Politeness in Intercultural Email Communication: Australian and Korean Perspectives

Margaret Murphy (1), Mike Levy (2)
(1) chool of Cognition, Language and Special Education Mt Gravatt Campus Griffith University Brisbane, 4111, Australia, Australia,
(2) chool of Languages & Linguistics Nathan Campus Griffith University Qld 4111, Australia, Australia


This paper presents initial results from analysis of data collected on the topic of politeness in intercultural email communication from a large cohort of Australian academic and general staff at an established metropolitan university. We were interested in the language used by these staff members while they conducted their initial email communication with their contacts overseas. The contacts overseas were, for example, fellow professional colleagues, representatives from educational institutions and foreign students. The staff members did not know personally their overseas email partners in the sense that they had not previously met face-to-face. In particular, we were interested in if and how the staff members incorporated politeness indicators in their email language and how they interpreted politeness, or lack thereof, in their incoming emails. The paper also describes and analyses the politeness strategies in intercultural emails used by a smaller cohort of Korean academics at seven universities in Korea. Results show differences in politeness, both in expectations and use, between Australian and Korean academics.

Themes and conceptual developments were identified in the primary data-gathering instrument, the questionnaire, using qualitative data analysis. The software package Leximancer was used for text analysis (Smith 2002). The software analysis confirms and strengthens our own qualitative analysis. Results show aspects such as formality in language and use of correct titles are important politeness considerations in intercultural email communication. These politeness considerations however, vary according to culture and results show many discrepancies on these and other aspects between the Australian and Korean data. Figures showing ranked themes display these results visually.


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Margaret Murphy
m.murphy@griffith.edu.au (Primary Contact)
Mike Levy
Author Biographies

Margaret Murphy, chool of Cognition, Language and Special Education Mt Gravatt Campus Griffith University Brisbane, 4111, Australia

Margaret Murphy is a part time academic staff member at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. She has just completed her PhD on the topic of Intercultural Email Communication. Her research interests include language, culture and the role of the computer in changing our communication practices. She has had several publications in the fields of education and computer mediated communication.

Mike Levy , chool of Languages & Linguistics Nathan Campus Griffith University Qld 4111, Australia

Dr Mike Levy is Head of the School and Associate Professor of Languages and Linguistics at Griffith University. He has taught EFL in the UK, Kuwait and Japan and ESL in Australia. For the last 15 years, his principal interest in teaching and research has been Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL). He has taught many courses in the field at three universities as part of Masters Degrees in Applied Linguistics. His more recent books include, Computer-Assisted Language Learning: Context and conceptualization (Oxford University Press, UK, 1997) and WorldCALL: Global Perspectives on Computer-Assisted Language Learning (Swets & Zeitlinger, the Netherlands, 1999). He is Associate Editor of the CALL and CALL-EJ Online journals and on the Editorial Board of the ReCALL Journal.

Murphy, M., & Levy , M. (2006). Politeness in Intercultural Email Communication: Australian and Korean Perspectives. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 6(2), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.36923/jicc.v6i2.427

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