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An area of intercultural pragmatics (ILP) that has been investigated extensively is the ability of learners to understand and use indirect and polite language in performing speech acts. ILP studies that have investigated learners' ability to modify speech acts have shown that learners tend to use fewer and less varied modifiers than native speakers (Faerch and Kasper, Internal and external modification in interlanguage request realization, Ablex, 1989; Hendriks, More on Dutch English . . . please? A study of request performance by Dutch native speakers, English native speakers and Dutch learners of English, Nijmegen University Press, 2002). To date, however, few studies have investigated the effect of non-native modification of speech acts. Evidence from research on the comprehensibility of EFL language has indicated that grammatical errors and / or non-native pronunciation can obstruct comprehension (Lindemann, Journal of Sociolinguistics 7: 348–364, 2003) and that non-native speakers may be evaluated negatively with regard to their personality (Bresnahan et al., Language and Communication 22: 171–185, 2002; Nejjari et al. forthcoming).
This study investigated the effect of the (under) use of syntactic and lexical modifiers in English e-mail requests written by Dutch learners. In an online web-survey, native speakers of English were asked to evaluate the comprehensibility of the e-mail requests and personality dimensions of the sender of the e-mail. Findings indicate that underuse of request modification in e-mails had a negative effect on participants' evaluation of the personality of the sender of the e-mail.
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