Constructing identities through request e-mail discourse

Chung Kwong Ho

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


This paper describes how the leaders of a group of English language teachers in a Hong Kong public education institute constructed various personal identities for themselves through the discourse of the request e-mails they sent to their subordinates. The request e-mails were analyzed at both clause and discourse levels to reveal the strategies the leaders employed for constructing desirable personal identities and ultimately achieving request compliance. At the clause level, first, the lexico-grammar was analyzed by drawing upon systemic functional grammar; and second the leaders' management of the relationship with their subordinates was analyzed with reference to the constructs of rapport management and relational work. At the discourse level, the way the authors supported their request was analyzed by drawing upon the influence tactics framework. It is argued in the paper that the e-mail authors' legitimate or position power intrinsically associated with their capacity as leaders was not sufficient in obtaining request compliance - additional elements like desirable personal identities were necessary in getting their subordinates to comply with the requests made via e-mails. The identities constructed included those of (1) an accountable leader, (2) a rational leader, (3) an authoritative leader, (4) an understanding, considerate and polite leader, and (5) a capable leader.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2253-2261
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Identity
  • Influence tactics
  • Rapport management
  • Relational work
  • Request e-mail
  • Systemic functional grammar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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