The Role of Social Status in the Realization of Refusal Speech Act: A Cross-Cultural Study

The Asian ESP Journal, 2020

15 Pages Posted: 4 May 2020

See all articles by Naimah Al-Ghamdi

Naimah Al-Ghamdi

Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IAU)

Yasser Alrefaee

Al-Baydha University, Yemen

Date Written: April 7, 2020


This study aims to investigate the refusal strategies of Yemeni Arabic speakers and American English speakers to shed light on possible areas of cross-cultural differences and similarities. It focuses on the role of the social status of interlocutors in producing refusals. 20 native speakers of Yemeni Arabic and 20 native speakers of American English participated in this study. Data was collected by discourse completion task (DCT), consisting of 12 scenarios eliciting refusals of three invitations, three requests, three suggestions, and three offers. Results showed that cross-cultural differences were evident. Yemenis tended to be more direct than Americans, especially with lower and equal social status interactions. There was a substantial difference in the frequency of some refusal strategies. The cross-cultural difference was also evident with the use of some strategies by one group only. One marked cross-cultural difference was in the distinctive employment of invoking the name of God adjunct more frequently by Yemenis. The social status of persons has greatly influenced the use and selection of refusal strategies among Yemenis and Americans. For example, Yemenis use the alternative strategy only when refusing offers of higher status, while this strategy was used in all interactions by Americans. In equal status, Yemenis use direct strategy while Americans were found to use excuses and gratitude adjunct strategy. Findings of this study can help better understand the norms of both languages and cultures and can be used in language teaching and learning contexts

Keywords: Refusals, Speech Act, Yemeni Arabic, American English, Politeness, Cultural Differences

Suggested Citation

Al-Ghamdi, Naimah and Alrefaee, Yasser, The Role of Social Status in the Realization of Refusal Speech Act: A Cross-Cultural Study (April 7, 2020). The Asian ESP Journal, 2020, Available at SSRN:

Naimah Al-Ghamdi

Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IAU) ( email )

Saudi Arabia

Yasser Alrefaee (Contact Author)

Al-Baydha University, Yemen ( email )



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