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Kurdistan Region-Iraq

Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research

Salahaddin University -Erbil



A Thesis Submitted to the Council of the College of Languages, Salahaddin

University-Erbil in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Arts in English Language and Linguistics

Hayder Mohamad Sadiq -B.A. Salahaddin University-Erbil-2007

Supervised by
Asst. Prof. Dr. Mohamed Basil Kasim Al-Azzawi

April 2010 AD Gulan 2710 K Jamad Al-awal 1431 H

Supervisor’s Report

I certify that this thesis has been prepared under my supervision at Salahaddin
University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of
Arts in English Language and Linguistics.

Supervisor: Asst. Prof. Dr. Mohamed Basil Kasim Al-Azzawi

Date: / / 2010

In view of the available recommendations, I forward this thesis for debate by the
examining committee.


Name: Dr. Saman Hussein Omar

Chairman of the Departmental

Committee on Post-Graduate Studies

in the Department of English,

College of Languages,

Salahaddin University

Date: / /2010

Examining Committee’s Report

We certify that we have read this thesis and as an Examining Committee

examined the student in its content, and in our opinion, it is adequate with the
standing of ― …………..‖ as a thesis for the degree of Master of Arts in English
Language and Linguistics.

Signature: Signature:

Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ma‘ruf Fattah Asst. Prof. Dr. Wuria Azadin Ali

Chairman Member

Signature: Signature:

Dr. Hoshang Faruq Jawad Asst. Prof. Dr. Mohamed Basil Kasim Al-Azzawi

Member Member and Supervisor

Date: / / 2010

Approved by the Council of the College of Languages

Name: Prof. Dr. Nawzad Hassan Khoshnaw,
Dean of the College of Languages

Date: / / 2010


The term Communicative competence has changed a lot of the way

language is seen or taught. The term itself has undergone many modifications
since it was first publicly discussed by Dell Hymes in 1966. The term has been
and still is most influential in the area of Second Language Acquisition and
English as a Foreign Language.

This thesis, a study of senior university students’ communicative

competence, explores the term, and in the light of a general framework of
communicative competence, the researcher studies some aspects of the term by
having senior students answer a questionnaire. The questionnaire contains
situations that require verbal and non-verbal communicative aspects of the
language. It is felt that students‘ communicative competence needs more
development and maturation. In this study it is suggested that senior university
students be exposed and trained in the language‘s sociocultural, pragmatic, and
communicative aspects of English.

The thesis is divided into six chapters. Chapter one is an introduction to

the thesis. The hypothesis, the purpose, the significance, and the method are

Chapter two is a review of the emergence of communicative competence,

the historical development and areas of communicative competence are
elaborated on.

Chapter three explores and reviews the models of Communicative

Competence in second or foreign language pedagogy. The principles of
communicative language teaching are outlined.

Chapter four dwells on some factors that affect language use and language
learning. Among many factors, the researcher sheds light specifically on the

sociocultural and sociolinguistic aspects. There will be reference to some
cultural differences between Americans and Kurds, differences in cultural
values, assumptions and communicative or conversational style of Kurds and

Chapter five focuses on pragmatic competence as a crucial component of

communicative competence. References are made to language transfer,
interlanguage pragmatics, and speech acts. These aspects are related to the study
of senior students‘ communicative competence. The subjects were ten
Americans and forty senior college students from the department of English
language. The study analyzes speech acts which embodies verbal and non-verbal
communicative aspects of language.

Chapter six, the last chapter, draws some the conclusions,

recommendations, and suggestions for further studies. A bibliography of books
and sources on the consulted books follows, and abstracts in Kurdish and Arabic
come at the end.

According to the results of the study, Kurdish senior students of English

have insufficient communicative competence to interact with native speakers of
American English. Also, the language used by the students has many
interlanguage features.

Table of Contents
Abstract............................................................................................................. IV
Chapter One ....................................................................................................... 1
Introduction ....................................................................................................... 1
1.1 Purpose of the Study ................................................................................. 1
1.2 The Significance of the Study..................................................................... 1
1.3 Delimitation .............................................................................................. 1
1.4 Hypotheses ............................................................................................... 2
1.4 Procedure .................................................................................................. 2
1.5 Value of the Study ..................................................................................... 2
Chapter Two ....................................................................................................... 3
Emergence of the Notion “Communicative Competence” ................................. 3
2.0 Introduction ................................................................................................. 3
2.1.1 Chomsky’s Theory of Language Acquisition ............................................... 3
2.1.2 Universal Grammar and Foreign Language Learning .............................. 5
2.2 Dell Hymes (Ethnography of Speaking)...................................................... 6
2.2.1 Criticism of Chomsky’s Theory ................................................................ 6
2.2.2 The Ethnography of communication ...................................................... 7
2.2.3 Units of Analysis and the SPEAKING Model ............................................ 9
2.2.4 Communicative Competence ............................................................... 13
2.3 Halliday’ view .......................................................................................... 17
2.4 Gumper’z view ........................................................................................ 19
Chapter Three .................................................................................................. 20
Communicative Competence and Communicative Language Teaching ............ 20
3.0 Introduction ............................................................................................... 20
3.1 Models of Communicative Competence ..................................................... 20
3.1.1 Canale and Swain (1980), Canale (1983) .................................................. 20
3.1.2 Bachman and Palmer (1996) Communicative Language Ability ............... 24
VI Language Knowledge (Language competence) .................................. 25
1- Organizational competence .............................................................. 25
2- Pragmatic knowledge........................................................................ 26 Strategic competence ........................................................................ 27
3.1.3 Celce-Murcia’s (2007) Proposed Revision of 1995 Models ...................... 28
1-Sociocultural competence .......................................................................... 29
2-Discourse competence ............................................................................... 29
3- Linguistic Competence ......................................................................... 30
4-Formulaic Competence .............................................................................. 31
5-Interactional Competence.......................................................................... 31
6-Strategic Competence ................................................................................ 32
3.1.4 Other related views ................................................................................. 34
3.2 Communicative competence as the goal of Communicative Language
Teaching ........................................................................................................... 36
Chapter Four .................................................................................................... 42
Language, Culture and Communication............................................................ 42
4.0 Introduction ............................................................................................ 42
4.1 Defining Culture ...................................................................................... 42
4.2 Relation between Language and Culture: ................................................ 43
4.3 Comparing Kurdish and American Culture............................................... 45
4.3.1 Cultural Diversity ............................................................................... 47
4.3.2 Individualism ..................................................................................... 47
4.3.3 Privacy ............................................................................................... 51
4.3.4 Equality ............................................................................................. 52
4.3.5 Informality......................................................................................... 52
4.3.6 Change and Destiny ........................................................................... 55
4.3.7 Time .................................................................................................. 55
4.3.8 View of Human Nature ...................................................................... 57
4.3.9 Age.................................................................................................... 57
4.3.10 Male- Female Behavior.................................................................... 58
4.3.11 High and Low Context Cultures ....................................................... 58
4.3.12 Small vs. large power distance ........................................................ 60
4.4 Communicative (Conversational) Style of Americans and Kurds.............. 60
4.4.1 Appropriate topics for conversation: ................................................. 62
4.4.2 Direct versus Indirect Communication: ............................................. 63
4.4.3 Turn taking and pause time: .............................................................. 65
4.4.4 Silence ............................................................................................... 66
4.4.5 Nonverbal aspects of communication ............................................... 66 Kinesics........................................................................................... 67 Oculesics ........................................................................................ 68 Haptics ........................................................................................... 68 Proxemics ....................................................................................... 69 Paralinguistics ................................................................................ 69
Chapter Five ..................................................................................................... 70
The Study of Fourth Year Students’ Communicative Competence ................... 70
5.0 Introduction ............................................................................................ 70
5.1.1 Pragmatics in Foreign Language Learning: ............................................ 70
5.1.2 Interlanguage pragmatics ..................................................................... 72
5.1.3 Pragmatic Transfer ............................................................................... 72
5.1. 4 Cross-cultural pragmatic failure........................................................... 74
5.1.5 Speech Act Theory ................................................................................ 75
5.2 A Review of the Speech Acts Examined ................................................... 78
5.2.1 Apology ............................................................................................. 78
5.2.2 Complaints ........................................................................................... 80
1-Direct Complaints ................................................................................... 81
2-Indirect Complaints ................................................................................. 82
5.2.3 Compliments / Responses .................................................................... 82
4. Positive Values of Mainstream Americans ........................................... 84
5.2.4 Refusals ................................................................................................ 84

VIII Functions of Refusals ...................................................................... 84
1. Direct ..................................................................................................... 84
2. Indirect ................................................................................................... 85 American Refusals .......................................................................... 86 Refusals of Requests .................................................................... 86 Refusals of Invitations ................................................................. 87 Refusal of Offers .......................................................................... 87 Refusal of Suggestions ................................................................. 87
5.2.5 Requests ............................................................................................... 88 Direct Strategies ............................................................................. 88 Conventionally indirect strategies .................................................. 88 Non-conventionally indirect strategies ........................................... 89
5.2.6 Thanking ............................................................................................... 89
5.2.7 Speech Act of Correction ...................................................................... 90
5.3 The Study ................................................................................................... 90
5.3.1 Research Questions .............................................................................. 90
5.3.2 Participants .......................................................................................... 91
5.3.3 Study Objectives ................................................................................... 91
5.3.4 Methodology ........................................................................................ 92
1-Written discourse completion test (WDCT):............................................ 92
2- Multiple-choice discourse completion test (MDCT) ............................... 93
5.4 Analysis of the study and Students’ answers: ............................................. 93
1-Apologies ................................................................................................... 93
2- Complaining .............................................................................................. 96
3-Compliment and compliment responses .................................................... 97
4- Refusals ..................................................................................................... 98
5- Requests ................................................................................................... 99
6- Thanking ................................................................................................. 101
7- Correction ............................................................................................... 102

8- Introduction ............................................................................................ 102
Chapter Six ..................................................................................................... 105
Conclusion...................................................................................................... 105
6.1 Conclusions ........................................................................................... 105
6.2 pedagogical Recommendations ............................................................. 106
6.2 Suggestions for Further Research .......................................................... 107
Appendix ........................................................................................................ 109
Bibliography ................................................................................................... 113
Abstract in Arabic

Abstract in Kurdish

Chapter One


1.1 Purpose of the Study

Generally speaking, speakers of English language as a foreign language

have problems with communicating successfully in English. The aim of this
thesis is indicating those aspects of language that the senior students have
difficulty at. In the course of doing so, the thesis also points out some issues that
have to be given more attention to by students and teachers. The thesis discusses
the communicative style of Kurdish people and American people and the factors
that create their distinctive style of communication via language. Among the
topics are: cultural assumptions, beliefs, and values; preferred topics for
conversation, and channels of communications.

1.2 The Significance of the Study

This study is an important endeavor in understanding the effectiveness of

the current curriculum for teaching English language at the departments of
English language. The study shows how the students have benefited from the
curriculum. The study is helpful for both students and instructors. It suggests
some ideas and proposals it deems necessary to be considered. For example
according to the study, it is necessary that the curriculum should be based on a
generally accepted framework of communicative competence. It basically asks
for innovation and change of the curriculum.

1.3 Delimitation
The present study reviews the causes that lead Dell Hymes disagree with
Chomsky on first language acquisition. Then it focuses on the extensions of
communicative competence in the field of language learning. The study then

limits its emphasis on the components of communicative competence with
sociocultural and pragmatic competence as two important components.

1.4 Hypotheses
The main hypotheses of this study can be put in the following points:

1- Culture shapes language and should be studied or merged with other

branches of linguistics.
2- Knowledge of culture is important for successful communication with
native speakers of English language.
3- Students have insufficient cultural and pragmatic awareness; this lack of
knowledge can cause cross-cultural miscommunication.
4- There are features of the first language in producing speech acts or other
channels of communication. In other words language transfer can be
noted in students‘ oral or written language utterances, specially speech

1.4 Procedure
The procedure followed in this study is based on two methods for eliciting
data from a questionnaire. First evaluation test is written discourse completion
test. Second way is called Multiple-choice discourse completion test.

1.5 Value of the Study

This study, as a first step, can be valuable to the students and college
instructors. Its values are focusing on language as a means of communication. It
is a beginning in looking at language through a new and effective principle. That
is, seeing language as a dynamic tool for making different people from different
speech communities understand each other without getting lost in a
communication breakdown.

Chapter Two

Emergence of the Notion “Communicative Competence”

2.0 Introduction

Basically, the term communicative competence was coined by Dell

Hymes (1966, 1971). He introduced the term in his criticism of Chomsky‘s view
of ―competence‖ and ―performance‖. Hymes‘ use of the term started a
revolution in language teaching and linguistic theory: many other scholars and
linguists proposed their model and definition of the notion.

An account of the historical background of the development of the term is given


2.1.1 Chomsky’s Theory of Language Acquisition

In 1965 Noam Chomsky published Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. In it
he outlined his ideas about the goals of linguistics. Chomsky mainly focuses on
the linguistic knowledge an ideal speaker has of his or her language. He states
that in this often-quoted statement:
Linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speaker-listener, in a
completely homogeneous speech-communication, who know its (the speech
community's) language perfectly and is unaffected by such grammatically
irrelevant conditions as memory limitations, distractions, shifts of attention and
interest, and errors (random or characteristic) in applying his knowledge of this
language in actual performance. (Chomsky, 1965, p. 3)

He argues that the best form of language linguists should study is the
abstract knowledge an ideal speaker has. He calls this knowledge ―linguistic
competence‖. It refers to the perfect, unconscious, abstract rules of grammar in
the mind of an ideal speaker or listener. This ideal speaker should not be
affected by memory limitations or distractions.

Linguistic competence, according to Chomsky, enables a speaker to
become an expert in her own native language. It helps speakers produce an
infinite number of sentences or utterances, not only that but also new sentences
or utterances. Chomsky emphasized that linguists should study the rules of
grammar of their native languages. He devoted most of his works for analyzing
the underlying rules of English grammar.
Clearly, Chomsky‘s objective in paying all his attention to studying these
rules was to figure out the links that relate meaning inside the brain of the
speaker to sound forms that represent these meanings in the mouth of the
speaker. He called his perspective ―generative grammar‖: the rules generate an
endless number of sentences or utterances.

Chomsky makes an important distinction between ―competence‖ and

―actual performance‖. Competence meaning ―speaker-hearer‘s knowledge of his
language‖ is tacit knowledge. While, on the other hand, performance is ―the
actual use of language in concrete situations‖ (Chomsky, 1965, p. 3).

Performance, being the output of competence, is misleading for children

learning their first language. According to Chomsky, performance is an
imperfect reflection of linguistic competence. Performance utterances are often
characterized by irrelevant features that do not exist in the rules of grammar.
Examples of such deviations vary from slips of the tongue, unfinished
structures, hesitations, incoherent utterances and pauses...etc. the factors
affecting such behaviors are in the scope of psycholinguistic studies: they are
considered mental and neurological.

What is interesting to Chomsky is the rapidity of language acquisition by

children. Because, obviously, children‘s input is the performance by the adult
speakers. And adult speakers often speak with ―false starts, disconnected
phrases‖. Thus, the main question Chomsky posed was how children learned an
ideal linguistic competence when their main language input is imperfect.

The answer to this and other queries was in Chomsky‘s rejection of
Skinners‘ theory of Behaviorism, and adoption his own notion of Language
Acquisition Device (LAD). According to him, human beings are endowed with
an in-built device for acquiring any language. He then called it Universal
Grammar (UG), and the goal of linguistic grammars was to discover the rules
and principles underlying all languages.

2.1.2 Universal Grammar and Foreign Language Learning

The theory of Universal Grammar was Chomsky‘s explanation for the
acquisition of first language by children. Applications of UG to the learning or
acquisition of foreign language is uncertain. One of the reasons that makes
foreign language learning researchers doubt the validity of UG is the issue of the
critical period. UG can only explain the success of very young children
acquiring first language during a particular period called critical period.UG
might not even be available for years after puberty. This means that older
learners of other languages must use other means of learning, since it is harder
for them to learn a language at an old age (Robert Shimtt, 2002, p. 116)
Researchers studying foreign language learning from a UG angle mostly
focus on pointing to the linguistic competence of the learners. Teachers, too, try
to find out what the students know rather than what they can say or write in
spontaneous real life situation. Thus, teachers assess learners‘ knowledge by
giving them sentences and asking the learners to judge the grammaticality of the
sentence. This method has been dominant to date in the teaching of English
language at the Kurdish universities and schools.
Since his theory of language acquisition is purely linguistic, abstract and
vague, Chomsky came under attack and criticism from other linguists and
scholars. Among those who opposed Chomsky‘s insistence on grammatical
competence is the American anthropologist and sociolinguist Dell Hymes.

2.2 Dell Hymes (Ethnography of Speaking)

2.2.1 Criticism of Chomsky’s Theory

Hymes (1971) comments on Chomsky‘s definition of competence and
performance, he points out that Chomsky‘s competence doesn‘t account for
language use; the same thing with Chomsky‘s category of performance,
although Chomsky refers to it as language in use.
Hymes makes an analogy or comparison of Chomsky‘s distinction of linguistic
competence and performance:
linguistic competence linguistic performance
innately-derived power in the eating the apple, thrusting the
Garden of Eden perfect speaker-hearer into a fallen
intuition and linguistic knowledge real speech of interlocutors in a
of an abstract, isolated, ideal social world
internal to linguistic structure external to linguistic structure
language form language function & use
grammaticality as a criterion acceptability as a criterion
Generative Linguistics Linguistic Anthropology,
(Chomskyian school) Sociolinguistics, Functional

Table 1.1 Hyme‘s view of Chomsky‘s competence and performance

This focus on psychological restrictions that deal with memory and

perception makes Chomsky‘s view totally omit some very important and crucial
aspects of language use. It ignores the socio-cultural significance of any human

Hymes, further, argues against the pervasive theory of linguistics of that
time. He called on the linguists ―to transcend their notions of perfect
competence, homogeneous speech community, and independence of
sociocultural features‖ (1971, 274). He stated that there was a great need for an
alternative theory:
A theory is required that can deal with a heterogeneous speech community
differential competence, the consitutive role of sociocultural features that can
take into account socio-economic differences, multilingual mastery, relativity of
competence, expressive values, socially determined preception, contextual styles
and shared norms for the evaluation of variables.

Hymes states that performance is closely related to social life, and that any
linguistic theory must account for the study of performance:

The concept of performance will take on great importance, in so far as the study of
communicative competence is seen as an aspect of what from another angle may be
called the ethnography of symbolic forms, the study of the variety of genres,
narration, dance, drama, song, instrumental music, visual art, that interrelate with
speech in the communicative life of a society and in terms of which the relative
importance and meaning of speech and language must be assessed
(Hymes, 1971, p. 284).

While Chomsky assumed that linguistic competence is shared by all

individual native speakers of a language; and also, insisted that the only
knowledge counted in linguistic theory is that of formal structures, Hymes had
opposite ideas. Hymes, through ethnographic research, found variation in
underlying knowledge of speakers; and he also argued that linguistic theory, in
addition to knowledge of formal structure, should also count for ―patterns of
use‖ used by native speakers (Cazden, 1996).

2.2.2 The Ethnography of communication

Being an anthropologist, Hymes noticed that linguists had paid little or no
attention to other fields of study that interact with linguistics, especially
language function. Anthropology was not flawless either; it ignored important

aspects of culture. According to Hymes, both fields of study only complete one
another to help a child acquire a correct and appropriate language.
He turned to a new field that covers this interrelationship; he introduced
the new discipline in his essay ―The ethnography of speaking‖ in 1962. This
new discipline focused on the patterning of communicative behavior since it is
one of the crucial parts on which the system of culture is built. One of the
general questions the ethnography of communication asked was ―what does a
speaker need to know to communicate appropriately within a particular speech
community, and how does he or she learn to do so?‖ (Savile-Troike, 2003, p. 2).
What the speaker has to know is communicative competence. It is knowledge of
not only knowing the rules of communication (linguistics and sociolinguistics)
but also cultural rules that create the context of speaking. Hymes believed that
linguists need ―to transcend their notions of perfect competence, homogeneous
speech community, and independence of socio-cultural features‖ (1971, 274).
The goal of the ethnography of communication, the emphasis on functions
of language, was a clear departure from the goals set by other linguists. It was a
reaction to Chomsky‘s predominant idea ―if we hope to understand human
language and the psychological capacities on which it rests, we must first ask
what it is, not how, or for what purpose it is used‖ (1968, p. 62). Instead the
priority of the ethnography of communication was when, where, by whom, to
whom, in what manner, under which social circumstances something can be
said. A conversation taking place during a court meeting is completely different
from one happening between close friends. It took language as a ―socially
situated cultural form‖.
Since it requires studying other cultures, doing ethnographic researches
helps a person understand about their own unconscious rules of speaking. Some
examples will illustrate that point. Generally, a greeting is a question about the
other person‘s health: ―how are you?‖ but in Iraq sometimes wishing someone
good health can be greeting ―May God help them‖. Or if a male student, who
has learned English as a foreign language without interacting or living with

native speakers of English, compliments a male American friend‘s looks, he
might get in an embarrassing situation. Furthermore, but he might be thought of
as a homosexual person. These and other cross-cultural encounters between
speakers from different countries prove that culture and language are like bones
and meat in a human body; culture without language is incomplete and vice
versa. Values, beliefs, assumptions and superstitions are reflected in the
language of every nation.

2.2.3 Units of Analysis and the SPEAKING Model

Ethnographers analyze speech behavior in its widest cultural and social
contexts in order to discover culturally distinctive variations. They are
concerned with the linguistic resources people use in context, the ways of
speaking of a speech community, functions of language, pattern of use, routines,
speech acts etc.
Hymes introduced several concepts as basic units for the ethnographic
study of speaking. Chief among these are speech community, communication
situation, communication event, and communication act. These concepts can be
considered as objects of analysis, Hymes also introduced a tool for analyzing
speech communication he called it SPEAKING model. Below are explanations
of the major concepts followed by elaboration of the Speaking model:
1- Speech Community: according to Hymes (1974, p. 9) "the starting point is
the ethnographic analysis of the communication conduct of a
community". Different scholars and linguists have defined speech
community according to different criteria. Lyons (1970) uses shared
language use; ―shared norms‖ and values concerning language use (Labov
1972); shared sociocultural understandings regarding speech (sherzer
1975). What is common in all these definitions is shared knowledge and
experience. Members of a particular speech community know ―the way of
speaking‖ of other members. They share knowledge of what to say, how
to say it, when to speak, when not to speak, and patterns of
communication in addition to many other features of communication held
in common in their speech style. This shared knowledge is what
distinguishes one speech community from another one. It is what
distinguishes a member of one speech community from someone
participating in that same speech community.
2- Communicative Situation: refers to the specific settings and scenes in
which communication takes place. A holiday party, a college lecture, a
religious sermon, and an auction are examples of communicative
situations. During a lecture, for example, students do not speak unless
they are asked to talk or want to ask a question. The situation may remain
the same in different locations or be different in the same location.
3- Communicative (speech) event: is an exchange of speech in a
communicative situation. It has a beginning and an end. It has a topic and
participants using a certain variety of a language. For example, a woman
asking a shopkeeper about the cost of a coat and the shopkeeper
answering her is a speech event. Communicative events are governed by
norms and rules of speech, which may differ in different communities.
Some communicative events have been labeled, so it is easy to infer their
topics like talk shows, political meetings, and gossip sessions. A speech
event constitutes an important unit of analysis: Hymes replaces
Chomsky‘s ―utterance‖ with speech event:
The speech event is to the analysis of verbal interaction what sentence is to
grammar…It represents an extension in the size of the basic analytical unit
from the single utterances to stretches of utterances, as well as a shift in
focus from….text to…interaction.
(quoted in Shmitt, 2002,p.62)
A communicative situation may have more than one communicative
event, for example at a party, which is a single communicative situation;
more than one communicative event may take place.
4- Communicative act: is the action done or implied in using words within a
communicative event. For example, a question like ―do you have a
cigarette?‖ is usually a request for a cigarette. Interlocutors in a

conversation may request, insult, offend, praise, compliment, and
apologize. They may use verbal or nonverbal channels of communication.
In the context of a communicative event, silence can have meanings. For
example, at a funeral, silence can mean empathy and solidarity with the
relatives of the deceased person.
To illustrate these concepts, a communicative situation at a mosque
will explain more. The scene is a mosque. It typically consists of these
communicative events like: reciting Quran, sermon, supplication, and
praying. Within each communicative event, a range of communicative
acts are performed: Remembering God, advice, request, and thanks. Each
communicative event and its act are conducted in a manner different from
the previous or following communicative event: people sit quiet during a
sermon, speak softly during supplication and take different body positions
when praying.
Most of the communicative events fall into regular patterns in
similar forms with expected beginnings and ends. For instance, it is easy
to point out the patterns of communicative events such as greetings,
leave-takings, compliments, sermons, jokes and ordering food at
restaurants. When encountering more complex communicative events,
ethnographers first seek to discover some patterns resembling those of
simpler communicative events.

In order to study and analyze speech events in different communities,

Hymes developed a model for ethnographic analysis. To make it easy to
remember he made an acronym of the initial letters of each keyword and called
it SPEAKING, these eight main elements have other subcomponents. Since ―in
order to speak a language correctly, one needs not only learn its vocabulary and
grammar, but also the context in which words are used‖, then this framework
(Hymes, 1974), is intended to be used to look at any naturally occurring speech
to discover the rules for speaking (modes of speaking, topics, message forms

within particular settings and activities). Moreover it looks at context, the
cultural impacts and factors that shape a particular speech event. Below is a
summary of the main key elements of the Speaking model:

1- S - Setting and Scene: "Setting refers to the time and place of a speech
act and, in general, to the physical circumstances" (p.55).The living room
in the grandparents' home might be a setting for a family story. Scene is
the "psychological setting" or "cultural definition" of a scene, including
characteristics such as range of formality and sense of play or seriousness
(pp 55-56). The family story may be told at a reunion celebrating a
birthday party of one of the family members, grandmother, for instance.
At times, the family would be festive and playful; at other times, serious
and commemorative.
2- P – Participants: refers to speaker and audience. Linguists will make
distinctions within these categories; for example, the audience can be
distinguished as addressees and other hearers (pp.54 & 56). At the family
reunion, an aunt might tell a story to the young female relatives, but
males, although not addressed, might also hear the narrative.
3- E – Ends: Purposes, goals, and outcomes (pp. 56-57). The aunt may tell a
story about the grandmother to entertain the audience, teach the young
women, and honor the grandmother.
4- A - Act Sequence: Form and order of the event. The aunt's story might
begin as a response to a toast to the grandmother. The story's plot and
development would have a sequence structured by the aunt. Possibly there
would be a collaborative interruption during the telling. Finally, the group
might applaud the tale and move onto another subject or activity.
5- K – Key: Cues that establish the "tone, manner, or spirit" of the speech
act (p. 57). The aunt might imitate the grandmother's voice and gestures in
a playful way, or she might address the group in a serious voice
emphasizing the sincerity and respect of the praise the story expresses.

6- I – Instrumentalities: Forms and styles of speech (pp. 58-60). The aunt
might speak in a casual register with many dialect features or might use a
more formal register and careful grammatical "standard" forms.
7- N – Norms: Social rules governing the event and the participants' actions
and reaction. In a playful story by the aunt, the norms might allow many
audience interruptions and collaboration, or possibly those interruptions
might be limited to participation by older females. A serious, formal story
by the aunt might call for attention to her and no interruptions as norms.
8- G – Genre: The kind of speech act or event; in this case, the kind of
story. The aunt might tell a character tale about the grandmother for
entertainment, or an example as moral instruction. Different disciplines
develop terms for kinds of speech acts, and speech communities
sometimes have their own terms for types.

The speaking model is significant for students and others who find
themselves interacting with people from other cultures because of the way it
helps people understand the ways that communication differs in different
cultural situations. From all these discussions Hymes makes it clear that
communication and speaking between members of any speech community are
governed and restrained by cultural rules and norms. Each component of the
SPEAKING grid raises various questions about aspects that affect ant speech
event. These rules and norms vary from one speech community to another. A
member of any speech community has to be equipped with special knowledge in
order to participate in speech events successfully. Chomsky called it
competence. Hymes had a different thought.

2.2.4 Communicative Competence

The concept of communicative competence was introduced by Dell
Hymes in the context of arguments against Chomsky‘s distinction of
competence and performance.

Hymes (1972) translated Chmosky‘s competence into ―systemic
potential‖ and took competence ―as the most general term for the capabilities of
a person‖. This abstract knowledge, which only focused on coding and decoding
language, could not be sufficient for successful communication. Because the
speech communities are heterogeneous, there is a context for every
grammatically correct utterance they use. Thus the theory of generative
grammar had totally overlooked the aspect of appropriacy; Hymes refers to it in
this statement:

We have then to account for the fact that a normal child acquires knowledge of
sentences not only as grammatical but also as appropriate. He or she acquires
competence as to when to speak, when not, and as to what to talk about with
whom, when, where, in what manner. In short, a child becomes able to
accomplish a repertoire of speech acts, to take part in speech events, and to
evaluate their accomplishment by others . . .
(Hymes, 1972, p. 277–8)
Instead of grammaticality as a criterion, Hymes established acceptability
as a replacement, as well as several other dimensions of competence. He put
these aspects in the form of four questions that need to be asked to understand
competence and language use:

1- Whether (and to what degree) something is formally possible?

This question is concerned with the grammaticality and
acceptability of, for instance, a sentence, a social action or a non-
verbal behavior. A sentence might be grammatical but not possible.
―There are rules of use without which the rules of grammar are
useless‖ (Hymes, 1971, p. 278). For example, it is not possible to
say ―I have the time‖ in response to ―do you have the time?‖
Hymes puts it this way: ―something possible within a formal
system is grammatical, cultural, or, on occasion, communicative.
2- Whether (and to what degree) something is feasible?

This question is related to cognitive and psychological aspects of
communication. A patient with memory limitations may not be able
to repeat after a doctor word-for-word.
3- Whether (and to what degree) something is appropriate? Contextual
factors are brought into action here. The participants in a situation
try to act and speak in an appropriate way, according to cultural and
social norms of their speech community. For example, it is
considered inappropriate for a male person to kiss another male
person in the United States.
4- Whether (and to what degree) something is done?
This question is about the occurrence of linguistic structures or
other forms of communication. It is about how common they occur.
They might be considered inappropriate and strange, but since they
happen in communicative interactions, they are correct.

Any sentence, utterance, speech or social act meeting these four criteria
can be acceptable in respective speech communities. And this is what any theory
of competence should encompass:

In sum, the goal of a broad theory of competence can be said to show the ways in
which the systemically possible, the feasible, and the appropriate are linked to
produce and interpret actually occurring cultural behavior (Hymes, 1972, p.

Out of the above discussions and explanations, one can understand how
Hymes augmented Chomsky‘s competence by communicative competence, a
term that entails competence as one of many components. Communicative
competence does not stop at grammar, it includes grammar. Saville-Troike
states that

Communicative competence extends to both knowledge and expectation of who

may or may not speak in certain settings, when to speak and when to remain silent,
to whom one may speak, how one may talk to persons of different statuses and
roles, what nonverbal behaviors are appropriate in various contexts, what the
routines for turn-taking are in conversation, how to ask for and give information,

how to request, how to offer or decline assistance or cooperation, how to give
commands, how to enforce discipline, and the like – in short, everything involving
the use of language and other communicative modalities in particular social
(Saville-Troike 2003, p.18)

This quote explains how difficult it is for a person to communicate in a

foreign speech community because of the complexity of communicative
competence, an ability he needs to have. Sometimes differences between
speakers of the same language belonging to different speech communities can
create conflict between interlocutors. For example, after a Thanksgiving
conversation between New Yorkers and Californians, the famous linguist
Deborah Tannen, observes that Californians said the conversation was
dominated by the New Yorkers. Although they speak the same language in the
same country, the Californians found the New Yorkers‘ conversational style
uncomfortable. Tannen (2004,p.24) analyzed the situation and traced the
Californians‘ impressions of the New Yorkers to differences in ―pacing‖,
―pausing‖ and ―overlap‖. This example makes one wonder about the difficulty a
speaker has when trying to speak a foreign language. In other words, learners
who have learned and are learning a language as a foreign or second language
formally at schools or colleges suffer the lack of communicative competence.
Their task is not easy, they depend on what they learn or input they receive. And
since mere knowledge of grammar cannot account for successful
communication, communicative competence is what learners of a foreign
language need to have.
What communicative competence entails and includes is not easy to
determine, being such a broad term covering skills and knowledge needed that
can be observed in a linguistic situation. From an ethnographic point of view,
Saville-Troike (2003) makes an outline of components of the shared knowledge
involved in appropriate communication:
1- Linguistic knowledge
(a) Verbal elements
(b) Nonverbal elements
(c) Patterns of elements in particular speech events
(d) Range of possible variants (in all elements and their organization)
(e) Meaning of variants in particular situations.
2- Interaction skills
(a) Perception of salient features in communicative situations
(b) Selection and interpretation of forms appropriate to specific situations,
roles, and relationships (rules for the use of speech)
(c) Discourse organization and processes
(d) Norms of interaction and interpretation
(e) Strategies for achieving goals
3- Cultural knowledge
(a) Social structure (status, power, speaking rights)
(b) Values and attitudes
(c) Cognitive maps/schemata
(d) Enculturation processes (transmission of knowledge and skills)

These components along with other areas of communicative competence

added by other applied linguists will be explored in the next section and chapter
Again, the term communicative competence arose from Hyme‘s criticism
of Chomsky‘s distinction of competence and performance. Hymes added
sociolinguistic aspects to competence. The term is considered a very
controversial one in the field of linguistics: many other scholars from different
fields of linguistics have put forward their understanding and criticisms of the

2.3 Halliday’s view

Halliday approaches language from a sociological perspective, he is
interested in language use in its social context and the functions of language. He
considers Chomsky‘s distinction between ―idealized knowledge and its actual
use‖ as unnecessary. He calls it another name for what linguists had described
and what they had not. His approach to knowing language and using it is a
socio-semantic one. ―At the heart of this approach is his language defining
notion of the ‗meaning potential‘‖ (Munby 1978, p. 13).

Meaning potential refers to sets of options and alternatives in meaning

that are available to the speaker. The speaker can do many things, hence social
behaviors. The speaker can mean different things in translating these social
behaviors into semantic options. The speaker can say different things when
encoding the semantic options in linguistic forms at her disposal. Thus meaning
potential divides language into three layers: sociological, semantic, and lexico-
grammatical. It is about what the speaker can do and can mean. In Halliday‘s
view, the aim of linguistics should be categorizing the different choices speakers
have for realizing sociological behaviors.

Further, Halliday (1973) points out that his concept of meaning potential
is different from Chomsky‘s notion of competence. The difference lies in that
competence refers to what a speaker knows, while meaning potential implies
what the speaker can do and what she can mean.

Furthermore, Halliday claims that meaning potential ‗‗is not unlike Dell
Hymes‘ notion of ―communicative competence‖, except that Hymes defines this
in terms of ―competence‖ in the Chomskyian sense of what the speaker knows‖.
It should be remembered that Hymes‘ notion of communicative competence is
very different from Chomksy‘s notion of competence; Hymes retains the idea of
knowing, though. Halliday‘s focus on the functions of language and its social
context has contributed to field language pedagogy and learning.

According to Halliday "Linguistics ... is concerned . . . with the

description of speech acts or texts, since only through the study of language in
use are all the functions of language, and therefore all components of meaning,
brought into focus" (Halliday 1970, p. 145). He elaborated a strong theory of

functions of language. He specified seven functions of language that help
children acquire their first language:
1. the instrumental function : using language to get things;
2. the regulatory function: using language to control the behavior of
3. the interactional function: using language to create interaction with
4. the personal function: using language to express personal feelings
and meanings;
5. the heuristic function: using language to learn and to discover;
6. the imaginative function: using language to create a world of the
7. the representational function: using language to communicate

2.4 Gumper’z view

Gumperz questions whether theoretical linguists should use judgment of
grammaticality as the basis for syntactic analysis. He points out that whether a
sentence is grammatical or not cannot be determined without a speaker‘s ability
to imagine a context in which the sentence is interpreted. Gumperz summarizes
his definition of communicative competence as follows:

―Whereas linguistic competence covers the speaker‘s ability to produce

grammatically correct sentences, communicative competence describes his ability
to select, from the totality of grammatically correct expressions available to him,
forms which appropriately reflect the social norms governing behavior in specific
(quoted in Wardhuaugh, 2006, p. 25)

It is worth mentioning that Chomsky‘s and Hymes‘ discussion of

competence and communicative competence was merely about native speakers‘
linguistic and communicative abilities. They were concerned only with child‘s
first language acquisition.
Chapter Three

Communicative Competence and Communicative

Language Teaching

3.0 Introduction
In this chapter, the models and extensions of communicative competence
in the field of language teaching will be discussed. More will be said about the
communicative language teaching.

3.1 Models of Communicative Competence

The construct of communicative competence has been particularly
influential in the field of foreign language learning, as it has a direct
relationship with the communicative approach to language teaching. For this
reason, some scholars in the field of foreign language learning have attempted
to describe the construct by identifying its various components.
The most representative and significant models that have arisen within
the field of foreign language learning are those of Canale and Swain (1980),
Bachman and Palmer (1996) and Celce-Murcia et al. (1995).

3.1.1 Canale and Swain (1980), Canale (1983)

In their often-cited article on communicative competence in relation to
foreign language pedagogy, Canale and Swain (1980) proposed a theoretical
framework in which they outline the content and boundaries of three areas of
communicative competence: grammatical, sociolinguistic, and strategic
competence. Sociolinguistic competence was further divided by Canale
(1983) into two separate components: sociolinguistic and discourse
competence. He defines communicative competence as ―the underlying

systems of knowledge and skill required for communication‖ (Canale, 1983,
p.5). What is interesting about their framework of communicative competence
is that even the aspects of skills that are needed to employ the knowledge are
now assumed to be part of one‘s competence. The communicative
competence is, then, distinguished from what Canale calls ―actual
communication,‖ which is defined as ―the realization of such knowledge and
skill under limiting psychological and environmental conditions such as
memory and perceptual constraints, fatigue, nervousness, distractions, and
interfering background noises‖ (Canale, 1983, p.5). If we are to compare
Canale and Swain‘s construct of communicative competence with that of
Chomsky‘s in a broad sense, Chomsky‘s ―competence‖ is equivalent to the
―grammatical competence‖ mentioned by Canale and Swain, and all other
areas of their framework are lacking in Chomsky‘s definition.
As far as performance is concerned, Chomsky‘s performance and
Canale and Swain‘s actual communication point to roughly the same
phenomenon of uttering sentences in real communicative situations.

Figure 3.1 Canale and Swain (1980) and Canale‘s (1983) model of
communicative competence

The four areas of communicative competence they identified are briefly

outlined below (as shown by Figure 1):
1- Grammatical competence: refers to the mastery of language code
(verbal or non-verbal). It includes phonological and lexicogrammatical
rules and rules of word formation, sentence formation, spelling- rules
that help a learner to be able to construct and interpret literal meaning
of utterances. It is the knowledge of distinguishing grammatical and
ungrammatical sentences and constructions and choosing the correct
constructions. Grammatical competence is an important concern in
Canale‘s model and any foreign language programme.
2- Sociolinguistic competence: in Canale and Swain (1980) this
competence encompasses socioculutral rules of use and rules of
discourse. But in Canale (1983) it refers only to the sociocultural rules
of use. Thus it concerns the extent to which utterances are produced
and understood appropriately in different sociolinguistic contexts. It
takes into account the contextual factors such as participants, norms of
interaction and purposes of interaction.
As for appropriateness, Canale‘s sociolinguistic competence
distinguishes between appropriateness of meaning and appropriateness
of form. The former focuses on appropriate use of communicative
functions (e.g. speech acts of complaining, commanding, apologizing,
etc.) and attitudes of formality and degrees of politeness. Canale‘s
example is of inappropriateness of a waiter at a restaurant to command
the customer to order a certain meal. Appropriateness of form includes
the choice of proper forms for the realization of a particular
communicative function. Canale illustrates this factor by an example of
a waiter using very rude and informal language when taking a
customer‘s order: ‗ok, chump, what are you and this broad gonna eat?‘
What we can learn from Canale‘s account of this competence is its
importance. It is also obvious how Hyme‘s ideas of social dimensions
of language have influenced foreign language literature.
3- Discourse competence: ―this type of competence concerns mastery of
how to combine grammatical forms and meanings to achieve a unified
spoken or written text in different genres‖ (canale, 1983, p.9). Genre
refers to the type of the text: written or oral, scientific, argumentative,

or a business letter. Unity in text is brought about through cohesion and
coherence. Cohesion unifies the form of the text through the use of
pronouns, synonyms, ellipsis, conjunctions and parallel structures on
the level of utterances. Coherence makes relationships on the level of
different meanings in a text, whether literal or communicative acts.
4- Strategic competence: ―this competence is composed of mastery of
verbal and non-verbal communication strategies that may be called into
action‖ (p.10). A speaker may resort to these strategies in two cases:
(a) to make up for breakdowns in communication, inability to remember
the correct word or expression, or insufficient competence in one or
more of the other areas of communicative competence. A persons who
has learned English as a foreign language may not know all the
necessary words. For example, if a learner doesn‘t know the word for
train station, she may try to paraphrase it or describe it through clues
she has at hand and say: ―the place where trains go‖, or ―area for
trains‖. These strategies also help a learner who doesn‘t have
sociolinguistic competence in the target language.
(b) ―To enhance the effectiveness of communication‖. This refers to
deliberate manipulation of language for rhetorical effects.
As it is clear from the way their framework is described, their intention
was to illustrate the kinds of knowledge and skills that any foreign language
learner needs to be taught and to develop the theoretical basis for a
communicative approach in the foreign language teaching based on an
understanding of the nature of human communication (Canale and Swain,
1980). But as Canale himself states ―how these components interact with one
another (or with other factors involved in actual communication) has been
largely ignored‖.

3.1.2 Bachman and Palmer (1996) Communicative
Language Ability
Bachman (1990) presents a more detailed description of the construct
of communicative competence in his proposed framework. This model was
first designed for language-testing and evaluation considerations.
Bachman stressed the importance of describing ―the processes by
which [the] various components interact with each other and with the context
in which language use occurs‖ (Bachman, 1990: 81). He pointed out the fact
that earlier theories on language proficiency apparently failed to take into
account the distinction between linguistic knowledge and the four basic
language skills (speaking, listening, writing, and reading), arguing that it was
difficult to see whether the knowledge components were understood in their
theories as simply manifested in the language skills in different modalities
and channels, or whether they are fundamentally different in quality

Figure 3.2 Areas of language knowledge

(Bachman and Palmer, 1996, p.68)

Using a different terminology for the object of description (Bachman
calls it ―Communicative Language Ability,‖ which is abbreviated as CLA), he
developed three central components for CLA that are essential to define one‘s
competence in communicative language use: language knowledge, strategic
competence, and metacognitive strategies. Language Knowledge (Language competence)

According to Bachman and Palmer (1996), language knowledge is ―a
domain of information in memory that is available for use by metacognitive
strategies in creating and interpreting discourse in language use‖ (p.67).
Language knowledge is further divided into two broad categories:
organizational knowledge and pragmatic knowledge.
1- Organizational competence
Organizational competence is knowledge involved in the production and
identification of grammatical and ungrammatical sentences, and also in
understanding their meaning and in ordering them to form texts, oral or
written. There are two areas of organizational knowledge: grammatical
knowledge and textual knowledge:
a- Grammatical knowledge: Grammatical knowledge includes several
rather independent areas of knowledge such as knowledge of
vocabulary, morphology, syntax, phonology, and graphology. They
enable recognition and production of grammatically correct sentences
as well as comprehension of their propositional content.
b- Textual knowledge: Textual knowledge enables comprehension and
production of (spoken or written) texts. It covers the knowledge of
conventions for combining sentences or utterances into texts, i.e.
knowledge of cohesion (ways of marking semantic relationships among
two or more sentences in a written text or utterances in a conversation)
and knowledge of rhetorical organization (way of developing narrative
texts, descriptions, comparisons, classifications etc.) or conversational

organization (conventions for initiating, maintaining and closing
2- Pragmatic knowledge
A second component of Bachman‘s (1990) model refers to the
relationship between the language and the language users, namely that
of pragmatic competence. Bachman (1990) provides a description of
the pragmatic component on the basis of van Dijk‘s (1977) work. In
this sense, pragmatics is understood as dealing with the relationships
between utterances and the acts performed through these utterances on
the one hand, and as the features of the context that promote
appropriate language use on the other. The former conceptualization
concerns the illocutionary force, whereas the latter, which relates to the
context, involves those sociolinguistic conventions that are related to
language use. Therefore, the pragmatic component in Bachman‘s
model is made up of two subcomponents, those of functional
(illocutionary), in Bachman and Palmer (1996), and sociolinguistic
a- Functional knowledge: Bachman (1990) calls it ‗Illocutionary
competence‘. Functional knowledge ―enables us to interpret
relationships between utterances or sentences and texts and the
intentions of language users‖ (1996, p.69). For example, the utterance
‗Can I see your lighter?‘ most likely functions as a request for using the
hearer‘s lighter. If the hearer holds her lighter without handing it to the
speaker, she has misinterpreted the function of the utterance.
Interpretation of the pragmatic meaning of the utterances also requires
knowledge of the setting and participants. Bachman and Palmer also
incorporate four of Halliday‘s functions of language into functional
knowledge. First, knowledge of ideational functions refers to
knowledge that enables speakers to express their experience of the real
world. Expressions of feelings like anger, happiness and sorrow are

examples of these ideational functions. Second, knowledge of
manipulative functions, this knowledge helps speakers affect the world
around them. Some examples are requests, suggestions, rules, laws,
greetings, and insults. Third, knowledge of heuristic functions, this
knowledge is involved in ―extending our knowledge of the world
around us‖ (p.70). Use of language for learning, teaching and problem
solving are some examples. Fourth, knowledge of imaginative
functions is ability to use language to make an imaginary world. For
example, we use language to make jokes, to write poetry and make
figures of speech.
b- Sociolinguistic knowledge: Bachman and Palmer call it sociolinguistic
knowledge and this is the other component of pragmatic knowledge. To
be more precise, they discuss four abilities pertaining to sociolinguistic
knowledge: ability to be sensitive to regional and social language
varieties, ability to be sensitive to differences in register, ability to
produce and interpret utterances based on naturalness of language use,
and ability to understand cultural reference and figures of speech
(Bachman and Palmer, 1996, p.70). In their framework, sociolinguistic
competence and functional competence are put together to form a
speaker‘s pragmatic knowledge, which, in turn, composes, along with
grammatical competence, his or her language competence. Strategic competence

Strategic knowledge is conceived in the model as a set of metacognitive
components which enable language user involvement in goal setting,
assessment of communicative sources, and planning. Goal setting includes
identifying a set of possible tasks, choosing one or more of them and deciding
whether or not to attempt to complete them. Assessment is a means by which
language use context is related to other areas of communicative language
ability: topical knowledge and affective schemata. Planning involves deciding

how to make use of language knowledge and other components involved in
the process of language use to complete the chosen task successfully.
Bachman‘s (1990) and Bachman and Palmer‘s (1996) model has been
rather influential on studies concerned with the development and use of
pragmatic aspects in a second or foreign language, as it identifies pragmatic
competence as one of the main components of communicative competence.
Hence, it points out the idea that communicative competence can not only be
achieved by improving learners‘ grammatical knowledge, but also concerns
the development of other competencies such as the textual and pragmatic
However, like Canale and Swain‘s (1980) and Canale (1983)
framework, this model of communicative competence does not seem to
specify the existing relationship among its components and subcomponents.
According to Alcon (2000b), only Celce-Murcia et al.‘s (1995) model
accounts for the connection between all constituents of the concept of
communicative competence.

3.1.3 Celce-Murcia’s (2007) Proposed Revision of 1995

In the mid nineties Celce-Murcia et al. (1995) proposed that actional
competence (the ability to comprehend and produce all significant speech acts
and speech act sets) should also be part of communicative competence.
These authors made two changes in terminology of the Canale-Swain‘s
model: (1) that sociolinguistic competence be changed to sociocultural
competence (the cultural background knowledge needed to interpret and use a
language effectively) and (2) that grammatical competence be re-labeled as
linguistic competence to explicitly include the sound system and the lexicon as
well as the grammar (i.e., morphology and syntax).
Celce-Murcia et al.‘s (1995) framework of communicative competence
differs from the two previously described models in its conceptualization of
discourse competence, since it does not stand as an isolated subcomponent, but
depends on three further constituents, namely those of sociolinguistic, linguistic
and actional competence.
Celce-Murcia (2007) proposed a revised version of Celce-Murcia et al.‘s
(1995) framework of communicative competence. In the recent model actional
competence is a subcomponent of interactional competence and a new
component of formulaic language has been added. Below is an outline of the
new model as presented in Celce-Murcia (2007, pp. 44-50). References are
made to Figure 3, which shows the interrelationship between the six
1-Sociocultural competence
Sociocultural competence refers to the speaker‘s pragmatic knowledge,
i.e. how to express messages appropriately within the overall social and
cultural context of communication. This includes knowledge of language
variation with reference to sociocultural norms of the target language. In fact
a social or cultural mistake can be far more serious than a linguistic error
when one is engaged in oral communication.
Celce-Murcia et al. (1995, pp. 23–24) describe several sociocultural
variables, three of which are most crucial in terms of the new model.
 social contextual factors: the participants‘ age, gender, status, social
distance and their relations to each other: power and affect.
 stylistic appropriateness: politeness strategies, a sense of genres and
 cultural factors: background knowledge of the target language group,
major dialects/regional differences, and cross cultural awareness.
2-Discourse competence
Refers to the selection, sequencing, and arrangement of words,
structures, and utterances to achieve a unified spoken message. This is
where the communicative intent and sociocultural knowledge intersect
with the lexical and grammatical resources to express messages and
attitudes and to create coherent texts. Celce-Murcia et al. (1995, pp. 13–
15) describe several sub-areas of discourse competence, four of which are
most important with regard to the current model:
 cohesion: conventions regarding use of reference(anaphora/cataphora),
substitution/ ellipsis, conjunction, and lexical chains (i.e. Halliday
 deixis: situational grounding achieved through use of personal
pronouns, spatial terms (here/there; this/that), temporal terms
(now/then; before/after), and textual reference (e.g. the following table,
the figure above).
 coherence: expressing purpose/intent through appropriate content
schemata, managing old and new information, maintaining temporal
continuity and other organizational schemata through conventionally
recognized means.
 generic structure: formal schemata that allow the user to identify an
oral discourse segment as a conversation, narrative, interview, service
encounter, report, lecture, sermon, etc
3- Linguistic Competence
Linguistic competence includes four types of knowledge:
 phonological: includes both segmentals (vowels, consonants, syllable
types) and suprasegmentals (prominence/stress, intonation, and
 lexical: knowledge of both content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives) and
function words (pronouns, determiners, prepositions, verbal auxiliaries,
 morphological: parts of speech, grammatical inflections, productive
derivational processes.
 syntactic: constituent/phrase structure, word order (both canonical and
marked), basic sentence types, modification, coordination,
subordination, embedding.
4-Formulaic Competence
Formulaic competence is the counterbalance to linguistic competence.
Linguistic competence entails the recursive, open-ended systems listed above.
Formulaic competence refers to those fixed and made up chunks of language
that speakers use heavily in everyday interactions.
 routines: fixed phrases like of course, all of a sudden and formulaic
chunks like How do you do? I’m fine, thanks; how are you?
 collocations: verb-object: spend money, play the piano adverb-
adjective: statistically significant, mutually intelligible adjective-noun:
tall building, legible handwriting
 idioms: e.g., to kick the bucket = to die; to get the ax = to be
 lexical frames: e.g., I’m looking for ______________. See you
(later/tomorrow/ next week, etc)
5-Interactional Competence
Interactional competence has three sub-components relevant to the new
 actional competence: knowledge of how to perform common speech
acts and speech act sets in the target language involving interactions
such as information exchanges, interpersonal exchanges, expression of
opinions and feelings, problems (complaining, blaming, regretting,
apologizing, etc.), future scenarios (hopes, goals, promises, predictions,
 conversational competence: inherent to the turn-taking system in
conversation, Celce-Murcia extends it to other dialogic genres:
 how to open and close conversations
 how to establish and change topics
 how to get, hold, and relinquish the floor
 how to interrupt
 how to collaborate and backchannel, etc.
 non-verbal/paralinguistic competence includes:
 kinesics (body language), non-verbal turn-taking signals, backchannel
behaviors, gestures, affect markers, eye contact.
 proxemics (use of space by interlocutors)
 haptic behavior (touching)
 non-linguistic utterances with interactional import (e.g. ahhh!
Uh-oh. Huh?) The role of silence and pauses
Celce-Murcia (2007) stresses the importance of interactional
competence and its subcomponents, especially non-verbal or paralinguistic
features. This emphasis stems from the fact that languages differ in their use
and construction of speech acts and non-verbal features of communications.

Figure 3.3 Celce-Murcia‘s (2007) revised communicative

competence framework
6-Strategic Competence
This competence refers to the knowledge and use of learning and
communication strategies. Celce-Murcia cites Oxford‘s (2001) three learning

 cognitive: these are strategies making use of logic and analysis to help
oneself learn a new language through outlining, summarizing, note
taking, organizing and reviewing material, etc.
 metacognitive: these strategies involve planning one‘s learning by
making time for homework or for preparation, and engaging in self-
evaluation of one‘s success on a given task or on one‘s overall
progress. This is achieved in part by monitoring and noting one‘s
errors, learning from teacher and peer feedback, etc. Compensating for
missing or partial knowledge by guessing the meanings of words from
context or the grammatical function of words from formal clues are
also an aspect of metacognitive strategies.
 memory-related: these are strategies that help learners remember or
retrieve words through the use of acronyms, images, sounds (rhymes),
or other clues.
The other crucial strategies, which are the ones mentioned in Celce-
Murcia et al. (1995, pp. 26–29), are communication strategies; they include
the following:
 achievement: strategies of approximation, circumlocution, code
switching, miming, etc.
 stalling or time gaining: using phrases like ‗Where was I?’ ‘Could you
repeat that?’
 self-monitoring: using phrases that allow for self repair like ‗I mean…’
 interacting: these are strategies that include appeals for
help/clarification, that involve meaning negotiation, or that involve
comprehension and confirmation checks, etc.
 social: these strategies involve seeking out native speakers to practice
with, actively looking for opportunities to use the target language.

3.1.4 Other related views
During the 1970s and 1980s many applied linguists with a primary
interest in the theory of language learning and/or the theory of language
testing gave their valuable contribution to the further development of the
concept of communicative competence. Just a few of them will be mentioned
in the following, namely those whose theoretical reflections and empirical
work seem to have had the most important impact on the theory of
communicative competence.
Savignon (1985, p. 130) views communicative competence as:
The ability to function in a truly communicative setting - that is a dynamic
exchange in which linguistic competence must adapt itself to the total information
input, both linguistic and paralinguistic of one or more interlocutors.
Communicative competence includes grammatical competence ( sentence level
grammar ), socio-linguistic competence ( an understanding of the social context in
which language is used ), discourse competence ( an understanding of how
utterances are strung together to form a meaningful whole ), and strategic
competence ( a language user’s employment of strategies to make the best use of
what s/he knows about how a language works, in order to interpret, express, and
negotiate meaning in a given context ).

Blum-Kulka and Levenston (1983, p. 120), offered additional extensions

to communicative competence. Blum-Kulka views semantic competence as
consisting of:

1. Awareness of hyponmy, antonymy, converseness, and other possible

systematic links between lexical items, by means of which, the
substitution of one lexical item for another can be explained in particular
2. Ability to avoid using specific lexical items by means of circumlocution
and paraphrase.
3. Ability to recognize degrees of paraphrasic equivalence.

In Europe, The Council of Europe, van Ek's model of 'communicative
ability' (1986: 35) comprises six 'competences', together with autonomy and
social responsibility (Quoted in Michael Byram 1997, pp. 10-11).

 Linguistic competence: the ability to produce and interpret meaningful

utterances which are formed in accordance with the rules of the language
concerned and bear their conventional meaning . . . that meaning which
native speakers would normally attach to an utterance when used in
isolation (p. 39).
 Sociolinguistic competence: the awareness of ways in which the choice of
language forms . . . is determined by such conditions as setting,
relationship between communication partners, communicative intention,
etc. . . . sociolinguistic competence covers the relation between linguistic
signals and their contextual or situational meaning (p. 41).
 Discourse competence: the ability to use appropriate strategies in the
construction and interpretation of texts (p. 47).
 Strategic competence: when communication is difficult speakers have to
find ways of 'getting our meaning across' or of 'finding out what
somebody means'; these are communication strategies, such as rephrasing,
asking for clarification (p. 55).
 Socio-cultural competence: every language is situated in a sociocultural
context and implies the use of a particular reference frame which is partly
different from that of the foreign language learner; socio-cultural
competence presupposes a certain degree of familiarity with that context
(p. 35).
 Social competence: involves both the will and the skill to interact with
others, involving motivation, attitude, self-confidence, empathy and the
ability to handle social situations (p. 65).

In describing what she regards as a conceptual expansion, Kasper ( 1997,

p. 345 ) notes that strategic competence operates at the levels of pragmatic and
organizational competence but in a broader sense than that proposed by Canale
and Swain. While the ability to solve receptive and productive problems due to
lack of knowledge or accessibility remains an aspect of strategic competence, it
is now more generally thought of as the ability to use linguistic knowledge
efficiently. She adds that the extension is compatible with the view that
language use is always strategic.

H.G. Widdowson (1989, p.135), about the communicative competence

―Communicative competence is not a matter of knowing rules for the
composition of sentences and being able to employ such rules to assemble
expressions from scratch as and when occasion requires. It is much more a
matter of knowing a stock of partially pre-assembled patterns, formulaic
frameworks, and a kit of rules, so to speak, and being able to apply the rules
to make whatever adjustments are necessary according to contextual
demands. Communicative competence in this view is essentially a matter of
adaptation, and rules are not generative but regulative and subservient.‖

3.2 Communicative competence as the goal of Communicative

Language Teaching
In planning a language course, decisions have to be made about the
content of the course, including decisions about what vocabulary and grammar
to teach at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, and which skills
and micro skills to teach and in what sequence. Decisions about these issues
belong to the field of syllabus design or course design. Decisions about how best
to teach the contents of a syllabus belong to the field of methodology.
Communicative competence was a reaction against Chomsy‘s theory of
language and language acquisition. The term has been redefined and extended
constantly. By the same token, language teaching has seen many changes in
methodology in the last century.

The notion of communicative competence resulted in a new approach
to language teaching, called Communicative Language Teaching or
Communicative Approach. It, too, came as reaction against the traditional
approaches and methods of language teaching.
In passing, a difference between learning and acquisition is important
to mention. Here, we refer to the predominant theory of foreign language
learning which was developed by the University of Steven Krashen. There
are five main components of Krashen‘s theory. Each of the components
relates to a different aspect of the language learning process. The five
components are as follows:

 The Acquisition Learning Hypothesis

 The Monitor Hypothesis
 The Natural Order Hypothesis
 The Input Hypothesis
 The Affective Filter Hypothesis

This Acquisition Learning hypothesis actually combines two fundamental

theories of how individuals learn languages. Krashen (1981) has concluded that
there are two systems of language acquisition that are independent but related:
the acquired system and the learned system.

The acquired system relates to the unconscious aspect of language

acquisition. When people learn their first language by speaking the language
naturally in daily interaction with others who speak their native language, this
acquired system is at work. In this system, speakers are less concerned with the
structure of their utterances than with the act of communicating meaning.
Krashen privileges the acquired system over the learned system.

The learned system relates to formal instruction where students engage in

formal study to acquire knowledge about the target language. For example,
studying the rules of syntax is part of the learned system.
During 1970s, a reaction to traditional language teaching approaches
began and soon spread around the world as older methods such as
Audiolingualism and Situational Language Teaching fell out of fashion. The
centrality of grammar in language teaching and learning was questioned, since it
was argued that language ability involved much more than grammatical
competence. While grammatical competence was needed to produce
grammatically correct sentences, attention shifted to the knowledge and skills
needed to use grammar and other aspects of language appropriately for different
communicative purposes such as making requests, giving advice, making
suggestions, describing wishes and needs, and so on.
This reaction to traditional approaches of teaching can be traced back to
simultaneous developments in Europe and North America. In Britain, British
applied linguists emphasized a fundamental dimension of language that was
poorly discussed in current approaches to language teaching at that time. That
was the functional and communicative potential of language. They saw the need
to focus in language teaching on communicative proficiency rather than on mere
mastery of grammatical structures.
As the European countries became more dependent on one another, the
Council of Europe developed a syllabus for learners based on notional-
functional concepts of language use. The syllabus was based on Halliday‘s ideas
of language as meaning potential and social use of language.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Hymes (1971) had reacted to Chomsky‘s
characterization of the linguistic competence of the ideal native speaker and,
retaining Chomsky‘s distinction between competence and performance,
proposed the term ‗‗communicative competence‘‘ to represent the ability to use
language in a social context, to observe sociolinguistic norms of
appropriateness. Hymes‘s concern with speech communities and the integration
of language, communication, and culture was similar to that of Firth and
Halliday in the British linguistic tradition.

The work of the Council of Europe; the writings of Wilkins, Widdowson,
and other British applied linguists on the theoretical basis for a communicative
or functional approach to language teaching; implications of these ideas by
textbook writers; and the equally fast embracing of these new principles by
British language teaching specialists, curriculum developers, led to the
development of the new approach: Communicative Language Teaching.
Although communicative language teaching began as an innovation in the
field of syllabus design by British applied linguists, most of the advocates of the
movement now see it as an approach. And as Richards and Rogers (1986, 66)
put it, communicative language teaching aims at ―(a) make communicative
competence the goal of language teaching and (b) develop procedures for the
teaching of the four language skills that acknowledge the interdependence of
language and communication.‖
Setting communicative competence as its goal, communicative language
teaching (CLT) pays more attention to the sociocultural competence,
sociolinguistic competence and all the other components of communicative
competence in the light of Hymes four criteria and models of communicative
competence outlined above. Citing (Berns, 1990, p.104), Savignon (2002, 6),
and Richards (2006, 22) summarize the main principles of communicative
language teaching:
1- Language teaching is based on a view of language as communication.
That is, language is seen as a social tool that speakers use to make
meaning; speakers communicate about something to someone for some
purpose, either orally or in writing.
2- Culture is recognized as instrumental in shaping speakers‘ communicative
competence, in both their first and subsequent languages.
3- Foreign language learning is facilitated when learners are engaged in
interaction and meaningful communication.
4- Language learning is facilitated both by activities that involve inductive
or discovery learning of underlying rules of language use and

organization, as well as by those involving language analysis and
5- The role of the teacher in the language classroom is that of a facilitator,
who creates a classroom climate conducive to language learning and
provides opportunities for students to use and practice the language and to
reflect on language use and language learning.
6- No single methodology or fixed set of techniques is prescribed.
7- Giving learners greater choice over their own learning, both in terms of
the content of learning as well as processes they might employ. The use of
small groups is one example of this, as well as the use of self-assessment.
Brown (1994a), viewing CLT as an approach (that is, a theoretical
position about the nature of language and of language teaching), rather than a
specific method of teaching, describes four underlying characteristics in defining
CLT in a foreign language classroom, which are summarized below:
 Focus in a classroom should be on all of the components of
communicative competence of which grammatical or linguistic
competence is just part.
 Classroom activities should be designed to engage students in the
pragmatic, authentic, and functional use of language for meaningful
 Both fluency and accuracy should be considered equally important in a
foreign language learning classroom. And they are complementary.
 Students have to use their target language, productively and receptively,
in unrehearsed contexts under proper guidance, but not under the control
of a teacher (Brown, 1994a, p. 245).
It is clear from these characteristics that CLT is a major departure from
earlier pedagogical approaches, particularly grammar translation methods that
pay special attention to overt presentation of grammatical rules and translation.
And yet there seems to be a little consensus as to what actually to present to the
learners or what lesson ―techniques‖1 (Brown, 1994a) to use to enhance their
communicative competence and not just their grammatical commands through
CLT. Moreover, Brown (1994b) lists six key words of CLT to better understand
what it aims at: learner-centered, cooperative (collaborative), interactive,
integrated, content-centered, and task based.

After presenting the three models of communicative competence and the

teaching approaches, one can draw some general deductions:
1- Language and culture are interrelated and inseparable.
2- Language is best taught in its social and cultural context.
3- Sociocultural or sociolinguistic competence is as necessary in language
learning and teaching as grammatical competence.
4- Speech acts, politeness principles and other areas of pragmatic
competence vary from one culture to another. Therefore, students need to
be made aware of cross-cultural differences in realizing and recognizing
speech acts.
5- The view of language as communication and interaction, a main principle
of the communicative approach, covers all the aspects involved in
communication. Whether verbal or nonverbal, these aspects differ cross-
culturally; ignoring these aspects could cause cross-cultural
miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Chapter Four

Language, Culture and Communication

4.0 Introduction
This chapter will focus on the differences between American and Kurdish
cultural values, traditions and communicative styles. Pragmatic competence
with its problematic areas for students will be explained in the context of the test
given to fourth year students in chapter five.

4.1 Defining Culture

Culture is difficult to be defined because it is the essence of who we are
and how we exist in the world. It is derived from understandings acquired by
people through experience and observation (at times speculation) about how to
live together as a community, how to interact with the physical environment,
and knowledge or beliefs about their relationships or positions within the
universe. Many anthropologists and other researchers have provided definitions
for culture as the underlying phenomenon guiding humanity. Barrett (1984)
defined culture as ―the body of learned beliefs, traditions, and guides for
behavior that are shared among members of any human society‖ (p. 54). Hall
(1977) concisely described the function of culture in the following statement:

Culture is man‘s medium; there is not one aspect of human life that is not touched
and altered by culture. This means personality, how people express themselves
(including shows of emotion), the way they think, how they move, how problems
are solved, how their cities are planned and laid out, how transportation systems
function and are organized, as well as how economic and government systems are
put together and function. However, like the purloined letter, it is frequently the
most obvious and taken-for-granted and therefore the least studied aspects of
culture that influence behavior in the deepest and most subtle ways. (p. 16)
(Quoted in Hollins, 2008, p 18)

Carter (2000) defines culture simply as ―learned patterns of thought and
behavior that are passed from one generation to another and are experienced as
distinct to a particular group‖ (p. 865).
These definitions refer to the overwhelming impact of culture on human
experience. It can be seen, therefore, that culture is closely linked to language
and its use and that in order to communicate successfully and proficiently
knowledge of culture is important. Returning to how culture should be
interpreted in language teaching and learning, Kramsch sees culture as such:
Culture in language learning is not an expendable fifth skill, tacked on, so to speak,
to the teaching of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. It is always in the
background, right from day one, ready to unsettle the good language learners when
they expect it least, making evident the limitations of their hard-won
communicative competence, challenging their ability to make sense of the world
around them. (Kramsch, 1993: 1)

4.2 Relation between Language and Culture:

As was shown in the past discussions, Hyme‘s criticism of Chomsky was
mainly because of the latter‘s overlooking of the cultural dimension of language.
Hyme‘s notion of communicative competence and its four criteria was the basis
for later developments and extensions of the term. Culture, whether part of
Canale‘s sociolinguistic competence, Bachman‘s sociolinguistic knowledge,
Cele-Murica‘s sociocultural competence or van Ek‘s socio-cultural awareness,
has been the center of attention in language teaching and learning. Culture‘s
importance in learning or teaching language either as a foreign or second can be
understood in Widdowson‘s words:

If we do not engage students with socio-cultural meanings then do we not trivialize

the subject? ...What do students learn English for? ... [W]e are teaching an
impoverished pragmatics, and we provide little basis for the kind of awareness of
other cultures and communities which is claimed one of the purposes of foreign
language study.... (1992, p. 335)

Knowledge of the target language culture is crucial in successful

communication and interaction with native speakers of the target language.

However, insufficient socicultural competence can lead to cross-cultural
misunderstandings, language transfer, and cross-cultural pragmatic failure.
The exact nature of the relationship between language and culture has
fascinated, and continues to fascinate, people from a wide variety of
backgrounds. According to Kramsch (1996, 3), language expresses, embodies
and symbolizes cultural reality. ‗Language expresses cultural reality’ because
the words people utter refer to common experience; express the shared ideas,
facts, attitudes and beliefs. And since people do not only express experience, but
also create experience through language, whether be it through face-to-face
interaction, writing letters, talking on the phone, facial expressions and gestures
all create meanings understandable to other people. ‗Through its verbal and non-
verbal aspects, language embodies cultural reality‘ (P.3). Finally, since
language is a system of symbols, and these symbols are seen as having cultural
value: people use language (symbols) as a symbol of their social identity, to this
way, language symbolizes cultural reality.
Sapir and his student Whorf claim that the structure of a language
influences how its speakers view the world. The claim is usually referred to as
the Linguistic relativity hypothesis or simply Sapir–Whorf hypothesis. Sapir
acknowledged the close relationship between language and culture, maintaining
that they were inextricably related so that a person could not understand or
appreciate one without the knowledge of the other. The passage which most
clearly summarizes his views (1929b, p. 207) is as follows:
Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of
social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the
particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society.
It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the
use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific
problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the ‗real
world‘ is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the
group. . . .We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because
the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation.
(Quoted in Wardhaugh, 2006, p.222)

Sapir‘s focus was mainly on analyzing the vocabulary of different
languages to discover the physical and social environment in which people
lived. According to him, ―The complete vocabulary of a language may indeed
be looked upon as a complex inventory of all the ideas, interests and
occupations that take up the intention of the community‖ (cited in Bonvillain,
2008, 44). To Sapir, people in different societies live in different worlds
because of the different languages they speak.
While the first version, Sapir‘s version, of linguistic relativity claims that
cultural reality in part results from linguistic factors, Hymes argues that
People who enact different cultures do to some extent experience distinct
communicative systems, not merely the same natural communicative condition
with different customs affixed. Cultural values and benefits are in part constitutive
of linguistic relativity. (1966b, p. 116)
(Cited in Saville-Troike, 2003, p.28)

Duranti briefly summarizes how language and culture interact:

to be part of a culture means to share the propositional knowledge and the rules of
inference necessary to understand whether certain propositions are true (given
certain premises). To the propositional knowledge, one might add the procedural
knowledge to carry out tasks such as cooking, weaving, farming, fishing, giving a
formal speech, answering the phone, asking for a favor, writing a letter for a job
application (Duranti, 1997, pp. 28-29).

4.3 Comparing Kurdish and American Culture

As it is hard to define the term culture, so are its aspects. Nevertheless,
there are still some core values and assumption in every culture. For the purpose
of the thesis only those aspects will be explained that are most relevant.

Before contrasting and comparing American culture, one should keep in

mind the ‗melting pot‘ United States is known for. Most of this information is
based on values and assumptions and taken from Althen‘s (2003) book. Because
the United States has a unique cultural diversity, there is not an agreed upon list
of values and assumptions. Unlike Kurdish society, American society is a
heterogeneous one.

Cited in Althen (2003) America‘s population reflects remarkable ethnic
diversity. While the majority of Americans are non-Hispanic white, 12.5 percent
of the population is Hispanic, 12 percent of the population is African American,
about 4 percent is Asian, and about 1 percent is Native American. In the year
2000, there were 28.4 million foreign-born residents in the United States,
representing 10 percent of the total U.S. population. Terms such as Asian
American, Italian American, African Americans and Arab American are
commonly used and reflect the persistence of various ethnic heritages within the
U.S. There are people whose skin is labeled white, black, brown, yellow, and
America‘s population includes Catholics, Protestants of many
denominations, and Jews of several persuasions, Muslims, Buddhists, animists,
and others. Some people believe in no Supreme Being or higher power. There
are people who have many years of formal education and people who have
nearly none. There are the very rich as well as the very poor. There are
Republicans, Democrats, independents, socialists, Communists, libertarians, and
adherents of other political views as well. There are lawyers, farmers, plumbers,
teachers, social workers, immigration officers, computer technicians, and people
in thousands of other occupations. Some live in urban areas, some in rural
But for the sake of the argument and the thesis, let‘s say that the
predominant ideas, values, and behaviors of ―mainstream‖ Americans are those
of the white middle class. People in that category have long held the large
majority of the country‘s most influential positions. They have been the political
and business leaders, the university presidents, scientists, journalists, and
novelists who have successfully exerted influence on the society. American
culture as talked about in this book, then, has been strongly influenced by white
middle-class males.

4.3.1 Cultural Diversity
The United States is characterized by great economic, ethnic, political,
racial, religious, and social diversity. The Constitution protects citizens‘ rights to
be different and to choose their own lifestyles, group memberships, and personal
preferences within the limits of established laws intended to provide the
maximum of personal and group freedom, yet maintain relative peace and order.
Despite carefully planned laws and public policy, aspects of diversity such as
particular cultural practices remain problematic, including language.
Ethnic groups living in the United States emigrated from different parts of
the world during different time periods. The original culture of each ethnic
group had a deep structure that included primary ideologies and interrelated
beliefs and values. Main ethnic groups are Euro-Americans, Hispanic or
Mexicans, Africans, Asians and Native Americans.
People from other countries that have not been to United States, or have
not lived or interacted with Americans, do not know such cultural diversity.
And they may even make offending remarks about them. Students should have
cultural awareness to avoid offending, though unintentionally. For example, a
young American born lady, whose parents are from Korea by origin, was
teaching Conversation to third year students at Salahaddin University. She
wanted to make sure that students understood her, she asked ‗am I talking too
fast?‘ almost all the students said ‗yes‘. One student made this remark ―teacher
you‘re your pronunciation is Chinese‖. She could have felt offended, but being
interested in Kurdish culture and having some Korean in her, she took it by a
grain of salt. The reason for the offense is because this type of ‗language‘ would
not be accepted within American society.

4.3.2 Individualism
An important difference between cultures is view of the self by the
members of any culture. According to Geert Hofstede (1986), cited in Brown
(1990, p. 190), societies are either individualistic or collectivist. Generally

Americans are known for their individualism; in fact Althen (2003, p. 5) asserts

The most important thing to understand about Americans is probably their devotion
to individualism. They are trained from very early in their lives to consider
themselves as separate individuals who are responsible for their own situations in
life and their own destinies. They are not trained to see themselves as members of a
close-knit, interdependent family, religious group, tribe, nation, or any other
In an individualistic society, a person identifies primarily with self, with
the needs of the individual being satisfied before those of the group. Looking
after and taking care of oneself, being self-sufficient, guarantees the well being
of the group. Independence and self-reliance are greatly stressed and valued. In
general, people tend to distance themselves psychologically and emotionally
from each other. One may choose to join groups, but group membership is not
essential to one‘s identity or success.
Americans tend to define and evaluate people by the jobs they have.
(―Who is she?‖ ―She‘s the vice president in charge of personal loans at the
bank.‖) Family background, educational attainments, and other characteristics
are considered less important in identifying people than the jobs they have.
Americans, from early age, are taught to be individualists, to depend on
themselves. This statement by Spock (1998) shows how important self-reliance
is to Americans:
In the United States…very few children are raised to believe that their principal
destiny is to serve their family, their country, or their God [as is the practice in
some other countries]. Generally children [in the United States] are given the
feeling that they can set their own aims and occupation in life, according to their
inclinations. We are raising them to be rugged individualists…. (7)

Americans are also trained to conceive of themselves as separate

individuals, and they assume everyone else in the world is too. When they
encounter a person from other countries who seems to them excessively
concerned with the opinions of parents, with following traditions, or with
fulfilling obligations to others, they assume that the person feels trapped or is
weak, indecisive, or ―overly dependent.‖
Bellah et al (1985) pointed out the centrality of these values in the
following statement:
We [the society at large] believe in the dignity, indeed the sacredness, of the
individual. Anything that would violate our rights to think for ourselves, judge for
ourselves, make our own decisions, live our lives as we see fit, is not only morally
wrong, it is sacrilegious. (p. 142)
(Cited in Hollins, 2008, p.20)
By contrast, people from many other cultures regard some of the behavior
Americans legitimize by the label ―individual freedom‖ to be self-centered and
lacking in consideration for others.
Certain phrases one commonly hears among Americans capture their
devotion to individualism: ―You‘ll have to decide that for yourself.‖ ―If you
don‘t look out for yourself, no one else will.‖ ―Look out for number one.‖ ―Be
your own best friend.‖ ―Help yourself‖. And sometimes when offering help to
Americans, they tell you ―If want to‖ not ―yeah, I need your help‖ unless they
ask you for help first.
It is knowledge about American individualism that can enable a learner
understand these and thousands of other phrases that reflect the American
concept of individualism and uniqueness. An interesting field note that always
reminds me of individualism is a baffling sentence that was tattooed on the arm
of one of my American friends. It read ―I am the stone the builder rejected‖. At
first I had no idea what it meant, but after living with Americans and observing
their behavior I understood what my friend meant: I am unique, different and
Opposite to American individualism, Kurds can be said to be collectivists.
In a collectivist society, One′s identity derives from the group and one would
never think of breaking the loyalty towards the group. This means that there is
lifelong loyalty and goals of the `in-group′ are more important than personal
goals. The `we′ identity takes precedence over the `I′ identity in collectivistic
cultures. For example when asking about family, sometimes Kurds say ―So,

How are the kids doing?‖ even if the person asked the question doesn‘t have
kids, and is recently married.
Hosfstede (1986, p. 312), cited in Brown (2000, p. 192), shows
differences between the relationship of teacher-student and student-teacher
interactions and attitudes. The table below shows some of these differences.

4.3.3 Privacy
Also closely associated with the value they place on individualism is the
importance Americans assign to privacy. Americans assume that most people
―need some time to them‖ or ―some time alone‖ to think about things or recover
their spent psychological energy. Most Americans have great difficulty
understanding people who always want to be with another person, who dislike
being alone. Americans tend to regard such people as weak or dependent.
Sometimes when in a bad state of mind, Americans may ask you to ―leave me
alone‖. Or when trying to enter a house in the United States, knocking on the
door only means request for permission.
Mark Lê (2005, pp. 275-276) cites an interesting account of violation of their
American privacy by Vietnamese when he and his friend were in Vietnam:
My friend and I were having a cup of coffee in a coffee shop in Hue. My friend was
also from Australia. While we were enjoying the coffee, music and our privacy, a
child came up to us wanting to sell chewing gum. We politely shook our heads and
said ‗no, thank you‘. The child kept trying to sell us his chewing gum. We refused
to buy. The child refused to go away. The magic polite words ―thank-you and
please‖ gradually disappeared from our response to the child. The child got much
closer to us and tried our patience. After half an- hour, we felt very uneasy as our
privacy was violated. My friend and I were no longer able to enjoy our
conversation. We got up and went back to our hotel and sat in the lounge. We were
enjoying our privacy again...but...
A Vietnamese patron at the hotel came to initiate a conversation
with us:
Patron: Hello! How are you? My name is Thu.
Mark: I‘m Mark, and this is Felicity!
Felicity: (smiling) Hello.
Patron: What is your name again?
Felicity: Felicity
Patron: It is a strange name. What are you doing here?
Mark: We‘re visiting Hue.
Patron: Where you came from?
Mark: Australia.
Patron: How old are you?

Mark: Twenty one.
Patron: Is she your girl friend?
Mark: We‘re friends.
Patron: You‘re student or you work.
Mark: I work part-time.
Patron: How much do you earn?

4.3.4 Equality
There is a basic belief in the American society that all citizens, male or
female, should have equal rights economically, legally, politically, and socially.
In fact the constitution affirms equality among all U.S. citizens. These ideals
have been difficult to attain, partly because of the inequalities inherent in a
democratic system. In a democratic society, individuals are free to choose
different ways for pursuing ―life, liberty, and happiness.‖ This means choosing
different lifestyles and different ways of providing for one‘s livelihood.

4.3.5 Informality
The American notions of equality lead Americans to be quite informal in
their general behavior and in their relationships with other people. Store clerks
and table servers, for example, may introduce themselves by their first (given)
names and treat customers in a casual, friendly manner. American clerks, like
other Americans, have been trained to believe that they are as valuable as any
other people, even if they happen to be engaged at a given time in an occupation
that others might consider inferior or lowly. This informal behavior can outrage
foreign visitors who hold high status in countries where it is not assumed that
―all men are created equal.‖
Americans are generally quite uncomfortable when someone treats them
with excessive respect. They dislike being the subjects of open displays of
respect—being bowed to, deferred to, or treated as though they could do no
wrong or make no unreasonable requests. Americans see these people as best-

behavior friends, i.e. they will have to be on their best behaviors. They have to
change their personality to get along with such people, and that they don‘t like.
This American informality is something many people from other cultures
misunderstand. Some people think Americans are insincere, and some see them
as naïve. For example, Carbaugh in his book Cultures in conversation gives an
interesting account of Finnish girls‘ view of Americans:
A 22-year-old Finnish female, Ulla, had just returned to Finland from the United
States, and had this to say about Americans: ―Well, Americans are friendly. There‘s
this small talk thing that they do. It‘s really nice. The person comes up to you and
says ‗How are you?‘ and you talk for a while and it‘s nice.‖ Immediately she
added, ―But then they‘re superficial. I saw this person [whom she had had small
talk with the day before] the next day and she just waved and acted like she didn‘t
even know me. I don‘t understand that.‖
(Carbaugh, 2005, p.40)
What is intriguing, says Carbaugh, is that the Americans who lived in
Finland had their complaints against the Finnish. For example, an American
studying in a Finish university was upset to hear that. And other Americans
living there claimed that the Finnish were ‗so silent and shy‘.
The superficial friendliness for which Americans are so well-known is
related to their informal, egalitarian approach to other people. ―Hi!‖ they will
say to just about anyone, or ―Howya doin?‖ (That is, ―How are you doing?‖ or
―How are you?‖). This behavior reflects not so much a special interest in the
person addressed as a concern (not conscious) for showing that one is a ―regular
Americans tend to make friends slowly, if they make them at all. More
observant visitors notice that Americans tend to be remote and unreachable even
among themselves. They are very private, keeping their personal thoughts and
feelings to themselves. They are difficult to get to know on a deeper level.
On the other hand this informality of Americans makes people from other
countries believe that they can talk about everything with Americans. There is
this complaint against Kurdish people by Americans. Ihere have been criticisms
about the Kurds‘ ‗forthrightness‘. An American girl, who has come to Kurdistan
to study, complained that Kurds were very forthright. She said ―they, Kurds, ask
me about how much I make‖, she was very uncomfortable about it. She asked
for my advice, and I said ―if you were asked that question again say I make
some money enough to live by‖.
Another misinterpretation of American informality by Kurds is the
impression Kurds get when they move to the United States. Robson (1996) who
has worked with Kurdish refugees in the United States explains this
misinterpretation in this statement:

Americans who have worked extensively with Kurds, together with Kurds who
have lived here for a while, have stressed the crucial importance of maintaining a
formal relationship with the newly-arrived Kurds. They comment that our
American informality, most importantly our use of first names, is interpreted by all
but the most sophisticated Kurds as a sign of weakness, of evidence that we should
not be taken seriously.

Robson advises service providers, employees working with Kurdish

refugees, to change their behaviors and dress codes and be more formal:

Service providers are urged to forego the standard American informality and
friendliness, especially in the first days of resettlement when impressions are being
made, and to become more formal in dealings with the Kurds: Use titles and last
names all around, dress more formally, and observe strict protocol during
interviews, meetings, and other encounters with the Kurds.

Moreover, Robson suggests that Kurdish refugees be taught about

American informality. For example, Kurds have to be taught that informality
follows rules. For example, Kurds need to know that they cannot call service
providers or elders by their first names, unless they are invited to do so.
Raifsnider sums up this problematic area in a well in and inclusive statement,
she says:

Have you ever heard a complete stranger say hello to you as you pass him or her on
the street? Don't worry. That's not unusual. Americans often greet people they don't
even know. They may talk to strangers while waiting in line, or comment on the
weather when standing in an elevator, or even strike up a conversation while sitting
next to someone at a public event. It's true that this kind of behavior may seem too
casual—or even just plain strange—toothers, but many Americans consider it
friendly. Of course, these little pieces of "small talk" aren't meant to discuss

anything very serious or personal or make new friendships. When they end, the
participants go their separate ways and rarely commit to any kind of social
involvement. This is normal for Americans, who often have a lot of
acquaintances—at work, in their neighborhoods, at stores and restaurants, at the
gym. But Americans also make an important distinction between casual
acquaintances and close friends. (2003, p. 9)

4.3.6 Change and Destiny

To Americans ―History does not matter‖ and ―it is the future that counts‖.
They believe that they can do anything if they put their minds to it: if there is a
will there is a way. Because they are ultimately in control of their lives and
destiny, they have no excuse for unhappiness or misfortune. If you are suffering
or unhappy, then just do whatever it takes to be happy again. If you‘re
depressed, it‘s because you have chosen to be. And I remember well how an
experienced American army captain advised me and said: ―Tony you choose to
be miserable or successful, don‘t listen to what others say about your ability to
achieve your goals‖. That‘s why Americans can be very unforgiving towards the
mistakes people make, they say ―there is no excuse for what you have done‖.
This fundamental American belief in change, progress, and a better future
contrasts sharply with the fatalistic attitude that characterizes people from many
other cultures, notably Arabic and Kurdish culture where there is a definite
reverence for the past. In those cultures, the future is often considered to be in
the hands of fate, God, or at least the few powerful people or families that
dominate the society. The idea that people in general can somehow shape their
own futures seems naïve, arrogant, or even sacrilegious. Americans set dreams
for themselves and work on making them come true. This view can be noticed in
the phrase ―living the dream‖ in response to greetings like ―How are you

4.3.7 Time
―Time is money,‖ Americans say. ―You only get so much time in this life;
you‘d best use it wisely.‖ As Americans are trained to see things, the future will
not be better than the past or the present unless people use their time for

constructive, future-oriented activities. Americans admire a ―well-organized‖
person, one who has a written list of things to do and a schedule for doing them.
In their prominent Metaphors we live, Lakoff and Johnson (2003, pp. 8-9)
describe the importance of time in the American culture:
Time in our culture is a valuable commodity. It is a limited resource that we use
to accomplish our goals. Because of the way that the concept of work has
developed in modern Western culture, where work is typically associated with the
time it takes and time is precisely quantified, it has become customary to pay
people by the hour, week, or year. In our culture TIME IS MONEY in many ways:
tele-phone message units, hourly wages, hotel room rates, yearly budgets, interest
on loans, and paying your debt to society by "serving time."

They exemplify this metaphorical concreteness by quoting some common

 I don't have the time to give you.
 That flat tire cost me an hour. I've invested a lot of time in
 I don't have enough time to spare for that. You're running
out of time.
 You need to budget your time.
 Put aside some time for ping pong. Is that worth your
 Do you have a minute?
 Another day another dollar
 He's living on borrowed time.
 You don't use your time profitably. I lost a lot of time when I got sick.

Making the best of time by Americans can be seen in some other daily
formulaic expressions. Americans divide each day into four parts, morning,
afternoon, evening and night. You cannot say good morning after twelve o‘clock

Americans see each day different than the previous day. If they are happy
they say ―I had a good day‖. And when in a bad mood, they don‘t tell you what
has made them unhappy; they just say ―I am having a bad day‖. And the most
popular way of wishing someone good luck is expressions like: ‗Have a nice
day, have a great evening‘ etc.
In Kurdish and few Asian cultures, time is seen as cyclical and ever-
returning. Unlike Americans, Kurds have more time for rest than work.
Americans pick up fast food, Kurds have three meals at home. For Kurds
there is time for everything, when a plan does not go the way it supposed to
go, Kurds may say ―don‘t worry, God is great, if we couldn‘t do it today, we
can have tomorrow‖.
In Iraq and Kurdistan, if you are late for a meeting or an appointment, a
slight apology can solve the situation. On the other hand, most Americans will
feel offended if you are more than ten to fifteen minutes late for a meeting, an
appointment, or a social engagement. If someone must be late, he will try to give

4.3.8 View of Human Nature

People are considered basically and inherently good. If someone does an
evil deed, Americans look for the explanation, and for the reason why the person
turned bad. People can and should be trusted; and Americans are fairly open to
strangers, and willing to accept them. Americans do not wait for the government
to do everything for them; they believe that they, too, should help out. They are
not disturbed by all the money they give to their government, they say ―the
government uses our money to provide services for us, government build roads,
bridges, buildings‖, once said an American man.

4.3.9 Age
The American emphasis on concrete achievements and ―doing‖ means
that age is not highly valued for the older you are, the less you can accomplish.

Age is also suspect because new is usually better in American culture, and the
elderly are generally out of touch with what‘s new.
In Kurdistan, most of the time, the eldest person speaks first, and the
younger have to listen quietly. The younger have to be on their best behavior
and use honorific titles.

4.3.10 Male- Female Behavior

It has long been known in university circles the in United States that
young Arab and Kurdish men have to be overtly taught that, although American
women have much more freedom than Kurdish or Arab women do, this does not
mean that an American woman is automatically loose or immoral.
Such view is dominant in the Kurdish society, there is always suspicion
about male-female relationships. Kurds, generally, think that a man and woman
hanging out together means they are both wife and husband, engaged, or in a
romantic relationship.
This is not the case in the Unites States. Americans eagerly accept the
idea that people should be treated as individuals. In male-female relationships,
this ideal means that men and women can interact with each other as individual
human beings rather than as representatives of a gender. It is not always
assumed that a man and a woman are romantically involved if they spend time
together. Many men have women whom they consider to be ―just friends‖ and
vice versa.

4.3.11 High and Low Context Cultures

Edward T. Hall 1976, an anthropologist, distinguishes between low and
high context cultures. According to Hall:
High context transactions feature pre-programmed information that is in the
receiver and in the setting, with only minimal information in the transmitted
message. Low context transactions are the reverse. Most of the information must be
in the transmitted message in order to make up for what is missing in the context.

Based on this criterion, one can tell that Kurdish is a high-context culture. In
contrast, American culture can be said to be put in a low-context culture.

Since these last two dimensions are closely related, or affect the way people
in different speech communities communicate, to directness and indirectness
there will be a detailed elaboration.

High-context culture Low-context culture


Many covert and implicit Many overt and explicit

Overtness of messages, with use of messages that are simple
messages metaphor and reading between and clear.
the lines.

Locus of control Inner locus of control and Outer locus of control

and attribution for personal acceptance for and blame of others for
failure failure failure

Much nonverbal More focus on verbal

Use of non-verbal
communication communication than
body language

Expression of Reserved, inward reactions Visible, external,

reaction outward reaction

Cohesion and Strong distinction between Flexible and open

separation of ingroup and outgroup. grouping patterns,
groups Strong sense of family. changing as needed

Strong people bonds with Fragile bonds between

People bonds affiliation to family and people with little sense of
community loyalty.

High commitment to long- Low commitment to

Level of
term relationships. relationship. Task more
commitment to
Relationship more important important than
than task. relationships.

Flexibility of time Time is open and flexible. Time is highly organized.

Process is more important than Product is more
product important than process

Table 4.2 Differences between low and high context cultures

4.3.12 Small vs. large power distance
Another criterion in Hofstede's framework for assessing culture, this
criterion measures ―how much the less powerful members of institutions and
organizations expect and accept that power is distributed unequally‖ (1991, p.
125). In countries with high power distance, like Kurdistan, people are too afraid
to express their doubts and disagreement with their bosses or people in higher
ranks. In cultures with small power distance, like American and most of the
western cultures, members of society see each other as equals, regardless of their
position. And they are more comfortable with their bosses and managers, since
they express their ideas, disagreements, and doubts.

Since these last two criteria are closely related, or affect the way people
in different speech communities communicate, to directness and indirectness,
more will be said about it in the next section.

4.4 Communicative (Conversational) Style of Americans and

Communication, the sending and receiving of messages, is an integral part
of any culture. Edward Hall, the noted interculturalist, has maintained that
culture is communication.
Conversational or communicative style is everything about what a person
says and how she says it. Communicative style varies from one culture to
another culture. There are many elements involved when two persons
communicate. The terms intercultural or cross-cultural communication are used
for describing the differences of culture and discourse between interlocutors.

Intercultural communication is sometimes used when members of the

same speech communities interact For example African-Americans, Hispanics,
Asians who live in the United States may have different ways of
communication, in other words, ―when members of different groups are directly
engaged with each other” Scollon and Scollon (2001,p. 13).

Cross-cultural communication refers to the process of communication
between members of different speech communities and different countries or in
Scollon and Scollon‘s (2001) words ―communication systems of different
groups when considered abstractly or when considered independently of any
form of social interaction” (13). For example Kurds conversing with Americans
have more differences in communicative style than Asian-Americans when
communicating with European-Americans.
In the cross-cultural context, communication, like everything else, is more
complicated. It is almost impossible to send a message that does not have at
least some cultural content, whether it is in the words themselves, in the way
they are said, or in the nonverbal signals that accompany them.
According to Scollon and Scollon (2001), the aspects of culture which are
most significant for the understanding and comparing systems of discourse of
different cultures are the following:
1 Ideology: history and worldview, which includes:
(a) Beliefs, values, and religion
2 Socialization:
(a) Education, enculturation, acculturation
(b) Primary and secondary socialization
(c) Theories of the person and of learning
3 Forms of discourse:
(a) Functions of language:
– Information and relationship
– Negotiation and ratification
– Group harmony and individual welfare
(b) Non-verbal communication:
– Kinesics: the movement of our bodies
– Proxemics: the use of space
– Concept of time
4 Face systems: social organization, which includes:

(a) Kinship
(b) The concept of the self
(c) Ingroup–outgroup relationships
(d) Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft
According to Barnlund (1989), cited in Althen (2003) communicative
style includes: (1) the topics people prefer to discuss, (2) their favorite forms of
interaction in conversation, (3) the depth to which they want to get involved
with each other, (4) the communication channels (verbal or nonverbal) on which
they rely, and (5) the level of meaning (factual versus emotional to which they
are most attuned.
Some other aspects are Opening or closing conversations; Taking turns
during conversations, interrupting, and using silence as a communicative device.
Although the whole communication process is affected by culture, but for
the purpose of the thesis, the researcher will deal only with aspects that are
crucial and different according to two different cultures.

4.4.1 Appropriate topics for conversation:

When they first encounter another person, Americans engage in a kind of
conversation they call ―small talk.‖ The most common topic of small talk is the
weather. Another very common topic is what the speakers ―do,‖ meaning,
normally, what jobs they have.
Americans are explicitly taught not to discuss religion and politics unless
they are fairly well acquainted with the people they are talking with. Illness,
your boring job, and sex are some other bad topics.
Unlike Americans, people from Germany, Iran, Brazil, and even Kurds
many other countries consider politics, and sometimes religion, to be excellent
topics for informal discussion and debate. For them, discussing and arguing
about politics is a favorite way to pass the time and to get to know other people
There are also topics that Americans see as too personal. Some of these
topics are: questions about financial matters, body weight. It is considered
impolite to tell someone, especially a woman, that he or she has gained weight.
An incident that always reminds me of how sensitive body weight is to
Americans is when an American friend had shown his wife‘s picture to an Iraqi.
The Iraqi man had said that his (American‘s wife) was fat. This comment upset
my friend so much that he kept telling himself that his wife was not overweight.
Althen says that some people from other cultures see Americans as less
knowledgeable because of their avoidance of bringing up certain topics like
religion, philosophy and politics. She comments:
Listening to American smalltalk leads some foreigners to the erroneous conclusion
that Americans are intellectually incapable of carrying on a discussion about
anything significant. Some foreigners believe that topics more complex than
weather, sports, or social lives are beyond the Americans‘ ability to comprehend.
Foreigners should keep in mind that this is the type of communicative style that
Americans are accustomed to; it does not necessarily reflect their level of
intelligence. (2003, p. 37)

4.4.2 Direct versus Indirect Communication:

It has already been established that Kurdish culture is homogeneous and
high context society, and the United States a heterogeneous low context culture.
Since direct style and indirect style of communication is closely related to high
or low context cultures, they will be merged into one topic.
In a low context culture like the American culture, people say what they
mean and mean what they say; you don‘t need to read between the lines; it‘s
important to tell it like it is; honesty is the best policy; the truth is more
important than sparing someone‘s feelings.
In general, American speakers and writers are taught to include only the
ideas and information directly and obviously related to the topic at hand. They
are supposed to ―make their points clear,‖ meaning that they should focus
explicitly on the information they wish to convey and downplay the context.
Groups that prefer a direct style of communicating also focus on the
explicit meaning of words, similar to low context cultures. The popular saying,
‗You can take my words to the bank‘ conveys a belief that individuals say
exactly what they mean.
Sometimes when Kurds want or need something from Americans, they try
to ease into their requests. Most of the time Americans say ―what‘s up‖ and ―get
to the point‖.
Face has moderate importance; the facts and pragmatism are more
important than being careful about what you say; getting/ giving information is
the principal goal of the communication exchange; criticism is straightforward;
it‘s okay to say no, to confront people.
In high context cultures, such as Kurdish culture, which tend to be
homogenous and collectivist, people carry within them highly developed and
refined notions of how most interactions will unfold, of how they and the other
person will behave in a particular situation. Because people in high context
cultures already know and understand each other quite well, they have evolved a
more indirect style of communication. They have less need to be explicit and
rely less on words to convey meaning and especially on the literal meaning of
the spoken word and more on nonverbal communication. People often convey
meaning or send messages by manipulating the context. Because these cultures
tend to be collectivist, people work closely together and know what everyone
else knows. The prime goal of the communication exchange is maintaining
harmony and saving face.
Cross-cultural miscommunications and misinterpretations arise when
members of high context cultures interact with members of low context cultures.
If not educated and have no cultural awareness, a person may get a bad
impression from the opposite culture. Dr. Sangeeta Gupta sums up how high and
low context cultures view each other in Table 4.3 below.

Direct communicators think Indirect communicators think
indirect communicators: direct communicators:

 Are evasive  Are insensitive

 Are dishonest  Have no tact and are boorish
 Are insulting
 Can‘t take a stand  Are harsh
 Have no opinion  Increase tension by dealing
 Increase tension by not with issues in a direct
dealing with issues directly manner

Table 4.3 Direct and Indirect communicators‘ view of each other

4.4.3 Turn taking and pause time:

American conversation resembles a tennis or volleyball match. You can
either serve a new idea, or aim for the ball another player just hit. You have to
move quickly; someone else may get there first. Cited in Bonvillain (2008, p.
115), Sacks (1974) lists some mechanisms for American turn-taking:
 Speaker change recurs, or, at least, occurs.
 Overwhelmingly one party talks at a time.
 Occurrences of more than one speaker at a time are common, but brief.
 Transition from one turn to a next turn with no gap and no overlap or with
slight gap or slight overlap make up the majority of transitions.
 Turn-allocation techniques are used; a current speaker may select next
speaker or parties may self-select.
One party talking at a time is what distinguishes American turn-takings. I
have observed Iraqis jump in conversations or interrupt conversations with
Americans, most likely it is because Iraqis jump to conclusions before the

counterpart finishes his or her turn. Americans are sometimes impatient with
people who take long turns. Such people are said to ―talk too much.‖ Many
Americans have difficulty paying attention to someone who speaks more than a
few sentences at a time.

4.4.4 Silence
Americans can find it difficult to resist talking. They are uncomfortable
with silence and move quickly (many times too quickly) to fill in the quiet with
meaningless words. Kurds and Iraqis are just the opposite. They are quite
comfortable with silence; they believe actions have more credibility than words,
and that it is better to talk too little than too much. Or they wait for the eldest
person to break the ice. The young do not usually enter a conversation unless
asked a question or given permission.

4.4.5 Nonverbal aspects of communication

Knapp and Hall (2002) define nonverbal communication and also make it clear
―To most people, the phrase nonverbal communication refers to communication
effected by means other than words (assuming words are the verbal element). Like
most definitions, this one is generally useful, but it does not account adequately for
the complexity of this phenomenon. As long as we understand and appreciate the
points listed here, this broad definition should serve us well.‖

Nonverbal elements of communication are as important, if not more, as

knowing the rules of language itself. Some nonverbal aspects are universal, but
it is the culture specific elements that could lead to miscommunication. And
since all our nonverbal behavior is unconscious, understanding the culture
specific nonverbal behaviors should be the focus in studying any language and
trying to communicate in that language.
According to Poyatos(2002), ―Understanding communication events fully
requires the interpretation of meanings conveyed through nonverbal channels.
In the context of foreign language learning it has become common to talk about

nonverbal fluency as an integral part of communicative competence. Cultural
fluency can be defined as verbal nonverbal-fluency.‖
The importance of nonverbal communication can be proved by citing
many researches that have been conducted to measure the role of nonverbal
behavior in communication.
Cited in Bratanić (2007) early study conducted by Birdwhistell (1970)
indicated that up to 65% of a message‘s meaning is communicated through non-
verbal clues, while Mehrabian (1972) argued that in face-to-face communication
non-verbal cues convey about 93% of the meaning. His statistics (attributing 7%
of meaning to the words spoken, 38% of meaning to paralinguistic features, and
55% of meaning to facial expression) have become widely popular. These
findings have been quoted excessively, and rather indiscriminately and over
simplistically (mis)interpreted. Similar statistics have ever since been rather
mechanically reproduced.
Nonverbal communication may lead to miscommunication and
misunderstandings, that‘s because speakers of all cultures think that nonverbal
messages are the same everywhere and speakers‘ lack of knowledge about
culture-specific nonverbal behaviors.
According M. Bratani (2007, pp. 86-90) the most important types of
nonverbal behavior can be categorized according to the disciplines that study
them: Kinesics refers to body movement and posture, as well as gesture, facial
expression and eye contact and is thus most closely connected with what is
popularly referred to as body language. Kinesics is an important part of non-
verbal communication behavior. The movements of the body, or separate parts,
convey many specific meanings and the interpretations may be culture bound.
Some examples of kinesics are hand shaking, beckoning, O.K sign, and
sitting. Having lived with Americans, I know exactly what an American thinks
or say when shaking hands with Kurds and Iraqis. Americans shake hands
firmly and keep direct eye contact with the person they meet. Contrary to that

Kurds make limp and weak hand shake Americans may assume that the person
is weak-willed, insecure, or indecisive. For this reason, it is important to make
your handshake firm and strong, without being painful or aggressively firm,
because this will also send the wrong message! And since they prefer
informality, Americans often tell Kurds to ―shake like a man‖. Moreover, for
Americans, it doesn‘t matter whether they use their right or left hand.

When sitting Americans sit in a way that makes them comfortable, they
may put one leg on the other; their bottom of their feet facing others. This way
of sitting is considered rude in Kurdish culture.

There is a difference between the way Kurds and Americans beckon a

person. It is acceptable in America to use the index finger to beckon someone.
This can be considered rude in Kurdish culture; Kurds usually call a person
using their entire right hand only, and waving inward.

In America the OK gesture is made with the index finger and thumb
forming a circle with the other fingers extended. It means OK, or that's right, or
perfect. This same gesture means a sexual insult in Kurdish culture. Oculesics or eye behavior, more specifically looks at the influence of
visual contact on the perceived message that is being communicated. It analyzes
eye gaze, eye contact and its avoidance etc. Americans, when speaking, usually
look each other directly in the eyes, looking away briefly from time to time. The
listener keeps direct eye contact. Kurds, on the other hand, depending on age
and rank, keep their looks down attempting to respect the speaker. This behavior
may be interpreted as a lack of self confidence, or — worse — as a sign that you
are guilty of something and are trying to hide it. Haptics sometimes referred to as tacesics, deals with touching behavior.
Americans are not as openly affectionate as those from some other cultures. But
a brief touch on the arm could be interpreted in various ways, ranging from
flirtatious to sympathetic or reassuring depending upon the situation. but
generally it is more acceptable for opposite sexes to touch each other than the
same sex doing that. For example Americans, unconsciously, are suspicious of
seeing two young Kurds walk hand in hand. This is, ofcourse, due to the issue of
sexuality. Kurds should be aware of this when interacting with Americans. Proxemics is concerned with personal space usage. According to Hall
(1959.), the use of proxemic zones considered ―normal‖ and acceptable in
American culture (more precisely middle-class Americans of Northern European
heritage) would approximately correspond to the following.
 intimate distance (embracing, touching or whispering, 15-45 cm or 6-18
 personal distance (interactions among good friends, 45-120 cm or 1.5-4
 social distance (interactions among acquaintances, e.g. business
transactions (1.2- 3.5 m or 4-12 ft)
 public distance used for public speaking (over 3.5 m or 12 ft)
When talking with strangers, Americans keep stepping back if they see the other
person is standing too close. Kurds stand closer to the interlocutor. Paralinguistics deals with vocal communication parallel to language
itself, such as non-word utterances and other non-verbal vocal clues (tone of
voice, loudness, pitch etc.) rather closely related to language use. American
vocal patterns tend to be in a mid-range of pitch and on the low end of vocal
variation. It is characterized by non-emotional, while Kurd‘s pitch sounds more

Chapter Five

The Study of Fourth Year Students’ Communicative


5.0 Introduction
In this chapter the focus is going to be a continuation of exploring the
various aspects of communicative competence. This time the focal point will be
on the pragmatic competence and speech acts. In addition to this, the results and
analysis of the students‘ answers to the questionnaire administered to them.

5.1.1 Pragmatics in Foreign Language Learning:

Crystal defines Pragmatics as ― the study of language from the point of
view of users, especially of the choices they make, the constraints they
encounter in using language in social interactions and the effects their use of
language has on other participants in the act of communication" (Crystal 1985,
p. 240). In other words, pragmatics is the study of communicative action in its
sociocultural context.

According to Bardovi-Harlig(2002,p. 182) traditionally the study of

pragmatics has focused on five main areas: Conversational Implicature,
Presupposition, Speech Acts, Deixis and Conversational structure. But the focus
is narrower in the field of foreign language studies: mainly on speech acts and to
a lesser extent conversational implicature and conversational structure. Safont
Jordà (2005) adds relevance theory and politeness principles.
Cited in Bardovi-Harlig(2002,p. 182) is Stalnaker‘s (1972, p. 383)
description of the intersection of pragmatics and foreign language studies: ―the
study of linguistic acts and the contexts in which they are performed‖.

Leech (1983) and his colleague Jenny Thomas (1983) proposed to

subdivide pragmatics into a pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic component.

Pragmalinguistics refers to the resources for conveying communicative acts and
relational or interpersonal meanings. Such resources include pragmatic
strategies like directness and indirectness, routines, and a large range of
linguistic forms which can intensify or soften communicative acts. For one
example, compare these two versions of apology - the terse 'I'm sorry' and 'I'm
absolutely devastated. Can you possibly forgive me?' In both versions, the
speaker apologizes, but she indexes a very different attitude and social
relationship in each of the apologies (e.g., Fraser, 1980; House & Kasper, 1981;
Brown & Levinson, 1987; Blum-Kulka, House, & Kasper, 1989).

Sociopragmatics was described by Leech (1983, p. 10) as 'the sociological

interface of pragmatics', referring to the social perceptions underlying
participants' interpretation and performance of communicative action. Speech
communities differ in their assessment of speaker's and hearer's social distance
and social power, their rights and obligations, and the degree of imposition
involved in particular communicative acts (Takahashi & Beebe, 1993; Blum-
Kulka & House, 1989; Olshtain, 1989). The values of context factors are
negotiable; they can change through the dynamics of conversational interaction,
as captured in Fraser's (1990) notion of the 'conversational contract' and in
Myers-Scotton's Markedness Model (1993).

Pragmatic ability in a second or foreign language is part of a nonnative

speakers‘ communicative competence and therefore has to be located in a model
of communicative competence, most clearly in Bachman and Palmer‘s (1996)
communicative language ability, and in other names in Celce-Murcia and
Canale‘s (1983).

The most dominant area of pragmatics in foreign language studies is the

theory of speech acts. And this is what will be elaborated in this chapter.

5.1.2 Interlanguage pragmatics
Interlanguage pragmatics is a new subfield within the foreign language
learning research area. It is concerned with the pragmatic competence and
performance of second and foreign language learners; thus, studies in this field
focus on the non-native speaker‘s use and acquisition of pragmatic knowledge
in/of the target language. Kasper and Dahl (1991, 216) define interlanguage
pragmatics as referring to nonnative speakers‘ comprehension and production of
pragmatics and how that foreign language-related knowledge is acquired.
The first studies appeared almost 30 years ago in North America (Borkin
and Reinhart, 1978) and Europe (Hackman, 1977). From that moment, scholars
have focused on speech-act performance by learners of a foreig language. One
of the most influential works in this field is that of Blum-Kulka et al. (1989),
who attempted to discern variations in speech-acts production by individual
from different linguistic backgrounds.

5.1.3 Pragmatic Transfer

The concept of transfer was first used in the Contrastive Analysis which
was connected to behaviorist views of language learning and to structural
linguistics. The amazing effect that the L1 had on the L2 mainly at the level of
pronunciation, led researchers in the 1960s to the Contrastive Analysis
Hypothesis (CAH). In those days, there were two widely held beliefs. Firstly,
the native language strongly influenced the foreign language. Secondly, this
influence was negative. Accordingly, contrastive analysts held that the first
language interfered with second or foreign learning. The CAH suggested that
where two languages were different, there would be negative transfer or
interference since learners would experience difficulty that would result in the
production of errors; and that where two languages were similar, there would be
positive transfer since learning would be facilitated and few errors would result.
The term ‗transfer‘ is generally used to refer to the systematic influences
of existing knowledge on the acquisition of new knowledge. People usually

approach a new problem or situation with an existing mental set: a frame of
mind involving an existing disposition to think of a problem or a situation in a
particular way. Mental sets are largely determined by culture-specific
knowledge. Therefore, communication between individuals from different
cultural backgrounds may be influenced by their different mental sets. For
example, in some cultures an offer of coffee after a meal is generally recognized
as a polite way to indicate to the guests that they ought to leave soon if they do
not wish to outstay their welcome. In other cultures, an offer of coffee on a
similar occasion is just an act of the host's kindness (or even an invitation to the
guests to stay a little bit longer than they had intended).
Kasper defines pragmatic transfer as "the influence exerted by learners'
pragmatic knowledge of languages and cultures other than foreign language on
their comprehension and production and learning of foreign language pragmatic
information" (Kasper, 1992, p. 207).
Kasper (1992) identifies two types of pragmatic transfer: Pragmalinguistic
transfer and Sociopragmatic transfer. A pragmalinguistic transfer is the
influence of the learner‘s knowledge about the illocutionary force or politeness
value assigned to particular linguistic form-functions in native language, which,
when mapped by learners into the perception and production of a similar
situation in target language, sounds different to native speakers. In Kasper‘s
words, it is ―the process whereby the illocutionary force or politeness value
assigned to a particular linguistic material in NL influences learners‘ perception
and production of form-function mappings in target lanugage‖ (Kasper, 1992, p.

A sociopragmatic transfer is a process ―operative when the social

perceptions underlying language users‘ interpretation and performance of
linguistic action in target language are influenced by their assessment of
subjectively equivalent native language contexts.‖(Kasper, 1992:209).
Accordingly, it can be inferred from Kasper‘s dichotomous division of
pragmatic transfer that negative pragmatic transfer also has two corresponding
types. The first type is negative pragmalinguistic pragmatic transfer, and the
other, negative sociopragmatic transfer.

5.1. 4 Cross-cultural pragmatic failure

Thomas defines pragmatics as ―meaning in interaction‖ which involves
―the negotiation of meaning between speaker and hearer, the context of
utterance(physical, social and linguistic) and the meaning potential of an
utterance‖ (1995, p. 22). According to Fraser, who insists a theory of linguistic
communication, ―any effects beyond the successful recognition of the speaker's
intentions, such as convincing, annoying, or confusing the hearer, are not part of
communication but the result of communication, or perhaps the result of failure
to communicate‖ (1983, p.30). What Fraser describes means ―pragmatic failure
or the inability to understand what is meant by what is said‖ presented by
Thomas (1983, p.91).
According to Thomas the term ‗cross-cultural‘ means not only
―native-non native interactions,‖ but it also means ―any communication between
two people who, in any particular domain, do not share a common linguistic or
cultural background‖ (1983, p.91).
Where a common linguistic or cultural background is not shared between
people, cross-cultural tensions occur in terms of the ease with which they can
communicate effectively. Culture, which includes world view, belief, values and
behavior and so on, can be used as specific paralinguistic and prosodic features
such as tone of voice, intonation, gestures, and loudness to establish the meaning
of the message or accomplish other conversational results. In other words, tone
of voice, gestures, facial expressions, even the clothes people wear convey
Most of the text books provide samples of different speech acts, for
example speech act of greeting. According to text books using a different style
or using words according to formality and informality is not accepted. However,
each culture conveys this meaning differently. For example, two friends meet
and one greets the other by exclaiming ―WOW! Linda! What did you do to your
hair? I almost didn't recognize you. It looks great‖ (Wolfson, 1983:82).
According to Wolfson, ―the sort of compliment, immediately recognizable to
any native speaker of American English by its intonational contour, has more
than once been perceived as a serious insult by a nonnative speaker who was
unfamiliar with the meaning of the intonation and who could only interpret the
words by their literal meaning‖ (1983, p.82).
Kaspar indicates two types of foreign language learner's pragmatic
misunderstanding of being unable to distinguish between phatic talk and
referential talk, and of missing the intended illocutionary force of indirect
speech acts. Kaspar points out four reasons of learner's pragmatic failure as
… the learners (a) rely too heavily on bottom-up processing, (b) do not make
sufficient use of illocutionary force indicating devices, (c) have problems in
activating frames relevant in the given context, and (d) have too little flexibility
for frames shift if incoming data are incompatible with a currently active
higher-order frame (1984, p. 1)

5.1.5 Speech Act Theory

Speech act theory attempts to explain how speakers use language to

accomplish intended actions and how hearers infer intended meaning from what
is said. Although speech act studies are now considered a sub-discipline of
cross-cultural pragmatics, they actually take their origin in the philosophy of

It was for too long the assumption of philosophers that the business of a
‗statement‘ can only be to ‗describe‘ some state of affairs, or to ‗state some
fact‘, which it must do either truly or falsely. (…) But now in recent years,
many things, which would once have been accepted without question as
‗statements‘ by both philosophers and grammarians have been scrutinized with
new care. (…) It has come to be commonly held that many utterances which
look like statements are either not intended at all, or only intended in part, to
record or impart straight forward information about the facts (…). (Austin,
1962, p. 1)

Austin proposed a three-way taxonomy of speech acts: 1) a locutionary
act refers to the act of saying something meaningful, that is, the act of uttering a
fragment or a sentence in the literal sense (referring and predicating); 2) an
illocutionary act is an act performed in saying something that has a conventional
force such as informing, ordering, warning, complaining, requesting, or
refusing; and, 3) a perlocutionary act refers to what we achieve ―by saying
something such as convincing, persuading, deterring, and even, say, surprising
or misleading‖ (1962, p. 109). For Austin, the realization of a particular speech
act depended on the appropriate circumstances of the speech event such as
having a conventional procedure and the presence of the appropriate persons and
Austin‘s speech act theory was solidified and further developed by the
American philosopher John Searle. In his seminal book Speech Acts, Searle
(1969) noted that speaking a language is performing speech acts, acts such as
making statements, giving commands, asking questions, making promises,
offering apologies, and so on. Languages have different linguistic resources for
communicating speech acts. Speech acts can be realized explicitly using
performative verbs or speech act verbs (e.g., I apologize, I refuse, I promise,
etc.). However, it should be noted that not all speech acts may be realized using
speech act verbs, as one cannot use the verb ‗to insult‘ to explicitly insult
someone (e.g., ‗I insult you!‘); but rather, speakers may employ other linguistic
resources to express the illocutionary force of a speech act.
Searle (1976) classifies illocutionary speech-acts in five groups, namely
those of representatives, directives, commissives, expressives and declarations.
Representatives are an attempt to describe the world and the ‗world to match the
words‘ (Searle, 1976: 3). When the speaker tries to get the hearer to commit to
some future course of action we are dealing with directives. According to Searle,
directives are attempts to make the world match the words. In the case of
commissives, the speaker commits himself to some future course of action, while
the purpose of using expressives is to show the speaker‘s psychological state of

mind regarding his/her attitude to some prior action or state of affairs. Finally,
declarations require extralinguistic institutions for their performance (e.g.
appointing a new director).

The importance of studying speech acts is crucial in developing the

students‘ ability to communicate properly in the target language because when
foreign language learners engage in conversations with native speakers,
difficulties may arise due to their lack of mastery of the conversational norms
involved in the production of speech acts. Such conversational difficulties may
in turn cause breakdowns in interethnic communication (Gumperz, 1990). When
the nonnative speakers violate speech act realization patterns typically used by
native speakers of a target language, they often suffer the continuing risk of
unintentionally violating conversational (and politeness) norms, thus giving up
their claims to being treated by their interactants as social equals (Kasper, 1990,
p. 139).

Speech acts are realized differently cross-culturally. Japanese speakers

tend to give very vague excuses when refusing invitations. An example is, ―I‘m
sorry, but I am busy.‖ American English speakers, on the other hand, tend to
give very concrete excuses. An example is, ―I‘d love to go, but I have to attend
a wedding on that day.‖ These are just a couple of common examples that
illustrate that speech acts are often realized quite differently cross-culturally.

Olshtain (1989) found that speakers did not apologize the same cross-
culturally. She investigated apology strategies in: Hebrew, Australian English,
Canadian French, and German. One of the most startling differences between
the Hebrew and American speakers was that Hebrew speakers did not give a
promise of forbearance (for example, ―I won‘t let it happen again). In English, a
promise of forbearance is both common and expected in some apology
situations. It is difficult for a foreign language learner to conceptualize the
notion that not only do they have to learn the lexical items and syntactic

structure of a speech act, but the whole conceptualization of what that speech act
is may differ between the two languages.

Another example (Thomas, 1995) illustrates differences in the degree of

directness of speech acts. An American who was visiting Israel was offered a
drink by a friend. Her reply was, ―Well, I‘ve been on whisky all day‖ (p. 121).
The American woman was attempting to indicate that she would prefer to keep
drinking whiskey; however, her host interpreted her reply as a request for a
drink other than whiskey. This is just one example that further illustrates the
fact that Americans are not always ―direct‖ and that even with the best
intentions in mind, due to differing conceptualizations of speech acts, instances
of miscommunication can occur.

It is very important, again, that speech acts be taught in classroom

because learners of all languages tend to have difficulty understanding the
intended meaning communicated by a speech act, or producing a speech act
using appropriate language and manner in the language being learned. Research
has found that classroom instruction on speech acts can help learners to improve
their performance of speech acts and thus their interactions with native speakers.

5.2 A Review of the Speech Acts Examined

In order to analyze the answers given by senior students, each category of
questions will be described. Description of the questions is made by referring to
typical forms of speech acts agreed upon by applied linguists. Students‘ answers
will be compared and contrasted to those descriptions, or appropriate potential

5.2.1 Apology

1- In American English people typically use apologies for a variety of

reasons such as:

1. To say that they are sorry

2. To explain why the offense happened

3. To make a repair for the offense and maintain a good relationship with the

2- Complex speech acts like apologies actually consist of a set of routinized

patterns or strategies typically used by native speakers of the language. There
are five possible strategies for making an apology (Cohen & Olshtain, 1981. pp.

A. An expression of an apology. The speaker uses a word, expression, or

sentence containing a verb such as "sorry," "excuse," "forgive," or

B. . Acknowledgement of responsibility. The offender recognizes his/her

fault in causing the infraction. The degree of such recognition on the part
of the apologizer can be placed on a scale. The highest level of intensity is
an acceptance of the blame: "It's my fault." At a somewhat lower level
would be an expression of self-deficiency: "I was confused/I didn't
see/You are right." At a still lower level would be the expression of lack
of intent: "I didn't mean to."

C. An explanation or account. The speaker describes the situation which

caused him/her to commit the offense and which is used by this speaker as
an indirect way of apologizing.

D. An offer of repair. The apologizer makes a bid to carry out an action or

provide payment for some kind of damage resulting from his/her
If someone is late for an appointment with a friend s/he might say
something like,

"How can I make it up to you- why don‘t I buy you lunch on

Or someone who fails to make it to an appointment might say,

"Would you be willing to reschedule the meeting?"

E. A promise of non-recurrence. The apologizer commits him/herself to

not having the offense happen again, which is again situation-specific and
less frequent than the other strategies, for example ― I wouldn‘t let it

5.2.2 Complaints

Americans use complaints:

 to express displeasure, disapproval, annoyance, blame, censure, threats, or

reprimand as a reaction to a perceived offense/ violation of social rules
(Olshtain & Weinbach, 1985, 1993; Trosborg, 1995)

 to hold the hearer accountable for the offensive action and possibly
suggest/request a repair (Olshtain & Weinbach, 1985, 1993)

 to confront a problem with an intention to improve the situation ("a face-

threatening activity", Brown & Levinson, 1978)

 to share a specific negative evaluation, obtain agreement, and establish a

common bond between the speaker and addressee "trouble sharing"
(Hatch, 1992), "troubles talk" (Tannen, 1990) (Boxer, 1993a, 1996). For

1. "I can't believe I didn't get an A on this paper. I worked so hard!"

2. "Same here. She doesn't give away A's very easily, that's for sure."

 to vent anger or anxiety/let off steam (Boxer, 1993a, 1996)

 to open and sustain conversations (Boxer, 1993a, 1996)

Two categories of complaints, direct and indirect complaints, are often

investigated separately. While direct complaints are addressed to a complainee
who is held responsible for the offensive action (Could you be a little quieter?
I’m trying to sleep), indirect complaints are given to addressees who are not
responsible for the perceived offense (She never cleans up after her. Isn’t that
horrible?). Indirect complaints often open a conversation and establish
solidarity between the speakers.

1-Direct Complaints

Explanation of Purpose / Warning for the Forthcoming Complaint

 Listen, John, there’s something I want to talk to you about. You remember
our agreement, don’t you?

 Look, I don’t want to be horrible about it.


 I think maybe the grade was a little too low.

 I put a lot of time and effort in this...

Request for Solution/Repair

 I would appreciate it if you would reconsider my grade.

 Would you mind doing your share of the duties?

 I presume your insurance will cover the damage.

Request for non-recurrence (The speaker requests that the complainee never
perform the offence again or improve the behavior.)

 Well, I’d really like to find out about this because I’m hoping it won’t
happen again.

2-Indirect Complaints

Indirect complaints usually begin with an introductory expression like one of the

 There’s no way...  I can’t take it.

 I’m sick and tired...  How dare...
 The problem is...  It’s a shame...
 It’s not fair...  This is not my day!
 I’m up to here...  It drives me crazy!
 I can’t stand...  Unfortunately...

Indirect complaints tend to center on three themes:

1. Self (Oh, I’m so stupid.)

2. Other (John is the worst manager.)

3. Situation (I feel, in a way, boxed in, you know?/Why did they have to
raise tuition?)

Boxer (1993a, pp.30-3)1.

5.2.3 Compliments / Responses

In American English compliments are used for a variety of reasons:

 To express admiration or approval of someone‘s work/appearance/taste

(Manes, 1983; Herbert, 1990).

 To establish/confirm/maintain solidarity (Manes & Wolfson, 1981;

Wolfson, 1989).

 To replace greetings/gratitude/apologies/congratulations (Wolfson, 1983,

 To soften face-threatening acts such as apologies, requests and criticism

(Brown & Levinson, 1978; Wolfson, 1983).

 To open and sustain conversation (conversation strategy) (Wolfson, 1983;

Billmyer, 1990; Dunham, 1992).

 To reinforce desired behavior (Manes, 1983).

Major compliment topics can be classified into four categories

1. appearance/possessions

Compliments on someone‘s appearance or possessions are the most

common type of compliments in American English. "Your blouse looks
beautiful!" is an example of an adjectival compliment. "I really love your car!"
is an example of a compliment that contains a semantically positive verb. Like
or love are used 90% of the time in this type of compliment. Some other
semantically positive verbs that are used would be admire and be impressed
(Wolfson, 1989).

2. performance/skills/abilities

"You did a good job!" and "You are such a wonderful writer" are
examples of compliments on performance/skills/abilities. Concise compliments
such as "Nice shot!" are typically given by male speakers (Herbert, 1990).

3. personality traits

Such comments as "Good boy" and "You‘re so sweet" are compliments

on the addressee‘s personality traits. This category of compliments occurs less
frequently than those on appearance/possessions and performance/skills/abilities
(Holmes, 1988).

4. Positive Values of Mainstream Americans

1- Being slim has strong positive value among mainstream speakers of

American English, and the adjective thin (e.g., "You look thin") is interpreted as
complimentary in itself in this society. That this is very definitely not the case
for speakers from other societies around the world is often a cause of some
confusion, and even insult, when nonnative speakers are the recipients of such
remarks. Favorable comments on the attractiveness of one's children, pets, and
even husbands, boyfriends, wives, or girlfriends seem to fall within this
category, as do compliments on cars and houses. (p. 113)

2. It is useful for nonnative speakers to know, for example, that the quality of
newness is so highly valued in this society that a compliment is appropriate
whenever and acquaintance is seen with something new, whether it is a car, a
new article of clothing, or a haircut. The fact that the new appearance may be
due to an alteration (such as a new hairstyle or the loss of weight) as well as to a
purchase leads us to conclude that the true importance of the comment lies in
the speaker's having noticed a change, thereby proving that he or she considers
the addressee worthy of attention. (p. 114)

(N. Wolfson & E. Judd, 1983.)

5.2.4 Refusals Functions of Refusals

Refusals can be used in response to: Requests, Invitations, Offers, and


Refusals can be classified into two categories:

1. Direct

1. Using performative verbs (I refuse)

2. Non performative statement

o "No"

o Negative willingness/ability (I can't./I won't./I don't think so)

2. Indirect

1. Statement of regret (I'm sorry.../I feel terrible...)

2. Wish (I wish I could help you...)

3. Excuse, reason, explanation (My children will be home that night./I have
a headache)

4. Statement of alternative

o I can do X instead of Y (I'd rather.../I'd prefer...)

o Why don't you do X instead of Y (Why don't you ask someone


5. Set condition for future or past acceptance (If you had asked me earlier, I
would have...)

6. Promise of future acceptance (I'll do it next time./I promise I'll.../Next time


7. Statement of principle (I never do business with friends.)

8. Statement of philosophy (One can't be too careful.)

9. Attempt to dissuade interlocutor

 Threat or statement of negative consequences to the requester (I

won't be any fun tonight to refuse an invitation)

 Guilt trip (waitress to customers who want to sit a while: I can't

make a living off people who just order coffee.)

 Criticize the request/requester (statement of negative feeling or

opinion; insult/attack (Who do you think you are?/That's a
terrible idea!)

 Request for help, empathy, and assistance by dropping or

holding the request

 Let interlocutor off the hook (Don't worry about it./That's
okay./You don't have to.)

 Self-defense (I'm trying my best./I'm doing all I can do.)

10.Acceptance that functions as a refusal

o Unspecific or indefinite reply

o Lack of enthusiasm


o Nonverbal

 Silence

 Hesitation

 Doing nothing

 Physical departure

o Verbal

 Topic switch

 Joke

 Repetition of part of request (Monday?)

 Postponement (I'll think about it.)

 Hedge (Gee, I don't know./I'm not sure.

Beebe et al. (1990). American Refusals Refusals of Requests

Felix-Brasdefer (2008) elaborates American refusals in detail. Main
strategies are detailed below. Excuses are commonly given as part of American
refusals. Americans typically start with expressing a positive opinion or feeling

about the requests or requester (or pause fillers uhh/well/oh/uhm when talking to
a higher-status person), then express regret (I'm sorry), and finally give an
excuse, especially when talking to someone of higher or lower status than
themselves (status unequals). With status equals, Americans generally give an
expression of regret or apology, and then give an excuse. Refusals of Invitations

Americans tend to begin with expressions like "Well," "Thank you," "I'd
love to go," then use an expression of regret/apology followed by an excuse to
speakers of either higher, lower, or equal status. Expressions of regret and
gratitude are used frequently in declining invitations. Refusal of Offers

When a cleaning woman offers to pay for a broken base, Americans might
say, "Don't worry" or "Never mind" and reinforce it with expressions like "I
know it was an accident," letting the interlocutor off the hook. Refusal of Suggestions

Offering an alternative to be pursued by the refuser or making suggestions

for the recipient of the refusal to carry out are common strategies. In few cases,
expressions of gratitude and attempts to dissuade are offered as well.

In general, native speakers of American English tend to be sensitive to

status equals versus status unequals (either higher or lower). They talk to people
of higher or lower status than themselves in a similar way, but they speak to
status equals in a different way than status unequals. For instance, they tend to
say "Thank you" at the end of their refusal to a friend (a status equal) who makes
an invitation, but not with others of unequal status.

5.2.5 Requests

By making a request, the speaker infringes on the recipient‘s freedom from

imposition. The recipient may feel that the request is an intrusion on his/her
freedom of action or even a power play. As for the requester, s/he may hesitate
to make requests for fear of exposing a need or out of fear of possibly making
the recipient lose face (Blum-Kulka et al., 1989, p. 11). In this sense, requests
are face-threatening to both the requester and the recipient. Since requests have
the potential to be intrusive and demanding, there is a need for the requester to
minimize the imposition involved in the request. Blum-Kulka et al. (1989);
Brown & Levinson (1987).

One way for the speaker to minimize the imposition is by employing

indirect strategies rather than direct ones. The more direct a request is, the more
transparent it is and the less of a burden the recipient bears in interpreting the
request. The scale of directness can be characterized according to the following
three strategies: Direct Strategies (marked explicitly as requests, such as imperatives):

Clean up the kitchen.

I’m asking you to clean up the kitchen.
I’d like to ask you to clean the kitchen.
You’ll have to clean up the kitchen.
I really wish you’d clean up the kitchen. Conventionally indirect strategies (referring to contextual

preconditions necessary for its performance as conventionalized in the

How about cleaning up?

Could you clean up the kitchen, please?

88 Non-conventionally indirect strategies (hints) (partially referring to the
object depending on contextual clues):

You have left the kitchen in a right mess.

I’m a nun. (in response to a persistent hassle)

Blum-Kulka & Olshtain (1989), pp. 201-202.

Both situational and cultural factors influence use of these request

strategies. Different cultures seem to agree on general trends of situational
variation. For example, a big favor usually comes with more indirect and/or
polite strategies than a low-imposition request. Friends use more casual requests
than acquaintances provided that the content of the request is the same.
However, the specific directness levels appropriate for given situations might
differ cross-culturally. A certain language (like German) may tend to use more
direct-level requests than other languages (like Japanese) equally in an
appropriate manner within the culture.

5.2.6 Thanking

Americans thank/express gratitude in different ways for different reasons.

They may say:

 "Thank you so much for the gift!" to show gratitude,

 "Thanks for the wonderful meal." to compliment someone, or

 "That’s all, thank you." to signal the conclusion of a conversation.

Many examples of thanking appear in a ritualized form, such as saying

"Thanks" or "Thank you" to a bus driver, a cashier, or to a friend who has
handed you something. Some speakers, especially those living in larger cities,
may say nothing at all to a bus driver or a cashier. Others tend to automatically
thank others for performing a service for them.

Thanks and apologies can be responded in similar terms (That’s all right /
Not at all). What thanks and apologies have in common is the concept of
indebtedness. Thanks implying the indebtedness of the speaker to the listener
closely resembles apologies where the speaker actually recognizes his
indebtedness to his listener. For example:

A. Thank you for all your help. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

B. Don’t mention it/That’s all right. It’s really nothing.

1. I’m terribly sorry I did this to you.

2. That’s all right. It’s really nothing. Coulmas (1981), p. 72-73.

5.2.7 Speech Act of Correction

Takahashi and M. Beebe (1993, pp.138-156) analyzed Japanese and
Americans‘ performance of speech acts of correction by ―looking at how this
speech act is performed with status unequals— a person of lower status
addressing someone of higher status and a person of higher status addressing
someone of lower status‖.

5.3 The Study

5.3.1 Research Questions

A questionnaire consisting of eight categories of speech acts were
selected: four apologies, two complaints, two compliment/responses, three
refusals, four requests, two thanking, one correction, and three introductions
questions. The questions were put in order of twenty two questions total and
categorized and labeled in order to give the participants hints about what they
were supposed to answer.

5.3.2 Participants
The questionnaire was administered to a classroom of forty fourth year
students at Salahaddin University, college of languages and ten Americans .
Fourth year students were chosen for several reasons: they are expected to have
reached an advanced level of linguistic knowledge; they are thought to have no
difficulty understanding the questionnaire‘ requirements; and to find out their
performance of speech acts.

5.3.3 Study Objectives

From the literature review on communicative competence, it was
observed that pragmatic competence constitutes an important component of
communicative competence. And the most relevant component of pragmatic
competence to second/foreign language learning is speech acts. What motivated
the selection of speech acts as research questions is the fact that speech acts‘
realizations vary enormously from one culture to another. Thus the closer the
performance of the students of speech acts the closer they are to the level of
advanced and culturally competent speakers of English.

Bardovi-Harlig (1996, 2002) has identified four main differences between

the way native and nonnative speakers use speech acts.

 First, native and nonnative speakers may use different speech acts. An
example of this was reported by (Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford 1993) who
found that native speakers used more suggestions and nonnative speakers
more rejections.
 Second, native and nonnative speakers may use different formulas for the
same speech act. For example nonnative speakers may give more
additional explanations when they ‗waffle‘ by mitigating supportives as
reported in Cenoz and Valencia (1996).

 Third, they may use similar formulas but the content may be different. For
example an explanation is provided but the content is quite different in the
case of native and nonnative speakers.
 Fourth, the utterances produced by native and nonnative speakers may
differ in the linguistic forms used.
(Quoted by Cenoz 132 2007)
Olshtain ( 1983) proposed a number of possible deviations that might
occur in foreign language learners' performance of an apology as a result of
inappropriate application of socioculturd rules:
1. The learner might deviate from the accepted norm when choosing a semantic
formula for a specific situation.
2. The learner might choose a combination of semantic formulas which is
inappropriate for a specific situation.
3. The learner might perform the speech act at a level of intensity inappropriate
in relation to a particular offense. (Olshtain, 1983, p, 237)

5.3.4 Methodology
There are different and various ways to assess the pragmatic competence
of students. Two of these assessment tools have been adopted here, they are:

1-Written discourse completion test (WDCT):

WDCTs are written questionnaires including a number of brief situational
descriptions, followed by a short dialogue with an empty slot for the speech act
under study. Participants are asked to provide a response that they think is
appropriate in the given context:
At the professor‘s office
A student has borrowed a book from her teacher, which she promised to return
today. When meeting her teacher, however, she realizes that she forgot to bring
it along.
Teacher: Miriam, I hope you brought the book I lent you.

Teacher: OK, but please remember it next week.
(Blum-Kulka & Olshtain, 1984, p. 198)

2- Multiple-choice discourse completion test (MDCT)

MDCTs consist of test items where the test taker is required to choose the
correct response (the key) from the several given options. Most commonly,
multiple-choice items include an instruction to the test taker and a stem
(typically either a phrase or sentence to be completed, or a question). The key
and several distracters then follow in random order (Davies et al., 1999).
Following is a sample MDCT item:
You are a student. You forgot to do the assignment for your Human Resources
course. When your teacher whom you have known for some years asks for your
assignment, you apologize to your teacher.
A. I'm sorry, but I forgot the deadline for the assignment. Can I bring it to you at
the end of the day?
B. Pardon me, sir, I forgot about that. Shall I do the assignment at once? So
sorry! It’s my fault!
C. I've completed my assignment but forgot to bring it with me. I'll hand it in

5.4 Analysis of the study and Students’ answers:

There are different ways of analyzing subjects‘ language. But for the sake
of the thesis, the analysis adopted here will be categorized discussions of the
components of communicative competence as they are referred to in chapter
three by different applied linguists.

A close look at the students‘ answers to the questionnaire reveals
interesting results. In case of apologies, out of forty students, only ten students
used the five strategies that make a well-formed apology. The five strategies are:

an expression of an apology, responsibility, an explanation, repair, and a
promise of non-recurrence.

The other thirty students all didn‘t include one or more than one of these
strategies. For example saying ‗I am sorry, I will never do it again‘ lacks excuse
and responsibility. The student jumps from an apology to a promise of non-
recurrence. Other examples of this type are: ‘I apologize you that will be the last
time’; ‘I was slept last night’; ‘I am sorry I forget the meeting for a second
time’; ‘I am sorry, I didn’t do it on purpose’; ‘I am so sorry’.

Forgetting a meeting can be a severe case and it requires a sincere and

convincing apology. As for the explanations or excuses, it is clear that most of
the excuses have some socio-pragmatic transfer in them. For example a student
gives this explanation: ‘Sorry I just used to be late, I try to review of myself’;
another student wrote ‘My mind is so busy….I have so many problems’; ‘ I am
sorry I obliged to do this because I had condolence’.

While most of the students‘ apologies had a promise of non-recurrence,

the Americans avoid or tried to avoid such a promise. They said by promising,
they would put themselves in a very weak situation and they can‘t promise to
never be late again.

In the second situation which is about a parent forgetting to fulfill his

promise to his son for the second time. Almost all the ten Americans, who
answered, promised to make it up for their son. They admitted responsibility for
forgetting to take their sons out. They also gave an explanation but they mostly
emphasized repair.

The Kurdish subjects on the other hand answered their sons‘ reminding in
various ways. Two-third of the students started by bringing up excuses. One can
tell the difference between American apologies and Kurdish apologies in the
second situation. Americans didn‘t want to lose their son‘s trust by promising to
repair the situation. Kurds on the other hand tried to convince their sons why

they could not fulfill their promise. Some examples from the answers are: ‘ah, I
was so busy with my job’; ‘I have my work’; ‘I am sorry for forgetting, you
don’t know that I have a lot of work to do’; ‘Because I have something more
important’; and I am sorry for that and I don’t repeated again’.

Absence of holding responsibility and making repair are very obvious in

the students‘ realization of speech acts of apology. American responses all had
expressions of being responsible for the damage and promise to fix the damage.
For example, ‗it is totally my fault‘ is a clear indication of responsibility. The
Americans make sure that they exchange information with the owner of the
damaged car by saying things like ‘let me give you my contact information and
insurance information and I’d be happy to cover the costs of repair’.

Unlike Americans the Kurdish students mainly focused on the causes of

the damage. They said ‘because my car was broken the gear’; ‘I am sorry but
everybody makes mistakes’; ‗Excuse me, it was something suddenly happened, it
was out o my control’; ‘I’m sorry, I just wanted to go out, I haven’t done
anything’. The Kurdish students promised to repair the situation, but they did
that in a different way than Americans. They said: ‘ I can give your price’;
‘don’t be angry I will repair for you’; and ‘ just be patient’; ‘I am so sorry my
mind was very busy. I repair your car’.

In situation four, bumping into an old lady, the differences between

Americans and Kurds are clear. Americans, besides a sincere apology, they
made sure they help the lady pick up the packages. Kurds, on the other hand,
referred to explanations and excuses that led them to bump into the lady. Some
excuses or explanation given by the students are: ‘I really didn’t see you, sorry
for that’; ‘sorry I was busy’; and ‘I am so sorry, I was too quick’; ‘oh my
beloved, I am sorry I didn’t mean anything, I didn’t do it deliberately’.

Some American apologies for situation four are: ‘I am so sorry, let me

help you, can you walk, let me pick up the packages for you’; ‘let me get you to

the clinic to get it checked out’; and ‘let me help you with your package, I really
am sorry’.

2- Complaining
Situation five was particularly sensitive to the differences in strategy
selection on the severity scale: "It is not the first time that loud rock music is
heard from your neighbor's apartment quite late at night. You pick up the phone
and you say . . ." In this situation the American native speakers tended to choose
the most severe strategies, many using threats and ultimatums such as: "If you
don't turn off your stereo soon I'll break your door down,’ ‘ If you don't stop this
loud music immediately I'll call the police,’ ‘Hey, turn that shit off’, ‘If you don’t
that music off, I will be forced to call the police.’
The Kurdish learners were much more hesitant in their selection of
strategies, opting for complaints rather than threats, such as: ‘I'm trying very
hard to sleep but it is impossible with all this noise’; ‘Some people would like a
little peace and quiet but you are completely inconsiderate’; What is going on,
you know its midnight and too tired to hear it’; ‘please, let us get rest’; ‗why do
people not care of the feelings of other people.’

Situation six shows how different the concept of friendship is between

Americans and Kurds. Some examples from Americans‘ are: ‘what’s up the info
you got on that test’; ‘what’s your deal? Why couldn’t you help me, I think you
owe me an apology’ and ‘ hey out of all times I helped you, you couldn’t lend me
a hand this time. Thanks but no thanks.’

Some Kurdish complaints against their friend‘s stance are: ‘It isn’t
friendship this way, shame on you’; ‘I will help you, I will not be like you’;
‘Good! I help you whatever you want as before’

The difference lies in the way Kurds react to friends. It seems that
friendship is more binding in Kurdish society and therefore, when a friend
performs a breach of confidence, the disappointment is great. A sense of
solidarity is well founded among friends and there is no need to negotiate via
lengthy exchanges. The complaints produced by the Kurdish respondents in this
case were rather brief, expressing deep personal disappointment.

3-Compliment and compliment responses

Compliment and compliment response speech acts tell us a lot about
culture differences and the influence of culture on language. Situation seven
reads like this: When someone compliments the watch you are wearing and says
―I like your watch‖, you would:
a. Say, "Oh this cheap thing? It's not worth much."
b. Give it to him.
c. Say, "Thanks" and smile.
d. Say, "Would you like to have it?"
All the American subjects chose C (thanks and smile), Kurds on the other
hand varied in their choices. Fourteen students chose D, four B, three A, and ten
chose C, others skipped the question.

The interesting finding here is that Kurds have trouble understanding

formulaic language of compliments. They unconsciously translate ‗I like your
watch‘ as a request by the other interlocutor. So, three of them refused the
compliment, and the rest offered to give their watch away to the other person,
whether directly or indirectly. This is an instance of intercultural or cross-
cultural misunderstanding.

Situation eight was rather controversial, (it is not considered appropriate

to give compliments to:
a. A woman about her husband.
b. A man about his wife.
c. A couple about their child.
d. A doctor about his or her salary)
Americans found all the choices as possible but they also emphasized the
context. Some of them said that the way the compliment is given tells whether it
is appropriate or not. Despite that, they all chose D. Kurdish responses varied
again, eight chose C, five B, two A, and the rest chose D.
It can be said that the only reason behind choosing C is because of the
fear of the notion Evil Eye prevalent in Kurdish society. The Kurds preferred to
compliment a woman‘s husband rather than a man‘s wife. The choices may
come from the fact that Kurds do not, especially men, or cannot compliment a
married woman because of jealousy and a male dominant society.
Situation nine was somehow similar to situation eight. It was about the
best way to compliment a child. The words used by both Kurds and Americans
were similar. But Americans used rhetorical questions like ‗isn‘t he/she cute‘
and ‗isn‘t she adorable‘.

4- Refusals
There were three speech acts of refusals in the questionnaire. Situation ten
was like this: If someone offers you some food that you really don't like, you
might say:
a. "I hate that." b. "Sure, I'd love some more." c. "I'll have just a little bit,
please." d. "Thanks, but I'm really full.
All the ten Americans chose the fourth answer, that is they said ―Thanks,
but I‘m really full‖. It consists of an expression of gratitude and an excuse. The
Kurdish subjects had different choices. Fifteen subjects chose C, two A, and one
student chose B. The Americans refused to force themselves to eat more so they
refused very politely. Kurds on the other hand thought in Kurdish and deemed it
impolite to refuse the offer to eat more than one needs to eat.
Situation eleven was refusing to lend one‘s car to a friend. Americans
somehow more direct than Kurds in their refusals.

Situation twelve was similar in content; it consisted of an invitation to a

party that the invited person doesn‘t want to go. The choices were a."Thanks a
lot but I'm busy tonight." b. "No, I really don't enjoy being with you.‖ c. "I'm
dieting so I mustn't go out to eat." d. "I don't think so. I already have plans."

All the American subjects chose A: that is an expression of gratitude
followed by an explanation or excuse. Ten of the Kurdish students chose D, five
chose C, one subject chose B, and twenty four chose A. This means that almost
half of the subjects skipped expression of gratitude, which is very important so
that the invitation doesn‘t go disrespected and unappreciated.

5- Requests
When requesting both students and American subjects used different
strategies. Americans start with ‗excuse me‘ followed by the request. For
example an American used conventionally indirect strategies by saying: ‘Do you
have this shirt in another color.’ He then explains why he wants to change the
shirt; he said ‘it’s a gift for my father.’ Another one uses conventionally direct
strategy, but very formal: ‘May I change this shirt for a different color?’ other
Americans reminded the shopkeeper that they had bought the shirt there as a gift
for their fathers.
The students used similar strategies but used different semantic formulas.
‗…..because my father don’t desire to this color’; ‘can you please allow me to
change the color of this shirt’; ‘Please bro change that for me, my dad doesn’t
like this, he considers this is for ladies’
Situations fourteen and fifteen bear similarity in content. In both
situations a person requests that the other person stop disturbing other students
and stop blocking another person‘s view. In situation fourteen, Americans used
direct strategies, for example they said ‘keep the noise to the minimum’; ‘please
keep it down’; ‘can you please quiet down or I am going to excuse you from the
library.’ The students‘ answers shared using mitigations like ‗please‘ and other
strategies. But what is distinctive in their answers is the indication that makes
one realize they have been produced by non-native speakers. Some answers are:
‘please be quiet, it’s a public place’; ‘Please help us to keep quiet’; ‘Can you
speak slowly’; ‘quiet down! This is not a café.’; ‘please remain silent’ and
‘Please here is library not stadium’ etc.

In situation fifteen, a man blocking the view of a basketball match,
Americans tended to use non-conventionally indirect requests, somehow
impolite though. For example one subject says ‘you are not a window, so could
you move a little bit, thanks’; ‘you are not made of glass.’ And conventionally
indirect strategies like ‗Excuse me you are in my way.’

Looking at the speech acts produced by students, we can tell that both
prgmalinguistic and sociopragmatic transfer occur frequently. Some examples
will illustrate this point: ‘this game is enjoyable for me, please make a move’; ‘it
would be better if you sit with me and watching game’; ‘can you move your
head a little bit’; ‘please I can’t see. If you let me to see it’; ‘please I can’t see
the game’; ‘don’t stand her. I have eyes too’.

Situation sixteen under requesting category was somehow different. It is a

request from two persons of different status: a student requests his/or her teacher
repeat what he had been explaining because the student didn‘t understand all of
the explanation. It is a request from low status to a higher status individual; that
is the student‘s teacher.

The American responses can be seen as having a pattern: an expression of

interruption followed by an explanation then conventionally indirect request.
They all used modal verbs. Some of these requests were made by American
native speakers: ‘May you please say that one more time, I didn’t catch all of it’;
‘I am sorry I didn’t get all that, could you slow it a bit and start over’; ‘Excuse
me professor, I didn’t follow you in your lecture, can you please repeat

There is a big difference between the American way of requesting from a

higher status person and that of Kurdish students. Students‘ responses were
rather very short and non-conventional indirectness was their main strategy.
They overused uncommonly used expressions suitable for the situations. For
example nearly twenty students used the expression ‗pardon me‘ as the request

or followed by requests. Some of the students‘ answers for this situation are: ‘I
beg your pardon’; ‘Pardon’; ‘Please speak slowly’; ‘pardon me, I didn’t
understand’; ‘please I couldn’t get you’; ‘sorry speak more slow’; ‘Please speak
slowly’ and ‘Sorry speak more slow.’

These indirect and short forms of requesting can be understood as results

of the culture surrounding Kurdish speakers and its community. Being a high-
context and a collectivist society are behind such realizations of speech acts. Of
course, facial expressions play a great role in Kurdish style of communications.
But Americans look the interlocutors in the eye when asking for something and

6- Thanking
Situations seventeen and eighteen were about expressing gratitude. The
situation at a restaurant, when a friend notices something on his friend‘s face, he
tells him, his friend rubs it and it gets off. Both Americans and Kurdish student
were successful in thanking their friend for noticing. Some of the students‘
responses are ‘Thanks for your helping’ ‘thank you for your saying.’ Americans
were satisfied with saying only ‘thank you’ or adding extra information like
‘that would have been embarrassing.’

Situation eighteen was about a guest leaving a friend‘s house after having
had dinner with the friend‘s family. There was a pattern in the Americans‘
responses; it can be put in this way: thanking and then expressing pleasure.
Some American responses illustrate this pattern, ‘This was great, I had an
awesome time. Thanks for the great evening, we should do it again’ and ‘thank
you for dinner, it was great.’

The students‘ expressions of gratitude were rather short. Some excerpts

from their answers shows this point: ‘Thank you’; ‘thank you very much’; ‘it
was great dish’; ‘It was nice from you to invite me, thank you’; ‘I am very glad
that share tonight’

7- Correction
Situation nineteen reads as follows: You are a student in a sociology class.
During the lecture, the professor quotes a famous statement attributing it to the
wrong scholar. In this situation, the status of the participants was unequal; it was
the professor who made the mistake. Therefore, any correction attempted would
have to be from the lower-status interlocutor (the student) to the higher-status
interlocutor (the professor).
The most striking difference between the two status situations was that no
native speaking Americans or students used a positive remark to a higher-status
person before a correction ("It was a very interesting lecture").
The dominant pattern used by Americans in this situation (from the
student to the professor) was to use a softener (or softeners) such as "I think/I
believe that was . . ." before a correction. These softeners were usually preceded
by the phrase ‗excuse me‘.
What was common in the students‘ answers was the use of ‗sorry‘ then
followed by softeners at times. And the way students answered sounded slightly
forthright and impolite, for example these expressions were common in
students‘ responses: sorry, teacher we have a mistake in here.‘

 ‘sorry, teacher I think it isn’t like that’

 ‘sorry, but I think it is wrong’
 ‘sorry teacher, but its not the right one’
 ‘something wrong’
 ‘sorry, but you made a mistake’
 ‘ oo I think you made a small mistake’
 ‘something wrong’

8- Introduction
There were three situations under the introduction category. Two
questions were about non-verbal behaviors when one person is introduced to
another one.
Situation twenty was about the way Americans‘ shake hands when first
introduced to a person regardless of whether there is a third party or introducing
yourself. The choices for this question were: a. Shake hands lightly. b. Shake
hands firmly for a few seconds. c. Shake hands until the introduction is
completely finished. d. Shake hands and then bow. All the American subjects
chose (b) as the correct behavior. While the Kurdish students had various
answers: twelve chose (c), ten chose (a), one chose (d).

Situation twenty one was about eye contact between interlocutors at

introductions. The question reads: when you are being introduced, what kind of
eye contact would you use? a. Make direct eye contact. b. Avoid eye contact. c.
Make eye contact and then quickly look away. d. Make eye contact and then
look at the floor.

Again, all the American subjects chose and emphasized choice (a), make
direct eye contact. The students, on the other hand, had differences in choosing
their answers: three chose (b), 12 chose (c), four chose (d).

Situation twenty two was rather controversial, and unlike other multiple
questions, more than one choice was possible. The question was: Which topics
are inappropriate to discuss immediately after an introduction? a. Marital status.
b. Religion. c. Age. d. Academic major/occupation.
According to Levine (1982, p. 5), immediately after introductions are
made, there is usually a period of time in which impersonal or trivial subjects
are discussed. This type of conversation, called "small talk," is important
because it often helps to maintain conversations and it can lead to interesting
discussions. Usually speakers initiate small talk with such questions as: "Do
you live in this area?", "How do you like living here?" or "What are you
studying?" It is also common for people to ask, "What do you do?" which means
"What is your job?" but it is uncommon and considered impolite to ask, "How
much money do you make?" or "How much does your house cost?" Other

questions such as: "Are you married?" or "How old are you?" (to an adult) are
generally considered too personal for initial meetings.

American subjects thought that depending on the situation and the word
choices any of these topics could be inappropriate, especially asking about
marital status, politics and religion. Asking about an interlocutor‘s job was the
exception to them, it was considered appropriate.

Students had different choices; the majority of the students believed

asking about marital status was inappropriate then religion and politics.

Chapter Six


6.1 Conclusions
1- After four years of college study, fourth year students still have difficulty
in expressing themselves verbally or non-verbally in English.
2- The speech acts produced by fourth year students deviate to a large extent
from those produced by native speakers.
3- Students‘ speech acts are characterized by being short, incomplete speech
acts, wrong semantic formulas, and inappropriacy.
4- As it is clear from their answers, students produce a language different
from both native and non-native language, in other words, it has features
of interlanguage.
5- `several students, who have learned English in an ESL setting or watched
audio-visuals, did better in the test than the rest of the students whose
only source of input has been classroom instruction.
6- Although the college curriculum is rather grammar oriented than
communicative oriented, yet students still have insufficient linguistic
knowledge, which is only one single component of communicative
7- Students use too much inner or mental translation when speaking English,
that is, they transfer the rules of Kurdish language to English language.
8- Some students still have difficulty in distinguishing formal and informal
English, polite or impolite language, and language routines.
9- Students do not have enough knowledge about the culture of the target
language speakers, they depend on their instincts and native culture when
speaking English
10- Failure of the conversation courses is behind these mistakes.

6.2 pedagogical Recommendations
The researcher proposes the following activities and steps for developing
students‘ communicative competence in a foreign classroom setting.

1- Teachers and learners need to have access to videotapes or film clips that
realistically demonstrate interlocutors‘ total behavior (not just speech)
during oral communication.
Such videotapes or film clips can be used in many ways to make learners
aware of the target language use:
 watch the segment without sound to observe, describe, and imitate non-
verbal behaviors;
 listen to the segment (sound only) to focus on the language: rhythm,
intonation, pitch, timing, and volume—as well as grammar and
 watch and listen to the intact segment several times in order to role-play
the segment or to perform a similar interaction.
2- Role-play is an effective way to develop students‘ communicative
competence, especially the sociolinguistic and strategic competence
discussed in Canale and Swain‘s (1980) framework. It also helps the
students acquire what Saville-Troike (1996) describes as interactional
3- The speech act, or performative use of language, is an area that many
Kurdish students have trouble dealing with. It is because speech acts are
generally difficult for foreign language learners to realize in terms of
grammar and vocabulary, formulas and conventionalized expressions, and
sociocultural difference between their native language and foreign, and
because in many cases Kurdish students are not taught explicitly in the
classroom how to signal their intent in performing an illocutionary act,
beyond the semantic meanings of syntactic structures.
So it is important that speech acts be taught explicitly in the early years of
college study. Speech acts can be taught in conversation courses.
4- Interactive language instruction involves the teacher and learners
engaging in activities that create conditions that foster language use,
which lead to further language development. First and foremost, the
teacher is the initiator of interaction. This means that teachers should
encourage and motivate students to come forward and participate in the
classroom activities.

6.2 Suggestions for Further Research

Below are some suggestions the researcher finds important to be investigated
by students and teachers in present time and future research works.

1- There is a need for thorough studies of the each components of

communicative competence because they all contribute to enabling
learners communicate appropriately in the target language.
2- A study of both Kurdish and English culture is important for
understanding how the native speakers think. This kind of research is
needed in order to make students think in English.
3- Language is mostly made of predictable patterns that change from one
culture to another culture, that is why research in the areas of routines,
rituals, formulaic expressions and other culture specific areas of language
is necessary.
4- Research is needed also in the areas of metaphorical, figurative thinking,
formal and informal uses of language, politeness principles between first
language and target language.
5- Since Kurdish learners study in English in an EFL setting, it is very
crucial that they be exposed to authentic materials. To do so, researches
and studies should be conducted in order to find the best authentic
instructional input.
6- Researches and studies should be conducted to point out cultural
differences that lead misunderstandings and miscommunication. Factors

such as verbal and non-verbal behaviors between Kurdish and the target
must be studied deeply and systematically.


1- You completely forget a crucial meeting at the office with your boss. An hour
later you call him to apologize. The problem is that this is the second time you
have forgotten such a meeting. Your boss gets on the line and asks:
Boss: "What happened to you?"
2-You call from work to find out how things are at home and your son reminds
you that you forgot to take him shopping, as you had promised, and this is the
second time that this has happened. Your son says over the phone:
Son: "Oh, you forgot again and you promised!"
3- Backing out of a parking place, you bump into the side of another car. It was
clearly your fault. You dent the side door slightly. The driver gets out and comes
over to you angrily.
Driver:‘ Can‘t you look where you're going? See what you've done!"
4-You accidentally bump into a well-dressed elderly lady at an elegant
department store causing her to spill her packages all over the floor. You hurt
her leg, too. It's clearly your fault and you want to apologize profusely.
She: "ow! My Goodness‖
2- Complaints:
5-It is not the first time that loud rock music is heard from your neighbor's
apartment quite late at night. You pick up the phone and say:
6-A friend who takes the same course as you at the university refuses to share
some important material for the next test, which s/he managed to get hold of. In
the past, you helped him/her many times. You see him/her on campus and say:

3- Compliments / Responses:
7- When someone compliments the watch you are wearing and says ―I like your
watch‖, you would:
a. Say, "Oh this cheap thing? It's not worth much."
b. b. Give it to him.
c. c. Say, "Thanks" and smile.
d. d. Say, "Would you like to have it?"
8-It is not considered appropriate to give compliments to:
a. A woman about her husband.
b. A man about his wife.
c. A couple about their child.
d. A doctor about his or her salary.
9- How would you compliment a baby?
10- If someone offers you some food that you really don't like, you might say:
a. "I hate that."
b. "Sure, I'd love some more."
c. "I'll have just a little bit, please."
d. "Thanks, but I'm really full.
11-Your friend Thomas asks you to lend him your car. You need the car too.
How would you refuse to lend him your car?

12-You have just been asked out to dinner but you really don't want to go with
the person who invited you. You might say:

a. "Thanks a lot but I'm busy tonight."

b. "No, I really don't enjoy being with you.

c. "I'm dieting so I mustn't go out to eat."

d. "I don't think so. I already have plans."

5- Requests:
13-You have bought a shirt from a big store for your father, but he doesn‘t like
its color. You decide to go to the clothes store and ask the manager of the store
to allow you to exchange the shirt. What would you say?
14-You are a librarian. Today a student is making a noise and disturbing other
students. You don‘t know that student. However, you decide to ask the student
to quiet down. What would you say?
15-You are watching a basketball game. A student you don‘t know comes and
stands just in front of you, blocking your view. You want to ask the student not
to block your view.
16-You are discussing your assignment with your teacher. Your teacher speaks
very fast. You do not follow what he is saying. So you want to ask your teacher
to say it again.
6- Thanking
17- At the table in a restaurant a friend says, 'You have something on your face.'
You ask where. Your friend tells you. You rub your face and ask, 'Is it off?"
Your friend says that it is.
18-You have been invited to the home of a rather new friend. You have dinner
with him and his wife and a few other friends of theirs. The food was great, and
you really enjoyed the evening. As you leave, your hosts accompany you to the
19-You are a student in a sociology class. During the lecture, the professor
quotes a famous statement, attributing it to the wrong scholar.
8- Introduction

20- When you are being introduced, what do you do in addition to speaking
(e.g., what do you do with your hands)?"

a. Shake hands lightly.

b. Shake hands firmly for a few seconds.

c. Shake hands until the introduction is completely finished.

d. Shake hands and then bow.

21- When you are being introduced, what kind of eye contact would you use?
a. Make direct eye contact.
b. Avoid eye contact.
c. Make eye contact and then quickly look away.
d. Make eye contact and then look at the floor.

22- Which topics are inappropriate to discuss immediately after an introduction?

a. Marital status.
b. Religion.
c. Age.
d. Academic major/occupation.


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