'Can you upload as soon as you can please?' A study of university student requests by e-mail in English Medium Instruction



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Lazarescu, Raluca Catalina (2013) 'Can you upload as soon as you can please?' A study of university student requests by e-mail in English Medium Instruction. [Trabajo Fin de Máster]

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In the last two decades, the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has somewhat changed educational patterns. More specifically, e-mail communication in the academic setting has to some extent modified the student-teacher relationship (Economidou-Kogetsidis, 2011). Through electronic mail, students no longer need to wait until lesson time or advising sessions to have their queries and requests solved. The use of e-mail seems to have made possible a new kind of relationship between students and instructors, referred to as the ‘third space’ (Bhabha, 1994 in Bretag, 2006). However, electronic mail has also aroused the need for a renewal of both students and professors’ linguistic behavior, since the linguistic strategies used in face-to-face communication are not always appropriate in the online setting (Blanchette, 2009:392).
In student-initiated e-mails to their lecturers, as in classroom discourse in general (see Dalton-Puffer and Nikula, 2006; Dalton-Puffer, 2007) one of the most typical speech acts is precisely requesting. Students usually write e-mail requests to their instructors for two main reasons, namely to ask for some kind of action from the teacher (e.g. to make an appointment, to have an exam postponed) or to ask for some information related to the course content. In other words, student-teacher requests tend to be either requests for action or requests for information (Biesembach-Lucas, 2007; Economidou-Kogetsidis, 2011).
Requests, however, are a problematic type of speech act in an asymmetrical status relationship such as the student-instructor one, since they imply some kind of “intrusion” on the part of the speaker into the hearer’s territory (Blum-Kulka et al., 1989). Furthermore, in the educational setting teachers have more power and status,
and they would therefore expect highly mitigated requests from their students. Concurrently, as Economidou-Kogetsidis (2011:3209) points out, writing status-congruent (i.e. appropriate) e-mails to authority figures is a demanding task, especially for students writing in a foreign language. In contexts in which students use a foreign language for instruction this issue becomes even more complicated, since the curriculum usually does not allow time for instruction in e-mail pragmatics or in the pragmatics of the target language in general. Moreover, due to the limited exposure to the target language, frequently reduced exclusively to the classroom context, and a focus on specialized vocabulary, especially in English for Specific Purposes courses, at advanced levels, students’ pragmatic competence is not fully developed.
Though some of the studies that have been published up to date in the pragmatics of English-medium instruction (or EMI) have focused on the speech act of requesting (Dalton-Puffer and Nikula, 2006; Dalton-Puffer, 2007), to our knowledge, only one study has focused specifically on e-mail requests in university settings (Economidou-Kogetsidis, 2011). The present study therefore aims at contributing to the research in this area, by focusing on e-requests sent by first and second year Economics and Business Administration students to their lecturers, in an EMI educational context in Madrid.

Item Type:Trabajo Fin de Máster
Dafouz Milne, Emma
Uncontrolled Keywords:L2 pragmatics, Requests, Teacher-student interaction, Electronic mail
Subjects:Humanities > Philology
Humanities > Philology > English philology
Humanities > Philology > Linguistics
ID Code:23288
Deposited On:22 Oct 2013 07:23
Last Modified:07 Feb 2014 10:59

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