A Cross-Cultural Study of Refusal Speech Act by Persian L2 Learners and American Native Speakers

Document Type : Research Article


English Department, Shahrekord University, Shahrekord, Iran


Refusals are utterances spoken to perform the action of refusing. This face-threatening act has a significant function in societal interaction. This pragmatic study investigated Iranian English learners’ (IELs) behavior in realizing refusals on the basis of a cross-cultural comparison of American native speakers (ANSs) and Iranian Persian speakers (IPSs) in terms of production performance. Data came from 40 ANSs, 40 IPSs, and 40 IELs, elicited from a DCT varied with contextual factors of power and distance. Data were analyzed in terms of frequency and content of semantic formulas. Results indicated that, although all the groups employed a similar range of refusal strategies in responding to the refusals elicited by different initiation acts, cross-cultural variation was evident in the frequency and content of semantic formulas. In some cases, the IPSs and the IELs refused similarly in Persian and English, but differently from the ANSs, suggesting pragmatic transfer in the Persian groups. These differences in Persian and English refusals may cause pragmatic failure when Persian speakers rely on their L1 culture-specific refusal strategies in interacting with English native speakers. Thus, the development of L2 students’ pragmatic knowledge should become one of the priorities of the educational system.