Speech Act of Responding to Rudeness: A Case Study of Malaysian University Students

Maryam Farnia, Hiba Qusay Abdul Sattar, Hooi Chee Mei


Politeness conventions vary across cultures and so is impoliteness and rudeness. In some cases, what is considered rude in one culture or a society is not necessarily rude or impolite in another. This cannot be explained unless more studies on the use of language functions in a specific culture are conducted. The aim of this paper is to investigate Malaysians university students’ realization of responding to rudeness. For this purpose, 51 Malaysian university students at Universiti Sains Malaysia took part in this research. The respondents completed a Discourse Completion Task consisting of six situations in which they had to respond to an offensive or a rude language directed toward them. The findings were then analyzed using Beebe and Waring’s (2005) a coding scheme of responding rudeness to examine the type and use of strategies in responding to rudeness. Moreover, a post-structured interview was conducted to explore the respondents’ perception of politeness, cognition and language of thought (i.e. the language they think in their mind to produce response in the moment) in responding to rudeness. The results showed that participants employ different strategies with variations in contextual variables (i.e. social distance and social status) in their responses. The comparison of participants' production and perception in responding to rudeness provided significant results. It is hoped that the analysis of Malaysian university students’ responding to rudeness could add to the body of knowledge in pragmatics and speech act studies in general and to our understanding of Malays university students’ realization in responding to rudeness in particular.

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