. Among the requests made by the South Asian, 20.6% are bi-clausal. In the Chinese group, only 2.9% of the requests are bi-clausal sentences and the rest are merely mono-clausal sentences (For example, 'What time is it?').

Insights II

As mentioned before, both Chinese students and South Asian students use direct request strategies and imperatives when making a request. In terms of 'want statement', the Chinese subjects use significantly more want statements even though when they are talking to their father. (South Asian: 6.7% VS Chinese 46.7%) Achiba (2003) states that second language English learners of EFL countries are aware that a want statement is an effective way to obtain compliance from adults, especially their parents. Therefore, they naturally make the requests in this way. For example, 'Dad, I want to buy a supplementary English exercise book…' Blum-Kulka and House (1989) also mention that making requests to the family would be more direct. However, a request marker, 'please', should be used to bid for cooperative behavior in their utterances. For instance, 'Lend your comic book to me, please.' (situation 10)

Answers to the Research Questions

Based on the above analysis, whether South Asian youth are impolite in speech, whether they can employ request strategies appropriately in different social contexts and if they demonstrate knowledge of various request forms are examined as follows:

Firstly, as concluded by Blum-Kulka (1987), the highest ratings for politeness are given to conventionally indirect strategies, strategy 7. From our findings, South Asian youth employ strategy 7 in most cases. (South Asian: 88.9%) Even though they request someone with lower social power such as a shopkeeper, a younger schoolmate, younger siblings and relatives to do something, they still prefer to use strategy 7. Obviously, South Asian youth tend to express their wants and needs in a polite way to the hearer, regardless of the variables concerning relative power and social distance. Such findings are relatively higher than those of their Chinese counterparts, who use strategy 7 for about 78.7%. To conclude, South Asian youth are relatively more polite in speech.

To judge whether a group of subjects has higher sociolinguistic competence, the distribution of strategies across different contexts and whether the use of them is appropriate or not should be considered. From the analysis above, the Chinese subjects use all types of request strategies in the coding system of CCSARP. When they talk to their friends, siblings, shopkeepers, younger relatives or even their father, they are more direct in some cases. However, when they talk to the manager, the person with a higher ranking, they use a more indirect request strategy. They also give reasons and promises to mitigate the level of imposition. In short, the Chinese subjects can use request strategies more flexibly. Generally speaking, they have attained a higher level of sociolinguistic competence when compared to South Asian youth, who tend to use only a small range of strategies across the twelve situations. In spite of this, it does not mean the sociolinguistic competence of South Asian youth is very low. In fact, different cultures have different interpretation of relative power, social distance and degree of imposition. These different interpretations influence one's choice of request strategies in different contexts. According to Pan (2000), the culture of more western-like societies is totally different from that of the Chinese culture. To non-Chinese groups, the status of siblings, for example, is more equal. It helps explain why the South Asian youth focus on using more indirect request strategies even when the hearer is inferior to them.

Furthermore, Takahashi (1996) states that native speakers use more bi-clausal requests. According to our findings, South Asian youth are more native-like as they use more bi-clausal sentences. (South Asian: 20.6% VS Chinese: 2.9%) Besides, with the concept of the western individualism, native speakers use much more 'Can I' or 'Could I' than 'Can you' or 'Could you'. Thus, it seems that the South Asian group has attained a higher level of pragmalinguistic competence. It means that they can use more complex language features.

In the daily life of South Asian group, other than using their native language for communication, English is one of their common communication tools. They have more opportunities to use L2 both inside and outside school, and as a result, they can reach the level of being more native-like.

Conclusion and Limitations

Based on our findings, it is no doubt that South Asian youth are not impolite in speech. Like most of the informants of the previous studies, South Asian youth prefer to use the most polite strategy, strategy 7, when making a request. Through analyzing the requestive realization patterns as well as the lexical and syntactic features, South Asian youth possess higher English proficiency than the Chinese subjects. With the evidence shown above, they are more native-like in the use of English comparatively speaking. In respect of sociolinguistic competence, some may argue that South Asian youth are not competent enough since they can only adopt limited kinds of request strategies.

In the Chinese society, the public tends to consider that South Asian people are impolite and rude. In fact, communicative styles differ from culture to culture. (Hudson 1996) Speakers of each culture may have different perceptions towards relative power relationship, social distance as well as level of imposition. Such a difference may cause Chinese people to misunderstand South Asian people since the way the South Asian group speak (like the cases of making requests) are not the same as theirs.

To help L2 learners develop better and more natural request behaviours similar to those of native speakers, teachers can try to make use of more authentic materials in lessons. According to Rose (1993), English films can be shown in the English lessons with the emphasis placed on how native speakers make requests. On top of this, students can be given more chances to interact with native speakers so that they can imitate the way of how native speakers make requests across different situations. (Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford 1996).

To conclude, the data found in this research are useful in a sense that South Asian youth are proved not to be impolite as expected. Although the use of open questionnaire by DCT helps to obtain the data effectively, whether the respondents truly make the requests in such a way that they put down in the questionnaire is questionable. Besides, because of the time constraint, the number of informants in this research is ten for each target group. Thus, it is recommended that further research design of a similar topic should include more informants and even more situations. Therefore, a more complete and genuine picture can be generated.


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