The Effect of Status on Refusal Strategies Used by American Native Speakers of English and Iranian EFL University Students

Amir Nikmehr, Fateme Jahedi


Nowadays, the notion of pragmatics is gaining more and more prominence among language learners. Communicating merely for the sake of communication is necessary but not sufficient. In order to truly communicate, issues such as the appropriateness of speech acts and face saving become crucial. Therefore, it stands to reason to achieve a high level of pragmatic competence in speech acts. Bearing this in mind, this study opted to find out the different refusal strategies Iranian EFL students and Native American speakers employ when faced with requests from lower, equal, and higher social status interlocutors. To this end, a questionnaire was given to twenty Iranian (i.e. ten males and ten females) advanced EFL university students and twenty Native Americans via email.  The results revealed that unlike American Native speakers, Iranian EFL learners have a tendency to use direct strategies of refusals more often which may be attributed to both their lack of pragmatic knowledge and interlingual transfer from their native language.



Pragmatic competence, speech acts, refusal strategies, requests, social status, interlingual transfer

Full Text:




Al-Kahtani, W. (2005). Refusal realizations in three different cultures: a speech act theoretically based cross-cultural Study. Journal of King Saud Univ. 18, 35-57.

Bachman, L. (1990). Fundamental considerations in language testing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Beebe, L. M., Takahashi, T., & Uliss-Weltz, R. (1990). Pragmatic transfer in ESL refusals. In R. C. Scarcella, E. S. Andersen, & S. D. Krashen (Ed.), Developing communicative competence in second language (55-73). New York: Newbury House.

Brown, P., & Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness: some universals in language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Blum-Kulka, S., & House, J. (1989). Cross-cultural and situational variation in requesting behavior. In S. Blum-Kulka, J. House, & G. Kasper (Ed.), Cross-cultural pragmatics: Requests and apologies (123–154). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Chen, H. J. (1996). Cross-cultural comparison of English and Chinese metapragmatics in refusal. Indiana University.

Chen, X., Ye, L. & Zhang, Y. Y. (1995). Refusing in Chinese. In G. Kasper (Eds.), Pragmatics of Chinese as Native and Target Language (119-163). Manoa, HI: University of Hawaii Press.

Chomsky, N. 1980: Rules and representations. New York: Columbia University Press.

Cohen, A. D. (1996). Developing the ability to perform speech acts. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 18, 253-267.

Crystal, D. (1985). A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics. (2nd. Ed.). Oxford: Blackwell.

Geyang, Z. (2007). A pilot study on refusal to suggestions in English by Japanese and Chinese EFL learners. Hiroshima: Hiroshima University Press.

Goffman, E. (1967). Interaction ritual: essays on face-to-face behavior. New York: Pantheon Books.

Kasper, G. (1992). Pragmatics transfer. Second Language Research, 8, 203-231.

Kasper, G, (2000). Data collection in pragmatics research: In Culturally Speaking: Managing Rapport through Talk across Cultures ,H. Spencer-Oatey (ed.), 316-360. London: Continuum.

King, K. & Silver R. (1993). "Sticking points": Effects of instruction on NNS refusal strategies. ERIC Document Reproduction Service, 3, 59-74.

Lauper, J. (1997). Refusal strategies of native Spanish speakers in Spanish and English and of native English speakers in English. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Nelson, G., Al Batal, M. & EL Bakary, W. (2002). Directness vs. indirectness: Egyptian Arabic and US English communication style. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 26 (1), 39–57.

Sadler, R. W. & Eröz, B. (2001). "I refuse you!" An examination of English refusals by native speakers of English, Lao, and Turkish. Arizona Working Papers in SLA, 9, 53-80.

Takahashi, T., & Beebe, L. M. (1987). The development of pragmatic competence by Japanese learners of English. JALT Journal, 8 (2), 131-155.

Wannaruk, A. (2008). Pragmatic transfer in Thai EFL refusals. RELC Journal, 39, 318-337.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.