A Study on Strategies Used in Iraqi Arabic to Refuse Suggestions

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A Study on Strategies Used in Iraqi Arabic to Refuse Suggestions
Hiba Qusay Abdul Sattar, Salasiah Che Lah and Raja Rozina Raja Suleiman
Universiti Sains Malaysia
In the last two decades, many studies have been conducted to investigate speech act performance in
general, and the speech act of refusal to suggestion in particular. This genus of research has focused
on western languages (Beebe et al,1990), (Chen,1996), (Fe´lix-Brasdefer,2006). However, more re-
cently a number of studies have been carried out in eastern languages (Geyang, 2007), with only a
few in Arabic language and its varieties (Nelson, 2002), (Al-Issa, 2003), (Al-Kahtani, 2005). This study
is an attempt to outline the preferred semantic formulas used in refusing suggestions in Iraqi Arabic.
The corpus consists of responses to a Discourse Completion Test (DCT) that consisted of three dif-
ferent situations. The informants were 30 Iraqi Arabic native speakers studying at Universiti Sains Ma-
laysia, Malaysia. The survey was written in Arabic language to elicit responses that approximate ver-
bal refusals to suggestion that might be given in these situations. The corpus was analyzed and cate-
gorized according to the refusal taxonomy by Beebe et al (1990) to determine the strategies used and
the frequencies of their use. Results showed variation in the frequency and the content of semantic
formulas used by the group in relation to the contextual variables, which include the status of interlo-
cutors (higher, equal, or lower status).

Key words: Refusals, semantic formula, direct & indirect strategies
One of the main functions of language is to establish and maintain human relationships. In interaction,
the participants’ assumptions and expectations about people, events, places, etc., play a significant
role in the performance and interpretation of linguistic utterances. The choice of linguistic expressions
to convey certain communicative purposes is governed by social conventions and the individual’s as-
sessment of situations. (Nureddeen, 2008).
According to Tanck (2003) speakers employ a variety of speech acts, to achieve their communicative
goals, including Searle’s seminal broad categories – classification, commissives, declarations, direc-
tives, expressives, and representatives – as well as more specific acts such as apologies, requests,
complaints, and refusals (Kasper and Rose,2001). A speech act is an utterance that serves a function
in communication (e.g., apology, request or greeting). In this study the performance of refusals is in-
vestigated in Iraqi Arabic.
A refusal is to respond negatively to an offer, request, invitation and suggestion. Searle and Vanderv-
ken (1985, p. 195) define the speech act of refusal as follows: “the negative counterparts to accep-
tances and consentings are rejections and refusals. Just as one can accept offers, applications, and
invitations, so each of these can be refused or rejected". Refusals are face-threatening acts (Brown
and Levinson, 1987) and belong to the category of commissives because they commit the refuser to
(not) performing an action which calls for considerable cultural and linguistic expertise on the part of
the refuser. (Searle,1977). Refusals function as a response to an initiating act and are considered a
speech act by which a speaker ‘‘[fails] to engage in an action proposed by the interlocutor’’ (Chen et
al., 1995, p. 121). Moreover, refusals differ cross culturally and linguistically in that they require a high
level of appropriateness for their successful completion; very often, they are realized by means of
clearly identifiable formulae. Differences like these might cause misunderstanding or pragmatic failure
when people from different cultures need to interact with each other.
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Rationale for the study
Refusals are important because of their communicatively central place in everyday communication. In
many cultures, how one says "no" is probably more important than the answer itself. Therefore, send-
ing and receiving a message of "no" is a task that needs special skill. The interlocutor must know
when to use the appropriate form and its function depending on the community and its cultural-
linguistic values (Al-Kahtani,2005). Many studies have been conducted to investigate and identify the
cross-linguistic and cross-cultural influences on the use of various speech act realization strategies in
different languages. Consequently, any research that identifies cross-linguistic and cross-cultural in-
fluences on the use of various speech act realization strategies in Iraqi Arabic language can be exten-
sively beneficial to understand the culture of its speech community. As Rubin (1983) has pointed out,
speech acts reflect fundamental cultural values that may be specific to a speech community. Cultures
have been shown to vary drastically in their interactional styles, leading to different preferences for
modes of speech act behaviors. As a result, lack of knowledge of speech act realization patterns and
strategies across cultures can lead to breakdowns in intercultural and inter-ethnic communication. A
similar view was adopted by Nelson (2002) as he stated that one of the reasons for studying Arabic
communication relates to the misunderstanding of Arabs by many outside the Arab world. Of the li-
mited number of studies on Arabic communication style, many lump all Arabic-speaking countries to-
gether. Consequently, there has been no single attempt to investigate the features of Iraqi Arabic
speech acts more specifically refusal to suggestions. Thus, understanding and familiarization with Ira-
qi culture and the way Iraqis refuse using Iraqi Arabic language are required to improve communica-
tion with Iraqis. There are many differences between the Iraqi culture and other Arabic countries.
Studies on refusals to suggestions
Investigations into the speech act of refusing have been limited. Some significant studies have been
conducted on western and eastern languages, however, Beebe, Takahashi, and Uliss-Weltz (1990),
Chen (1996), (Fe´lix-Brasdefer, 2006) and recently (Geyang, 2007). The aim of these studies was to
find evidence of pragmatic transfer in the order, frequency, and content of semantic formulas used in
A number of studies on native speakers of Arabic have indicated that they often struggle to communi-
cate appropriately in English when refusing because of their pragmatic incompetence when they make
the speech act of refusals due to the sociocultural transfer of the mother tongue within the English per-
formance of refusals. This can be seen very clearly as they employ different semantic strategies that
obviously reflect interference of the mother tongue. They are also unable to minimize the potential dis-
ruption of the face-threatening refusal as it seems that they employ fewer appropriate strategies. (Al-
Issa, 2003, Brown, 2005, Al-Eryani, 2007, Al-Kahtani, 2005).
Through investigation into the speech act of refusing as made by native speakers of Arabic and Eng-
lish native speakers, researchers provided evidence of both cultural difference and pragmatic transfer.
For example, between Yemeni Arabic native speakers and American English native speakers (Al-
Eryani, 2007), Saudi and American male undergraduate students (Al-Shalawi, 1997), Egyptian Arabic
and US English (Nelson, 2002), Americans, Arabs and Japanese (Al-Kahtani, 2005) Jordanian EFL
(Al- Issa, 2003).
These studies compared the ways subjects performed refusals with respect to three dimensions of
semantic formulas: order, frequency and content of semantic formulas. In addition, the subjects were
given different situations in which the status of the refuser is equal, higher, or lower to the refusee. A
modified version of the 12-item discourse completion test (DCT) developed by Beebe, Takahashi, and
Uliss-Weltz (1990) was used to elicit data. The DCT included three situations in which participants are
asked to refuse a suggestion. The situation included one refusal to a person of higher status, one to a
person of equal status, and one to a person of lower status. (Al-Kahtani, 2005, (Nelson, 2002, Al-
Eryani 2007, Al-Shalawi, 1997). Data were analyzed in terms of semantic formula sequences and
were categorized according to the refusal taxonomy by Beebe et al (1990).
Findings indicated that they differed, however, in the employment of semantic formulas and in the con-
tent of refusals. For example Al-Shalawi (1997) pointed out that the selection of semantic formulas
reflected some important differences between Saudi and American cultures. Saudi refusals revealed
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collectivistic culture, while American refusals reflected individualistic culture. Some of the important
findings are:
1. Both Saudi and Americans used fewer semantic formulas when refusing suggestion as com-
pared with other speech act in the DCT.
2. Saudis used different semantic formulas (wish, future acceptance, philosophy, repeat and
postpone formulas) when refusing a suggestion from the advisor.
3. Saudis tend to use alternative, explanation and future acceptance to refuse a suggestion.
They feel that this is the only way to protect their self-image and the other persons.
Similarly, the main aim of Nelson’ (2002) study was to investigate American and Egyptian perceptions
of how they believe they would make refusals in particular situations in terms of strategy, level of di-
rectness and the influence of two social factors status and gender. The sample included 30 English-
speaking Americans in the US and 25 Arabic-speaking Egyptians in Egypt. To more closely simulate
real-life communication and because Arabic is a diglossic language, an interviewer read the situation
aloud and the participants responded verbally on audiotape, Egyptians in Arabic and Americans in
Results indicated that in terms of strategies, there were 963 strategies used in the Egyptian refusals.
The most common strategies used by the Egyptian respondents were similar to those used by the US
respondents. Reasons were the most common strategy used followed by Negative willingness, Non-
performative ‘‘no’’s were used in of the refusals. In terms of the relationship direct strategies, status,
and gender, the findings of this study showed that Egyptian males employed more direct strategies
when refusing individuals of either higher or lower status than the Americans. The findings are, how-
ever, consistent with those of Beebe et al. (1990), who found that in refusing requests from both high-
er- and lower-status individuals, Americans often employ indirect strategies.
On the other hand, Al-Kahtani (2005) in his study on refusal speech acts, assumed differences in the
ways people from different cultural backgrounds perform refusals even while using the same linguistic
code (i.e. English). Three groups of subjects, Americans, Arabs and Japanese are compared in the
ways they performed refusals. The aim of studying three groups of participants who differ in terms of
ethnicity and culture is to point out the differences in realizing speech acts of refusals in different cul-
tures and problems posed to L2 learners when producing speech acts in the target language.
Results indicated that when the refuser is higher in status to the refusee, American and the Japanese
subjects were alike in the order of semantic formulas that they used in that they expressed [gratitude]
first followed by [self defense] for Americans and [explanation] for the majority of the Japanese. Whe-
reas, Arab subjects did not express [gratitude] at all. While, refusing the suggestion made by a person
of equal status, most of the Americans and the Arabs were found to be similarly direct because they
started their refusals with direct negatives (i.e., [No] or [negative willingness]). The Japanese respon-
dents instead gave [explanation] as indirect refusals. On the other hand, the three groups were found
to vary considerably in the semantic formulas that they used in the first position when refusing a high
status. The American subjects started with [gratitude]; most of the Arabs expressed only [reason]
without any adjuncts; the Japanese subjects preferred to utter [agreement] first. Americans and the
Japanese were alike in their use of [statement of principle] as the second semantic formula. In sum,
finding showed that three groups were different in the ways they realized the speech act of refusal
with respect to the three dimensions of semantic formulas: the order, frequency and content.
Other studies examined the phenomenon of sociocultural transfer and its motivating factors within the
realization patterns of the speech act refusal. Al – Issa (2004) focused on the pragmatic transfer that
underlies the performance of Jordanian EFL learners when refusing. EFL refusal data were collected
using a discourse completion test (DCT), which was designed and further developed based on obser-
vational field note data. He included three situations designed to elicit refusal responses to sugges-
tions. The situations consisted of two different variables specifying the relationship between speaker
and hearer: social status (higher, lower, equal) and social distance (close, familiar, distant). The DCT
was written in both English and Arabic. His target group consisted of Jordanian L2 learners of English
as a foreign language (EFL group). In addition, two other reference groups consisting of Jordanian
native speakers of Arabic (ARS) and American native speakers of English (ENS). The results show
three areas in which sociocultural transfer is existent in EFL learners’ speech: choice of semantic for-
mulas, length of responses, and content of semantic formulas. Each was found to reflect cultural val-
ues transferred from Arabic to English.
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In other words, the employment of the semantic formula seems to reflect a native Arab cultural norm.
AL – Issa (2004) stated that whether in written or oral correspondence, Arabs are said to be more
rank-conscious than Westerners (Hamady, 1960). This is demonstrated by attempts to emphasize,
and even exaggerate their recognition of the higher social rank of their interlocutors as a way of show-
ing respect. For example, (faculty advisor suggesting another course in writing). In this situation, they
began their refusal responses by defining the relationship between their interlocutors and themselves
with regard to social status. This was accomplished by referring to the rank of the hearer (i.e., profes-
sor, teacher, doctor) or by using a formal address term such as ‘‘sir’’ (Arabic, si’di) which gave their
refusal responses a formal tone as seen in the following two refusal responses; the targeted formula is
(1) EFL:
‘‘OK dear sir but thank you for advise [sic] I don’t want to take this course now because I will take it
another time.’’
(2) ARS:
‘‘Mashi ya ‘austathi al?ziz laken b’saraha ana mush kwais bilkitaba wa lihatha alsabab ‘afadal ini asa-
gil mada thania.’’ (OK my dear professor but to tell the truth I’m not good in writing and for this reason
I would like to register for another course).
The use of the semantic formula define relationship reflects another native Arab cultural norm: show-
ing interest in the speech of those of a higher status. When responding to a suggestion by a higher
status person, Arabs usually feel obliged to express interest in what has been suggested even when
they do not agree with it. They do so not only to protect the hearer’s face, but also to avoid confronta-
Similarly, Al-Eryani (2007) provided an evidence of both cultural difference and pragmatic transfer be-
tween Yemeni Arabic native speakers and American English native speakers in the speech act of re-
fusing. He included only one situation on suggestion, which includes refusing equal status where a
friend suggests to his friend to 'try a new diet'. It identifies cross-cultural and linguistic differences be-
tween Yemeni Arabic native speakers and American English native speakers in the speech act of
refuse. All the groups tended to use the same strategies for refusal. They used ‘excuse’ expressions
in the first and second positions without differences, neither in the content nor in the order of the se-
mantic formula. “No” the direct refusal expression was also used by all the groups in the first positions
and almost by the same number of respondents. They tended to be more direct with peers in rejecting
their suggestions. Expression of ‘gratitude’ for example, “thank you” appeared in all positions but in
different order.
The present study
This study will focus on the speech act of refusals to suggestions. One should stress that this study
adopt the view that one should not lump all Arabic speaking countries. Arabic in Iraq, like Arabic all
over the Arab world, is of a diglossic nature. There are two varieties used: a ‘formal variety’ (Fusha)
which is similar to classical Arabic and a colloquial variety’ (Ammiyya) which is used in everyday
communication. Various dialects of Arabic are districts in that they reflect the social norms that are
specific to those speech communities. Thus, by looking at the speech acts of refusals to suggestions
in Iraqi Arabic reflect fundamental cultural values that may be specific to Iraqi speech community.
Whereas all pervious studies have looked at the interaction between NNSs and NSs of English in the
form of comparative studies discussing the differences in the performance of speech acts. There is no
single study done on the performance of Arabic native speakers and more specifically Iraqis, as far as
the speech act of refusals is concerned. Moreover, the study will look at the strategies used in a di-
alect language, i.e. Iraqi Arabic. In most of these studies, attention was given to the analysis of refus-
als to requests, invitation. Thus, the present study is a continuation of this line of research. It investi-
gates the linguistic means used by Iraqis to refuse suggestions.

The research questions are:
1. What are the frequently used strategies by Iraqis when refusing suggestions?
2. How do Iraqis realize the speech act of refusals in terms of the three dimensions of semantic
formulas: the order, frequency, and content in each of the four situations?
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3. How do Iraqis realize the speech act of refusals when the refuser is lower, equal, or higher in
status to the refusee?
Thirty Iraqi male university students participated in the study. Participants were native speakers of
Arabic and were pooled from one community in Iraq. All participants were natives of the state of
Baghdad, Iraq, shared the same regional Baghdadi dialect. They are currently postgraduate students
at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), pursuing either the master or doctoral degree for the year
2007\2008. their ages ranged from 21 to 26 years.
Data Elicitation
The primary data collection tool for this study was a modified Discourse Completion Test (DCT)
created by Al- Shalawi (1997). The DCT consists of three different situations designed to elicit refus-
als for suggestions. The situations were modified to make it more familiar the Iraqi life and culture.
Each situation aims to find out the distinction between the relationships of the participants, i.e. when
the speaker is of lower, equal or higher status. Since the study aimed to collect responses that are as
close to naturally occurring conversation as possible, it seemed more realistic and valid to ask infor-
mants to produce responses in the everyday language they speak although it is not common to use
that variety in writing. Thus, subjects were encouraged to write in the low variety, and to put the infor-
mant in the required mood, the situations themselves were written in colloquial Arabic. The scenarios
were also modified to make them more suitable and familiar to Iraqis. Respondents mostly responded
using the Baghdadi dialect( Iraqi Arabic).
Data analysis
The data were examined according to a modified classification of refusal strategies proposed by
Beebe et al. (1990), included direct and indirect refusals, and adjuncts to refusals (See section 3.4.).
This classification system has been widely used and adapted to examine refusals among native and
non-native speakers in different languages (Bardovi-Harlig and Hartfort, 1991; Gass and Houck, 1999;
Lyuh, 1992; Nelson et al., 2002; Ramos, 1991, Fe´lix-Brasdefer, 2006, Geyang 2007). While direct
refusals included instances where the speaker expressed his inability to comply by means of negative
propositions (e.g., ‘‘no’’, ‘‘I can’t’’), the indirect refusals used included various linguistic strategies by
which a suggestion indirectly refused. These encompassed eight different strategies: mitigated refus-
al, reason/explanation, indefinite reply, promise to comply, regret/ apology, alternative, postponement,
and set condition for future acceptance. Adjuncts to refusals comprised four strategies that expressed
involvement with the interlocutor: positive opinion, willingness, expression of gratitude, and agree-
Data was classified into semantic formulas in terms of the order (sequences), frequency, and content
of semantic formulas. The number of each semantic formula was counted and the frequently used
semantic formulas in each item.
Classification of refusal strategies (Adapted from Beebe et al., 1990)
This study follow the line of Beebe et al. (1990)’s through the adaptation of his classification on refusal
responses. The following is a modified version of the classification scheme used by Beebe et al.
(1990). Strategies not used in the data generated for this study were omitted from Beebe et al.’s clas-
sification scheme.
I. Direct
A. Performative (e.g., ‘‘I refuse.’’)
B. Non-performative statement
1. ‘‘No’’
2. Negative willingness/ ability (e.g., ‘‘I can’t.’’ ‘‘I won’t be able to give them to you.’’)
II. Indirect strategies
3. Regret - (‘I’m very sorry’)
4. Explanation ‘I want to leave now’
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5. Future acceptance ‘I can help you tomorrow after final exam’
6. Principle ‘I don’t like lazy students who like easy note taking’
7. Philosophy ‘excuse is worse than sin’
8. Self defense ‘you should have attended class’
9. Criticism
10. Attack
III. Adjuncts to Refusals
11. Positive Opinion -‘Congratulations on your promotion. I am very glad!’)
12. Gratitude - (‘Thanks for the invitation’)
13. Agreement - (Yes, I agree, but . . .’)
Results and discussion
This section presents the results and discussions obtained in the three refusal situations. Results and
discussion will include the realization of the speech acts of refusals in terms of the three dimensions of
semantic formulas: the order, frequency, and content in each of the four situations will be analyzed. In
addition to that, the realization of the speech act of refusals when the refuser is lower, equal, or higher
in status to the refusee will also be examined.
Semantic formulas
Figure (1) shows the descriptive number of the main semantic formula employed by the subjects in the
three situations. The most distinguished semantic formula used by the respondent is “explanation”
(54). Another distinguished feature is that they utilized No (38) in the first position of their refusals.
Subjects employed a number of direct and indirect strategies.

Figure (1): Frequency count of the semantic formulas used in all situations
ion ogy
pinion ener
anc pone tack ciple
stions iticism
use filler
N. o
N. willin
Self defen
ture a

Direct strategies
These strategies refer to verbal messages that embody and invoke speaker’s true intensions in terms
of their wants, needs and discourse process. This corresponds to Brown and Levinson’s on record
strategy (1987) with respect to the precisions and clarity of the communicative intention. In this study,
subjects employed the following direct strategies:
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1- Negation of a proposition
In this category, the response contains an element that negates the proposition used (suggestion).
Negation can be expressed syntactically by using the negative particle (no), or lexically using a word
that directly negates the proposition. In Iraqi Arabic, five negative particles are identified by Erwin
(1963): ( laa, la, ma, muu, wala). He stated that (laa) is usually equivalent to the English word no.
However it is equivalent to the word not when it appears in the final position. (La) is used with imper-
fect indicative verb to form negative commands. (ma) is used to negate verbs and active participles
functioning as verbs. (muu) is frequently used in exclamatory and rhetorical questions but is mainly
used to negate all forms other than those mentioned. This particle is not used to negate verbs. (wala)
which means “ and not, nor, or” is used when two items are negated. After the first negation occurs
the second particle (wala) or sometimes (walaa) is used e.g. La taakl wala tishrab il-yoomeen [ don’t
eat or drink for two days. Examples cited from data obtained:


ﻚﻳار ﻻ

‘No ,your opinion is not correct’



بﺎﺘﻜﻟا اﺬه ﻲﻘﻳﺪﺻ ﻻ

‘No my friend, this book is not so difficult’




ﺮﻴﺼﻴﻣ اﺬه ﻻ

‘No, this is not acceptable (and it is not okay)’
2- Negative ability and negative willingness.
ﻲﺿﺎﻤﻟا سرﻮﻜﻟﺎﺑ ﺎﻬﺗﺬﺧا نﻻ

ةدﺎﻤﻟا ﺬﺧا رﺪآا


I can’t take this course because I took it last semester’
ﺎﺳأر ﺚﺤﺒﻟا ﺔﺑﺎﺘﻜﺑ يﺪﺑا حار ةدﺎﻤﻟا يﺎﻬﻟا جﺎﺘﺣا ﺪﻘﺘﻋا ﺎﻣ

‘I don’t think I need this course, I’ll start writing research soon’
ةدﺎﻤﻟا ﺬﺧا ﺪﻳرا ﺎﻣ ﻲﻧا ذﺎﺘﺳا ﻮﻔﻌﻟا ﻻ

‘I’m sorry sir ;I don’t like to take this course’
The employment of the semantic formula negation or mitigated a refusal and explanation seems to
reflect a native Arab cultural norm. Arabs adhere to strict, formal rules of behavior and politeness. For
an Arab, good manners require that one never flatly refuse a request from a friend. This does not
mean that the favor must actually be done, but rather that the response must not be stated as a defini-
tive “no.” If an Arab friend asks for a favor, it should be done if possible. If the favor is unreasonable,
illegal, or too difficult, listening carefully, expressing doubt about the outcome and promising to help is
appropriate. Later, an expression of regret and an offer to do another favor is advisable. Arabs feel
obliges to come up with convincing and elaborated explanations for their refusals not only to save their
own face but also to protect the face of others. Iraqis find it very difficult to refuse a suggestion by say-
ing a flat “no” or “I can’t”. Instead, they feel obliged to come up with very convincing excuse and ex-
planations to save not only their face but others. For non Arabs, this might sound like an exaggeration,
insincerity and waste of time. But for an Iraqi consider other’s face is essential.
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Indirect strategies
According to Leech (1983: 123) on the indirectness scale “ illocutions are ordered with respect to the
path (in terms of means –end analysis) connecting the illocutionary act to its illocutionary goal”. Defini-
tions of these strategies and examples are presented below.
Reason /explanation
In this strategy, the respondent indirectly refuses a suggestion by providing an excuse, reason or ex-
planation, which can be general or specific, i.e. not include or include detailed information that indirect-
ly mitigates the refusal. Examples:

سرﻮﻜﻟﺎﺑ ﺎﻬﺗﺬﺧا
نﻻ ةدﺎﻤﻟا ﺬﺧا رﺪآا ﺎﻣ

‘I can’t take this course because I took it last semeste’
ةﺪﻤﻟا ﻩﺬه لﻮﻐﺸﻣ ﺶﻠآ ﻲﻧاو ﺔﻐﻟ سرﻮآ يﺪﻨﻋ ﻪﺴه نﻻ رﺪآا ﺎﻣ ﻻ

‘No, I can’t because I have a language course now ,and I’m so busy’
ﺎﻬﻌﺟارا حار ﺔﺑﺎﺘﻜﻟا ءﺎﻨﺛاو ﺎﻬﺳراد ﻲﻧا ﻮﻣ

‘I have taken this course before and during my research writing I‘ll revise it’
Apology / regret
According to Olshtain (1983), “the act of apologizing requires an action or an utterance which is in-
tended to ‘set things right’”. An apology is basically a speech act which is intended to provide support
for the H (hearer) who is actually or potentially malaffected by a violation X (Olshtain 1989). In the
case of refusals apologizing or expressing regret function as an indirect refusal which politely miti-
gates the refusal to accept the suggestion. Regret is often stated in Iraqi Arabic with the phrase Asif or
. An example of the use of a regret statement is seen in the following where the respondent
refused a suggestion from his professor on registering for a course to be taken. Examples:
ﺎﻔﻠﺳ ﺎﻬﺘﺳرد ﻲﻧا يذﺎﺘﺳا رﺬﺘﻋا

‘I’m sorry sir, I have taken this course in advance’
ﺖﻗﻮﻟﺎﺑ ﻞﻬﺑ ﻪﺴه رﺪآا ﺎﻣ ﻒﺳا

‘I’m sorry, I can’t just now’
ﺚﺤﺒﻟﺎﺑ ﻲﺋادا ﻰﻠﻋ ﺮﺛﺎﺗا حار نﻻ ةدﺎﻤﻟا ﺬﺧا رﺪآا ﺎﻣ ﻒﺳا

‘I’m sorry, I can’t take any course because it’ll affect my performance in research writing’.
3- Openers
Openers are defined as linguistic elements that are used to attract the hearer’s attention to the speech
act (Blum-Kulka et al., 1989). In this study, openers were mainly titles. For instance, a speaker nor-
mally uses an Opener (title), when s/he is aware of the social status of the addressee, and an Opener
(name) when s/he knows the addressee personally. Examples:
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ﺎﻬﺟﺎﺘﺣا ﺪﻘﺘﻋا ﺎﻣ ﺰﻳﺰﻌﻟا يذﺎﺘﺳا ﺲﺑ

‘But my dear professor ,I think there is no need’
The employment of the semantic formula (openers) by subjects seems to reflect a native Arab cultural
norm. Whether in written or oral correspondence, Arabs are said to be more rank-conscious (Al – Is-
sa, 2003). This is demonstrated by attempts to emphasize, and even exaggerate their recognition of
the higher social rank of their interlocutors as a way of showing respect. Participants employed the
formula that define relationship mainly when their refusals were intended for a higher social status in-
terlocutor, as was the case in situation 1 ( a professor suggest a research methods course to be tak-
en). In this situation, they began their refusal responses by defining the relationship between their in-
terlocutors and themselves with regard to social status. This was accomplished by referring to the
rank of the hearer (i.e., professor, teacher, doctor) which gave their refusal responses a formal tone.
4- Criticism & Attack
In this strategy, the respondents indirectly refuse a suggestion by criticism and attack. These strate-
gies were mainly used in situation three when refusing a low status person, a freshman student who
suggests keeping the exercises prepared by a graduate tutor. This can be explained by the influence
of the academic context on the respondent, i.e. the tutor. Being a tutor makes the respondent more
obliged to offer a constructive criticism and even sometimes an attack with more explanations. More
justification is offered to soften threat or damage that might be caused by giving an attack or a criti-
cism on an Arab’s honor and to make sure that the use of this strategy is for the benefit of the hearer
and its purpose is constructive and not to be taken as a personal insult. Examples:
ﺢﻴﺤﺻ ﻮﻣ ﻚﻳار ﻻ

‘No your opinion is not correct’
ﺐﻌﺼﻟا ﻰﻠﻋ ﻢﻠﻌﺘﺗ
ضوﺮﻔﻤﻟا ﻂﻠﻏ ﺖﻧا

‘You are wrong. It is supposed you learn how to encounter difficult problems’
Subjects also employed the semantic formula “attack”.


ﺮﻴﺼﻳ نﻮﻠﺷ ﻢﻜﺴﻔﻧ نﻮﺒﻌﺗ ﺎﻣ اذا

‘Unless you study hard, you won’t succeed’

ﻪﻔﺴﻠﻓ نوﺪﺑ ﺖﻜﺴﺗو ﻩاﺮﻘﺗ ﻚﻨﻣ بﻮﻠﻄﻣ بﺎﺘﻜﻟا ﻚﻨﻋ ﻩاﺮﻘﻳ ﺪﺣاو ﺪﻳﺮﺗ ﻲﺠﺤﻟا اﺬه ﻮﻨﺷ

‘What speech this is! You want someone to read the book instead of you. You are to read and say no
نﻮﺤﺠﻨﺘﻣ ﻢه ﻪﻠﺌﺳﻻا ﻢﻜﻴﻄﻧا ﻮﻟو ﺲﺑو حﺎﺠﻧ نودﺮﺗا نﻮﻤﻠﻌﺘﺗ

ﻦﻴﻳﺎﺠ ﺮﻴﺧ ﻢﻜﺳاﺮﺑ ﺮﻴﺼﻴﻣ ﻮﺘﻧا

© LSC-2010
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The International Journal of Language Society and Culture

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ISSN 1327-774X
‘You are not getting better. You are not coming to learn. Do you want success only and if I had given
you the questions you would never have succeed’.
5- Positive opinion / agreement
The refuser provided positive expressions before or after the main refusal in order to maintain positive
face with interlocutor. Iraqi respondents feel more obliged to show interest in the subject suggested
and thus they express their agreement with the idea suggest before stating an indirect refusals by giv-
ing more justifications and explanation for rejecting the suggestion made. Examples:
ةدﺎﻤﻟا يﺎﻬﺑ ﻒﻌﺿ يﺪﻨﻋ ﺲﺣا ﻲﻧا ﻲﺑ


‘I agree with you but I feel I am weak in this course and need more practice’
..ﻩﻮﺳ ﻦﻴﺗدﺎﻤﻟا ﺬﺧا ﺪﻳرا ﻲﻧا ﺲﺑ حاﺮﺘﻗا شﻮﺧ ﺔﻘﻴﻘﺤﻟا

‘In fact, it is a good suggestion but I want to take both courses..’
ﺖﻗﻮﻟا ﻰﻠﻋ ﺪﻤﺘﻌﺗ ﺲﺑ ةﺪﻴﻔﻣ ﻲه ﷲاو

‘I swear, it is useful but depends on time’
Semantic formulas according to refuser status
According to Beebe et al. [1990], refusals are made up of different selections from these formulas in
accordance with the status and power relationship between speaker and hearer. In refusing someone
with lower status, Iraqi refusers who are in a higher status do not use apology or regret. In refusing
persons with higher status, Iraqis use more mitigation strategies than in addressing persons with low-
er status. Table (1) below shows the frequency of the semantic formula according the refuser status.
© LSC-2010
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