Elicitation (i.e., question-asking) is complex human linguistic behavior that can provide insights into people's knowledge state, intention and action for user modeling in information retrieval (IR) research. This paper reports a comparative study of user elicitation behaviors by Chinese and English speakers in professional settings of mediated search, with particular reference to sociocultural aspects of human communication. More specifically, this study investigates user elicitation behavior from real-life interactional cases, with the goal of exploring whether there are differences between Chinese and English speaking users in their elicitation behavior. To reveal the sociocultural influences in user-intermediary interactions, corpus data is analyzed in terms of the identification and counting of the purposes and communicative functions. Our findings revealed significant differences in the use of elicitation purposes and communicative functions by Chinese and English users. Chinese users were more concerned about the technical aspects of searching activities, with little reference to the cognitive aspects of their information problems. Importantly, the differences in communicative functions (i.e., the intended meaning) suggested potential sociocultural influences on micro-level information seeking. The findings are discussed in view of IR system design supporting query formulation, user modeling in interactive IR and conceptual modeling in information behavior research.