International Journal of Applied Linguistics

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Volume 17 Issue 1 (March 2007), Pages 1-158

Power distance in English lingua franca email communication (pages 60-80)

This study investigates level of formality in international students’ emails sent to academic staff. National cultures have different traditions when it comes to adopting an egalitarian or a more distant student–professor relationship. Hofstede's cultural dimension of power distance (PD) is used to distinguish between relatively high and relatively low PD cultures. The students’ choice of initial greeting and complimentary close is discussed with respect to PD ranking, rapport management and the sociopragmatic conventions set out in business communication literature. The analysis is based on 344 emails written by 110 students in Norway, a low PD culture. The findings indicate that students from relatively high PD cultures are more likely to opt for formal alternatives, concluding that national culture is an aspect to take into account when analysing lingua franca English communication.

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