University of Leicester
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Compliment responses in American English, Saudi Arabic and the English of Saudi EFL learners

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:43 authored by Abdallah. Salameh
This cross-cultural study investigates whether the compliment response realisation patterns are universal across languages or cultural-specific. To achieve this goal, this project investigated how the compliment response speech act was performed by native speakers of American English, Native speakers of Saudi Arabic, and by Saudi EFL learners in light of the effects of the complimenter's social status, the complimenter's social distance, the respondent's gender and the respondent-complimenter gender-pairing.;The data for this study were collected by the means of triangulation methodology; naturalistic observation, elicitation, and interviews. Discourse completion tests (DCT), the main data collection instrument, were completed by 150 subjects (50 in each group). The collected data were sorted and categorised according to a response categorisation scheme prepared by the researcher for this purpose.;The DCT distribution of compliment response types across language groups indicate that while Americans accepted and rejected slightly more than Saudis did, Saudis deflected more frequently than Americans. Only the Deflection response category of both American and Saudi response types was significantly affected by both the complimenter's social status and social distance. Specifically, the higher the complimenter's social status and the closer the complimenter's social distance, the more frequently both Americans and Saudis deflected. In response to the effect of gender, only the Acceptance response category of both American and Saudi response types was significantly affected by the respondent's gender and the gender-pairings of respondent and complimenter. However, Saudis accepted more and rejected less when the respondent and complimenter were of the same sex, and vice versa, whereas Americans behaved in exactly the opposite way.;Regarding pragmatic transfer, the results suggest that the Saudi EFL learners group respondents transferred the frequency patterns of Saudis in performing bald acceptance, formulaic acceptance, duty, and return response types. Similarly, they transferred some of the distinguishing cultural modes of Saudi Arabic to their compliment responses expressed in English.


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University of Leicester

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  • Doctoral

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  • EdD



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