Apologies for Bad English: The Effects of Politeness Modification and Language Expectancies on Message Recipients.

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How the sender of a message is perceived and evaluated by the receiver is affected by both the degree of politeness in the message and the anticipated communication behaviour of the sender. Despite the ever increasing status of English as a lingua franca in business, few studies have investigated the effects of so-called politeness modification or so-called language expectancies on message recipients in non-native (L2) to L2 communication. This study aimed to investigate the effects of language expectancies and politeness modification on Dutch speakers of English in professional business communication by comparing how Dutch speakers evaluate both native (L1) and Dutch L2 speakers of English. In an online web questionnaire, 120 L1 Dutch speakers were asked to evaluate the sender’s politeness, personality, the willingness to comply with their requests, and the perceived requests’ imposition in one of four versions of email requests, each version containing a different combination of apparent sender (L1 or L2) and politeness level (high or low level). Findings indicate that both politeness modification and language expectancies affect sender evaluations. L2 senders were more positively evaluated than L1 senders of the same emails, while L2 senders benefitted more from a higher level of politeness modification compared to L1 senders.
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