Cross-cultural linguistic politeness: Misunderstanding between Arabs and British speakers of English.

HAMZA, Abdurrahman Ahmad. (2007). Cross-cultural linguistic politeness: Misunderstanding between Arabs and British speakers of English. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

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This research investigates misunderstanding between Arabs and native speakers of English in verbal interaction. It examines the factors that might influence understanding and interpretations of politeness in interactants' linguistic utterances at the cultural and contextual levels. Its main argument is that the 'core theories' of politeness do not provide an adequate methodology for analysing cross-cultural interactions as they do not engage sufficiently with the dynamics of context selection in interactions. Through critical evaluation of politeness theories such as Grice (1975), Lakoff (1973), Leech (1983) and Brown and Levinson (1987), this research establishes that they do not adopt a sufficiently pragmatic approach to analyse politeness in cross-cultural interaction, and that they cannot explain how misunderstandings between interlocutors from different cultures , are generated. Thus, through reviewing how other scholars such as Spencer-Oatey (2000), Eelen (2001), Mills (2003), and Watts (2003) analyse politeness, and using theories of cognition, such as Sperber and Wilson (1995)'s relevance theory, this research tries to introduce a more contextual pragmatic approach that better analyses politeness in cross-cultural interaction. This study examines data from interactions between native and non-native English speakers. It uses two types of recordings involving native and non-native speakers of English. The first type of recording is of face-to-face casual conversations. The candidates for this type had to fill in a questionnaire and some of them attended follow-up interviews. The second type of recording is taken from television and radio broadcasts. Data was selectively transcribed and the situations where misunderstandings seem to have arisen were analysed in relation to what influenced both interactants' production and interpretation of utterances in relation to what is considered polite or impolite by the interactants' cultures. This research proves that Brown and Levinson (1978, 1987)'s theory of linguistic politeness strategies fails to reflect patterns of politeness differing from one culture to another linguistically, culturally, and contextually. It proves that the notion of politeness is interpreted differently across cultures, and involves many more issues than can be investigated through the analysis of individual utterances as Brown and Levinson do. The originality of this research, besides its criticism of the core theories of politeness in analysing politeness in cross-cultural interaction, lies in the fact that it introduces a contextual pragmatic approach that not only considers additional cultural and contextual variables that influence the production and interpretation of politeness between interactants, but also provides different interpretations of these variables that influence interaction. It analyses variables in relation to both speakers and hearers and the context of interaction, which makes it more suitable for cross-cultural analysis. Applying this approach helps us to consider whether misunderstanding between interactants is due to interactants failing to understand the politeness norms of other cultures or whether it is due to interactants failing to recognise differences in the way that politeness is realised linguistically in different cultures. The thesis proves that notions such as face and indirectness are not universal, and that politeness is a cultural contextual issue Thus, my approach identifies pragmatic failure, and isolates the cultural differences that lead to misunderstandings, through investigating the different implicatures that an utterance might give rise to in certain cross-cultural contexts.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Mills, Sara
Thesis advisor - McMahon, Barbara
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 2007.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:20
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2021 11:51

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