Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 12. Number4   December 2021                                           Pp.426-445
DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.24093/awej/vol12no4.28

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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
E-mail: malkhazmari@bu.edu.sa

 

Received:  9/2/2021                       Accepted: 11/18/2021    Published:12/15/2021

 

Abstract :
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.
DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.24093/awej/vol12no4.28

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Received: 9/2/2021 
Accepted: 11/18/2021
Published: 12/15/2021
https://dx.doi.org/10.24093/awej/vol12no4.28
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Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Alzahrani is an assistant professor of Applied Linguistics in the Department of Foreign Languages, Al-Baha University, Al-Baha, Saudi Arabia. He has a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from Victoria University, Australia. His research interests include Pragmatics, Discourse Analysis, and Critical Discourse Analysis.
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1650-4732