The pragmatics of refusals in English and Japanese: Alternative approaches to negotiation

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Abstract

We examine refusals negotiated and understood by adult female native speakers of American English and Japanese. In open role-plays produced by 8 pairs of Japanese and 8 pairs of American English speakers, a request was refused. Semi-structured post-hoc interviews with participants and interpretations were triangulated with bilingual experts. For all participants, a successful outcome involved a speech act set negotiated through several conversational turns. While both groups used fillers, softeners, hedges, and backchannels, fragmented utterances were more common among Japanese speakers. Americans frequently offered alternative plans and commented on the importance of honesty while Japanese participants often implied refusal, using postponement. Some American refusals were experienced as impolite by Japanese informants, while Americans identified the Japanese postponement strategy as problematic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-117
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Issue number208
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2011

Keywords

  • English refusals
  • Japanese refusals
  • intercultural pragmatics
  • intercultural refusal strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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