Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 12. Number4 December 2021 Pp.426-445
Examining the Impact of Perceived Cultural Distance on the Pragmatic Choices of Saudi
Customers in Service Encounters
Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed Alzahrani
Department of Foreign Languages
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Al-Baha University, Al-Baha, Saudi Arabia
Received: 9/2/2021 Accepted: 11/18/2021 Published:12/15/2021
This study examines service encounters in Saudi Arabia from a pragmatic perspective. Its aim is to investigate the possible impact of perceived cultural distance between customers and service providers on pragmatic choices. It specifically examines how Saudi customers construct their service encounters when talking to service providers of the same (versus different) cultural/ethnic background in terms of discourse structure; strategies of request and internal modifications, and stylistic strategies. Three cafés with service providers of three different ethnic/cultural backgrounds are chosen. One has Saudi service providers, the second café has Arab (non-Saudi) service providers, and the third café has non-Arab service providers. Forty socially minimal service encounter interactions that take place in each café are observed and manually recorded. The study uses the framework of ‘rapport management’ by Spencer-Oatey (2002) as its approach for data analysis. The findings indicate that there are differences among the three sets of data in terms of discourse structure, the realization of the speech act of request, and the stylistic aspect of interactions. According to the special nature of service encounters, customers’ pragmatic choices are explained in terms of expressing certain degrees of social distance rather than politeness. More specifically, the closer cultural distance between customers and service providers, the more pragmatic strategies functioning to achieve more closeness and solidarity are employed.
Keywords: Cultural distance, forms of address, pragmatic choices, Saudi Arabia, service encounters
Cite as: Alzahrani, M. A. M. (2021). Examining the Impact of Perceived Cultural Distance on the Pragmatic Choices of Saudi Customers in Service Encounters. Arab World English Journal, 12 (4) 426-445.
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