Journal of Intercultural Communication, Issue 18, Oktober 2008

Cynthia Lee

The Cantonese apology style for personal offences in native and second languages in electronic communication


The paper examines Cantonese tertiary studentsí email apology style for personal offences to teachers in their native language (L1, Cantonese) and second language (L2, English) learnt at school by testifying three hypotheses. Firstly, the Cantonese studentsí L1 and L2 apologies are always multi-componential, with at least two parts in one apology email, in spite of the fact that there is no statistically significant difference between Cantonese and English strategies and patterns. Secondly, in terms of linguistic devices, they adopt a consistent linguistic choice in both languages by means of using the low or mid degree of apologetic verbs to express their regret. Thirdly, the expressions of Iím sorry and deoi3 bat1 hei3 not only express regret but also initiate and prepare for the upcoming actions. It is argued that Cantonese students generally tend to adopt a multi-componential apology style in either language, and the use of low degree of apologetic verbs may be influenced by the nature of the offence and the studentsí interpretation of the seriousness of the offence. The findings have provided a better understanding of Chinese apology style, with particular reference to Cantonese, for personal offences and corresponding linguistic devices in a specific medium and a specific communicative situation.

Key words: Cantones, English, apology work, personal offence, electronic communication.

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