Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Languages and Cultures

First Advisor

Atsushi Fukada

Committee Chair

Atsushi Fukada

Committee Member 1

Colleen Neary-Sundquist

Committee Member 2

Mariko Wei


The speech act of request is known as a face threatening act (FTA) in the sense of Brown and Levinson (1987) and is considered a speech act that may negatively affect human relationships when it is used against cultural norms and constraints. Requests have been investigated in various languages, including English and Japanese (e.g., Hill et al., 1986; Fukushima, 1996; Gagné, 2010). Studies about interlanguage pragmatics, such as Matsuda et al. (2008) and Wada et al. (2008), showed characteristics of requests made by learners of Japanese. However, these studies all focused on the oral speech act, and there are few studies about written requests.

The aim of this study is to investigate how American learners of Japanese perform requests in emails in the target language. The study consisted of an online questionnaire in which subjects were to make requests in ten situations. Learners' performance was compared to native Japanese speakers' performance to see if there were any differences and similarities. Learners' data was also compared to the data written in English to see if there was evidence of L1 transfer. Data was analyzed from the following points of view: (1) explanatory sequences, (2) request strategies, (3) politeness strategies, and (4) sentence-final form. The results showed significant differences between native speakers and learners in all aspects except sentence-final form. Some of the learners' request strategies were arguably cases of an L1 transfer. It was also found that even intermediate or advanced learners lacked knowledge of politeness strategies, and thus used them less frequently than the native speakers.