Speech acts' requesting and apologizing strategies by native and non-native adolescents English speakers. A comparative research on pragmatic competence

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2013

37 Pages


Table of Contents

1. Background of the Study
1.1 Introduction
1.2 A rationale for the choice of topic
1.3 Purpose of the Study
1.4 Questions of the study

2. Literature Review
2.1 Communicative competence and pragmatic competence
2.2 Interlanguage pragmatics
2.3 Cross-Cultural pragmatics
2.4 Speech Act theory
2.5 Politeness Theory
2.6 International and local Cultural Studies

3. Methodology
3.1 Data collection and Data analysis
3.2 The adaptation of the Discourse completion test
3.3 Samples

4. Findings of requesting and apologizing strategies
4.1 Requests & Apologies

5. Discussion

6. Pedagogical Implications



9. Appendices
9.1 Discourse completion test
9.2 Tables

1. Background of the Study

1.1. Introduction

People interact differently due to the cultural differencess. For instance, in some countries, it is bad to speak when another person speaks, however, it is normal in other cultures (Cliff and Wierzbicka 1997). Furthermore, Willimas (1983) argues there are second language problems in learning lexical and syntax derived from the cultural differences. Communicative competence which is created by Hymes (1972) is one of the most crucial theories in SLA and cultural researches. It emphasizes on the neccessity of both the social context of the speakers and the Linguistic aspects (Hymes 1972). Consequently, the social-linguist has shifted from separated abstract language form into the real use in social context (Jie 2010).

Holiday (1992) stresses that the lack of the ethnographically oriented means analysis will lead to tissue rejection which means refuting the different cultures. Holiday (1994) stresses on the importance of the social context (social interaction) in and out classrooms. similarly, Alagozlu and Buyukozturk (2009) mentions that the language instruction should not only focus on the knowledge of lexis, syntax but also the pragmatic interests of discourse. Furthermore, the lack of both linguistic competence and communicative competence will lead to pragmatically errors(Jie 2010). finally, there is a need to study speech acts between the different culturally learners (Yule 2009).

1.2. A rationale for the choice of topic

Despite there have been many researches conducted in Cross-cultural and interlanguage pragmatics fields, most of them have been carried out with the adult learners. Furthermore, studies that have used adolescents are limited and not filling the gap in the field. Thus, there are not enough comparative studies of native and nonnative request and apology productions in the local level of adolescents. Hence, this study endeveours to fill the gap for the adolescents learners of English in the local context.

1.3 Purpose of the Study.

Basically, this research paper aims at identifying and comparing the speech acts' requesting and apologyzing strategies used by 13-15 year-old native and non-native speakers of English based on pragmatic competence. In the meanwhile, this study aims at achieving the following:

- Presenting communicative competence, components and consequences.
- Defining Pragmatic competence, speech act and Speech event.

1.4 Questions of the Study.

Based on the above mentioned rationale, this mixed methods study has been conducted to address the following questions.

1) How do the requesting strategies for the Native speakers and Non-native speakers of English differ in accordance with:
a) Social distance (SD)
b) Size of imposition (I)
c) Power (P)
2) How do the apologizing strategies for the Native speakers and Non-native speakers of English differ in accordance with:
a) Social distance (SD)
b) Size of imposition (I)
c) Power (P)

Stemming from the importance of this subject and its crucial influence on enhancing second language learning, this paper analyzes written discourse of the Grade 8 and 9 Native and Non-native students. It will also investigate the impact of any discursive differences between the two groups on learning.

In the forthcoming sections, the literature on pragmatic competence as a consquence of the communicative competence, Data analysis of Requesting and apologizing strategies.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Communicative competence and pragmatic competence

Few decades ago, the concern of the researchers was on the linguistic aspects of the language when Chomsky focused only on structure in learning the language by his term "linguistic competence" with ignorance to the social context of the learners (Jie 2010). On the other hand, Hyems (1972) criticizes the concept of performance which offered by Chomsky because it omits almost everything of socio-cultural significance. Thus, he broadened the term "competence" by entailing the social context of the learners as well as the linguistic aspects (Cliff and Wierzbicka 1997). Hence, Hymes' communicative competence directed the researchers to study the cultural differences in speech acts and then, social-linguist moved from studying the form of separated abstract language into the languge use in a social (Jie 2010). Consequently, Canale (1983) presents a theoretical framework derived from the communicative competence which contains four components which are linguistic competence, Sociolinguistic components, Discourse competence (spoken or written) and Strategic competence. Furthermore, (Jie 2010) highlights that communicative competence contains both linguistic competence and pragmatic competence. the later is classified into linguistic competencea and social-linguistic competence which means the ability to use target language appropriately in the social context of the situation.

As pragmatics focuses on what is said and what is not said, Yule (2009, p.3) defines pragmatics as "the study of how more gets communicated than is said". On the other hand, Crystal (1985, p. 240) defines Pragmatics broadly as:

"[p]ragmatics is the study of language from the point of view of users, especially of the choices they make, the constraints they encounter in using language in social interaction and the effects their use of language has on other participants in the act of communication". The two definitions stress that not only the linguistic form controls the speakers' utterances but also the non-linguistic forms (pragmatics). Hence, pragmatic could explain why a person utters something in a situation while he/she chooses different utterances in the same situation but in different contexts or with a different person and why the response of the hearer varies either. It enables the listeners to infer what is said in order to get to the actual meaning of the speaker (visible or hidden).

Leech (1983) and Thomas (1983) constructed a model in which divides pragmatics into pragmalinguistics and sociopragmatics components. The former is considered as the resources to convey communicative acts and interpersonal meanings. Those resources subsume pragmatic strategies such as directness, indirectness, routines and various linguistic forms which could reduce or intensity the communicative acts, while the latter is considered "the sociological interface of pragmatics.

2.2. Interlanguage pragmatics.

Interlanguage pragmatics (hence forth ILP) is subfield derived from interlanguage studies, which relate to SLA and pragmatics. Three important inquires used in the field of ILP by (Rose 2005, p.386), "Is pragmatics teachable?", "Does the instruction in pragmatics produce results that outpace exposure?" and "Do the different instructional approaches yield different outcomes. Kasper and Rose (1999) mentions that most of the studies have been conducted in ILP were cross-sectional studies and most of their results found out that learners use nearly as speech act realization strategies as the natives.

2.3. Cross-Cultural pragmatics

Cross-cultural pragmatics (henceforth CCP) is one of the fundamental areas in pragmatics. Furthermore, Wierzbicka (1991) claims that CCP field depends on three ideas. First, in different societies and communities, people communicate differently. Second, these differences mirror diverse cultural values or diverse hierarchies of beliefs. Third, diverse ways of talking, diverse styles of communication could be described and different cultural priorities and values.

Research in contrastive pragmatics lean to use various methodologies by those employed in the framework of ethnography of communication, not to be limited to, surveys, questionnaires, Discourse completion tasks (DCT) and role-plays. Furthermore, there are various patterns of evidence could be used in cultural values and attitudes to help in discourse phenomena, not to be limited, semantic analysis of cultural key words, proverbs and wisdoms, direct or indirect elicitation of the attitudes of the speakers (Cliff and Wierzbicka 1997).

2.4. Speech Act theory

Yule (2009, pp. 47&57 ) differentiates between the speech act and speech events. The former is "[a]ctions performed via utterances and, in English, are commonly given more specific labels, such as apology and request" while the latter is "an activity in which participants interact via language in some conventional way to arrive at some outcome". Speech acts theory has three components which are Locutionary act, Illocutionary act and perlocutionary act. Locutionary act refers to what is said. Illocutionary act (generally Illocutionary force of the utterance) refers to what is done by the utterance while uttering something. Prelocutionay act refers to the cocsequence of an utterance of the hearer (Yule 2009).

The review of speech acts theory is not complete without mentioning the general classification systems of speech acts types. Searl (1976, p.10) distinguishes five types of speech acts: declarations, representatives, expressive, directives, and commissives. Acording to Searle's (1976) typology of speech acts, requests are under the category of directives. Additionally, apologies are under the category of expressive. They are the most common examples of the speech acts.

It is seen that indirect speech acts are considered, in English, as more polite than the direct speech acts(Yule 2009). specifically, the main requesting strategies are classified into three types: Direct strategies (D), Conventionally indirect strategies (CI) and Non- conventionally indirect strategies (NCI). Direct strategies refer to that the requester expresses himself/herself directly without much caring about the hearers' faces. Furthermore, they are divided into Mood Derivable, Performatives, Hedged Performatives, Obligation Statements and Want Statements. A Mood Derivable category means that the Locutionary grammatical mood of the verb controls the illocutionary force of the request.

For instance, leave me alone. A Performatives category means that the illocutionary force of the utterances is explicitly named. For instance, I am asking you to leave me alone. A Hedged performatives category means that the naming of illocutionary force of the utterances is modified through hedging expressions. For instance, I would like you to submit your task three days earlier than scheduled. An Obligation statements category means that utterances state the obligation of the hearer to do an act. For instance, you will have to turn off your mobile phone. Finally, A Want Statements category means that the utterance of state the speaker's desire to do an act. For instance, I really wish you would switch your mobile phone off. In addition, conventionally indirect strategies refer to the act is realized by reference to contextual preconditions which are mandatory for its performance. They are classified into Suggestory formulae and Quary preparatory. A suggestory Formula category means that the utterances which contain a suggestion to do an action. For instance, How about turning on the light?. A Query preparatory category means that the utterances contain reference to preparatory conditions. For instance, Could you open the window, please? Or Would you mind lending me your pen?. Non-conventionally indirect strategies refer to strategies which are not conventionalized in a language and thus need more inferential activity/activities from the hearer in order to comprehend the speaker's intention. They are classified into strong hints and mild hints. A Strong Hints category means that the utterances contain partial reference to object/objects or an item/ items needed to do an act. For instance, you have left the TV on. A mild Hints category means that the utterances that make no reference to the requester proper, however, are understood as a request by its context. For instance, "I am a nun" in response to a persistent hassler (Blum-Kulka et al. 1989).

On the other hand, Cohen and Olshtain (1980) and (1983) concluded that apology strategies ( speech act set) are divided into expressions of apology, offer of repair, explanation of account, acknowledgment of responsibility, promise of forbearance, denial, blaming the hearer.

2.5. Politeness Theory

Politeness theory has been created by Brown and Levinson (1987) and constructed a universal politeness Model which is called a model person. This Model contains two components rationality and face. Negative face is defined as "the want of every component adult member that his/her actions be unimpeded by others, p.62", while the positive face is defined as" "the want of every member that his/ her wants be desirable to others, p.62". In addition , they argue that in communication between people, each individual leans to protect his/her face and leans to protects his/her interlocutor's. However, some speech acts have face-threatening features which should be avoided (henceforth FTF). thus, request threatens the hearer's negative face as the speaker puts pressure on the hearer for doing or not doing the action or something. On the other hand, apology threatens the speaker's positive face as the speaker is threatening his/her face in stating that she/her is sorry for a former face-threatening act (FTA) and damages his/her face. Furthermore, there is a direct relation between politeness and directness.

2.6. International and local Cultural Studies

One of the most important research projects is the cross-cultural speech act realization project (CCSARP) by Blum-Kulka et al. (1989). They investigated speech act realization of requests and apologies in different languages and provided insights into the similarities and differences between the speakers who derive from different cultural backgrounds. Jie (2010) also conducted a study in cross-cultural communication in Japan and concluded that the lack of linguistic and pragmatic competence will lead to pragmatic error. Alagozlu and Buyukozturk (2009) conducted a comparative study and found out that a close relationship between pragmatic acquisition and linguistic performance. In the middle East, Cohen and Olshtain (1980) and (1983) conducted a study on the speech act of apology and provided a significant framework to further researchers. A comparative study has been conducted by Balct (2009) on speech acts and found out that there are differences in using requests and apologies strategies between the American and Turkish speakers. Thus, Murad (2012) investigated apology strategies used by Iraeli Arab EFL college students and found out that the students use different strategies for apologizing. Almazroui (2010) conducted a study on written discourse and found out that some differences between boys and girls in creative writing.

Based on the limitation of pragmatics studies in the local context and for the adolescents, this study endeavors to fill the gap with its significance.

3. Methodology

As mentioned above, the ignorance of social context will lead to tissue rejection and pragmatic failure between culturally differnt learners. Hence, This study analyzes the written discourse of Native and Non-native speakers of English by comparing their requesting and apologizing strategies in terms of social distance, size of imposition and power of the culturally different learners in order to enhance the pragmatic competence between them.

Based on Brown and Levinson's Politeness theory (1987), the social distance (SD) refers to the social degree of familiarity and solidarity that the speakers and hearers share. The Relative Power (P) refers to the degree of speaker's power that he/she could use on the hearer. Ranking of imposition (I) in a particular culture refers to A) using the items by the hearer. B) To what extent the speaker is free to do the act. C) To what extent the hearer is welcoming the imposition.

3.1. Data collection and Data analysis

To analyze written discourse in the classrooms, four international secondary schools in Dubai, UAE have been selected in the second semester of the academic year of 2012-2013. The gender is not controlled as it does not have a significant impact on this study, while the age is controlled .

The researcher met the schools principles and explained the research aims and procedures. Then, the contact between them has been taken place via emails. Furthermore, fifty Discourse completion tests have been distributed to 50 participants and the mean time was 40 minutes.

As the importance of research's ethics, the researcher has submitted a formal letter to the school administrations in order to get the formal approval from them. Thus, the permission text has been written in the first page of each DCT to get the consensus of the participants without coercion before answering the DCTs.

In order to analyze written discourse, a mixed methods research to Speech Acts of requests and apologies has been conducted. Although the method use and the research paradigm has been controvercial between the researchers, A mixed methods approach makes the data complementary (Firestone 2005). Furthermore, using both qualitative and quantitative is convenient to any research paradigm (Guba 1990).

Requests will be based on the theoretical framework of Blum-Kulka et al. (1989) while the apologies will be based on the theoretical framework of Olshtain and Cohen (1980) then the data will be described and quantified manually. The researcher will give one point when finding each criterion of requesting or apologyzing strategies in any Scenario then the total frequencies and percentages will be calculated. Finally, Overall total of strategies will be presented and compared.

3.2. The adaptation of the Discourse completion test (DCT):

The DCT of Blum-Kulka et al.(1989) will be adapted and develped by the researcher. Each DCT contains 8 scripted scenarios for requests and 8 scripted scenarios for apologies and describes situations that specify social distance, imposition and power between the participants. The dependent variables are requests and Speech acts sets of apologies while the independent variables are social distance, size of imposition, power. In this study, all these variables could be low (L) or High (H).

There is also a note of confidentiality of the participant's information in the DCT's label. This paper uses the open-ended DCTs because it provides the informants with the opportunity of free production more than the close-ended type. It is also seen that the research tool (DCT) is very useful as it provides the evidence of what the participant believes people would similarly utter in a similar situation. In addition, it is considered the standard modes of performance for the speech acts (Blum-Kulka et al. (1989). additionally, Eslami-Rasekh (2005) believes that DCT is a convenient tool for the beginning stages of learning the communicative functions of language and provides the researcher with a less complex and less variable language than natural data. Furthermore, it is as near similar as the original language.

3.3. Samples

In order to answer the above mentioned research questions, the researcher selected 50 samples from four international secondary schools and divided them into a 25 English native speakers group from UK, U.S.A and Canada and a 25 English non-native speakers group from UAE, Egypt, Pakistan, India, Iran, Philippines and Malaysia. All the samples are around 13 - 15 years of age and in Grade 8 and Grade 9.

4. Findings of requesting and apologizing strategies

In this section, Requesting and apologizing types found in the Native and Non-native speakers of English will be depicted. The real frequencies and percentage of the requesting and apologizing found in the data will be illustrated. The data will be presented in tables and described.

Table 1 below shows the percentages and frequences of (In)directness strategies of Native speakers for requesting.

Table 1:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The aforementioned table 1 shows the different requesting strategies used by the native speakers of English. They used both direct and indirect requesting strategies with different percentages.

Table 2 below shows the frequencies and percentages of (In)directness strategies by Non­native speakers for requesting.


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Speech acts' requesting and apologizing strategies by native and non-native adolescents English speakers. A comparative research on pragmatic competence
British University in Dubai
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The author of this text is not a native English speaker. Please excuse any grammatical errors and other inconsistencies.
speech, english
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Elsayed Mahmoud (Author), 2013, Speech acts' requesting and apologizing strategies by native and non-native adolescents English speakers. A comparative research on pragmatic competence, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/351007


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