Speech Act of Greeting for American Native Speakers of English and Saudi Native Speakers of Arabic: A Comparative Study

Rehan Almegren


This study focuses on comparing the speech acts of native Arabic speakers of Saudi region and English speakers of America, which help depict the impact of the variables involved, namely status, setting, social distance and situation formality. This paper makes a significant contribution for future researchers, as it is of help to researchers in the speech act area specifically in terms of Saudi Arabic and American English. It will be also of help to those learning Arabic or English and those who teach it in these two countries. Thus, the outcome of this research will contribute to depict the differences and the similarities in the use of greeting strategies between two different groups of respondents from diverse linguistic and cultural domains. Data was collected using the discourse completion test (DCT), developed by Cohen, Olshtain & Rosenstien (1985). Fifty female respondents within the age group of 20-25 years were selected from each group to participate in research procedures. Although the inclusion of male respondents would have made the process complex, it would have provided with comparatively more accurate outcomes if managed properly. The findings showed that linguistic and cultural differences, variables of social distance, social status, settings and situation formality greatly influenced the decision-making of Saudi Native Speakers of Arabic and American Native Speakers of English, pertaining to their usage of greeting strategies as part of their speech acts. For example, differences can be observed between these two speakers in terms of their greeting strategies; American English speakers attach less significance to social and physical distance and hierarchy compared to Saudi Arabic speakers. Similarly, both the groups attach almost equal importance to their initiation words when greeting others. These differences and similarities help determine social status and the relationship between speakers. 


pragmatics, politeness strategies, speech act, greeting, DCT

Full Text:



Ahmad, N. (2015). A study of modes of greetings in a global perspective with particular reference to Urdu speech community in India. MJAL, 7(1), 47-122. http://www.mjal.org/Journal/new/4.pdf

Al-Hindawi, F. H., Al-Masu’di, H. H., &Fua’d Mirza, R. (2014). The Speech Act Theory in English and Arabic. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 4, 27-37. DOI: 10.4236/ojml.2014.41003

Al-Khawaldeh, N. (2016). A pragmatic cross-cultural study of complaints expressions in Jordan and England. International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 5(5), 197-207. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7575//aiac.ijalel.v.5n.5p.197

Allott, N. (2013). Relevance theory. Perspectives on Linguistic Pragmatics, 57-98. http://folk.uio.no/nicholea/papers/Draft_for_Allott,_N._(forthcoming)._Relevance_theory._In_A._Capone,_F._Lo_Piparo_&_M._Carapezza_(Eds.),_Perspectives_on_Pragmatics_and_Philosophy._Springer.pdf

Altbach, P. G. (2002). Perspectives on international higher education. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 34(3), 29-31. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00091380209601852

Austin, J. (1962). How to Do Things with Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bach, K. (2003). Speech acts and pragmatics. In Devitt, M. & Hanley, R. Blackwell. Guide to the philosophy of language (147-167). John Wiley & Sons.

Bardovi-Harlig, K., & Mahan-Taylor, R. (2003). Teaching pragmatics. Washington DC: U.S. Department of State Office of English Language Programs. [Online] Available http://exchanges.state.gov/education/engteaching/pragmatics.htm (May 13, 2010)

Bataineh, R. F. & Bataineh, R. F. (2008). A cross-cultural comparison of apologies by native speakers of American English and Jordanian Arabic. Journal of Pragmatics, 40, 792–821. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2008.01.003

Blum-Kulka, S. (1982). Learning to say what you mean in a second language: a study of the speech act performance of Hebrew second language learners. Applied Linguistics, III(1), 29-59. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/III.1.29

Buchan, N. R., Johnson, E. J., & Croson, R. T. (2006). Let's get personal: An international examination of the influence of communication, culture and social distance on other regarding preferences. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 60(3), 373-398. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2004.03.017

Chierchia, G., Fox, D., & Spector, B. (2008). The grammatical view of scalar implicatures and the relationship between semantics and pragmatics. Unpublished manuscript. http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic720483.files/Chierchia%20Fox%20and%20Spector%20embedded%20SI%20fin.pdf

Chowdhury, M. F. (2014). Interpretivism in aiding our understanding of the contemporary social world. Open Journal of Philosophy, 4, 432-438. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojpp.2014.43047

Chung, H. H. (2006). Code switching as a communicative strategy: A case study of Korean–English bilinguals. Bilingual research journal, 30(2), 293-307. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7d7a/0c1f090d21103b961ac4aa3c789774cb843c.pdf

Coulmas, F. (1981). Introduction: Conversational routine. In Florian Coulmas (Ed.), Conversational Routine: Explorations in Standardized Communication Situations and Pre-Patterned Speech (1-18). The Hague: Mouton.

Flege, J. E. & Port, R. (1981). Cross-Language Phonetic Interference: Arabic to English. Language and Speech, 24(2), 125-146. http://jimflege.com/files/Flege_Port_phonetic_interference_L_S_1981.pdf

Flege, J. E. (1980). Phonetic Approximation in Second Language Acquisition. Language Learning, 30(1), 117-134.

Fraser, B. (nd). Pragmatic markers. International Pragmatic Association, 6(2), 167-190. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-1770.1980.tb00154.x

Hashemian, M. (2012). Cross-cultural differences and pragmatic transfer in English and Persian refusals. Journal of Teaching Language Skills, 31(3), 23-46. http://jtls.shirazu.ac.ir/article_620_2f7c8c7fe76002f667d85bf65e7a2edb.pdf

Hua, T. K., Nor, N. F. M., & Jaradat, M. N. (2012). Communication strategies among EFL students: An examination of frequency of use and types of strategies used. GEMA Online Journal of Language Studies, 12(3), 831-848. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kim_Hua_Tan/publication/287417573_Communication_Strategies_Among_EFL_Students_-An_Examination_Of_Frequency_Of_Use_And_Types_Of_Strategies_Used/links/55c2d0a908aebc967defe5f4.pdf

Jalilifar, A. (2009). Request strategies: Cross-sectional study of Iranian EFL learners and Australian native speakers. English Language Teaching, 2(1), 46. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1082234.pdf

Kirdasi, M. I. and Cheng, S. W. (2013). “Hello” or “Salaam?” Greetings by Arabs and Americans. National Chiao Tung University, 1-139. https://ir.nctu.edu.tw/bitstream/11536/72407/1/951101.pdf

Limberg, H. (2008). Threats in Conflict Talk: Impoliteness and Manipulation. In Impoliteness in Language: Studies on its Interplay with Power in Theory and Practice, ed. by Derek Bousfield and Miriam A. Locher (155-179) K.G.Saur Verlag Germany.

Linguistic Politeness Research Group (Ed.). (2011). Discursive approaches to politeness (Vol. 8). Walter de Gruyter.

Makatchev, M. & Simmons, R. (2011). Perception of Personality and Naturalness through Dialogues by Native Speakers of American English and Arabic. In Proceedings of the SIGDIAL 2011 Conference, 286-293. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1105.4582.pdf

Marquez-Reiter, R. (2000). Linguistic Politeness in Britain and Uruguay. A Contrastive Study of Requests and Apologies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Meiirbekov, A. K., Elikbayev, B. K., Meirbekov, A. K., &Temirbaev, B. A. (2015). Sociolinguistic Aspects of the speech act of greeting in the Kazakh and English languages. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 6(6), 267-274. DOI:10.5901/mjss.2015.v6n6s2p267

Munro, M. J. (1993). Productions of English Vowels by Native Speakers of Arabic: Acoustic Measurements and Accentedness Ratings. Language and Speech, 36(1), 39 – 66. DOI: 10.1177/002383099303600103

Nelson, G. L., Carson, J., Al Batal, M., & El Bakary, W. (2002). Cross‐cultural pragmatics: Strategy use in Egyptian Arabic and American English refusals. Applied Linguistics, 23(2), 163-189. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/23.2.163

Nickerson, C. (2000). Playing the corporate language game: An investigation of the genres and discourse strategies in English used by Dutch writers working in multinational corporations (Vol. 15). Rodopi.

Sharifian, F. (2004). Cultural schemas and intercultural communication: A study of Persian. In J. Leigh, and E. Loo (Eds.). Outer Limits: A Reader in Communication across Cultures (119-130). Melbourne: CAE Press

Thorpe, A., Snell, M., Davey-Evans, A., & Talman, R. (2017). Improving the Academic Performance of Non‐native English‐Speaking Students: the Contribution of Pre‐sessional English Language Programmes. Higher Education Quarterly, 71(1), 5-32. DOI: 10.1111/hequ.12109

Toomnan, P., & Intaraprasert, C. (2015). The impacts of attitude towards speaking English on the use of communication strategies by English majors in Thailand. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 5(6), 1151. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17507/tpls.0506.04

Rababah, G. (2002). Communication Problems Facing Arab Learners of English. ERIC, 1-22.

Vahid Dastjerdi, H., & Nasri, N. (2012). Congratulation speech acts across cultures: The case of English, Persian, and Arabic. Journal of Language, Culture, and Translation, 1(2), 97-116. http://lct.iaush.ac.ir/pdf_5600_f8835022a9591bb8eeff962e22a1c5d3.html

Vilkki, L. (2006). Politeness, Face and Facework: Current Issues. A Man of Measure: Festschrift in Honour of Fred Karlsson, 322–332. http://www.linguistics.fi/julkaisut/SKY2006_1/1.4.7.%20VILKKI.pdf

Wagner, L. C. (2004). Positive-and negative-politeness strategies: Apologizing in the speech community of Cuernavaca, Mexico. Intercultural Communication Studies, 13, pp. 22-30. http://web.uri.edu/iaics/files/02-Lisa-C.-Wagner.pdf

Waldvogel, J. (2007). Greetings and closings in workplace email. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 12(2), 456-477. DOI: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00333.x

Wei, L. (2010). The Functions and use of greetings. Canadian Social Science, 6 (4), 56-62. https://www.mysciencework.com/publication/download/b8f8a949f1f0d3fea0936616723d166d/d63eb5e380936bdc1bc2c99507dd1235

Žegarac, V., & Pennington, M. C. (2000). Pragmatic transfer in intercultural communication. In Spencer-Oatey, H. Culturally speaking: Managing rapport through talk across cultures (165-190). A&C Black.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.6n.7p.243


  • There are currently no refbacks.

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

2012-2022 (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.