Arab World English Journal
Volume 2, Number 1 2011                                                                                                           pp. 18-46

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Pragmatic Failure in Refusal Strategies: British versus Omani Interlocutors

Jaishree Umale, PhD.
Dhofar University

The article provides the detailed study of the similarities and differences between the British and the Omani ways of refusing requests. A refusal is a face-threatening act that tends to disrupt  harmony in relationships. It causes damage to both the face of the speaker and the listener. A lot  of strategies are used to mitigate the effect of a refusal and save the relationship. The choice ofstrategy used can be dictated by the socio-cultural factors generating an inappropriate reply. These may be labeled ‘rude’ by the native speakers. Transforming the rules and the cultural norms of the first language to the target language also results in pragmalinguistic failure. For this research a discourse completion test was modeled on Beebe et al. (1990). The situations were categorized into three requests, three invitations, three suggestions and three offers. One of each group required a refusal to an equal status person, a higher status person and a lower status person. The test was translated into Arabic and administered to ten Omanis and the English version was given to ten British people. Data was analyzed according to the strategies used by the British and the Omanis, the role of status in refusals and the pragmalinguistic errors surfacing in the study. The study found that the Omanis used more direct strategies than the British in refusing requests and offers. Both the British and the Omanis also used indirect strategies to refuse requests, especially when dealing with higher status people. The British used more directstrategies when dealing with lower status people while the Omanis used care for interlocutor’s feelings.

Key words: Pragmalinguistic failure, Refusing requests, politeness, pragmatic failure, discourse competence,
pragmatic errors, face threatening acts.