Negotiation of power and solidarity in email
The case of students learning Japanese as a foreign language and their facilitators
The issue of e-politeness has been attracting increasing attention in the field of foreign language teaching and learning. This article examines how students of Japanese as a foreign language in Australia negotiated power and solidarity in their email correspondence with ‘facilitators’ in Japan who provided support in essay writing tasks. Their relationships, which were neither completely status-unequal nor status-equal, offer a unique social context for an examination of politeness. The study examines whether and how power and solidarity shifted over the 12 weeks of email exchanges. The results show varying levels of rapport and orientations to politeness developing over time, as well as evidence of students applying implicit input from the facilitators’ email messages. The article also considers the impacts, on the politeness phenomena in the data, of students’ cultural backgrounds and prior exposure to casual Japanese. The findings are discussed in relation to the question of ‘appropriateness’ in fostering foreign language learner ability to negotiate power and solidarity in intercultural communication.
Keywords: Email, power, Japanese as a foreign language, solidarity
Published online: 18 April 2014
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