The influence of power relations on English L1 and L2 speakers' oral requests

Author(s): Miran Oh


Recently, there has been a broader emphasis on studying the influence of social factors on phonetic realizations. Given that the second language learners’ performances of speech acts differ significantly from the native speakers, investigating and acknowledging the social differences which affect the prosodic variations is the first step to make learners aware of the appropriate use of the speech acts in the target language. The current paper examines the differences in English L1 and L2 speakers’ “request.” The participants for this study were 16 Korean EFL speakers and 9 English native speakers. Twelve English request sentences were elicited by the participants as responses to situation prompts (4 tokens for three power relations: power high, equal, and low). The speech variations (e.g., pitch, intensity, and speech rate) were analyzed with Praat. The findings indicated that L2, but not L1, speakers tended to slow down their pace in a power-high situation. Pitch results revealed that Korean male speakers lowered their pitch to mitigate difficult requesting situations. Moreover, the verbal report showed that all except one Korean EFL speakers felt that requesting to professors was the hardest whereas all but one English natives responded that requesting to strangers was the most difficult.