Strategy and linguistic preference of requests by Cantonese learners of English: An interlanguage and crosscultural comparison

Cynthia F K LEE*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Extending Lee's (2005) work, the researcher further investigates the requestive behaviour of a group of Cantonese learners of English (CLEs) in Hong Kong in terms of their strategy and linguistic preference. The data were collected from a discourse completion test (DCT). Their requestive behaviour is studied in three social and power hierarchical situations (low-high, equal-equal and high-low) in the university context and is compared with a group of native Cantonese speakers' (NCSs) and native English speakers' (NESs) requestive behaviour, respectively. The dual comparison results in three important findings. First, the evidence shows some L1 influence on the syntactic structure of the CLEs' query preparatory strategy. The equivalent interrogative form of (Nei1/ Ngo5) ho2 ji5/h2 m ho2 ji5: (you/I) can/can-not-can in Cantonese and Can/Could/May you/I ...? in English contributes to the frequent use of the CLEs' indirect requestive behaviour in English. Nevertheless, the difference in direct and indirect strategies between the two groups is significant (p < 0.005). Second, there is cross-cultural agreement on indirect requestive behaviour in the three situations between the CLEs and the NESs. Both groups use the politeness marker of cing2 or please to mitigate imposition and increase politeness. However, the CLEs demonstrate limited pragmalinguistic resources to enhance the force and politeness of the speech act compared to the NESs. The strengths and weaknesses of CLEs' requestive behaviour, their limited pragmalinguistic resources and the limitations of the study are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-129
Number of pages31
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language

User-Defined Keywords

  • Cantonese learners of English
  • Interlanguage and cross-cultural requests
  • Native English speakers
  • Politeness


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