Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Cross-Cultural Comparison of Gratitude Expressions in Persian, Chinese and American English

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Cross-Cultural Comparison of Gratitude Expressions in Persian, Chinese and American English

Article excerpt


Granted the fact that different cultures have different speaking styles, knowledge of these styles can help people grasp the essence of social cultural knowledge to communicate with others more successfully. In this regard, the present paper aims at comparing the use of speech act of gratitude in Persian and Chinese EFL learners and English native speakers performances to identify the existing pattern among them. For this purpose, the participants were asked to complete a Discourse Completion Task (DCT) designed by Eisenstein and Bodman (1993). The results revealed that although thanking is regarded as the most favorite strategy among all three groups, there are significant differences in the ways Persian and Chinese learners of English, and also native speakers of English use the speech act of thanking.

Keywords: Culture, Pragmatic Competence, Speech act, Speech act of gratitude

1. Introduction

Language plays an important role in culture. Every language has cultural concepts and contextual usages in a way that its native speakers form similar conceptions about the world. Many studies on cultural differences revealed that people with different cultures have different speaking styles. The differences of speaking styles are signs of the differences in cultural value, so people can communicate with others successfully at the time they grasp the essence of social cultural knowledge (Wang, 2011; Tian, 2010 among them).Miscommunications are often the result of cross-cultural discourse differences (Bardovi-Harlig & Dörnyei, 1998) since the pragmatic competence of native speakers and L2 learners may be different (Cohen, 1996).

Generally, study on cultures is divided into two kinds of cross-cultural and inter-language pragmatic (ILP) studies. Cross-cultural interaction is defined as the face-to-face interaction between people from different cultural backgrounds including empirical studies that investigates various speech acts (e.g. Wolfson, 1981), whereas ILP concentrates on the influence of pedagogical issues on pragmatic development (e.g. Ghobadi & Fahim, 2009). ILP studies show how nonnative speakers perceive and produce actions in a target language, and it investigates how L2 learners develop the ability to understand and perform action in a target language (Kasper & Rose, 2002). In order to develop communicative competence, doing some communicative tasks with communicative purpose will help learners to acquire the norms of second culture which vary across cultures (Blum-Kulka, 1982; Rose & Kasper, 2001). The lack of pragmatic competence will result in pragmatic failure and communication breakdown (Blum-Kulka & Olshtain, 1986).

Intercultural competence is the ability to interact effectively and appropriately with those who are linguistically and culturally different (Intachakra, 2004). Intercultural communication creates awareness about the importance of understanding speech acts cross-culturally. The recognition of the meaning of a particular speech act in a given cultural setting is at the heart of successful intercultural communication (Lee, 2005; & Al-Khateeb, 2009). If learners lack the necessary knowledge and experience in using sociocultural norms of second language, they will have difficulties in interactions due to not having an appropriate understanding of l2 grammar rules (Amaya, 2008). Brown (2001) claimed that successful mastery of the second language will be the result of the learner's own personal investment of time, efforts, and attention to the target language.

One of the aspects of pragmatics which is widely examined includes the production and comprehension of speech acts which are the utterances that speakers employ for different functions such as requesting, apologizing, suggesting, etc (Olshtain & Cohen, 1991). The logic behind studying speech acts is that language learners need to use different speech acts which set for the purpose of communicating in an appropriate manner with native speakers. …

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