A Contrastive Analysis of Disagreement Speech act Used by Native Speakers of English and Iraqi EFL Learners in light of Politeness Strategies

Main Article Content

Zeinab Al Jaid
Mohammad Ghazanfari


Introduction: Effective communication often involves expressing disagreement while maintaining social harmony, which is influenced by cultural and linguistic norms. Native speakers of English typically employ various politeness strategies in their disagreement speech acts. However, Iraqi EFL learners may navigate these strategies differently due to variations in cultural norms and language proficiency. Therefore, the current study aimed to contrastively analyze the way Iraqi EFL learners and native English speakers perform the speech act of disagreement in light of politeness.

Methodology: In this regard, a discourse completion test (DCT) was administered to 66 participants, comprising 33 Iraqi EFL students studying English as a foreign language (TEFL) and 33 native English speakers. The DCT was made up of scenarios that mirrored real-life circumstances in order to provoke responses from people who disagreed with them. Brown and Levinson’s (1987) theory of politeness was employed to analyze participants’ utterances.  

Results:  The findings indicated that while expressing disagreement with people of higher, participants in both groups were more concerned with keeping their interlocutors’ positive faces. Furthermore, the study findings indicated that despite differences in the two groups of participants, Iraqi EFL learners utilized positive indirect politeness strategies more frequently than English native speakers. On the other hand, English native speakers applied direct and negative politeness strategies.

Conclusion: Generally, the findings indicated that both groups tended to use the most direct type of disagreement as the social distance and power relation decreased.

Article Details

How to Cite
Al Jaid, Z., & Ghazanfari, M. (2023). A Contrastive Analysis of Disagreement Speech act Used by Native Speakers of English and Iraqi EFL Learners in light of Politeness Strategies . Journal of Contemporary Language Research, 2(3), 139–148. https://doi.org/10.58803/jclr.v2i3.79
Research Articles


Abed, A. (2011). Pragmatic transfer in Iraqi learners’ refusals. International Journal of English Linguistics, 1(2), 166-185. https://doi.org/ 10.5539/ijel.v1n2p166

Abdul Sattar, H. Q., & Lah, S. C. (2011). Intercultural communication: Iraqi and Malaysian postgraduates’ requests. Issues in Intercultural Communication, 3(1), 65-82.‏

Alaoui, S. M. (2011). Politeness principle: A comparative study of English and Moroccan Arabic requests, offers and thanks. European Journal of Social Sciences, 20(1), 7-15.‏

Al-Eryani, A. A. (2007). Refusal strategies by Yemeni EFL learners. The Asian EFL Journal, 9(2), 19-34.

Alkheder, B., & Al-Haq, F. A. (2018). Disagreement strategies used in Jordanian Arabic. US-China Foreign Language, 16(8), 422-438.‏ https://doi.org/10.17265/1539-8080/2018.08.005

Al-Marrani, Y. M. A., & Sazalie, A. (2010). Polite request strategies by male of Yemeni Arabic in male-male interaction and male-female interaction. The International Journal of Language Society and Culture, 30(30), 63-80.‏

‏ Al-Momani, H. S. (2009). Caught between two cultures: The realization of requests by Jordanian EFL learners (Unpublished doctrol dissertation). Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, USA.

Al-Shboul, Y., Maros, M., & Mohd Yasin, M. S. (2012). An intercultural study of refusal strategies in English between Jordanian EFL and Malay ESL postgraduate students. 3L:

Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies, 18(3), 34-47.

Al-Tayib Umar, A. M. (2006). The speech act of complaint as realized by advanced Sudanese learners of English. Umm Al-Qura University. Journal of Educational & Social Sciences & Humanities, 18(2), 9-40.

‏Asghar, S. A., Ranjha, M. I., & Yasmin, S. (2021). EFL learners’ politeness strategies in expression of disagreement. PalArch’s Journal of Archaeology of Egypt/Egyptology, 18(10), 141-153.‏

Bataineh, R. F. (2004). A cross-cultural study of the speech act of apology in American English and Jordanian Arabic (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, USA.

Bavarsad, S. S., Eslami-Rasekh, A., & Simin, S. (2015). The study of disagreement strategies to suggestions used by Iranian male and female learners. International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, 49, 30-42. https://doi.org/10.18052/www.scipress.com/ILSHS.49.30

Behnam, B., & Niroomand, M. (2011). An investigation of Iranian EFL learners’ use of politeness strategies and power relations in disagreement across different proficiency levels. English Language Teaching, 4(4), 204-220. https://doi.org/10.5539/elt.v4n4p204

Blum-Kulka, S., & Olshtain, E. (1986). Too many words: Length of utterance and pragmatic failure. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 8(2), 165-179. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263100006069

Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in

language usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511813085

Celce-Murcia, M., Dörnyei, Z., & Thurrell, S. (1995). Communicative competence: A pedagogically motivated model with content specifications. Issues in Applied Linguistics, 6(2), 5-35. https://doi.org/10.5070/L462005216

Chen, S., Geluykens, R., & Choi, C. J. (2006). The importance of language in global teams: A linguistic perspective. Management International Review, 46(6), 679-696.‏ https://doi.org/10.1007/s11575-006-0122-6

Cohen, A. D. (2017). Teaching and learning second language pragmatics. In E. Hinkel (Ed.), Handbook of research in second language teaching

and learning (pp. 428-452). New York, NY: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315716893-31

Crystal, D. (2003). English as a global language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511486999

Derakhshan, A. (2019a). The relationship between Iranian EFL learners’ proficiency level and their knowledge of idiosyncratic and formulaic implicatures. Language Related Research, 10(5), 1-27.

Derakhshan, A. (2019b). Review of the book Routledge handbook of second language acquisition and pragmatics. Applied Linguistics, 42(5), 1029-1032. https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/amz031

Derakhshan, A., & Arabmofrad, A. (2018). The impact of instruction on the pragmatic comprehension of speech acts of apology, request, and refusal among Iranian intermediate EFL learners. English Teaching & Learning, 42(1), 75-94. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42321-018-0004-6

Derakhshan, A., & Shakki, F. (2020). The effect of implicit vs. explicit metapragmatic instruction on the Iranian intermediate EFL learners’ pragmatic comprehension of apology and refusal. Journal of Language Research, 12(37), 151-175.

Edstrom, A. (2004). Expressions of disagreement by Venezuelans in conversation: Reconsidering the influence of culture. Journal of Pragmatics, 36(8), 1499-1518. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2004. 02.002

Ellis, R. (1992). Learning to communicate in the classroom: A study of two language learners’ requests. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 14(1), 1-23. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263100010445

Eslami-Rasekh, Z. (2005). Raising the pragmatic awareness of language learners. ELT Journal, 59(3), 199-208. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/cci039

Faerch, C., & Kasper, G. (1989). Internal and external modification in interlanguage request realization. In S. Blum-Kulka, J. House, & G. Kasper (Eds.), Cross-cultural pragmatics: Requests and apologies (pp. 221-247). New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation

Farenkia, B. M. (2014). Speech acts and politeness in French as a pluricentric language (Vol. 10). Munster‏: LIT Verlag.

Gass, S. M., & Houck, N. (1999). Interlanguage refusals: A cross-cultural study of Japanese-English (Vol. 15). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.‏

Ghafar Samar, R., Abaszadeh, A., & Pourmohamadi, F. (2013). Investigating disagreements through a context-specific approach: A case of Iranian L2 speakers. Applied Research on English Language, 3(1), 87-100.

Gu, Y. (1990). Politeness phenomena in modern Chinese.

Journal of Pragmatics, 14(2), 237-257. https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(90)90082-O

Guodong, L., & Jing, H. (2005). A contrastive study on disagreement strategies for politeness between American English & Mandarin Chinese. Asian EFL Journal, 7(1), 1-12.

Hall, S. (1989). Cultural identity and cinematic representation. Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, 1(36), 68-81.‏

Haugh, M. (2005). The importance of “place” in Japanese politeness: Implications for cross-cultural and intercultural analyses.‏ Intercultural Pragmatics, 2(1), 40-68. https://doi.org/10.1515/iprg.2005.2.1.41

Hill, B., Ide, S., Ikuta, S., Kawasaki, A., & Ogino, T. (1986). Universals of linguistic politeness: Quantitative evidence from Japanese

and American English. Journal of Pragmatics, 10(3), 347-371.‏ https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(86)90006-8

Hofstede, G. (1991). Empirical models of cultural differences.‏ In N. Bleichrodt, & P. J. D. Drenth (Eds.), Contemporary issues in cross-cultural psychology, (pp. 4-20). Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger Publishers.

Honda, A. (2002). Conflict management in Japanese public affairs

talk shows. Journal of Pragmatics, 34(5), 573-608. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(01)00053-4

Houk, N., & Tatsuki, D. (2010). Pragmatics from research to practice: Teaching speech acts. In N. Houk & D. Tatsuki (Eds.) Pragmatics: Teaching speech acts (pp. 1-6). Alexandria, Virginia: TESOL.

Ide, S. (1989). Formal forms and discernment: Two neglected aspects of linguistic politeness. Multilingual, 8(2), 223-248. https://doi.org/10.1515/mult.1989.8.2-3.223

Jianda, L. (2006). Assessing EFL learners’ interlanguage pragmatic knowledge: Implications for testers and teachers. Reflections on English Language Teaching, 5(1), 1-22.

Kasper, G., & Zhang, Y. (1995). It’s good to be a bit Chinese: Foreign students’ experience of Chinese pragmatics. In G. Kasper (Ed.), Pragmatics of Chinese as native and target language (pp. 1-22). ‏ Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press.

Khoirunnisa, N. Y. L., & Hardjanto, D. T. (2018). Politeness strategies of disagreement by English native speaker students. Lexicon, 5(1), 19-27. https://doi.org/10.22146/lexicon.v5i1.41271

Kim, H. (2008). The semantic and pragmatic analysis of South Korean and Australian English apologetic speech acts. Journal of Pragmatics, 40(2), 257-278. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2007.11.003

Kluckhohn, C. (1962). Culture and behavior. New York: Free Press.

Kreutel, K. (2007). I’m not agree with you. ESL Learners’ expressions of disagreement. The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language, 11(3), 23-45.

Kuhi, D., & Jadidi, M. (2012). A study of Iranian EFL Learners’ understanding and production of politeness in three speech acts: Request, refusal, and apology. Theory & Practice in Language Studies, 2(12), 2624-2633. https://doi.org/10.4304/tpls.2.12.2624-2633

Leech, G. N. (1983). Principles of pragmatics text. London, NY: Longman.

Leech, G. (2007). New resources, or just better old ones? The Holy Grail of representativeness. In M. Hundt, N. Nesselhauf, & C. Biewer (Eds.), Corpus linguistics and the web (pp. 133-149). Amsterdam: Brill Rodopi. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789401203791_009

Leech, G., & Tatiana, L. (2014). Politeness: West and East. Russian Journal of Linguistics, (4), 9-34.‏

Matsumoto, Y. (1988). Reexamination of the universality of face: Politeness phenomena in Japanese. Journal of Pragmatics, 12(4), 403-426. https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(88)90003-3

Matsumoto, Y. (1989). Politeness and conversational universals–observations from Japanese.‏ Multilingua-Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication, 8(2-3), 207-221. https://doi.org/10.1515/mult.1989.8.2-3.207

Moore, M. (2001). The ethics of nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/0198297467.001.0001

Nodoushan, M. A. S. (2008). Persian requests: Redress of face through indirectness. Iranian Journal of Language Studies, 2(3), 257-280.‏

‏ Nureddeen, F. A. (2008). Cross cultural pragmatics: Apology strategies

in Sudane Arabic. Journal of Pragmatics, 40(2), 279-306. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2007.11.001

‏Obeng, S. G. (1999). Apologies in Akan discourse. Journal of Pragmatics, 31(5), 709-734. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(98)00089-7

Phuong, N. T. M. (2006). Cross-cultural pragmatics: Refusals of requests by Australian native speakers of English and Vietnamese learners of English (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.‏

Qanbar, N. (2012). Compliments in the Yemeni society: A sociolinguistic perspective. GEMA Online® Journal of Language Studies, 12(3), 999-1018.

Rees-Miller, J. (2000). Power, severity, and context in disagreement. Journal of Pragmatics, 32(8), 1087-1111.‏ https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(99)00088-0

Schauer, G. (2009). Interlanguage pragmatic development: The study abroad context. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Sharqawi, M. A., & Anthony, E. M. (2019). Analyzing the speech act of disagreement produced by Iraqi EFL Learners: A Gender Study. Humanities & Social Sciences Reviews, 7(2), 118-134. https://doi.org/10.18510/hssr.2019.7213

Soliman, A. (2003). Apology in American English and Egyptian Arabic. In Proceedings of the TESOL 3rd annual Graduate Student Forum. Baltimore, Maryland.

Sornig, K. (1977). Disagreement and contradiction as communicative acts. Journal of Pragmatics, 1(4), 347-373. https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(77)90028-5

Spencer-Oatey, H. (2000). Rapport management: A framework for analysis. In H. Spencer-Oatley (Ed.), Culturally speaking: Managing rapport through talk across cultures (pp. 11-46). London and New York, NY: Continuum.

Stewart, E.C. & Bennett, M.J. (1991). American cultural patterns: A cross-cultural perspective. Yarmouth: Intercultural Press, Inc.

Taguchi, N. (2019). The Routledge handbook of second language

acquisition and pragmatics. New York/London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351164085

Takahashi, T., & Beebe, L. M. (1993). Cross-linguistic influence in the speech act of correction. Interlanguage Pragmatics, 138, 158-169.‏

Tawalbeh, A., & Al-Oqaily, E. (2012). In-directness and politeness in American English and Saudi Arabic requests: A cross-cultural comparison. Asian Social Science, 8(10), 85.‏ https://doi.org/10.5539/ass.v8n10p85

Usó-Juan, E., & Martínez-Flor, A. (2008). Approaches to language learning and teaching: Towards acquiring communicative competence through the four skills. In Usó-Juan E, Martinez-Flor A (Eds.), Current trends in the development and teaching of the four language skills (pp. 3-28). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110197778.1.3

Vanessa, A. M. I. N. (2015). Semiótica e rock: Análise de “palavras erradas” d’o bando do velho jack. Guavira letras, 1(05), 105-113.

Varner, I., & Beamer, L. (2005). Nonverbal language in intercultural communication. In I. Varner, (Ed.), Intercultural communication in the global workplace (pp. 175-203). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Wang, Y. (2011). A discourse-pragmatic functional study of the discourse markers Japanese ano and Chinese nage. Intercultural Communication Studies, 20(2), 41-62.

Watts, R. J. (2003). Politeness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511615184

Wierzbicka, A. (1991). Universal human concepts and their configurations in different cultures. Ethnolinguistics. Problems of Language and Culture,4(4), 7-40.‏

Yan, C. (2016). A contrastive pragmatic study of politeness strategies in disagreement between native speakers of English and Chinese EFL learners. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics, 39(2), 231-248. https://doi.org/10.1515/cjal-2016-0015

Yu, M. C. (1999). Universalistic and culture-specific perspectives on variation

in the acquisition of pragmatic competence in a second language. Pragmatics, 9, 281-312.‏ https://doi.org/10.1075/prag.9.2.04yu

Yu, K. A. (2003). Characteristics of Korean politeness: Imposition is not always a face threatening act. Discourse and Cognition, 10(3), 137-163.

Yu, M. C. (2011). Learning how to read situations and know what is the right thing to say or do in an L2: A study of socio-cultural competence and language transfer. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(4), 1127-1147.‏ https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2009.09.025

Zhang, Y. (1995). Strategies in Chinese requesting. In G. Kasper (Ed.), Pragmatics of Chinese as native and target language (pp. 23-68).‏ Hawaii: University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Zhang, M., & Wu, D. D. (2018). A cross-cultural analysis of celebrity

practice in microblogging. East Asian Pragmatics, 3(2), 179-200. https://doi.org/10.1558/eap.33060