Pragmatic Perception Of Politeness In Requests English Language Essay


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Chapter 1


The present research study aimed to investigate comparatively the pragmatic perception of politeness in request patterns across cultures of Native English Speakers (EL1s) and Native Punjabi speakers speaking English as second language (Punjabi ESLs) in academic settings. Every culture displays its own unique politeness patterns in its verbal behavior. During the interaction of people belonging from different cultures, they inclined to have interpretations of the utterances of cultural "others" at the basis of their own native language systems or according to the conventions of their own cultural settings. The nonnative speakers (NNS) may have the appropriate grammatical and lexical knowledge of the targeted language but still they fail to communicate smoothly in some certain situations due to their lack of pragmatic knowledge of the target language. This tendency leads towards misunderstandings and creates 'pragmatic failure' which is the inability to understand what is meant by what is said (Thomas 1983). This pragmatic failure due to the negative transfer of first language (L1) to the second language may also be considered as unfriendly, or even in some cases as racial prejudiced or rude. This is the very situation which gives birth to offensive stereotypes. So there is a stereotype that Punjabis (Punjabi speakers) are not much polite.

This Study will explore the similarities and differences at the basis of cultures displayed in the request patterns produced by native speakers of English and native Punjabi Language speakers speaking English as second language in academic settings.

1.1 Purpose of the Study

The purpose for this research study is to improve cross cultural communication between English and Punjabi Native speakers by having awareness of differences in the cultural conventions in making requests. This will help to avoid communication breakdown and to minimize unconscious offensiveness. Making request is the most sensitive act of speech; the requstee expects a considerable degree of politeness from the requester. If both belong to two different cultures then this situation becomes more crucial, as it can be considered as a face threatening Act (FTA) by the addressee because due to lack of politeness from the part of speaker. Politeness belongs to morality, decorum and mannerism. To show politeness makes the interaction of the people more smooth and effective. The act of request, whose illocutionary force is to ask others for some favor or to oblige the speaker in some way, has great application in routine life. The request situation requires the highest degree of politeness because it imposes the requester's wish on the requestee and restricts requestee's freedom of action. Therefore, in order to achieve perlocutionary success (Brown and Levinson 1987; for further discussion, see Chapter 2) and to preserve good social relationships, requester need to consider carefully the social variables like social power, social distance between the requester and the requestee and the ranking of request weightage according to the social status of the requestee and the nature of request situation. When the speakers belonging from some other culture need to make request in a second language during cross cultural communication they try to bridge the differences in cultural conventions by the shifting of request patterns from their own native language to the targeted language and result is in inappropriate requests for the addressee. This is because of language inequalence and due to differences in the cultures.

1.2 Background and Motivation of the Study:

In 1980s, the concepts of communicative competence (Canale & Swain, 1980) and pragmatic competence (Bachman, 1990) were discussed, then more and more researches were done in the field of cross cultural and interlanguage pragmatics about how the learners' pragmatic behaviors deviated from native speakers' because of pragmatic transfer (Kasper, 1992) or cultural-specific interactional style (Kasper & Blum-Kulka, 1993). The study of Cross-cultural speech act realization project (CCSARP) (Blum-Kulka, House & Kasper, 1989) was among the earliest study in cross-cultural/interlanguage studies on the speech act of request and apology this study used the instrument of Discourse Completion Tasks (DCT) in it various contextual or situational factors that may affect request behaviors like Degree of Imposition, , Obligation, Distance and Status , etc., were examined. By following the scheme of CCSARP, many interlanguage studies were later carried out on other kind of speech acts such as apology (Meier, 1998; Holmes, 1990; Rose, 2000; Trosborg, 1995), complaints (Boxer, 1993; Cohen & Olshtain, 1993; Olshtain & Weinbach, 1993; Tatsuki, 2000), expressing thanks (Aston, 1995; Eisenstein & Bodman, 1993), compliments (Nelson, Bakary & Batal, 1996; Wolfson, 1989) and especially request (Barron, 2003; Blum-Kulka & House, 1989; Blum-Kulka, 1989; Weizman, 1989;Blum-Kulka, 1991; Cohen & Olshtain, 1993; Ed mondson & House, 1991; Ellis, 1992; García, 1993; Hassall, 2001; Li, 2000; Rose, 1999, 2000; Schauer, 2004;Suh, 1999; Takahashi, 1996; Trosborg, 1995; Upadhyay, 2003; Xinran Dong, 2009).

1.2.1 Requests

A request is an act by which the requester wants from the requestee to do or not to do something for him. The illocutionary force of request patterns is to ask others for some favor or to oblige the speaker in some way. It has a great application in routine life. The speech act of request can be taken as a "directive" in a broader sense. Directives are "acts which attempt to get the hearer to do something" (Searle, 1975) so the Directive speech act is those utterances which attempt to get someone to do something.

In the present research study, a close definition of request by Trosborg (1995) is applied for the research purpose. Trosborg defines request as "an illocutionary act whereby a speaker (requester) conveys to a hearer (requestee) that he/she wants the requestee to perform an act which is for the benefit of the speaker". The request can be for an object, an action or service, and it can also be for some information. All of these types of requests are considered in this study. According to Trosborg (1995), "The act of requesting is for the benefit of the speaker and at the cost of the addressee, and this helps to distinguish requests from other speech acts.

The features "benefit to speaker", "cost to hearer" are, in principle, decisive when distinguishing requests from other acts in which the speaker tries to exert his/her influence over the hearer". In this way, these decisive features distinguish acts of request from other impositive speech acts like order, instruction, warning or suggestion, and so in this sense the speech act of request is adopted in the present study.

1.2.2 English Language:

English was brought to Britian by German Invaders from the various parts of today's northwest Germany and Netherlands..It is a West Germanic language and it was originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects. In the beginning old English, has a diverse kinds of dialect. Later many changes happened in the structure of English and between 1100-1200 old English became Middle English. The English of 16th century and later is modern English. The first English Dictionary was published in 1603 and 18th there was invention of English grammar.. After, the use of English language greatly increased in the world and Now, English has become one of the greatest languages of the world spoken natively and as a second language. English is now the third greatest language in term of native speakers after Chinese and Spanish. Today the native speakers of English are almost 320 millions (Summer Institute for Linguistics (SIL) Ethnologue Survey 1999).

1.2.3 Punjabi Language:

Punjabi Language is an Indo-Aryan language, which is spoken by the inhabitants of the historical Punjab regions of both in Pakistan and India. The native speakers of Punjabi Language are approximately 88 million. In the world, Punjabi is the 11th most widely spoken language (According to the Ethnologue 2005 estimate). This language is the most significant for Sikh community and in Indian subcontinent Punjabi speaking population is one of the greatest and, the majority of Punjabi speakers are from Pakistan. It is the most spoken language of Pakistan. Almost 44.15% of Pakistanis speak Punjabi as their first Language. It has the greatest ethnic group in the country. Punjabis speakers are dominant in main institutions of Pakistan like business, government, army, police agriculture and industry that's why almost 70% of Pakistanis can understand or speak this language. In India this language is the official language of Indian Punjab and of Chandigarh. Punjabi is also one of the official languages of Delhi and it is also the second language of Haryana.

Punjabi Language was emerged as an independent language from the Sauraseni Apabhramsa in the 11th century. This is the language in which many ancient Sufi mystics and then later Guru Nanak Dev ji, who was the first Guru of the Sikhism, started their literary traditions. The ancient Punjabi literature has had a very rich oral tradition and It has also spiritual in its nature. Great literary works were composed in Punjabi by Muslim Sufi, Sikh and Hindu writers between 1600 and 1850. The first famous Punjabi sufi poet was Baba Bulleh. The Punjabi Language right from its origin is considered as the language of peace and tranquility.

1.3 Aims of Research:

The following are the aims of this research study.

To find out the core request strategies, internal and external modifications used by English Native Speakers in academic settings while making requests.

To find out the strategies, internal and external modifications used by Punjabi Native Speakers speaking English as L2 in academic settings while making requests.

To search out the similarities and differences in the use of core strategies, internal and external modifications in request patterns of English Native Speakers (English L1s) and Punjabi ESLs in the academic settings.

To explore the reasons of development of offensive stereotype that labels Punjabi speakers as less polite especially in request patterns in cross-cultural communication.

1.4 Research questions

In the present research study, a detailed analysis of requests made in different academic contexts by the native English speakers and native Punjabi speakers speaking English as L2 will be conducted. The researcher has considered the following research questions:

What are the strategies, internal and external modifications used by English Native Speakers in academic settings while making requests?

What are the strategies, internal and external modifications used by Punjabi Native Speakers speaking English as L2 in academic settings while making requests?

What are the similarities and differences in the use of core strategies, internal and external modifications in request patterns of English Native Speakers (English L1s) and Punjabi ESLs in the academic settings

What are the reasons of development of offensive stereotype that labels Punjabi speakers as less polite especially in request patterns in cross-cultural communication?

1.5 Domain of Research Study:

The present research study about request patterns of native English speakers and of native Punjabi speakers speaking English as second language, is confined to the academic context of both cultures. The participants of the study are all university students of various levels from both cultures. So the request situations in Discourse Completion Test (DCT) and Scaled Response Questionnaire (SRQ) are very much familiar to them. All situations are related to student life in campus so this provides the most reliable data from the students, rather to compel them to pretend as the people of other social backgrounds. The domain of this research is restricted to academic settings only which is a tiny part of whole society and it is supposed that the people belonging to different social backgrounds may show different request strategies. Yet it is expected that any specific part of the society reflects the culture of whole society and therefore it can be taken as a representative part of that society.

Furthermore, the politeness strategies in Request patterns also involve body language, behavorism, or prosodic features ( Intonation, tone or stress etc). However the present research study is only taking linguistic politeness patterns and leaving the other areas for future research studies.

1.6 Methodology:

This study aims to make a comparative analysis of request patterns by the English L1s and the Punjabi ESLs. The Native Punjabi students learning English as second language and Native English speaking students are the population of this research study. There is a Simple Random Selection of Sample of (30+30) students from English and Punjabi Native speakers in Academic Settings. In the present study, both the qualitative and quantitative methods are used to make this cross-cultural comparison.

The data is collected from two groups of students (30+30) i.e. English Native Speakers and Punjabi Native Speakers speaking English as L2. The researcher has applied Discourse completion Test (DCT) as the primary instrument of his research. In DCT nine Request Situations are created. These nine situations are of three random categories from High Request level Situations (Request for some great favor or from socially powerful addressee), Middle Request level Situations (Request for some middle level of favor), Low Request level Situations (Request for some minor favor). Every Situation in DCT shows some specific circumstances of Requests in academic settings and the respondents are asked to provide their responses by imagining these situations as real. The same DCT will be given to both Native English students and Native Punjabi students speaking English as L2 and both of them has produced their responses in English language.

The researcher has developed a Self Rating questionnaire (SRQ). This questionnaire consist of all the same nine situations of DCT test and the same respondents of English L1s and Punjabi ESLs has responded to this questionnaire on a rating scale of politeness level from very polite, polite, Neither polite nor impolite, impolite or very impolite. At this rating scale the respondents has given a self weightage of the imposition level of politeness in each situation.

The data is comparatively analyzed on the basis of core request patterns, external and internal modifications, the use of alerters like address forms or attention getters in both English and Punjabi Languages. The rating scale has incorporated in the written questionnaire for each situation so that the native speakers of English language and Native speakers of Punjabi Language speaking English as L2 can rate the weight of the request event; the goal is to elicit the interpretation of each requestive situation. This will allow comparison of cultural differences in Native English speakers and Native Punjabi Speakers speaking English as L2.

The total utterances of Native English data 270 (30 Ã- 9) from Native English speakers and total utterances of English data 270 (30 Ã- 9) from Native Punjabi speakers obtained from DCT are analyzed comparatively on the basis of numbers, percentages, means and types of core request patterns, external and internal modifications and the use of alerters like address forms or attention getters. A comparative analysis on the basis of numbers, percentages and means of coding scheme (5-very polite, 4-polite, 3-Neither polite nor impolite, 2-impolite or 1-very impolite) obtained from self rating weightage assessment of Request utterances against nine different situations (same as in DCT), has also taken from the Questionnaire. (For details, see Chapter 3)

1.7 Implications of the Study:

This Research study has investigated the requests patterns of native English speakers and Native Punjabi Speakers speaking English as L2. To my knowledge, there is no similar research work of comparison of requests patterns to date. So the findings of this research work may serve as a valuable resource for future studies of potential interlanguage pragmatics (ILP) or cross cultural studies, related to English and Punjabi Languages and their speakers.

Social variables has taken in this research are social power, social distance between the speaker and the addressee. However there may have additional factors which may play an important role in the request patterns of the speakers, such as the gender of the speaker and the addressee, the age range of the addressee, the education level of the speaker or addressee and so on...these topic are reserved for future research work in English and Punjabi languages.

A lot of problems in cross-cultural communications emerge from different perceptions of politeness more specially in the sensitive request situations in different cultures. The same requestive speech act being polite in one culture may be perceived as inappropriate, impolite, or even rude in other culture. Such misunderstanding can lead to stereotyping, which in turn harm communication. The present study will act as bridge between the perceptions of this cultural difference between the native speaker of the English and Native Punjabi language Speakers speaking English as L2.

In addition to this, the study will create awareness across the boundaries of Punjabi culture regarding its politeness in cross-cultural communication whether it is face-to-face interaction, electronic media, interviews, requests, invitations and imperative etc.

Furthermore this study will have pedagogical implications as well this will facilitate to develop a good methodology and awareness for the second language teaching and learning process of English for the Punjabi speakers.

1.8 Limitations:

The researcher has to face the following limitations in his research study.

The Native Punjabi Speaker students speaking English as second language are all learning English from many years and so they are under great influence of English language culture and its norms.

In spite of the researcher's instruction of considering the request situations as real the respondents may be somewhat extra conscious in their responses by feeling that their response is being analyzed.

1.9 Delimitations:

Because of the lack of resources and time, the present study is delimited to the following constraints.

The Native Punjabi Speaker students speaking English as second language of the University of Management and Technology Lahore-Pakistan are only taken as sample for Punjabi Students population.

For English Population, the sample is only taken from Canaims College Toronto Canada.

The social variables of the respondents like gender, education, marital status and age is not discussed and analyzed in the present study and it is left for the future research studies.

1.10 Organization of Thesis:

The thesis has the following settings of chapters. Chapter 2 consist of detailed review of related research works already done in this area. The methodology, which shows the population, participants, the method of data collection, and the instruments Discourse Completion Test (DCT) and Scaled Response questionnaire (SRQ), is described in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 presents the Result and Analysis of the Data obtained from the Native English speakers while Chapter 5 shows the Result and Analysis of the Data collected from the Native Punjabi speakers. Chapter 6 is the core chapter showing the comprehensive comparative analysis of Native English Speakers' data and Native Punjabi speakers' data. In this chapter the results are summarized to get findings and to move towards conclusions.

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