Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 11. Number1 March 2020                                                    Pp.231-252

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A Sociolinguistic Investigation of Compliments and Compliment Responses among Young

Saad Alqarni
School of Humanities and Communication Arts
Western Sydney University
Sydney, Australia



There is a lack of awareness of the use of compliments and compliment responses in the Saudi Arabian context. This research investigates, from a sociolinguistic perspective, the speech acts of compliments and compliment responses as realized by eighty Saudi students who study English as a Foreign Language (EFL). It aims to identify the semantic and structural formulas used by the participants to express compliments and to respond to compliments. The study also examines the roles of the topic of conversation and the participants’ first language in the realisation of compliments. Furthermore, the study investigates gender differences with regard to the use of compliments and compliment responses. A discourse completion test (DCT) consisting of twelve situations was used to collect data from the participants. The analysis of the responses found that the dominant form of compliments used was unbound semantic formulas that were not influenced by the social relationship between the participants. Topics that are socially delicate result in the use of more implicit compliments than explicit compliments. The religious norms require politeness in the interactions between people, and this is reflected in the prevalence of implicit compliments. There is a wide range of compliments used with no fixed pattern of usage. Compliments tend to be given using adjectives rather than verbs. Gender did not appear to affect the nature of usage of compliments and responses. The research suggests that the cultural influences of the English language and western culture may be influencing how young Saudis use compliments.
Keywords: compliments, compliment responses, discourse completion test, gender differences, politeness, pragmatic awareness, sociolinguistics, unbound semantics, young Saudis 

Cite as: Alqarni, S. (2020). A Sociolinguistic Investigation of Compliments and Compliment Responses among Young Saudis. Arab World English Journal, 11 (1) 231-252.


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Saad Alqarni is currently studying his doctorate at Western Sydney University, Australia. Saad
has a strong interest in researching the language patterns of Saudi Arabians and the influence that
western education has had on these language patterns. Saad is a lecturer in the Faculty of Arts and
Sciences at Al- Baha University.