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Do indirect requests communicate politeness? An experimental study of conventionalized indirect requests in French email communication

Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel

This article addresses the relationship between linguistic politeness and addressee status in the performance of written requests in French. According to a first view, conventionalized Can you followed by a verbal phrase (in short, Can you VP?) U+201Cindirect requestsU+201D (IRs) are preferred because they enable speakers to convey politeness effects absent in imperatives. According to an alternative view, Can you VP? is the standard polite request form in written communication because it avoids impoliteness implications. To test these two competing hypotheses, I carried out a production task experiment with 122 native speakers of Belgian French writing email requests. In this experiment, addressee status was manipulated. An important finding is that higher addressee status does not increase the frequency of Can you VP? requests. Instead of using Can you VP? more often when they address higher status people, the participants used specific politeness markers such as formal greetings and the V-form of address. These results disconfirm the hypothesis that Can you VP? is used to convey extra politeness effects and suggests instead that people use such IRs to avoid the risk of being considered impolite.
ISSN: 1613-4877
Issue: 1
Volume: 16
Pagina's: 111 - 142
Jaar van publicatie:2020