Requests and politeness in Vietnamese as a native language

Thi Thuy Minh Nguyen and Gia Anh Le Ho


This study examines requests in Vietnamese, a much under-researched language, with a view to expanding the range of languages under inquiry. Open role-plays in six scenarios with differing social power and perceived imposition levels were used to elicit requests from nine Vietnamese native speakers. Data were analyzed with reference to the categorization of Blum-Kulka, House and Kasper (1989) for level of directness, choice of request strategy and use of modification. The findings suggested that unlike requests in some European languages reported in the literature, requests in Vietnamese as a native language were realized predominantly by means of imperatives in equal power situations and query preparatories in low-to-high power situations, regardless of imposition levels. Requests were modified preferably by means of supportive moves such as steers and grounders, and lexical means such as address terms, honorifics, modal particles, and appealers. These findings are discussed with implications for cross-cultural communication and the teaching and learning of Vietnamese as a second language.

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