Hong Kong students’ perception and production of politeness to perform requests in English

Mushan WANG

Research output: ThesisHonours Projects (HP)


It is crucial for second language learners (SLL) to understand the politeness use of the target language so as to use it appropriately in different contexts. However, it may occur that the speaker knows she/he should be polite in a certain context but simply do not know how to convey the message in an appropriate polite way. This study investigates whether speakers use the same politeness strategies in both perception and in production to perform requests and also how social power and social distance affect the difference in perception and production. A questionnaire (See Appendix 1) consisting of a Discourse Completion Test (DCT) followed by a Politeness Rating Table (PRT) was distributed among 52 Hong Kong students who are enrolled in local tertiary institutes. The results indicate that as social power and social distance both increase, speakers tend to use higher level of superstrategies to be more polite, which provides partial support for Brown and Levinson’s politeness theory (1987). In contrast, speakers tend to be less polite when interacting with hearers of close relationship and high power as well as distant and equal relationship. This implies the speakers, who are ethically Chinese, may likely to transfer the sociocultural norms of Chinese into English as an impact of L1 pragmatic transfer. From a pedagogical perspective, the findings call attention to the necessity of teaching the usages of various politeness expressions in different contexts in order to improve learners’ pragmatic competence.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationBachelor of Education (Honours)
  • LUK, Pei Sui, Zoe 陸璧瑞, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Pragmatic competence
  • Politeness
  • Second language acquisition
  • Honours Project (HP)
  • Bachelor of Education (Honours) (English Language) (Five-year Full-time)
  • Programme code: A5B059
  • Course code: ENG4905


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