Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Tony Metcalf


The aim of the study is to examine the cross-cultural features of Australian and Korean complaint letters. The point of view adopted is that cultural barriers generate difficulties to producing efficient and successful intercultural communication in addition to linguistic barriers. Although the concept of complaint letters is the same in the two countries, there are difficulties when Australians and Koreans attempt to communicate with the other culture. Firstly the study will explore the validating of the concepts of Korean's four-unit structure (Ki-Sung-Chen-Kyul) and the three unit structure typical of western letter writing (Introduction-Body-Conclusion), and contrast the structures. It posits that Korean complaint letters are more reader-responsible this is defined as a reader needing to infer the implicit meaning of what is the writer's request, this Australian letters showed writer responsible language, this is defined as a reader being provided enough explicit information by a writer in order to comprehend the meaning of what the writer intends to deliver. The results might relate to the claims that Korean society is characterised by features of collectivism (Triandis, 1983), avoiding confrontation with others and saving face, which can be realised in vague and emotive terms. Secondly, the indirect speech of Korean writers will be analysed through the adaptation of Kim and Wilson’s study of request categories (1994). The results imply that Koreans use hint strategies as much as they use direct request, while Australians tend to use a more direct strategy in the interest of the readers. An Australian's politer acts are expressed on the basis of the virtue of the frankness of the request first, before the announcement. Conversely the Korean language employs the same amount of hint strategy and direct strategy which might explain typical Korean cultural attributes such as Nunchi, meaning reading others mind(Kim 1975), Kibun, 'feeling' and Cheymyen 'saving face'(Sohn 1986). As a consequence Australian letters, which tend to make obvious what they are expressing, will feature ideational functions weighted toward clear, concise and direct expressions whereas Korean letters which think highly of interpersonal functions appear to be more influenced by their collective cultural values. The results of this study will suggest that intercultural miscommunication is caused by the degree of cultural variances and that to learn the target language well is not just to achieve linguistic competence but also to be a member of its culture.