Relational practices in Norwegian students’ e-mail requests in English A focus on openings and closings

Milica Savić (1)
(1) Department of Education and Sports Science Faculty of Arts and Education University of Stavanger, Norway


The paper explores relational practices in openings and closings in Norwegian students’ e-mail requests in English. It investigates the range of opening and closing sequences and the frequency of their occurrence as well as their variation depending on the level of request imposition and social distance between the e-mail writer and the lecturer. The very high frequency of occurrence of openings and closings, considered to be optional e-mail elements, in a small corpus of 109 authentic e-mails demonstrates a clear orientation to interpersonal aspects of communication. An orientation to familiarity was identified in the openings while a slight preference for deference was found in the closings. Social distance appeared to affect relational practices to a greater extent than the level of imposition.

Full text article

Generated from XML file


Androutsopoulos, J. (2006). Introduction: Sociolinguistics and computer-mediated communication. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 10(4), 419–438. DOI:

Biesenbach-Lucas, S. (2006). Making requests in e-mail: Do cyber-consultations entail directness? Toward conventions in a new medium. In Bardovi- Harlig, K., Félix-Brasdefer, J. C. and Omar, A. (Eds.), Pragmatics and language learning, vol. 11 (pp. 81-107). Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.

Biesenbach-Lucas, S. (2007). Students writing emails to faculty: An examination of e-politeness among native and non-native speakers of English. Language Learning & Technology, 11(2), 59-81.

Bjørge, A. (2007). Power distance in English lingua franca email communication. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 17(1), 60-80. DOI:

Bou-Franch, P. (2011). Openings and closings in Spanish email conversations. Journal of Pragmatics,43(6), 1772-1785. DOI:

Brown, G. and Yule, G. (1983). Discourse analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Brown, P. and Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness. Some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Bunz, U. and Campbell, S. (2004). Politeness accommodation in electronic mail. Communication Research Report, 21(1), 11-25. DOI:

Chen, C.-F.E. (2006). The development of e-mail literacy: from writing to peers to writing to authority figures. Language Learning and Technology, 10(2), 35-55.

Dittrich, W., Johansen, T. and Kulinskaya, E. (2011). Norms and situational rules of address in English and Norwegian speakers. Journal of Pragmatics,43(15), 3807-3821. DOI:

Döring, N. (2003). Sozialpsychologie des Internet. Die Bedeutung des Internet für Kommunikationsprozesse, Identitäten, Soziale Beziehungen und Gruppen. Second edition. Göttingen: Hogrefe.

Economidou-Kogetsidis, M. (2011). “Please answer me as soon as possible”: Pragmatic failure in non-native speakers’ e-mail requests to faculty. Journal of Pragmatics,43(13), 3193-3215. DOI:

Economidou-Kogetsidis, M. (2016). Variation in evaluations of (im)politeness of emails from L2 learners and perceptions of the personality of their senders. Journal of Pragmatics,106, 1-19. DOI:

Eelen, G. (2001). A critique of politeness theories. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.

Félix-Brasdefer, C. (2012a). Email openings and closings: pragmalinguistic and gender variation in learner-instructor cyber consultations. In Soler, E. A. and Safont-Jorda, M. (Eds.), Discourse and language learning across L2 instructional settings (pp. 223-248). Amsterdam & New York: Brill Academic Publishers. DOI:

Félix-Brasdefer, C. (2012b). E-mail requests to faculty. E-politeness and internal modification. In Economidou-Kogetsidis, M. and Woodfield, H. (Eds.), Interlanguage request modification (pp. 87-118). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. DOI:

Fretheim, T. (2005). Politeness in Norway: How can you be polite and sincere? In Hickey, L. and Stewart, M. (Eds.), Politeness in Europe. (pp. 145-158). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd. DOI:

Gains, J. (1999). Electronic mail – A new style of communication or just a new medium?: An investigation into the text features of email. English for Specific Purposes, 18(1), 81-101. DOI:

Gimenez, J. (2000). Business e-mail communication: some emerging tendencies in register. English for Specific Purposes, 19, 237-251. DOI:

Graham, S. L. (2007). Disagreeing to agree: Conflict, (im)politeness and identity in a computer-mediated community. Journal of Pragmatics, 39(4), 742-759. DOI:

Herring, S. (1996). Two variants of an electronic message schema. In Herring, S. (Ed.), Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives (pp. 81-106).Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. DOI:

Herring, S. (2006). Computer-mediated discourse. In Schiffrin, D., Tannen, D and Hamilton, H. E. (Eds.), The handbook of discourse analysis (pp. 612-634). Blackwell Publishing Ltd. DOI:

Herring, S. (2010). Computer-mediated conversation: Introduction and overview. Language@Internet, 7, article 2. Retrieved from:

Herring, S., Stein, D. and Virtanen, T. (2013). Introduction to the pragmatics of computer-mediated communication. In Herring, S., Stein, D. and Virtanen, T. (Eds.), Handbook of pragmatics of computer-mediated Communication (pp. 3-32). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. DOI:

Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences. 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Kankaanranta, A. (2005). “Hej Seppo, could you pls comment on this!” – Internal email communication in lingua franca English in a multinational company. Centre for Applied Language Studies. University of Jyväskylä. DOI:

Lewin-Jones, J. and Mason, V. (2014). Understanding style, language and etiquette in email communication in higher education: A survey. Research in Post-Compulsory Education,19(1), 75-90. DOI:

Locher, M. A. (2010). Introduction: Politeness and impoliteness in computer-mediated communication. Journal of Politeness Research, 6(2). 1–5. DOI:

Locher, M. A. and Graham, S. L. (2010). Introduction to interpersonal pragmatics. In Locher, M. A. and Graham, S. L. (Eds.), Interpersonal pragmatics (pp. 1-13).Berlin: Mouton. DOI:

McKeown, J. and Zhang, Q. (2015). Socio-pragmatic influence on opening salutation and closing valediction of British workplace email. Journal of Pragmatics, 85, 92-107. DOI:

Merrison, A., Wilson, J., Davies, B. and Haugh, M. (2012). Getting stuff done: Comparing e-mail requests from students in higher education in Britain and Australia. Journal of Pragmatics, 44(9), 1077-1098. DOI:

Mills, S. (2011). Discursive approaches to politeness and impoliteness. In Linguistic Politeness Research Group (Eds.), Discursive approaches to politeness (pp. 19-56). Mouton series in pragmatics (8). Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton. DOI:

Rygg, K. (2016). Was Malinowski Norwegian? Norwegian interpretations of phatic talk. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 40. Retrieved from: DOI:

Røkaas, F. A. (2000). Potential for misunderstandings: Social interaction between Norwegians and Americans. In Isaksson, M. and Røkaas, F. A. (Eds.), Conflicting values: An intercultural challenge (pp. 111-129). Sandvika: Norwegian School of Management BI.

Savić, M. (2018). Lecturer perceptions of im/politeness and in/appropriateness in student e-mail requests: A Norwegian perspective. Journal of Pragmatics, 124, 52-72. DOI:

Skovholt, K., Grønning, A. and Kankaanranta, A. (2014). The Communicative Functions of Emoticons in Workplace E-Mails: :-). Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19(4), 780-797. DOI:

Spencer-Oatey, H. (1996). Reconsidering power and distance. Journal of Pragmatics, 26(1), 1-24. DOI:

Stephens, K., Houser, M. and Cowan, R. (2009). R U able to meat me: The impact of students’ overly casual email messages to instructors. Communication Education,58(3), 303-326. DOI:

Thomas, J. (1983). Cross-cultural pragmatic failure. Applied Linguistics, 4(2),91-112. DOI:

Waldvogel, J. (2007). Greetings and closings in workplace email. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 456-477. DOI:

Yates, L. (2010). Pragmatic challenges for second language learners. In A. Trosborg (Ed.), Pragmatics across languages and cultures (pp. 287-308). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. DOI:


Milica Savić (Primary Contact)
Author Biography

Milica Savić, Department of Education and Sports Science Faculty of Arts and Education University of Stavanger

Milica Savić is Associate Professor of English Linguistics in the Department of Education and Sports Science, Faculty of Arts and Education, University of Stavanger, Norway. She holds a PhD degree in Applied linguistics from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia. Her main fields of research include interlanguage pragmatics, pragmatics instruction in EFL contexts, linguistic politeness in e-mail communication, and critical literacy. She has published a monograph entitled Politeness through the Prism of Requests, Apologies and Refusals. A Case of Advanced Serbian EFL Learners (2014, Cambridge Scholars Publishing), and authored/co-authored a number of peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on EFL learners’ pragmatic competence, metapragmatic awareness, peer assessment, pronunciation instruction, EFL teaching and teacher education.

Savić, M. (2019). Relational practices in Norwegian students’ e-mail requests in English A focus on openings and closings. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 19(1), 1016.

Article Details

Smart Citations via scite_
  • Abstract 158
  • Download PDF 31