English Language Teaching
Vol. 4, No. 4; December 2011
Effects of Culture and Gender in Comprehension of Speech Acts of Indirect Request Rabe’a Shams Akbar Afghari Department of English, Khurasgan(Isfahan) Branche, Islamic Azad University, Isfahan, Iran Tel: 98-74-2422-3522 Received: May 30, 2011 doi:10.5539/elt.v4n4p279 Abstract This study investigates the comprehension of indirect request speech act used by Iranian people in daily communication. The study is an attempt to find out whether different cultural backgrounds and the gender of the speakers affect the comprehension of the indirect request of speech act. The sample includes thirty males and females in Gachsaran(a city in the province of Kohgiloye va Boyerahmad in Iran) and thirty participants (males and females) in Farokhshahr(a city in the province of Chaharmahal va Bakhtiyari in Iran). A questionnaire is used to elicit data related to the responses used by each group. The questionnaire consists of twenty situations. The participants write their reaction to each situation. The results reveal that culture has significant effect on the interpretation of indirect request of speech act. But gender doesn’t affect the comprehension of indirect request of speech act. Keywords: Cultural differences, Indirectness, Pragmatics, Request speech act, Speech acts (SA) 1. Introduction According to Mey (1998) language is an inseparable part of our daily life. It is a tool used to transmit messages and to communicate ideas, thoughts, and opinions. It is because of language that human being is situated in the society; language is a social phenomenon which creates and determines our position in different kinds of social networks and institutions. Culture is communication, and vice versa because it influences social practices in general, and discourse in particular. Moreover, cultural factors play an important role in the development of diverse ways of talking and communicating. It can be said that there exists a certain, rule-governed linguistic behavior such as thanking, requesting and apologizing that allows us to deal with similar situations in similar ways across cultures (Mey, 1998). People do not produce the grammatical utterances and words merely to express themselves; they perform actions via these utterances. Semanticists and pragmatists have scrutinized different interpretations and uses of language. For example, Koike (1989, p. 279) defines pragmatic competence as “the speaker's knowledge and use of rules of appropriateness and politeness which indicate the way the speaker will understand and formulate speech acts (SAs).” Obviously, communicative acts or SAs are among the most attractive areas in pragmatics and sociolinguistics. SAs are defined as acts performed by the speaker while making an utterance. The theory of SAs is a theory about what people set out to accomplish when they choose to speak. Searl (1975), the American language philosopher, believed that all linguistic communication involves linguistic SAs. According to Searl (1975) a language is performing SAs such as making statement, giving command, asking question or making promises. Searle's approach holds that SAs are only explained by special conventions that are neither semantic nor pragmatic (in the sense of Grice's maxims of conversation). Austin (1962) also studied the issue of SAs. He pointed out that people use language to achieve certain kinds of acts generally recognized as SAs which are distinct from physical acts like drinking or mental acts like thinking. SAs are divided into ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ SAs. Searle (1975) developed the idea of indirect SAs, where one SA is performed via another, e.g., an utterance functioning as a statement on the surface can have an underlying function of requesting in a given context. Austin (1962) introduced basic terms to study and distinguish locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts. These three types of acts play an...
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