This study explores how native and nonnative English speakers understand and perceive directness types in written teacher feedback (WTF). Currently research suggests that indirect speech in WTF will encourage students to think and maintain politeness between teacher and student (Benkendorf, 2001; Riley, 2003; Thonus, 1999; Vassileva, 2000). However, research also indicates that indirect speech may be more difficult to interpret than direct speech (Champagne, 2001; Holtgraves, 1999), which suggests that indirect speech used in WTF may be difficult for students to interpret and use to improve their compositions (Ferris, 2007; Hyland & Hyland, 2001). This difficulty may be even more acute for second language (NNS) learners (Ferris, 2002; Mackiewicz & Riley, 2002, 2003). This thesis will test and propose refinements to this study. In this study, native (NS) and nonnative (NNS) English speaking university students, were given two essays directness of the WTF. These participants had three main tasks: 1. to identify whether or not WTF requests a correction, 2. to make the correction if requested, 3. to identify perceptions of the teacher and paper based on the WTF. For the first two tasks, accuracy and response times were calculated. Results showed that directness type affects the speed and accuracy of both NS and NNS learners. Direct speech in WTF was more quickly identified than indirect speech (indirect speech acts and hedging). Indirect speech was the slowest and least accurate for both NS and NNS learners in relation to positive WTF. Surprisingly, both NS and NNS were slowest for making corrections on direct WTF. In addition, directness type also affected the perception on the teacher and paper. For example, NS were likely to perceive indirect speech as being from a female teacher. NNS were more likely to give papers with hedged WTF an A and those with indirect WTF a C grade. This study suggests that the directness type of WTF affects how quickly and how well it is understood by both NS and NNS learners. It also suggests that the pragmatic theory may explain why direct speech is processed more quickly than indirect speech (indirect speech acts and hedging).



College and Department

Humanities; Linguistics and English Language



Date Submitted


Document Type





direct and indirect speech, written teacher feedback, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics

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Linguistics Commons