A Cross-Linguistic Study on the Linguistic Expressions of Cantonese and English Requests

Cynthia Lee


This study investigates the cross-linguistic devices of requests written by native English-speaking (NSE) and native Cantonese-speaking (NCS) respondents in an academic context on the basis of 197 discourse completion tests. Both groups asked in a direct sequence accompanied by a different proportion of syntactic and lexical devices to reduce directness. NES used a higher frequency and a wider range of syntactic downgraders than NCS. NCS, however, used a higher frequency of lexical downgraders and a greater number of combinations of lexical devices than NES.
The cross-linguistic comparison of the linguistic features of Cantonese and Engish requests demonstrates how the distinctive linguistic properties of each language and social factors combine to constitute a request. Further investigation could be made between idealized and authentic English and Cantonese requests for a range of age groups and contexts, or to compare the linguistic forms of requests made by NCS in English with the linguistic forms of requests made by NES in Cantonese.

Keywords: Cross-linguistic; English; Cantonese; request; lexicon-grammatical devices.

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