“You must, pardon, you should” - Being polite across cultures

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Abstract


Drawing on an empirical study undertaken in 1998-9 and 2008, this paper suggests a renewed and refreshing view (Micklos 2001: 5) on an ever-problem posing issue as is the role of modality in communicative and intercultural competence. In fact, this diachronic case study aims at reassessing some evidence on EFL learners’/undergraduates’ reading habits in a FL context, grounded on empirical research undertaken in Madeira Island in 1998-1999 compared with data collected in 2008. The former involved a representative number of informants: 12 th form Humanities students ( n = 197) and first- and second-year undergraduates ( n = 57) taking English - Joint Honours - at the University of Madeira. Their response to a questionnaire on reading habits, purposes, strategies and text types in English as a foreign language, has offered renewed insights on a changing trend in the use of modals by EFL undergraduates for global communication. The analysis of respondents’ use of modals (1998/9-2008) unearths a shifting cline from the use of “must” to “should”. Consequently, it is necessary to ponder on how demands of a society associated with globalisation have affected patterns of education / instruction in both secondary and higher education. In this paper it is thus argued that fostering speakers’ linguistic and discursive awareness with an emphasis on the grammatical, pragmatic and semantic levels, contrastively, contributes to speakers’ awareness of specificities of both their mother tongue and foreign/additional language in a dialogic and dynamic way.

- Alcina Maria Pereira de Sousa

University of Madeira, Arts and Humanities Centre

Email: ninita@uma.pt

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