Issuing a Refusal: How Female Saudi Speakers of Arabic Say No

Samah Saleh Alaboudi


The study examines the refusal strategies used by Saudi female speakers of Arabic. More specifically, the study aims at exploring the most frequently used refusal strategies by those speakers and how directness might have an effect on that use. A modified version in Arabic of a Discourse Completion Test (DCT) that was originally developed and used by Beebe et al. (1990) is used to elicit the data. The written questionnaire consists of nine situations. The initiating acts are three requests, three invitations and three offers which were designed to elicit refusals. The situations specify the context and the social status of interlocutors. The data is analyzed using a modified version of a classification scheme of refusal strategies developed be Beebe et al. (1990). The analysis focuses on the semantic formulas used for each situation and the frequency of each refusal strategy. The results reveal that the order of the semantic formulas in the responses of the participants differed across the initiating acts and the status differences. ‘Excuse/Reason’, an indirect refusal strategy, is used the most by the participants in their refusals. The excuses/reasons that the participants give tend to be lacking detail and of an uncontrollable nature. ‘Negative Ability’ is another frequently used strategy. Although a direct strategy, the participants still show their awareness of the need to lessen the threat that their refusal poses on the interlocutor by using other indirect strategies and adjuncts to accompany the direct one. The participants used more indirect refusal strategies than direct which might indicate that the participants are trying to mitigate their refusals by being less direct.


Speech Acts, Refusals, Politeness, Direct, Indirect, Refusal Strategies, Semantic Formulas, Face-Threatening Acts

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