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The study of speech acts is a crucial area in sociolinguistics and ethnolinguistics, and has aided in the development of TESOL. What is a speech act? In general, speech acts are acts of communication. To communicate is to express a certain attitude; the type of speech act being performed corresponds to the type of attitude being expressed (Bach, 1979). John Searle states that the speech act is made up of three parts: uttering the words, or performing the “utterance act”; referring and predication, or performing a “propositional act”; and stating, questioning, commanding, etc. or performing the “illocutionary act” (Searle, 1969). The last of these acts, the “illocutionary act,” was named by Austin, who distinguished between “the performance of the act of saying something”, which he called a “locutionary” act and “the performance of an act in saying something,” which he called an “illocutionary” act (Austin, 1962).  In other words, the locutionary act is the utterance of words and the illocutionary act is the meaning behind the utterance. There are many verbs that denote illocutionary acts, such as “to state,” “describe,” “assert,” “warn,” “remark,” “comment,” “command,” “order,” “request,” etc. (Searle, 1969). This research will concentrate on the final illocutionary act listed, the request.
The study of speech acts provides a useful means of relating linguistic form and communicative intent (Achiba, 2003).  Studies conducted by Blum-Kulka (1987), Takahashi & Beebe (1987), and other researchers have shown that speech acts vary between cultures. A speech act, whether it is apologizing, thanking, scolding, complementing, inviting, greeting or parting has important cultural information embedded in it (Wolfson, 1989). This can provide a good insight into the way people from different cultures think. Speech acts can be a window into the values and norms of a particular culture or speech group.
These variances are also a huge disadvantage to second language acquisition. The disadvantage comes in the form of both the structure of the speech act (grammar) and its appropriateness in relation to its timing and the interlocutors involved (sociolinguistic). A grammatical error can be forgiven as it makes it obvious that the second language learner (L2) is still acquiring the language and has made an error in his or her speech. If the L2 learner speaks the target language well, or is grammatically competent, but causes a sociolinguist failure, by saying something which, though appropriate in his native tongue, is not appropriate in the target language, will then cause a communication breakdown, offence or, in the worse case scenario, a communication conflict. It is these sociolinguistic failures that are of concern to those both teaching and learning a second language. It is important to unearth these sociolinguistic differences in order to highlight and make L2 learners and speakers aware of them to prevent any communication breakdowns or conflicts.
A good speech act to research is requests. These are important for L2 speakers, as they are one of the most commonly used speech acts. For people who are new to a country or culture, it is absolutely vital to be able to make requests appropriately and without offence in order to progress. What is the definition of a request? ‘Request’ refers inclusively to an utterance that is intended to indicate the speaker’s desire to regulate the behavior of the listener – that is, to get the listener to do something (Becker, 1982 ). To put it more simply, “…requests are attempts by the speaker to get the hearer to do something” (Achiba, 2003, p. 6). There are several factors that affect the way a request is formulated, and these include: age, social distance, social status and the work involved in meeting the request (Wolfson, 1989). For example, if you are requesting help in repairing your car, this favor will almost certainly be quite physically demanding, and time consuming. As a result, you will ask the favor in the most polite way possible in order to obtain a positive response from the hearer. In certain cultures, age is a significant factor. Many Asian cultures are influenced by Confucianism which holds older people in high regard (Byon, Chun & Thomas, 1999), and so again, this would affect the way a request is phrased.
This research concentrated on 3 request strategies, which were requests made with an explanation, requests made without an explanation and no requests. The aim of the research was to discover how the factors discussed above affect the way Koreans and Americans phrase their requests. The Hypothesis was as follows:
• Americans would most likely make a request without giving an explanation and this would not be influenced by age or status of hearer.
• Age and Status would influence the way Koreans speaking Korean would make a request.
• Koreans speaking English, when speaking to other nationalities would adopt the US strategy of making requests.
The first part of the hypothesis is based on assumptions that Americans are more direct when making a request and because of the value they place on equality and individualism, they would be less likely to differentiate between hearers in their request methods. The second, concerning Koreans, is again based on social factors, this time where Korean society traditionally puts emphasis on age and social status, which is based on the Confucian philosophy, where ‘relationships were constructed on hierarchical pattern with the senior member accorded with a wide range of prerogatives and authority with respect to the Junior member’ (Bond & Hwang, 1987). On the third and final part of the hypothesis, if Koreans have been studying in the United States, it is assumed that they have acquired some American speech strategies through the classroom and daily interactions.
The purpose of this study was to test this hypothesis by asking the following questions: first, were there any differences in how Americans and Koreans make requests? If so, what were these differences and in which situations did they occur? Finally, did the Koreans, who spoke English and lived in the United States, adopt the American request methods?
The overall aim, and of concern in TESOL, was to discover whether Koreans framed their requests differently under different conditions, taking into account the factors discussed by Wolfson (1989).  Based on these differences, I wanted to ascertain whether Koreans who spoke English as a second language, and who have lived in the United States, frame their requests as they would in their native tongues thus creating the potential for sociolinguistic failure, or use American sociolinguistic style. If sociolinguistic failure did occur then there would be the potential for these Koreans making inappropriate requests under certain conditions, thus possibly causing offence. If this was the case, then this problem would have to be remedied.

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