Scholarly article on topic 'Compliment Responses: A Comparative Study of Native English Speakers and Iranian L2 Speakers'

Compliment Responses: A Comparative Study of Native English Speakers and Iranian L2 Speakers Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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{compliment / "compliment response" / "naturalistic role-play" / "retrospective interview"}

Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Somayeh Shahsavari, Bita Alimohammadi, Abbas Eslami Rasekh

Abstract Responding to compliments is intellectually demanding on the part of the receiver since a balance should be made in order for not rejecting the addressor's compliment and not praising one's self. In this study an attempt has been made to shed light on compliment responses produced by Iranian EFL speakers as well as by the native speakers of American English in oral communicative contexts through naturalistic role-play tasks and retrospective interviews. The results revealed that the L2 participants differed from native speakers in different aspects. In addition to the shortage of cultural background, the lack of knowledge on linguistic forms could be regarded as the factors impacting the way the participants responded to compliments.

Academic research paper on topic "Compliment Responses: A Comparative Study of Native English Speakers and Iranian L2 Speakers"

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

ELSEVIER Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 1744 - 1753

International Conference on Current Trends in ELT

Compliment Responses: A Comparative Study of Native English Speakers and Iranian L2 Speakers

Somayeh Shahsavaria *, Bita Alimohammadib, Abbas Eslami Rasekhc

aIslamic Azad University, Science and Research Branch of Isfahan, Isfahan, 8165654641, Iran b c University of Isfahan, Isfahan 817175888, Iran


Responding to compliments is intellectually demanding on the part of the receiver since a balance should be made in order for not rejecting the addressor's compliment and not praising one's self. In this study an attempt has been made to shed light on compliment responses produced by Iranian EFL speakers as well as by the native speakers of American English in oral communicative contexts through naturalistic role-play tasks and retrospective interviews. The results revealed that the L2 participants differed from native speakers in different aspects. In addition to the shortage of cultural background, the lack of knowledge on linguistic forms could be regarded as the factors impacting the way the participants responded to compliments.

©2014TheAuthors. PublishedbyElsevierLtd. Thisis anopenaccessarticle under the CC BY-NC-ND license


Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

Keywords: compliment; compliment response; naturalistic role-play; retrospective interview

1. Introduction

Pragmatics is the study of the use of language in communication, particularly the relationship between sentences and contexts and situations in which they are used (Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, 2002). One of the fields of study in pragmatics is related to the fact that how speakers use and understand speech acts. A speech act is an utterance that serves a function in communication. Speech acts

* Corresponding author. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license


Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.


include real-life interactions and require not only knowledge of the language but also appropriate use of that language within a given culture. We perform speech acts when we offer an apology, greeting, request, complaint, invitation, compliment, or refusal (Regents of the University of Minnesota, 2009). The compliment responses are widely used speech act behaviours which are typically regarded as having rules of speaking and social norms. 'Compliment responses' are worthy of study because they are the prevalent type of speech acts. The fact that compliments are naturally used and heard in everyday conversations indicates that responding to compliments is a ubiquitous attribute of discoursal interactions. Compliment responses generally reflect the social-cultural standards and varieties of certain speech communities. Nonetheless, compliments can have face threatening act and people may find them defensive, uneasy or even doubtful. Therefore, they may encounter a dilemma as they are to respond to such compliments appropriately (Knapp, Hopper, & Bell, 1984). Meanwhile acceptance of the compliment was indicted to be widely used by native English speakers (Chen, 1993; Herbert, 1986; Holmes &Brown, 1987), devaluations and rejections were usually used by speakers of other languages, especially those from Asian regions such as China, Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam (Chen, 1993; Baba, 1996; Tran, 2006;). This disparity in the production of Compliment responses by different L1 speakers was identified as one of the principal causes for troubles L2 learners challenge in producing target-like compliment responses (Baba, 1996; Tran, 2006; Yu, 2004). Regarding the production of compliment responses and contrasting EFL and ESL learners with equivalent English language proficiency, it was found that for EFL learners it is more problematic to make proper compliment responses in real life contexts since ESL learners benefited from more exposure to the authentic language input (e.g., Yu, 2004).

This study is an attempt to shed light on compliment responses produced by Iranian EFL speakers as well as by the native speakers of American English in oral communicative contexts through a naturalistic role-play task.

Different studies in the field of compliment responses have used various methods of data collection including role-plays, DCTs (Discourse Completion Test), interviews, strategy assessments, or even natural conversations. According to Chen and Yang (2010), although findings on non-English languages have differed from one language to another, the findings about English have all placed English as a language that clearly favours compliment acceptance.

The use of naturalistic role plays has actually been proven to have more authentic, reliable results. The present study, as a result, is attempted to make use of naturalistic role plays for data collection. It is to see whether non-native Iranian and native English speakers of English differ in terms of the responses they provide to the compliments they are given.

1.1. Review of related literature

Compliments which are considered as kinds of speech acts have been defined as expressions of positive evaluation by the speaker to the addressee (Liu as cited in Al Falasi, 2007). In fact, a compliment can be described as a positive assessment of affairs, of an object, or of an action (Huth, 2006). Holmes,1988 (as cited in Tang & Zhang, 2009) states that compliments are ''positively affective speech acts, the most obvious function they serve is to oil the social wheels, paying attention to positive face wants and thus increasing or consolidating solidarity between people". Downes, (as cited in Chen & Yang, 2010, p. 87) defines a compliment as a supportive action, akin to offers, gifts, and congratulations, which sequentially implies an acceptance or rejection as second pair part. When a speaker produces a compliment, a response to the compliment becomes conditionally relevant for the co-participant. Compliments serve various functions but they are primarily aimed at strengthening the solidarity between the speakers. Compliments have been proven to be of other uses as well: thanking, establishing rapport, and encouraging the performance being among some uses mentioned by Hatch (1994). He believes that another function of compliments, yet, can be to soften criticism. Holmes (1988), moreover, believes that compliments can be the expressions of giving credit to someone on account of something that is considered significant in the speaker's viewpoint. Compliments can be offered both implicitly and explicitly. Brown and Levinson (1987) assert that compliments can be considered as positive politeness strategies. Complimenting is a kind of culture-bound matter which is directly pertinent to the culture in which one has been nurtured. To clarify the point, Chinese culture can be referred to as the one which may consider compliments as being ingratiating in terms of needing something or even can be interpreted as a sign of envy of the complimented object. This way, compliments can be considered as face-

threatening (Ye, 1995; Wang &Tsai, 2003; Yu, 2005). Studies related to compliments vary greatly in terms of focus they insert in the case of the situation, the participants, the culture, nationality, gender differences, and so on.

Compliments can, still, be representative of the situation in which the speaker is finding his/her way through to come closer to the addressee. This can be inferred as trying to have expressions of intimacy which are expressive of the speaker's politeness (Brown &Levinson, 1987). It should also be considered that too much intimacy is harmful in a way that it can be considered as making judgments and face-threatening to the addressee. When the compliment is inferred as a kind of judgment, and is hence considered to be face-threatening the addressee is in a dilemma of not being able to decide whether to answer or not. In case of answering the compliment, s/he may be considered as self-praising. On the other hand, when they don't answer, there is the danger of disagreeing with the giver of the compliment which is considered to be impolite (Brown & Levinson, 1987; Herbert, 1986). Pomerantz, (as cited in Huth, 2006, p. 24) however, puts forth some solutions like using explicit disclaimers such as ''I don't like to brag'', scaling down the compliment, or agreeing and disagreeing with the positive assessment at the same time, i.e. accepting and rejecting the compliment concurrently.

With regard to compliments, it should also be taken into account that who gives the compliment to whom and on what occasion as well as the context and the kind of provided compliment. These are all the factors which can be of great significance in relation to the interpretation of the compliment. According to Boyle (2000), "compliments can be considered explicit when they are recognized as compliments outside of context, being realized by a small set of conventional formulae". A study carried out by Maiz-Arevalo (2012, p.124) showed that implicit compliments are preferred when evaluating someone's qualities, achievements or personal appearance in order to avoid face-threat, especially when the relationship between the interlocutors is still distant.Leaving aside other context-bound issues such as irony or sarcasm, any ordinary speaker would in fact recognize the following expressions as compliments because of their linguistic realization: ''I love your dress'' or ''what a nice pair of shoes you're wearing today!''. Explicit compliments, thus, can be considered to be informative and said in the form of statements which are linguistically understandable to the hearer. In varieties of English such as American (Wolfson, 1988; Manes & Wolfson, 1981, 1983) and New Zealand (Holmes & Brown, 1987), research has shown that compliments are formulaic in terms of both their meaning and form used to compliment other people. "Compliments are particularly interesting because they pose a politeness dilemma for the recipient, who either has to violate the maxim of agreement or the maxim of modesty." (Jucker, 2009, p. 86)

In terms of their meaning, for instance, compliments are predominantly realized by means of adjectives and verbs. It has been mentioned that in American English, five most commonly adjectives in terms of compliments are: pretty, nice, good, great, and beautiful and. like and love have also been named as the verbs which are predominantly used in this regard.

Although Wolfson (1983) does not give specific numbers, she notes that women are ''far more likely to be the recipients of compliments on all topics'' (as cited in Cheng, 2011). Like Holmes, Herbert (1986, 1990) also made use of student data collectors and found the majority of compliments were given and received by women (as cited in Rees-Miller, 2011).

The way to respond to the compliments is yet another important issue which has been found to be of great significance. In this regard, Huth (2006) has asserted that if a compliment-response is given by the recipient of a compliment, a compliment sequence results in, which can be described as an adjacency pair. A compliment sequence may thus be described as a minimal sequence in which the compliment itself constitutes the first pair part (FPP) and the compliment-response constitutes the second pair part (SPP). The responses can be categorized based on different classifications like nationality, culture-bound specifications, level of politeness, and so forth. In Pomerantz's (1978) terms, there are different compliment-response types that might reveal an acceptance of the compliment, a rejection, or a combination of both. "Responding to compliments, as a phatic expression may also play a significant role in maintaining the solidarity of interpersonal relationships and the harmony of social interaction"(Tang & Zhang, 2009, p. 44 ). Based on compliment responses, however, a rich diversity is observable among different nations with varying cultures. The studies in this regard have indicated many minute points and nuances about the similarities and differences among this rich diversity of languages. Results of Mustapha's (2011)

study, for example, suggest areas of both convergence and divergence. The diverging patterns underline cultural differences in responding to compliments, information that might be necessary for cross-cultural communication. Speakers of German, for instance, are not found to use appreciation tokens (e.g., ''Thank you'') in CRs, although they accept compliments as much as do Americans (Golato, 2002). In Thai, social status is proven to be an element influencing speakers' CR behavior; a compliment that flows from someone in higher social status to someone in lower social status is more likely to be accepted than one that flows in the opposite direction (Gajaseni, 1995). Instances of ''impoliteness'' are found in the Turkish data, whereby the complimenter explicitly challenges the assumption of the compliment (Ruhi, 2006). Arabic speakers, on the other hand, are found to routinely ''pay lip-service'' (Farghal &Haggan, 2006, p. 102) to the complimenter, using a set of formulaic utterances to offer the object of the compliment to the complimenter without meaning it (as cited in Chen, Yang, 2010). Gender-based differences in CRs have also been investigated in some languages. Golato (as cited in Huth, 2006, p.98) believes that German speakers, however, have been proven to accept compliments more frequently. In American English, too, compliments are often accepted with an agreement of the compliment assertion, but In German, acceptances are very often actualized in the form of a confirmation of the compliment. In fact agreement with the compliment is the preferred response for the provider.

A wealth of studies have been conducted on compliments including topics related to the things that are most likely to be complimented on, the kinds of interlocutors that one is likely to make compliments to, and the syntactic structures that are most often used in English for compliments and CRs, and the pragmatics of CR strategies adopted in each of these English-speaking communities (Chen & Yang, 2010).

4. Methodology

4.1. Participants

The participants of the present study included 15 native English and 15 Iranian EFL speakers. The native speakers were all the ones who had participated in the study conducted by Dongmei Cheng (2011). Iranian participants were all teaching upper-intermediate levels in the same English institute (Gooyesh Language Institute, Isfahan, Iran). Furthermore, the EFL participants were all from Isfahan, Iran so that the effect of culture was ruled out of the gained results. They were all majored in English as a foreign language and had gotten their (Bachelor of Art) B.A. degrees. They all had to pass a general proficiency test (Michigan English test) and get the acceptance score to be qualified as a competent teacher. They had all spent a mean length of 10 months teaching English. None of them had studied or travelled abroad up to the time of data collection.

Table 1. Participants' characteristics

Speaker group American, n = 15 Iranian, n=15

Number of females 7 7

Number of males 8 8

Age in years, mean (SD) 18.27 (.70) 20.42

4.2. Instrument

The primary instrument which was used in this study was a naturalistic role-play. Naturalistic role-play and open role-play are absolutely distinctive since in naturalistic role-play the participants are totally unaware of the focus of the study. Besides, it allows the study to go through a real- life method of data collection. The present study makes use of the version of role-play which was modified by Tran (2006). In this version there are four situations in which each participant is asked to start dealing with a familiar role in order to perform a communicative task. Major tasks include greeting, giving directions, asking for and offering help as well as describing a place, a thing and a procedure. Owing to the fact that all the participants were proficient (since they are all teachers who have passed the acceptance score in Michigan English test and are experienced in teaching for at least 10 months), the influence of problematic situations to converse was ruled out. The present study tried to evade the effect of gender differentiation between the interlocutors by hiring two native speakers a male and a female to communicate with their own partners of the same gender.

Retrospective interview was the other instrument which was used in the study to illustrate the reason of compliment responses given by the participants. This instrument has been commonly used in L2 research, including

pragmatic research (see e.g., Cohen, 1998; Faerch &Kasper, 1987; Hassall, 2008). Instantly after the naturalistic role play, a retrospective interview was conducted with all the participants. The retrospective interview was carried out in Persian to let the participants talk about their reasons for the compliment responses of each situation. Moreover, the retrospective interview let us know that the procedure was actually real life activity since the participants did not know the compliments they received were the focus of a study.

4.3. Procedure

At the beginning of the present study two native speakers (a male and a female one), among the teachers in Gooyesh Language Institute (GLI), were asked to play the role of interlocutors. The researcher explained to them what the compliment responses and situations were. They were also given sufficient information about the participants and how to manage the real life role plays. In order to be convinced that everything would be carried out well, they were asked to do the job first in the presence of the researchers with one of the colleagues. Then they were prepared to do their job on their own. Since all the teachers (in GLI) spoke in English together during breaks between their classes, it was natural to put them in a special situation and complement them. To eliminate the possible negative effect of gender differentiation, the male interlocutor just role-played with male participants and the female one with the female participants. In order to control the situations, at least one of the researchers was present and recorded all the conversations without letting the participants be informed. At the end of the role play the researcher conducted the retrospective interview with each participant. At the beginning of the retrospective interview, the participants were asked whether they made sense of the fact that they were interviewed and recorded for a study or not. Then the researcher replayed the recording and paused at each second where a compliment and its response had come up. The participants, then, were asked to reflect on their reasons while responding to the compliment.

5. Analysis

5.1. Analysis of the naturalistic role-play results

In the present study, using the role play transcriptions let us identify different CR patterns among the speaker groups. The categories of CR strategies applied by Cheng (2011) were made use of to analyse the data. This strategy framework has three macro strategies (Accept, Evade and Combination) and 11 micro strategies, as shown in Table 2. A total of 120 CR tokens (30 tokens from each group, and 4 tokens from each participant) were categorized based on this framework. Each token was further divided into utterance units. Then they were categorized as one CR category if they all conveyed the same meaning based on the framework. To eliminate the subjectivity effect of the way of coding data, two raters were asked to code all the data, and then using Cohen's kappa, the inter-rater reliability was obtained. It was .80 for macro strategies and .83 for micro strategies.

Table 2

CR categories.

Macro level CRs


Micro level CRs







Cr e d it-s hi fti ng






'Thanks"; "Thank you"; "Yes"; "Yeah"; "Uh Huh"

"I know"; "Yeah. I really like it."; "I'm glad you think so."

"It's nothing"; "It's ok"; "I tried"

"I enjoyed doing it"; "I worked hard on it"

"You're not too bad yourself."

"I'm sure you'll be great."

"Yours was good too."

The utterance does not fit into the native speaker's norm but has a clear intention of showing acceptance to the compliment. e.g. A: I really like your outfit.

B: I am very happy. or B: You too.

"No problem."; "My pleasure."; You're welcome."; "I got it from my mom."; "I learned this from school."

"It wasn't hard"; "I got it from the store."; "Red is my favorite color." "Really?"

"I can let you borrow it."

"You can have it if you like."

No response, shifting to another topic or giggling.

'Thanks. If s a gift from my mom." Accept Iappreciation] + Evade fcredit-sh if ting /

Combination refers to a situation in which both Acceptance and Evasion are adopted in a single compliment response sequence.

6. Results

6.1. Results from the naturalistic role play

Figure 1 shows the typical patterns used by the Native American English speakers and Iranian EFL counterparts at macro levels of CR strategies. Acceptance was the most preferred response by the American group. However, combination was the most frequent response given by Iranian EFL speakers. Comparing and contrasting the two groups, Iranians were willing to apply combination strategy of responding followed by acceptance and evasion while Americans preferred to employ first acceptance, then combination and evasion strategies in order.

As it is shown in the following figure, Iranians and Americans are generally different in the use of responding strategies; Americans are likely more pleased to use acceptance, in contrast Iranians are eager to apply evasion and combination more than their American counterparts.

60% 40% 20% ■ 0% 1 1 I 1 ■ American

Acceptance Evadesion Combination

Fig. l.Macro-patterns of CRs

Further analysis in the following sections compared the micro-level strategies used by the two speaker groups in each of the four compliment situations: (1) ability/work; (2) appearance/clothing; (3) possession and (4) personality 6.1.1. Responses to compliments on ability/work

As shown in Fig. 2, in responding to compliments on ability/work, most of Iranian EFL speakers used giggling/ignoring and downgrading, while they used other strategies irregularly. On the other hand, in the NES CRs, the qualifying strategy was used nearly as equally frequent as appreciations as the most desirable strategies. Commenting, agreeing, qualifying, offering and non-idiomatic were never used in the Iranian' CRs, whereas they were almost frequent in NES CRs (except non-idiomatic which is quite impossible to be used by Americans). Credit-shifting, returning and non-idiomatic were the never-employed strategies in NES group.

6.1.2. Responses to compliments on appearance/clothing

As the figure 3 demonstrates, appreciation for NES and agreeing for Iranian EFL speakers were the highly desirable strategies. One of the most interesting facts shown in this figure is the use of appreciation and down grading; although appreciation is the most frequent response for the NES, it was never used by the Iranians, the reverse happened in the application of agreeing strategy by the two groups. The use of credit shifting, offering and nonidiomatic in number was the same (0%) for the two groups.

6.1.3. Responses to compliments on possession

As far as it is obvious, appreciation was still the most frequently adopted strategy among the two groups to respond to complements on possession. Aside from appreciation, the figure does not show too much fluctuation in the use of other strategies in both groups. The CRs which were never been used by the Iranian speakers consist of commenting, qualifying, down grading and offering. On the other hand, NESs had never employed ignoring/giggling, down grading, returning, reassuring and nonidiomatic.

Americans Iranians

Fig. 4.Micro-levels CRs for possession 6.1.4. Responses to compliments on personality

A very different trend was shown in the participants' responses to compliments on personality (Fig. 5). A majority of the Iranian speakers preferred not to accept or evade the complements they received. Nonetheless most of them had a preference to use the combination strategy. Nevertheless appreciation still remained as one of the most frequently used strategies by the NES.

10% 0% rBn —Americans

/ / & J i '/'/¿S f ^^Iranians

Fig. 5.Micro-patterns of CRs for personality 6.2. Results from the retrospective interview

Following the naturalistic role play, a retrospective interview was carried out with all and every single participant. The question was about the focus of the naturalistic role-play. With regard to the question asked following the naturalistic role-play, none of the participants could guess what the focus of the role-play was. They answered differently with regard to the content of the role-plays. The answers varied greatly including: university-related matters, characteristics and attitudes, testing the English knowledge, everyday life, daily routines, and education. When they were aware of the focus of the study, all of the participants were surprised since they hadn't

, rt- . cW . . AV s xv . . ^

^ ^ v ° ^

even noticed that the interviewer is complimenting them. Most of the participants said they did not notice they were being intentionally complimented, they thought they were being told the truth. This shows that the participants could respond to the compliments without being aware of the focus of the study, which adds to the credit of the naturalness of the compliments which were triumphantly embedded in the context. The explanation related to the most commonly used answers by the Iranian speakers are analysed as follows:

6.2.1. Saying "Thankyou/Thanks":

Most of the Iranian participants used "thank you" as the safest response they could resort to. Some of them mentioned: "I prefer saying 'thank you' to rejecting the compliment", "I hate rejecting, and I simply accept the compliment and try to thank the person to have thought that way", "It is part of my personality". Some participants, on the other hand, commented: "It just came up", "It's the way I respond to compliments even in my mother tongue, It's related to my personality and not my major, which is English". Other comments included: "I didn't know how else to answer", and "for compliments on possession, if I knew how to say /ghabelinadarad/, /cheshmatunghashangmibine/ in English, I would use them rather than 'Thank you'". Some others, yet, believed that saying "Thank you" is a kind of cliché, and it does not really matter who is complimenting them. One of the participants, on the contrary, asserted that using "Thank you" as a response to compliments was because of trying to approach the English culture since she has studied English; when she is complimented in that specific language, she tries to watch the norms being used in that certain culture.

6.2.2. Commenting on the possession being complimented:

Some of the participants, not having noticed that they were being complimented, simply tried to provide more information regarding the possession, ability, personality trait or appearance on which they received compliments. It may be considered as the effect of their native culture. Some of the participants mentioned that they would try to give further information about the complimented object to let the other party have it too or know how to be the same or retain the same ability. This can be attributed to the native culture of Iranian people. Some other participants mentioned the point that by commenting on the possession or ability, they tried to be nice to the complimenter.

6.2.3. Giggling/ smiling:

The reason the participants attributed to giggling or even smiling was that they wanted to accept the compliment in a nice way. They did not want to reject it and they did not want to behave arrogantly toward the complimented object, personality trait or whatsoever. Some of them also attributed this response to the target culture they have been exposed to such as watching the American movies or reading a novel. In their opinion, this was the best possible manner through which they could express their thanks. Some of the participants thought they could have nothing to say when they were complimented. In case they agreed, it would prove that they feel proud of what they have been complimented on.

6.2.4. Agreeing with the compliments:

Some of the compliments were agreed upon resorting to words like "yes, yeah, somehow". One of the participants simply mentioned that she agreed with the compliments since she thought the person was right and since she herself was a kind of completely plain-spoken person who used to tell everything frankly, she would agree with the ones whose ideas were right and straightforward. "This is the matter of personality", she pointed out. Others also were trying to use a combination, mostly adding comments to their agreement with the complimenter. This was predominantly evident for compliments on the positive personality traits they were identified with. It was not really common among Iranian participants, though since they would have been proven arrogant in case they agreed with the complimenter.

7. Discussion

The results of the naturalistic role play revealed that Iranian L2 participants used the patterns which were similar to their native responses to compliments. Most of them made use of expressions like ''thank you/thanks'' in majority of the situations. In the case of Iranian English speakers, they were mostly using expressions like 'nice of you', 'so is yours' as the responses to the compliments relating to possessions. Sometimes the compliments on personality and ability were ignored or responded nonverbally, with a simple smile or giggle. On one hand, they

knew they are being complimented, and on the other hand they wanted to respond in the best possible way with the limited pragmatic knowledge they possessed in terms of the culture-bound expressions. To offer a solution in this regard, it must be taken into account that in case foreign language learners are trying to master oral communication skills, they must be taught to make use of different evasive strategies for responding to compliments, rather than simply ignoring them.

Offering further comments (e.g., I spent lots of time on it) was also a commonly used strategy by the Iranian speakers in order to continue conversations in responding to compliments; especially the ones related to ability and work. Since communication strategies are targeted greatly by the ones interested in learning a foreign language, they must be taught to the students, whether explicitly or implicitly. It must be noted that the non-native participants were not able to make use of certain strategies like credit-shifting.

The retrospective interview results were also helpful to explain the major reasons attributed to Iranian EFL participants' choices of CRs in naturalistic settings. Compared to the native speakers, the EFL group was not exposed to authentic language contexts on a daily basis and did not have the opportunities to communicate with native speakers. Given this lack of exposure to authentic input, it was particularly interesting to understand their choice of specific CR strategies. The interview outcome came to reveal that most of the difficulties experienced by none-native speakers were due to lack of exposure to authentic language use. Lack of cultural awareness could also be mentioned as another factor influencing their problems. To offer solutions, it can be helpful to let the students get to know some in-class activities like watching some videos or listening to some naturally recorded sound clips in which compliments are offered and responded to. The use of compliments should also be fully clarified to the students so that they will not face problems handling the compliments resulted from the cultural norms of the target culture. This way the non-native speakers will get familiar with the use and usage of the compliments and as a result the interlocutor will not be frustrated due to the participants' lack of cultural understanding or even not knowing how to answer appropriately.

8. Conclusion

The present study was mainly concerned with compliment responses produced by native English speakers as well as Iranian none-native speakers. It must be taken into account that the gained results may have been due to different factors such as the difference of status between the speaker and the interlocutor. It should be noted that in both groups, native and none-native speakers, the interlocutors were either the complimented person's classmate or colleague. The use of naturalistic role play can be mentioned as one of the attributing factors to the authenticity of the research. The whole study revealed that the non-native speakers experienced difficulty in terms of responding naturally to the compliments they were provided with. These difficulties could be attributed to both the learners' L1 culture and their limited L2 proficiency, which was completely distinct in the none-native speakers' lack of variety in choices they made as the responses to compliments. The retrospective interview was also another tool for triangulation of data and adding to the quantitative data. The results of the retrospective interview also proved that, socio-pragmatic norms could cause a much significant degree of difficulty in appropriate compliments compared with pragmalinguistic constraints.

Making use of naturalistic role plays as well as retrospective interviews for data collection, the present study tried to shed light on the way the speakers responded to compliments. Other types of speech acts may also be taken into account with the use of the mentioned instruments to compare the results of naturalistic role plays and other types of data collection instruments like DCTs. Different variables such as age, social status, gender, social distance, and etc. may also be helpful to take account of so that the researchers in the field of compliments may come to a unified view regarding factors influencing compliment responses among speakers of different cultures.


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