Scholarly article on topic 'Perception of Dominance, Distance and Imposition in Persian Males’ Request Speech ACT Strategies'

Perception of Dominance, Distance and Imposition in Persian Males’ Request Speech ACT Strategies Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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{Request / dominance / distance / imposition / Persian}

Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Mohsen Shahrokhi

Abstract This study indicates how request speech acts are formulated with regard to the face needs of Persian male native speakers. To this end, the respective request speech acts were collected through the administration of a Discourse Completion Test (DCT) which also facilitated the assessment of such contextual variables as social dominance, social distance and imposition of a request. The analysis of the data resulted in the categorization and tabulation of universal and culture-specific request strategies performed by Persian males. The data was also analyzed to reveal the interaction between contextual variables and Persian males’ linguistic choice as far as request speech acts are concerned.

Academic research paper on topic "Perception of Dominance, Distance and Imposition in Persian Males’ Request Speech ACT Strategies"

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 (2012) 678 - 685 —

WCES 2012

Perception of dominance, distance and imposition in persian males'

request speech ACT strategies

Mohsen Shahrokhi *

English Department, Shahreza Branch, Islamic Azad University, Shahreza, Isfahan, Iran

Abstract

This study indicates how request speech acts are formulated with regard to the face needs of Persian male native speakers. To this end, the respective request speech acts were collected through the administration of a Discourse Completion Test (DCT) which also facilitated the assessment of such contextual variables as social dominance, social distance and imposition of a request. The analysis of the data resulted in the categorization and tabulation of universal and culture-specific request strategies performed by Persian males. The data was also analyzed to reveal the interaction between contextual variables and Persian males' linguisti c choice as far as request speech acts are concerned.

© 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu Keywords: Request, dominance, distance, imposition, Persian;

1. Introduction

Austin's (1962) observation that utterances can be used to accomplish an action set up the basis of Austin's Speech Act theory. According to this theory, upon saying something, we can also do or perform an action which can expect a verbal or nonverbal reaction from the addressee. The appropriate reaction to any speech act performed, depends on the speakers' appropriate realization of the speech act. Accordingly, speech act realizations in different societies have been investigated (Marquez-Reiter, 2000; Felix-Brasdefer, 2005; Marti, 2006; Wouk, 2006; Zhang et al., 2007; Afghari, 2007; Nureddeen, 2008 to name a few) to shed light on both the cultural rules and norms of a given speech act within a specific culture and the awareness of the similarities and the differences of speech act realizations cross-culturally.

The realization of any speech act requires much consideration since speech acts are Face Threatening Acts (FTA) in nature, according to Brown and Levinson's (1987) politeness theory. For instance, the hearer's negative face (the desire not to be impeded by others) as well as speaker's positive face (the desire to be appreciated and liked by others) is jeopardized when a request speech act is realized. Consequently, the request makers can opt for a variety of strategies for realizing a request to mitigate the threat to the addressee's face.

The strategies available to realize a request are employed with regard to the speaker's estimation of the weightiness of the FTA, which is an assessment of the social situation where the FTA is realized (Brown and Levinson, 1987). The speakers opt for a strategy according to three independent variables, namely social dominance

* Mohsen Shahrokhi. Tel.: +98-321-323-2706 E-mail address: shahrokhi1651@yahoo.com

ELSEVIER

1877-0428 © 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.05.181

and social distance as context-external variables, as well as imposition as a context-internal variable. The social dominance is an indication of one of "the interlocutor's power over the other one. It has a ternary value, namely (S>H) where the hearer is dominated by the speaker, (S<H) where the speaker is dominated by the speaker, and (S=H) where they are equal in terms of power" (Shahrokhi and Jariah, 2011, p. 51). Social distance indicates the familiarity of the interlocutors and has a binary value, that is to say, the speaker and the hearer either know one another well (-SD) or do not know one another (+SD). The imposition borne on the hearer through the request realized by the speaker is the third variable. The imposition is evaluated either as high or as low.

The speaker's verbal behavior to mediate the threat involved in speech act realizations and the attempt made by the speakers to interact appropriately and politely with regard to context-external and context-internal variables, are of great interest because "politeness is tied up with the most basic principles of sociocultural organization and interpersonal relationships within social groups and should be viewed in the context of Social distance and Power distance which are considered the main dimensions of cultures" (Larina, 2008, p. 33).

2. Scope of the study

Hassall (2003, p. 1907) reports Searle's (1969) definition of a request as "a directive speech act which counts as an attempt to get H[earer] to do an act which S[peaker] wants H to do, and which S believes that H is able to do; and which it is not obvious that H will do in the normal course of events or of H's own accord". A request can be realized through a head act and supportive moves. According to Blum-Kulka et al. (1989, p. 275) "head act is the minimal unit which can realize a request; it is the core of the request sequence" which is under investigation in this study.

The coding scheme developed for Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (CCSARP) by a group of researchers led by Blum-Kulka has been referred to in most of the studies conducted afterwards as a primary resource to compare the realization patterns of request speech act across a number of languages (e.g., Izaki, 2000; Felix-Brasdefer, 2005; Marti, 2006; Zhang et al., 2007). In Persian few studies (e.g., Eslamirasekh, 1993; Jalilifar, 2009) have made valuable contributions to the field, however, studies investigating request strategy realizations with regard to contextual variables in pure Persian context where sex-difference variations are also controlled have been ignored. This study, thus, investigates request speech acts realized among Persian male speakers to categorize and tabulate the request strategies employed in Persian. Moreover, the study shows the Persian males' linguistic choice with regard to context-external and context-internal variables as far as request strategies are concerned.

3. Methodology

3.1. Participants

The participants were chosen from among Iranian male native speakers. They were 70 university students between 18 to 25 years of age. In order to ensure as much homogeneity as possible in terms of sex, educational background, and age range among the participants, the above-mentioned specifications were considered with the intention of maintaining as much similarities as possible among the participants.

3.2. Instrument

Although natural data is an ideal source of data for research on language; however, this study was interested in collecting one specific speech act used in situations manipulating contextual variables. The collection of such data is virtually impossible, because as Eslamirasekh (1993, p.87) states "these demands for comparability have rolled out the use of ethnographic methods, invaluable as they are in general for gaining insight into speech behavior"

As such, among the practical data collection procedures, written elicitation techniques served the purpose of this study best. The use of written elicitation techniques provides an opportunity to collect stereotypical responses which are "the prototypical variants occurring in the individual actual speech", as stated by Hill et al. (1986, p. 353).

Moreover, written elicitation techniques allow controlling the variation of contextual variables in different situations.

With regard to the above advantages, the instrument employed for the collection of request speech acts was the Persian translation of a written questionnaire in the form of the Discourse Completion Test (DCT). The DCT consisted of 12 situations resulting in the elicitation of 12 requests and a short questionnaire where the participants were asked general questions about their sex, age, and educational background. The situations vary according to a number of social variables: the social distance between the speakers, the relative social dominance of the participants, and the imposition of the request realized in the situation.

3.3. Data analysis framework

The process of analyzing the collected data was performed in two major stages. As the initiative part of the analysis, the data collected was analyzed based on a modified data analysis framework developed by Blum-Kulka et al. (1989) to identify and classify the request strategies identified in Persian. The identification and classification of request strategies included also the tabulation of frequency distribution of request strategies with regard to context-internal and context-external variables. As the complementary part of data analysis process, this study explored the nature of request realizations among Persian male participants beyond the limits of traditional speech act theory. Adopting a broader perspective when analyzing the data and moving beyond the Blum-Kulka et al.'s (1989) data analysis framework, the study investigated strategies other than those reported in most studies of requests speech act to find traces of new culture-specific request strategies.

The study finalized data analysis framework as a combination of modified version of Blum-Kulka et al.'s (1989) data analysis framework and a new request strategy found by the researcher as below.

The first category of request strategies act is Direct request category including the following strategies:

(A) Mood Derivable: They include utterances in which the syntactic mood of the verb indicates illocutionary force. "The prototypical form is imperative", however other forms "such as infinite forms and elliptical sentence structoe express the same directness level" (Bulm-Kulka et al., 1989, p. 278-279).

e.g. Aadres ro az in ?aber bepors ta raah ro peidaa-konim^. (ask the address from this pedestrian to find the way.)

(B) Performative: The illocutionary force in utterances classified as performative is explicitly named. The CCSARP makes a distinction between Explicit Performative (e.g. I am asking you to move your car) and Hedged Performative (e.g. I'd like to/wanted to ask you to present your paper a week earlier). However, to suit the CCSARP coding scheme with Persian data Explicit Performative and Hedged Performative were merged and classified as performative.

e.g. Mixaastam azat darxaast-konam jozvato be man qarz-bedi.

(I'd like to ask you to lend me your lecture notes.)

(C) Obligation Statement: Through this strategy "the illocutionary intent is directly derivable from the semantic meaning of the locution" (Bulm-Kulka et al., 1989, p. 279).

e.g. Shomaa majburid safaretun ru aqab-bendaazid.

(You have to cancel your trip.)

(D) Want Statement: This strategy is employed when the speaker expresses his/her desire to be carried out by the hearer.

e.g. Mixaastam maashineto baraa chand ssaat qarz-begiram.

(I wanted to borrow your car for a few hours.)

The second category of request strategies, namely Conventional-Indirect, consists of the following strategies:

(E) Suggestory Formula: Through Suggestory Formula the illocutionary intent is expressed as a suggestion.

e.g. Cheraa aadres ro nemiporsi?

f Persian examples

(Why don't you ask for the address?)

(F) Query Preparatory: They are utterances through which the speaker checks the conditions for the feasibility of the request.

e.g. Mishe labtaabe jadidetu emtehaan-konam? (Can I try your new laptop?)

Finally, the Non-Conventional Indirect request makes up the third category of request strategy as follows:

(G) Hint: Hints are utterances in which the illocutionary intent of the speaker is not directly derivable. The illocutionary intent of hints must be inferred by the hearer.

e.g. Man diruz kelaas ru az-dast-dadam.

(I missed the class yesterday. [Intent: borrowing the hearer's lecture notes])

As the complementary part of data analysis, through the analysis of the data beyond such classic frameworks as Blum-Kulka et al.'s (1989), the study came up with a new strategy through which the Persian male participants realized requests in some situations of data collection instruments. This strategy was termed by the researcher as Challenging Ability as follows.

(H) Challenging Ability: Through this strategy the speaker challenged the hearer's ability in an attempt to urge him to fulfill his request.

e.g. Begzaar bebinam mitun in naamehaa ru taip-koni (Let me see whether you can type these letters.)

The above request was identified in a situation where the speaker was going to ask his colleague to type a few letters for him.

4. Results and discussions

With regard to the data analysis framework, the analysis of the data revealed that Persian male speakers use a variety of strategies to realize a request in situations different in terms of context-internal and context-external variables. The results obtained indicated that Mood Drivable was used most frequently to realize requests, as displayed in Figure 1. Out of 680 request speech acts identified in the data collected, 309 requests (45.44%) were realized through the Mood Drivable strategy.

Figure 1. Frequency distributions of request strategies

The second most frequent strategy, namely Query Preparatory registered 235 requests in the data which made up a total of 34.55 percent of the request strategies. Need Statement made up 58 strategies realized (8.5%), while Suggestory Formula and Hint strategies were employed to realize requests in 27 cases (3.9%) respectively. A total of 15 Performative strategies were also identified in the data which is not a high frequent strategy; the strategies Challenging Ability, registering 8 cases, and Obligation Statement, registering only 1 case were not high in frequency.

The frequency of request strategies across different situations in terms of context-internal and context-external variable also varied, as can be seen in Table 2. The frequencies and percentages marked in bold indicate the most frequent strategy in a situation while the frequencies and percentages highlighted in grey indicate the highest frequency of a given strategy across all situations.

As shown in Table 2, the most frequent request strategy used by the participants of the study is Mood Derivable. This strategy registers the most frequent request strategy among all identified request strategies in R2, R3, R4, R7, R8, and R11. R4, where the interlocutors are equal in terms of power relation (S=H) and there is no social distance between them (-SD) and the imposition of request is low, provides the best situation for the realization of Mood Derivable. The strategy makes up some 77 percent of the request strategies performed in this situation as in example (1).

(1) Man faraamush-kardam naghshe ru biaram, ?aaddress ru az in ?aabere kenare xiyabun bepors (I forgot to bring the map. Ask the address from this pedestrian by the street) With regard to the social dominance, the speakers dominate the hearer (S>H) in R3, R7, and R8; however, it is the hearers who are dominating the speakers (S<H) in R2 and R11.

As for social distance between the interlocutors, all possible statuses are available in R2, R3, R4, R7, R8, and R11, namely (-SD) in R2, R4, R7, and R8 and (+SD) in R3 and R11. R2, R3, R4, R7, R8, and R11 include both high imposition requests and low imposition requests as well.

Table 2. Frequency and Percentage of Request Strategies across Situations

Situation MD PERF OS NS SF QP HT CHAB Total

R1 21 0 0 7 2 27 2 0 59

35.59% 0% 0% 11.86% 3.38% 45.76% 3.38% 0%

R2 29 2 0 4 4 10 5 2 56

51.75% 3.57% 0% 7.1% 7.1% 17.85% 8.9% 3.57%

R3 39 2 0 2 0 17 0 0 60

63.90% 3.30% 0% 3.30% 0% 27.90% 0% 0%

R4 47 0 0 1 5 7 1 0 61

77% 0% 0% 1.6% 8.2% 11.50% 1.6% 0%

R5 11 0 0 10 3 23 4 0 51

18% 0% 0% 16.4% 4.9% 37.7% 6.6% 0%

R6 23 3 0 5 0 25 2 0 58

37.70% 4.90% 0% 8.2% 0% 40.90% 3.3% 0%

R7 33 5 1 3 2 11 4 0 59

54.10% 8.20% 1.6% 4.90% 3.3% 18% 6.6% 0%

R8 42 0 0 4 0 9 0 4 59

68.90% 0% 0% 6.5% 0% 14.60% 0% 6.50%

R9 19 0 0 9 3 20 6 0 57

31.10% 0% 0% 14.70% 4.9% 32.80% 9.80% 0%

R10 12 0 0 1 5 38 1 0 57

19.70% 0% 0% 1.6% 8.20% 62.30% 1.6% 0%

R11 21 3 0 9 2 13 2 0 50

34.40% 4.9% 0% 14.80% 3.3% 21.30% 3.30% 0%

R12 12 0 0 3 1 35 0 2 53

19.60% 0% 0% 4.90% 1.60% 57.4% 0% 3.3%

MD: Mood Derivable; PERF: Performative; OS: Obligation Statement; NS: Need Statement; SF: Suggestory

Formula; QP: Query Preparatory; HT: Hint; CHAB: Challenging Ability

The variety of context-internal and context-external variables in R2, R3, R4, R7, R8, and R11, where the most frequent request strategy realized is Mood Derivable, reveals that the strategy is used regardless of the context-internal and context-external variables involved in the situation and the strategy Mood Derivable is not context-dependent.

The second most frequent strategy, namely Query Preparatory, is employed in R1, R5, R6, R9, R10, and R12 as the most frequent strategies. The power relation between the interlocutors in R1 and R6 is (S<H), that is the speaker

is dominated by the hearer; in R5, R9, and R10 the speaker and the hearer are equal in terms of social dominance (S=H); and in R12 the speaker dominates the hearer (S>H).

As for social distance, the interlocutors in R1, R5, R10, and R12 do not know one another well (+SD); however, in R6 and R9 they know one another well. The imposition of the requests performed through the strategy Query Preparatory include all possible statuses, namely High in R5, R6, R9, and R12, and Low in R1and R10.

As such, the context-internal and context-external variables involved in R1, R5, R6, R9, R10, and R12 seem to have no significant effect on Persian participants' requestive choice as far as Query Preparatory strategy is concerned.

According to Table 2, the strategy Need Statement registers the highest frequency in R5, constituting some 16.4 percent of the requests performed. In R9 and R11, the strategy Need Statement makes up 14 percent of requests realized per situation. The context-internal variable, namely imposition of request, in R5, R9, and R11 is evaluated in common as high. Consequently, Need Statement is an appropriate choice among Persian male speakers for the realization of the request where the imposition borne on the hearer is high as instantiated in example (2).

(2) Midunam ke dorost nist ke az shoma darxaste pul konam,vali ghobuze aab, bargh va telephonam monde va man nemixaam kasi befahme. Man niaz be yek meghdarpul barapardaxt in ghabzha daram.

(I know it is not appropriate to ask you for money, but water, electricity and telephone bills are outstanding and I don't want anybody know. I need some money to settle the bills.)

The strategy Hint has been used by the participants in most of the situations including R1, R2, R4, R5, R6, R7, R9, R10, and R11. Statistically R9, where the interlocutors are equal in terms of social dominance (S=H) and there is no social distance between the interlocutors (-SD), is the most suitable situation for the realization of a request through the strategy Hint, especially when the request is high in imposition.

Hint strategy has not been used by the participants in R3, R8, and R12. The imposition of the request in R3, R8, and R12 includes both high and low statuses; the social distance status includes both (+SD) in R3 and R12 and (SD) in R8; however, as far as social dominance is concerned, the speaker dominates the hearer in R3, R8, and R12. In other words, Hint strategy is not a favorable strategy when the speaker is dominant in terms of power on the hearer and has the possibility to perform the request in a more direct way as Conventional Indirect strategies or Direct strategies.

Except for R3, R6, and R8, the strategy Suggestory Formula was identified in all situations. The highest frequency of this strategy was registered for R4 and R10, making up 8.2 percent per situation. Although R4 and R10 are different as far as social distance between the interlocutors is concerned; however, both situations share the equal status of the interlocutors (S=H) and the low imposition of the request performed in the situations. This reflects the idea that Suggestory Formula best suits situations where neither the speaker nor the hearer dominates the other, while the request performed bears low imposition on the hearer.

As for Performative strategy, 15 instances of this strategy were identified across R2, R3, R6, R7, and R11. The highest frequency registered for R7, constituting 8.2 percent of the request strategies performed in this situation. The speaker dominates the hearer and there is no social distance between them; and the imposition of the request is evaluated as high in R7 where the most instances of the strategy Performative were realized. R1, R4, R5, R8, R9, R10, and R11 registered no instance of Performative strategy.

One important finding of this study is one of the request strategies through which Persian male speakers realized their request, which was termed Challenging Ability. The researcher found no instance of this strategy in politeness and speech act studies conducted previously (e.g., Eslamirasekh, 1993; Felix-Brasdefer, 2005; Marti, 2006; Zhang et al., 2007; Jalilifar, 2009). Even though the frequency of use of this strategy identified in this study is rather low, it does serve to be one of the significant contributions of this study, instantiating a culture-specific request realization strategy. The Challenging Ability strategy, however, registered the highest frequency in R8, a total of 6.5 percent of the strategies. The most contributive context-internal and context-external variables to the Challenging Ability strategy are consequently where the speaker dominates the hearer, they know one another well, and the imposition of the request is low as in example (3).

(3) taipe in nameha 5 daghigheh bishtar nist, age tonesti?

(Typing these letters does not take more than 5 minutes, if you could?)

Finally, the strategy Obligation Statement was identified in no situation except for R7 where it is used the least (1.6%). In R7, the speaker dominates the hearer and the imposition of the request is evaluated as high; however, there is no social distance between them. There is only one instance of the strategy Obligation Statement in R7; labeling this strategy the fewest used strategy. The infrequent use of this strategy reveals that Persian male participants of this study did not prefer to perform a request through Obligation Statement strategy. This may be due to the compulsory sense that can be reflected through the realization of Obligation Statement strategy. In Persian culture, the realization of a request through the strategy Obligation Statement can minimize the probability to get the addressee's consent to fulfill the request.

5. Conclusions

The analysis of the data revealed that Persian males employ most of strategies of request speech acts which have been claimed by Blum-Kulka et al. (1989) to be universal. The request strategies identified in order of frequency in the data are: Mood derivable, Query Preparatory, Need Statement, Suggestory Formula, Hint, Performative, and Obligation Statement.

The direct request strategies employed by the participants of the study include Mood Derivable, Want Statement, Performative and Obligation Statement which altogether nominate the Direct category of request strategies as the most frequent request category as well. The frequency of Direct request strategies indicates that Persian males prefer to formulate their requests through the strategy Mood Derivable as the first linguistic choice among all request strategies in this study. Moreover, the dominance and distance relation between the interlocutors in a situation, as well as the imposition of request on the hearer, were found not to be influencing the choice of Mood Derivable as a Direct request strategy among Persian male speakers. As such, the study can consider Mood Derivable as a context-independent request strategy as far as context-internal and context-external variables are concerned.

On the contrary, Persian participants' avoidance to formulate a direct request through the universal strategy Obligation Statement, which is called Locution Derivable in Blum-Kulka et al.'s (1989) term, indicates that in Persian culture any impression of obligation expressed verbally is not a favorable linguistic choice, particularly when the obligation is supplemented with verbal directness. Another explanation is that in Persian culture, the realization of a request through the strategy Obligation Statement can minimize the probability to get the addressee consent to fulfill the request.

Moreover, Need Statement as the other request strategy from among Direct category of request strategies is used by Persian male speakers particularly where the request imposition borne on the hearer is high.

The analysis of Direct request also revealed that Performative strategy is not a favorable request strategy among Persian male speakers in most situations. In other words, the use of the strategy Performative in few situations reflects that informal direct request strategies, e.g. Mood Derivable and Want Statement, are preferable to a formal direct request strategy, for instance Performative among Persian males (formality to this study means the appropriateness of the syntactic structure of request strategy in formal context).

The second frequent request strategy, namely Query Preparatory, nominates Conventional Indirect category of request strategies as the second preferred request strategy among Persian male speakers. The results also showed that Query Preparatory is situation-independent and has nothing to do with imposition, distance and dominance as the social variables involved in the situation where the request is realized. The other strategy of Conventional Indirect category of request strategy, namely Suggestory Formula, was most often preferred by Persian male speakers in situations where neither the speaker nor the hearer dominated the other and the request performed borne low imposition on the hearer.

As For Non-Conventional Indirect category of request strategy, Persian male speakers do not prefer to use this request strategy frequently particularly when they have a dominant relation with the requestee. Jalilifar (2009) believes that "non-conventionally indirect request requires the hearer to deduce the speaker's intention, which can be a burden to the hearer". Therefore, the use of Non-Conventional Indirect request by the speaker requires resorting

to the inferential ability of the addressee, which does not persuade the use of Non-Conventional Indirect requests among Persian males.

As a result of complementary analysis of the data beyond the classic data analysis framework (e.g., Blum-Kulka et al., 1989) which is used in most of the previous studies on request strategies, the study shows that Persian male speakers also apply culture-specific strategies to realize request speech acts. The Challenging Ability strategy is used by Persian males especially when the speaker is dominating the hearer, they know one another well, and the imposition of the request is low. Since no traces of this strategy were found in previous studies on request (e.g., Eslamirasekh, 1993; Felix-Brasdefer, 2005; Marti, 2006; Zhang et al., 2007; Jalilifar, 2009), the researcher adds up this strategy to the inventory of Direct request strategies.

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