Pragmatic norms of request making of spoken business English in Hong Kong

Tin Pui Benny CHIANG

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


The present study investigates the pragmatic patterns of request making in the Hong Kong Spoken Business Context. The research conceptual framework is derived based on the two significant politeness models in the field, the one by Brown and Levinson (1978 & 1987) and the one by Blum-Kulka et. al (1989) with adaptations and modifications to fit the specific purpose of the present study. The notions of Pragmalinguistics and Sociopragmatics of Leech (1983 & 2014) are applied to account for both the fixed and the varied request patterns. While it is agreed that some fixed/universal/inherent pragmalinguistic patterns do exist for request making, the present study more concurs with the rising view in the past two decades that the use of the inherent request patterns varies and it is subject to sociopragmatic context. In addition to confirming that the common sociopragmatic factors such as speech situation and power distance are also influential in the Hong Kong Spoken Business Context, the present study takes a further emic step to challenge the general view that politeness is most likely achieved through indirectness. It is found in the present study that such general view does not apply to some sociopragmatic contexts and whether a request is interpreted and accepted as polite or appropriate heavily depends on the notion of face embraced by a particular community. A pragmalinguistically direct request may not be sociopragmatically interpreted as not polite in collectivistic cultures but rather as an appropriate gesture for solidarity. In addition to controlling potential aggression and reducing imposition between social parties as viewed by Brown and Levinson (1987, p.1), politeness may as well have a positive function of strengthening the social bonding between potentially cooperative parties for the good of the whole community. This study also contributes to the field through identifying a broader discourse pattern of request making which are the serial use of external modifications and follow-up requests and the use of request scaffolding among requesters in a dialogue. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • STAPLETON, Paul, Supervisor
  • MA, Qing 馬清, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • English language -- Business English -- Hong Kong
  • English language -- Spoken English
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2016


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