So rude! Effects of non-native politeness in written communication

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Politeness in speech acts and non-native speakers’ ability to use them have been an extensive research area in the field of interlanguage pragmatics to date. Previous perception studies in the field have illustrated the impact of non-native English written communication on receivers (Economidou-Kogetsidis, 2016; Hendriks, 2010; Vignovic & Thompson, 2010). However, previous research did not focus on non-native English speakers’ perceptions of other non-native English speakers as well as perceptions of the content of the message. Non-native speakers were found to substantially differ from native speakers with respect to the adherence of language use rules (Dewaele, 2015). Furthermore, the impact of contextual information on perceptions of non-native English message senders and message content remains underexplored. The present experiment investigated the effect of politeness modification in written non-native English e-mail communication in a hiring context while either including or leaving out contextual information, namely the origin of the message sender. In the experiment 192 international non-native English speakers were asked to evaluate message content and the personality of the message sender in an online questionnaire based on different e-mail versions and situational contexts. Findings show that politeness modification and contextual information did not impact participants’ evaluations of the message content and personality of message senders. This implies that non-native English speakers do not judge other non-native English speakers based on the politeness level and contextual cues in written communication.
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