Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Exploration of Upper-Intermediate Iranian EFL Learners' Perception of Politeness Strategies and Power Relation in Disagreement

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Exploration of Upper-Intermediate Iranian EFL Learners' Perception of Politeness Strategies and Power Relation in Disagreement

Article excerpt


The present study was designed to examine the ways power relations influence politeness strategies in disagreement. The study was an attempt to find out whether different power status of people influencethe the choice of appropriate politeness strategies and speech act of disagreement by Iranian EFL learners, in a university setting. A Discourse Completion Test (DCT) was utilized to elicit the required data. The sample included 20 Iranian upper-intermediate EFL learners who were selected based on their scores on a proficiency test. The DTC consists of five scenarios in which the subjects are expected to disagree with two higher statuses and two with peers and one with a lower status. Selection of disagreement situations in DCT was based on relative power and status of people. The main frameworks used for analyzing data were the taxonomy from Muntigl and Turnbull (1995) for counting and analyzing the utterances of disagreement and Brown and Levinson' (1987) theory of politeness. It was found that EFL learners employ different kind of politeness strategies in performing this face threatening speech act. When performing the speech act of disagreement, they used more direct and bald on record strategies. The findings of this study provide some evidences for the relation between the type and frequency of disagreement and choice of politeness strategies associated with people with different power status.

It concludes by arguing that the results can be closely related with learning contexts and textbook contents and some suggestions were put forward regarding the issue.It is also hoped that the findings of this study will provide some worthwhile knowledge into the teaching and training of communication skills in EFL courses. Furthermore, this study may reveal some cultural differences between Iranian societies and others.

Keywords: disagreement, EFL, Iranian learners, politeness, power, pragmatic, speech act

1. Introduction

Acquisition and learning politeness strategies as a part of learning L2 pragmatics have attracted a lot of attention in the second language acquisition (Brown & Levinson, 1987). Blum-Kulka and Olshtain (1984) claim that despite having linguistic competence, second and foreign language learners may not always be successful in communicating effectively and even they may make pragmatic mistakes. It is most likely that non-native speakers deviate from native speaker form of speech act realizations (Cohen & Olshtain, 1993).

Due to misunderstanding among people from different cultures, people often fail to have successful communications. Although being polite is a universally acceptable concept, the meaning of politeness might vary across culture, gender, and power relations (Guodong & Jing, 2005). For that reason, researchers need to investigate the denotation of politeness in different cultures and try to identify different patterns and discourse strategies. Kiliçkaya (2010) asserts that social, cultural, situational, and personal factors, which shape the eventual linguistic output of the L2 learners, complicate the situation for language learners in selecting and using certain kinds of speech acts.

According to Liu (2004), disagreement is unavoidable in human interaction. It happens no matter how hard people try to avoid it; people face a very complicated condition when they try to avoid the unavoidable. There is always a contradiction between disagreement and face saving. When trying to soften their disagreement, people need rhetorical strategies including both concepts of politeness and hierarchy. So the present study tries to answer following questions:

1. What is the relationship between power and politeness strategies of disagreement in Iranian EFL context?

2. What disagreement strategies do Iranian EFL learners mostly employ? and How do the learners differ in expressing disagreement?

3. What types of politeness strategies are employed by subjects to soften the impact of this inherently face threatening act? …

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