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A pragmatic investigation of linguistic politeness and power relations in emails: A case of a Philippine higher education institution

Richard Oandasan
Midway Colleges, Cabanatuan, Philippines. University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines


Communication has evolved over the years. The advent of technology has mediated communication and thus bring about new medium such as emails. This computer-mediated communication has continuously gained attention among language scholars. Recently, most of the studies on email conducted were analyzed in the light of politeness and impoliteness as marked by the appropriateness of the sender’s language in various contexts. However, there seems to be a lacuna in literature which analyzed emails written in English in the workplace especially in the Philippine setting. To contribute to this scholarship void, this study examined the presence (or the absence thereof) of Brown and Levinson’s positive politeness strategies and/or negative strategies in sample 86 emails sent by the employees to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a maritime higher education institution. This study employed a quantitative-qualitative research design. Findings indicated that there were preponderance of opening and closing moves which reflect positive politeness strategies and a salience of conventional indirectness with query preparatory which demonstrate negative politeness strategies. In conclusion, this eclectic use of politeness strategies reflects changing communication scheme and the dynamic linguistic conventions which are shaped not just by the hierarchical structure in the institution but also by the societal expectations from interlocutors especially in a society which has an inherent relation of power and power struggle. Pedagogically, the results from this study render language educators with rich corpora that can be utilized in English classes to develop communicative competence, particularly sociolinguistic competence, among learners for them to become effective communicators in their chosen profession.


politeness; power relations; computer-mediated communication; emails

International Joint Conference of APLX, ETRA40, and TESPA 2023