This study examines the relative contributions of subculture membership and mother-tongue status/target culture membership in writing transactional letters. We examined the letters accompanying articles initially submitted for publication by 26 NSE and 23 NNSE academics, and compared them with efforts to write such letters by 21 NSE and 23 NNSE non-professionals (British undergraduates and overseas English teachers). The results showed that the non-native professionals by and large perceived the rhetorical demands of the situation similarly to native professionals but were a little less likely to use appropriate language. The native non-professionals controlled some appropriate phrases, and were able to use appropriate vocabulary, but had very little idea of the rhetoric, while the non-native non-professionals produced grammatically competent letters that were inappropriate in both rhetoric and language. Thus the teaching approach for writing depends crucially on the status of the learners, and to teach lexical phrases is particularly important for non-natives.
English for Specific Purposes, 2000, Vol 19, Issue 1, p. 1-15