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Pragma-linguistic and socio-pragmatic perspectives on intercultural communicative competence within mobile and non-mobile higher education contexts: examining Turkish and Belgian higher education students’ speech act products in English - Diler Aba (29/01/2021)

Diler Aba


This study examines written speech act products of different student groups. First, mobile Turkish Erasmus students’ English requests and refusals are analyzed from the perspectives of modification, (in)directness and politeness. The analysis of the request data is made via the taxonomy of request modification in Halupka-Resetar (2014) while the analysis of the refusal data is made with the classification of refusals by Beebe et al. (1990). Certain changes and adaptations were applied to these taxonomies so that they served the goals of the present study and fit the characteristic features of all participant groups.

For the analysis of requests, the frequency and variety of various modification tools are examined. Modification is useful to increase politeness and to compensate for the face-threatening nature of speech acts. This analysis required the coding and enumeration of both internal and external modifiers in the students’ emails, text messages and/or social media messages. The interactions in these messages or emails take place between either unequal level interlocutors with high social distance or equal level interlocutors with low social distance. Some interactions require formal written communication (e.g. emails written to higher status interlocutors) with a high degree of imposition (i.e. request for action) while some others included informal written communication (e.g. text messages between friends) with a low degree of imposition (i.e. request for information). For the analysis of refusals, various direct and indirect refusal strategies and adjuncts are examined in these students’ written refusal products. Contextual variables are essential for appropriateness and politeness of the students’ refusals as well.

The quantitative analysis of the request and refusal data through the abovementioned taxonomies is supported with qualitative methods by evaluating the modification and (in)directness results according to the contextual variables specific in each writing task. This analysis is made to examine the politeness and appropriateness of the students’ speech acts. By analyzing several example texts from the students written products, the study increases understanding about mobile Turkish higher education students’ speech act performances in English. Results of this study are reported in case study one of chapter six.

A second case study in chapter six examines non-mobile Belgian higher education students’ written request and refusal products in English. The analysis methodologies in case study two are similar to case study one. However, the second case study not only carries out a performance analysis of the participants’ (Belgian higher education students) speech act products, but also compares these students’ speech acts with the Turkish students’ from case study one. This comparative analysis is made to add to the state of knowledge on non-native students’ requests and refusals in English. Previous research identified similarities between non-native speakers of English while generating various speech acts. In order to learn more about different non-native student groups’ speech act performances, case study two compares the Belgian and Turkish higher education students’ request and refusal products in English.

The final case study in this doctoral thesis investigates the relationship between academic mobility and speech act production. In order to do this, the study compares the request and refusal performances of mobile and non-mobile Turkish higher education students. Analysis methods in case study three are similar to the ones in the previous case studies in this thesis. In other words, modification use, (in)directness and politeness are examined in written speech act products of the participants. Case studies two and three carry out t-tests to compare the results between the groups. Additionally, correlation analyses are carried out to examine the relationship between academic mobility and speech act production.

The data in this research were elicited via discourse completion tasks developed in the present study, and adapted to both mobile and non-mobile higher education contexts. Chapter five explains the rationale in using such tasks in the present study. Furthermore, this chapter discusses the potential and limitations of employing discourse completion tasks in speech act research. The goal in examining the various participant groups’ speech act products in this study is to increase understanding about these students’ competence for interacting with people from other cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Speech acts are essential linguistic components of pragmatic competence, which is fundamental to the success of intercultural interactions. Prior to presenting the case studies in chapter six, this thesis explains and discusses several variables and components that are essential for intercultural communicative competence. For example, chapter two discusses the relationship between pragma-linguistic competence and intercultural communication. Furthermore, chapter three examines exhaustively the relationship between intercultural communicative competence and academic mobility. Chapter four discusses the changes and developments in the higher education environments in Europe and focuses on the case of Turkey.

Finally, chapter four also presents a new intercultural readiness tool and discusses the best possible ways to examine students’ intercultural competencies in higher education. The studies in these chapters are published as research articles in various international journals, and their findings help to increase understanding about intercultural communicative competence, its various components and its relationship with students’ pragma-linguistic and socio-cultural skills from a wider perspective.

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