Rating communicative adequacy in students’ elicited email requests to faculty – an analysis of individual performance in Italian L1 and English L2

31 May 2024
Room C1

Rating communicative adequacy in students’ elicited email requests to faculty – an analysis of individual performance in Italian L1 and English L2

Communicative expertise is shaped by socialisation practices, which vary across groups characterised by different stable social traits (e.g. education, status) and across individuals, who may display different levels of effectiveness and appropriateness as per their specific sociolinguistic history (i.e. experience with and exposure to interactional practices). Previous studies have reported that young adults are not necessarily familiar with the conventions of formal email writing (Félix-Brasdefer, 2012), and that second/foreign language writers face greater challenges in this (Economidou-Kogetsidis, 2021). However, most works compare overall group performance (Schauer 2021, Codina-Espurz & Salazar-Campillo, 2019) or trace the evolution of communicative practices of a single individual (Chen, 2006). Adopting a within-subject design, this paper examines elicited student email requests to faculty in Italian as a Native Language (35 texts; 2,600 words) and English as a Foreign Language (35 texts, 2,800 words) so as to systematically explore similarities and differences in communicative practices at an individual level. The emails were collected through 2 written DCTs, which made it possible to control for key situational variables (-Power, +Distance, +Rank). The email requests were examined along 4 dimensions: structure and interaction management, content, requestive strategies, and form, each comprising several features. Most features were rated with binary values (positive vs negative), while accuracy was rated on a 3-point scale (positive vs fair vs negative). Three findings emerged: the Italian requests were given slightly higher values than the English ones for communicative effectiveness (i.e. content and strategies), but not for structure plus interaction management or form (e.g. paragraphing and punctuation); the differences detected were not significant; and most individuals (about 65%) received identical or very similar scores in both languages. This suggests that nativeness is not necessarily a reliable predictor of interactional adequacy, and that the artificial nature of the data collection may have similarly affected students’ performance.



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Economidou-Kogetsidis, M. (2021). The effect of first-language pragmatics on second language email performance: The case of Greek students’ email requests. In M. Economidou-Kogetsidis, M. Savić & N. Halenko (Eds.), Email Pragmatics and second language learners (pp. 151-178). John Benjamins.

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