Sie sind auf Seite 1von 257

Refusals in instructional contexts

and beyond
Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

25

Series Editors

Wolfgang Herrlitz
Paul van den Hoven
Refusals in instructional contexts
and beyond

Edited by
Otilia Mart-Arnndiz and Patricia Salazar-Campillo

Amsterdam - New York, NY 2013


Cover photo: www.dreamstime.com

The paper on which this book is printed meets the requirements of ISO
9706:1994, Information and documentation - Paper for documents -
Requirements for permanence.

ISBN: 978-90-420-3715-1
E-Book ISBN: 978-94-012-0971-7
Editions Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam New York, NY 2013
Printed in The Netherlands
Contents

Acknowledgements vii
Introduction
Otilia Mart-Arnndiz and Patricia Salazar-Campillo 1

Section I. Enhancing refusals in formal settings

Using TV series as input source of refusals in


the classroom
Ana B. Fernndez-Guerra 5

Refusing in Second Life


Elina Vilar-Beltrn and Sabela Melchor-Couto 23

The effect of instruction on learners use and


negotiation of refusals
Eva Alcn-Soler and Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch 41

Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL


learners production of refusals
Esther Us-Juan 65

Section II. Variables affecting use of refusals

Refusals in L2 English: Proficiency effects on


appropriateness and fluency
Naoko Taguchi 101

The role of proficiency in the production of refusals


in English in an instructed context
Victria Codina-Espurz 121

Refusing in L2 Spanish: The effects of the context


of learning during a short-term study abroad program
Csar Flix-Brasdefer 147

Section III. Investigating learners production of refusals

Learners production of refusals: Interactive written DCT


versus oral role-play
Alicia Martnez-Flor 175
Research method effects on third language learners refusals
Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols-Falomir 213
Production of refusals: Insights from stimulated recall
Patricia Salazar-Campillo 235

Notes on contributors 251


Acknowledgements

First and foremost, we would like to thank all contributors in the volume for
accepting to take part in this project. We are also very grateful to the
anonymous reviewers of preliminary versions of the chapters for their
comments and thoughtful suggestions.

We would like to state that parts of the volume and some studies included in
it have been conducted within the framework of a research project funded by
(a) the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacin (FFI2008-05241/FILO)
and (b) Fundaci Universitat Jaume I and Caixa Castell-Bancaixa
(P1.1B2011-15).
Introduction1

Otilia Mart-Arnndiz (Universitat Jaume I)


Patricia Salazar-Campillo (Universitat Jaume I)

This volume arises out of the need for empirical investigation on one under-
research issue in speech acts studies, that of refusals. Refusals are inherently
face-threatening acts and require a high level of pragmatic competence so as
not to risk the interlocutors face. Moreover, if refusals are produced by non-
native speakers, the possibility of sounding impolite or abrupt is evident due
to their limited pragmatic competence. Taking these insights into
consideration, the present work aims at opening new venues of investigation
on refusals and at contributing to scholarly discussion. Previous volumes on
this speech act have mainly focused on their comparison in different cultures
(for example, Lyuhs (1992) between Korean and American; Gass and
Houcks (1999) cross-cultural study of Japanese-English or Flix-Brasdefers
(2008) study of refusals in Mexico and the U.S.). However, this book
explores refusals from a more applied perspective, which may have an effect
on pedagogical applications in foreign language instructional contexts.
The present volume includes ten chapters which are divided into three
different parts: the four chapters in Part I focus on ways to enhance refusals
in formal settings; thus contexts such as the English-as-a-foreign language
(EFL) classroom and virtual platforms used for pedagogical purposes are
presented. The three chapters in Part II attempt to shed light on the
production of refusals by examining some variables such as proficiency and
study-abroad programs. Finally, in Part III we find three chapters which
investigate learners production of refusals taking into account the impact of
different data collection methods on subsequent analysis of refusals and the
insights from stimulated recall methodology in order to widen the scope and
further our understanding of refusal behavior.
The book opens with Ana B. Fernndez-Guerras study which compares
refusals in TV series and in naturally occurring discourse taken from
different spoken corpora. Her main aim is to ascertain if the former may
serve as input source of refusals in formal settings. The analysis of the results
demonstrates that refusal behavior is rather similar in both databases, except

1
As members of the LAELA (Lingstica Aplicada a lEnsenyament de la Llengua Anglesa)
research group at Universitat Jaume I (Castelln, Spain), we would like to acknowledge that this
study is part of a research project funded by (a) the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacin
(FFI2008-05241/FILO), (b) Fundaci Universitat Jaume I and Caixa Castell-Bancaixa
(P1.1B2011-15).
2 Otilia Mart-Arnndiz and Patricia Salazar-Campillo

for direct and avoidance refusals, which were more frequent in the TV series.
As for adjuncts to mitigate refusals, there is a greater amount in natural
discourse than in the episodes. Taking these findings into account,
Fernndez-Guerra considers the use of video in the classroom beneficial as
foreign language learners can be exposed to authentic input which, in turn,
may enhance their pragmatic competence.
The chapter written by Elina Vilar and Sabela Melchor-Couto takes into
consideration the impact of stay-abroad periods on learners use of refusal
strategies by two groups of learners of Spanish in the UK: second year (SY)
students who had never been to the target language country and final year
(FY) students who had already spent their compulsory year abroad in Spain.
In the digital era we are immersed in the authors employ the virtual world
Second Life to offer a context for their students interaction and production of
refusals. Although both groups obtained similar scores in pre- and post-
refusal strategies, the FY students were shown to be more indirect and used
more negotiation strategies. Moreover, Second Life appears to be an effective
tool to collect data on refusals and to provide students with further digital
literacy.
Taking as a point of departure the under-research discourse level for the
teaching of speech acts, Eva Alcn and Josep R. Guzmans chapter aims at
checking two hypotheses: 1) whether instruction will make a difference in the
use of refusal strategies an 2) whether instruction will influence learners
negotiation of such speech acts. The four-step pedagogical proposal for
teaching refusals Alcn suggests consists of first, identifying refusals in
interaction; second, explaining the speech act sets; third, noticing and
understanding refusal sequences and fourth, negotiating learners use of
refusals. The study followed a pretest-instruction-posttest design and the
results related to the Hypothesis 1 demonstrate that before instruction,
learners resorted to direct and avoidance strategies. This trend changes
towards a greater use of indirect refusals in the posttest. Alcns second
hypothesis is qualitatively analyzed from a discourse perspective which
shows the learners attempts to accommodate the non-compliant nature of
refusals over extended negotiations.
In the last chapter of this first part, Esther Us-Juan addresses the effects of
explicit instruction on refusals. The pedagogical intervention her university
students followed one week after the pre-test was made up of a six-step
sequence (Researching, Reflecting, Receiving, Reasoning, Rehearsing and
Revising). Both in the pre- and the post-test the students carried out a written
DCT as data-collection tool, showing that after the instructional intervention,
a greater and wider variety of refusal strategies were employed. In light of
these findings, Us-Juan argues that the use of an explicit instructional
framework which includes not only awareness raising but also production
activities may be beneficial for enhancing appropriate use of refusals.
Introduction 3

The first chapter in Part II investigates the variable of proficiency on


production of refusals. In so doing, Naoko Taguchis study aims at bridging
the gap on the impact of proficiency as, according to the author, it has
received little attention in the speech act literature. Effects of proficiency
were assessed by means of an appropriateness scale, fluency of production
(measured as speech rate) and frequency of target-like refusals. Her
participants were divided into higher- and lower- proficiency students who
were required to perform a role-play. The higher-proficiency group obtained
a greater mean as far as appropriateness scores were concerned; moreover,
this group also proved to produce faster speech rates, thus fostering fluency.
The analysis of refusal strategies showed that both groups used direct and
indirect refusals to the same extent. Taguchi concludes that a constellation of
factors are at stake to claim that differences in production due to proficiency
are only attributable to frequency of target-like refusals as previous studies
have argued, but other features such as oral fluency and discourse
competence have also a role to play when refusing.
Proficiency is also the variable under analysis in the chapter by Victria
Codina-Espurz. Her aim is to determine the differences, if any, in refusal use
by non-native speakers of English at different levels of proficiency. Learners
refusals were elicited by means of a DCT comprising nine situations in which
variables of social status, social distance and gender were controlled for.
Codinas results reveal that beginners outperform the rest of proficiency
groups as regards to direct strategies, suggesting that as proficiency level
increases, the production of direct refusals seems to decrease in favor of other
strategies. In this sense, this study corroborates previous findings which
showed that the use of directness diminishes as proficiency is higher.
Moreover, results are also in line with other studies which demonstrated that,
across the different levels of proficiency, the most frequent strategy is
showing regret plus providing a reason or excuse for not complying with the
request.
With the aim of widening the research on study abroad (SA) contexts in
relation to the acquisition of pragmatic knowledge, Csar Flix-Brasdefers
chapter compares the SA setting with the at home (AH) one. Twelve US
learners of Spanish in Mexico and two control groups (one AH learners of
Spanish and another of Mexican native speakers) were required to respond
orally to a number of situations presented in a Multimedia Elicitation Task
(MET). The study shows that the learning context has an effect on production
as far as the learners ability to refuse in situations of equal status is
concerned. However, both learner groups deviate from the NS pragmatic use,
since they failed to reduce the use of direct refusals in favor of more indirect
strategies. In light of these findings, the author concludes that pedagogical
intervention is necessary for SA students prior to departure as well as while
in-country and post-country reconnection.
4 Otilia Mart-Arnndiz and Patricia Salazar-Campillo

The first chapter included in Part III, written by Alicia Martnez-Flor, widens
the scope of investigation on the types of instruments which can be employed
in the production of refusals in the English-as-a-foreign-language setting. The
study examines two data-gathering methods (i.e., interactive written
discourse completion test and oral role play) in terms of length of
participants responses, amount of refusal strategies and choice of semantic
formulae. The comparison of results in both instruments reveals that similar
responses were collected as far as length is concerned. Likewise, no
statistically significant differences were found in the overall quantity and
type of semantic realizations. Therefore, this study lends support to previous
findings which showed that the two research instruments under analysis
elicited comparable learners behavior when refusing to a series of requestive
situations.
The chapter by Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols- Falomir centers
on the impact of research methods on production of refusals by their 6
bilingual and 6 monolingual participants learning English as an L3. This is an
innovative study as no research on refusals by L3 learners have been
published to date. An open role play and classroom discourse recordings
were used to gather data on the speech act of refusing. Findings of this study
show, first, that whereas the role play provided a wider amount of formulas,
classroom discourse included a higher variety of refusals. Therefore, the
authors point to the impact of the research method employed on the number
and type of refusal routines. Secondly, the bilingual participants (i.e.,
Catalan-Spanish bilinguals learning English as an L3) employed a wider
amount and variety of refusal formulas, confirming previous research on
pragmatic outperformance of L3 learners over L2 counterparts.
Production of refusals is investigated from the perspective of stimulated
recall (SR) methodology in Patricia Salazars chapter in an attempt to
ascertain the students thought processes at the moment of uttering refusals.
This small-scale study employed 5 different role plays with requests the
students had to refuse. The participants refusals were video-recorded so as to
provide a strong stimulus for recall and discussed in individual interviews in
order to elicit verbalizations of the participants thoughts while they were
refusing in the role plays. Thanks to SR, six categories were identified aimed
at capturing the different types of refusals subjects had produced: acceptance,
provision of reasons, personal experience, making the interlocutor aware of
the situation, common sense and obeying the rule. This study concludes by
stating that through SR, new supplementary information can be gathered with
the aim of shedding further light on refusal behavior.
Using TV series as input source of
refusals in the classroom1

Ana B. Fernndez-Guerra (Universitat Jaume I)

Refusing is a face-threatening act in which speakers have to say no. This can be a
difficult task for FL learners, since applying inappropriate refusal strategies may
make them sound impolite. Recent studies have shown the importance of teaching
speech acts in the FL classroom and a possible resource could be using TV series.
Other scholars, however, argue that these do not reflect authentic interactions, since
they contain previously prepared and planned conversations. This chapter compares
the use of refusals in TV series and in naturally occurring discourse, to determine
whether TV series really resemble real-life situations and can, therefore, be a useful
input source in the classroom.

1 Introduction: using TV series as input source of


refusals in the classroom
The use of video material in the classroom has become more and more
popular in the foreign language (FL) classroom, since it enables educators
and teachers to supplement what textbooks offer to their students and can
help them accomplish various instructional objectives, such as motivating
language learners, practicing listening, showing culture, etc. It is certainly an
effective source of input to expose learners to authentic and genuine
discourse in the FL classroom. Video materials (including films, TV
programs, shows, documentaries, news, etc.) are commonly regarded by
scholars as extremely useful and pedagogically appropriate authentic
materials (Canning-Wilson, 2000; Fernndez-Guerra, 2008; Fernndez-
Guerra and Martnez-Flor, 2003; Fujioka, 2003; Grant and Starks, 2001;
Ryan, 1998; Sherman, 2003; Yamanaka, 2003, etc.). As Rose (2001: 310)
states, however, an obvious issue that arises in considering the use of film
for research and teaching is the validity of film language. That is, how
closely does the language in film correspond to face-to-face interaction?. In
fact, the dialogues we hear in some films and TV series are not genuine
conversations, but ersatz and planned language previously composed by
screenplay writers and then adjusted when recording the scenes.

1
As a member of the LAELA (Lingstica Aplicada a lEnsenyament de la Llengua Anglesa)
research group at Universitat Jaume I (Castelln, Spain), I would like to acknowledge that this
study is part of a research project funded by (a) the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacin
(FFI2008-05241/FILO) and (b) Fundaci Universitat Jaume I and Caixa Castell-Bancaixa
(P1.1B2011-15).
6 Ana B. Fernndez-Guerra

In this chapter we will first review the speech act of refusing, as well as some
of the literature dealing with the use of films and TV programs in language
teaching. We will then attempt to determine whether TV series really
resemble natural and genuine discourse, by comparing the differences and
similarities of all the realization strategies used to perform refusals in
prepared TV speech and in naturally occurring ethnographic data. In
order to do so, we will analyze the type and frequency of refusals found in
TV series and in some real conversations extracted from two well-known
corpora of spoken English. Finally, we will try to ascertain whether film
language has a close correspondence to naturally occurring discourse, at least
as regards the speech act of refusing, and can thus be considered as an
authentic representation of actual language use.

2 Refusals in the FL classroom


Interlanguage research has shown that an inappropriate use of speech acts can
lead to pragmatic failure, due to the fact that different cultures use different
strategies to realize speech acts. In fact, pragmatic failure may produce more
serious communicative misunderstandings than grammatical mistakes (Linde,
2009: 134).
In the case of refusals, the speaker has to say no to someones request,
invitation, offer or suggestion. Given the fact that refusals are face-
threatening speech acts that involve a certain level of offensiveness, applying
inappropriate refusal strategies may make FL learners sound rude and
impolite in some situations. Not only that, as Al-Kahtani states, how one
says no is more important in many societies than the answer itself [...]. The
interlocutor must know when to use the appropriate form and its function, the
speech act and its social elements (2005: 37).
A wide number of studies in interlanguage pragmatics and contrastive
analysis have dealt with speech acts and their realization strategies as a unit
of analysis, due to their importance on learners acquisition of FL pragmatic
ability. Some of them have dealt specifically with refusals, comparing their
use in different languages (Al-Kahtani, 2005; Cho, 2007; Honglin, 2007;
Jiayu, 2004; Linde, 2009; Sadler and Erz, 2002; Sinem and Tekyildiz, 2009,
etc.) and concluding that there can be considerable differences in the order,
frequency and formulas used when refusing.
Some scholars have also proved that the teachability of refusals can be useful
for learners (Duan and Wannaruk, 2010; Eslami, 2010; King and Silver,
1993; Kondo, 2001; Morrow, 1995; Silva, 2003). Duan and Wannaruk
(2010), for instance, compared the different teaching effects of explicit and
implicit instruction on Chinese EFL students, and concluded that,
quantitatively, explicit instruction was better than implicit instruction for
Using TV series as input source of refusals in the classroom 7

teaching English refusals, mainly as regards strategy choices and level of


formality.
As regards all the possible strategies that can be employed when refusing and
that can, thus, be employed in the FL classroom when focusing on this
speech act, the taxonomy proposed by Salazar, Safont and Codina (2009:
145), reproduced in Table 1, can be considered a very comprehensive and
detailed one. They distinguish two major categories: refusals (direct and
indirect) and adjuncts to refusals, the main difference between both being
that, whereas with refusals a semantic expression indicating the refusing
nature of the speech act tends to accompany the refusal, with adjuncts, the
expression that accompanies the refusal cannot by itself perform the intended
function of refusing (2009: 144).

REFUSALS
Direct Strategies
1. Bluntness / Flat no: No/ I refuse
2. Negation of proposition: I cant, I dont think so.
Indirect Strategies
1. Plain indirect: It looks like I wont be able to go.
2. Reason/Explanation: I cant. I have a doctors appointment.
3. Regret/Apology: Im so sorry! I cant.
4. Alternative:
Change option: I would join you if you chose another restaurant.
Change time (Postponement): I cant go right now, but I could next week
5. Disagreement/Dissuasion/Criticism: Under the current economic
circumstances, you should not be asking for a rise right now!
6. Statement of principle/philosophy: I cant. It goes against my beliefs!
7. Avoidance
Non-verbal: Ignoring (Silence, etc.)
Verbal: Hedging: Well, Ill see if I can.
Change topic
Joking
Sarcasm
ADJUNCTS TO REFUSALS
1. Positive opinion: This is a great idea, but
2. Willingness: Id love to go, but
3. Gratitude: Thanks so much, but
4. Agreement: Fine!, but
5. Solidarity/Empathy: Im sure youll understand, but

Table 1. Taxonomy on the speech act of refusing (Salazar, Safont and


Codina, 2009: 145)
8 Ana B. Fernndez-Guerra

3 TV series in the FL classroom


The usefulness of films and TV programs as input for learners in second and
FL classrooms seems clear; and, in fact, extracts from famous TV series are
lately being used as input in FL classrooms. We can say there are many
advantages in providing learners with this kind of exposure. Among the many
benefits of using authentic video sequences in the classroom, we should
emphasize the following eight ones (Fernndez Guerra, 2008: 112-113):
(1) The use of audiovisual material in the FL classroom can be
instrumental in increasing student motivation towards learning
English and activating their cognitive domains (Brandt, 2005;
Esselborn, 1991; Ryan, 1998; Yamanaka, 2003, etc.).
(2) If properly selected, videos provide a contextualized view of
language, instead of offering isolated examples and phrases
(Canning-Wilson, 2000; Hart, 1992; Henessey, 1995; Wyburd,
1995, etc.).
(3) Videos usually expose learners to real life speech, instead of
simplifying language as FL materials do, and help them realize and
accept that they will not understand everything they hear outside the
classroom, when a language is spoken at a normal speed by native
speakers (Burt, 1999; Field, 2000, among others).
(4) Videos can show a great variety of accents, dialects and
situations (Burt, 1999; Marks, 2000; Yamanaka, 2003, etc.).
(5) Visual and audio stimuli can make learners draw more attention
to the language (Burt, 1999; Cooper et al., 1991; Sherman, 2003,
etc.).
(6) Videos can actually assist with the teaching and learning of the
four skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing if language
tasks are well prepared (Sherman, 2003; Yamanaka, 2003).
(7) Learners can observe different social realities, cultural
conventions and non-verbal aspects of communication, such as
gestures, expression, or posture (Brandt, 2005; Hwang, 2005;
Stempleski and Tomalin, 1990).
(8) Learners can become more aware of discourse conventions, of
syntactic choices, and of formulaic expressions, which are of crucial
importance to acquire pragmatic competence (Bardovi-Harlig et al.,
1991; Fernndez-Guerra and Martnez-Flor, 2003; Fujioka 2003;
Rose, 1997).

All these studies related to the issue show that a fairly large number of
scholars have already praised the use of authentic video sequences in the
classroom as extremely positive and convenient.
Using TV series as input source of refusals in the classroom 9

Even though it is necessary to use real-life material in the FL classroom,


however, some disadvantages and inconveniences of using authentic video
material have also been pointed out. Guariento and Morley, for instance,
claim that authentic materials can be pedagogically inappropriate for some
learners, due to their language level (2001: 348); so that we should not
overuse audiovisual authentic input for all levels of learning. Some others,
like Chavez, question the authenticity of this type of material, since using it
in FL classrooms automatically makes it become inauthentic, because it is
not its original context and intended audience (1998: 282). And Burt (1999)
mentions more drawbacks to the use of authentic videos, mainly that they are
time-consuming, they are not a good instrument to explain complex concepts
or to practice particular grammar or writing skills, and they can contain
inappropriate language.
Besides, another issue that has lately been questioned is the naturalness of the
language used in TV programs and films. Some researchers point out that it
cannot be considered natural speech and that it fits somewhere between the
spoken and written forms. Indeed, we are dealing with fictitious language,
as dialogues have been previously written and, even if actors and actresses
make some changes when performing, they are not genuine and spontaneous
conversations, but planned and adapted dialogues based on the script, that
only try to mirror natural speech. As argued by Rose (1997), it is of crucial
importance to determine whether the language used in films correspond to
face-to-face interaction. He conducted a project identifying requests,
apologies and compliments in contemporary American films. As regards
compliments, Rose compared their occurrence in the films with a corpus of
compliments. He found that, although the choice of adjectives in films was
not similar to the use of adjectival compliments in face-to-face interaction,
for more global categories, such as the distribution of syntactic formulae, the
film data closely corresponded to naturally-occurring speech. In a follow up
study, Rose (2001) stated that compliments and compliment responses in
films are more representative in pragmalinguistic terms, since syntactic
formulae, compliment topics, and compliment strategy responses, were found
to be similar in film data and in naturally-occurring speech. However, the
same correspondence was not found in areas of sociopragmatics, as for
example, in gender distribution when giving or receiving compliments.
Tatsuki has also carried out some research comparing films and ethnographic
data. When analyzing initial conversations with strangers (Taksuki 1992),
film and natural data showed similarities regarding topic choices and topic
sequences, and revealed some differences in the way closings were
performed. And when dealing with apologies and compliments (Kite and
Tatsuki, 2005; Tatsuki and Kite, 2006) there were similar syntactic formulae,
strategies and topics, but different gender distributions and adjective choices.
10 Ana B. Fernndez-Guerra

Yet, as Tatsuki (2006: 4) indicates, with the exception of Rose and Tatsuki,
there has been virtually no research to assess the validity of film use as an
authentic representation of actual language use. In this study we will thus
compare the language used in TV series and in language collected through
the use of ethnographic methods, focusing on one pragmatic aspect, namely,
that of the speech act of refusing, to find out whether the way characters
refuse in TV series represents what real-life people say in unadapted, natural
and spontaneous interactions.

4 Methodology of the study


The previous section has shown the usefulness of using films and TV
programs in FL classrooms. Data for the present study were excerpted from
five TV series and from two corpora of Spoken English. The episodes
analyzed in the TV series are listed below. The first three of them were
chosen because they deal with students and their dialogues are supposed to
represent student language in real-life settings. The sitcom Friends was
chosen due to its popularity and to the fact that it is commonly employed in
FL classrooms. And the last one was chosen because it is also becoming quite
famous among students:
(1) Greek (Gr): this is an American comedy-drama television series
which follows the students of fictional Cyprus-Rhodes University. It
was created by Patrick Sean Smith, and premiered on ABC Family
network. The episode analyzed is the final one, Legacy (season 4,
episode 10), aired in March 2011, in which Casey and Cappie come
to a realization about their relationship as the Kappa Taus (KT) fight
to save their house from demolition. Rusty becomes the new
president of KT and vows to find a new home for the KTs.
(2) Felicity (Fe): This TV drama by Touchstone Television deals
with a college student and her relationships with her classmates and
friends. The episode analyzed was Kiss and Tell (episode 13 of
the fourth season), originally aired in March 2002. In this episode
Ben breaks the news that Lauren is pregnant. Felicity tests out a
potential new career path. Meanwhile, working with Zoe causes
Noel some undue stress; and differing priorities cause some mutual
annoyance between Sean and Meghan.
(3) Gossip Girl (GG): The series was created by Josh Schwartz and
Stephanie Savage, and premiered in September 2007. It revolves
around the privileged prep school teens on Manhattans Upper East
side and the anonymous blogger, Gossip Girl, who provides them
with the latest rumors about their highly exclusive inner circle. The
pilot episode, the one chosen here, begins with the return of Upper
Using TV series as input source of refusals in the classroom 11

East Side It girl, Serena, from a mysterious stay at a boarding


school in Cornwall, Connecticut.
(4) Friends (Fr): This Warner Bros sitcom has been aired in many
countries of the world and deals with six young friends and their
everyday lives in Manhattan. The episode chosen is The one with
the cake (episode 4 in the 10th season), aired in 2003, in which
Rachel wants a perfect first birthday party for her daughter, but her
friends and the babys grandparents have things to do and dont
want to stay.
(5) The Big Bang Theory (BB): this sitcom, by Warner Bros
Television and Chuck Lorre Productions is centered on two young
room-mate geniuses who work at the California Institute of
Technology, their neighbor Penny; and two of their friends, an
aerospace engineer and an astrophysicist. In the episode The
Vengeance Formulation (episode 9 of the third season), first aired
in November 2009, Barry Kripke pranks Sheldon during his spot,
leaving him with a taste for vengeance. Wolowitz, pressured by
Bernadette to define their relationship, gets advice from a fantasy
version of Katee Sackhoff.

The reason for comparing TV speech with naturalistic speech from corpora is
clear if we take into account that it provides large databases of naturally-
occurring discourse so that analyses can be based on real structures and
patterns of use rather than perceptions and intuitions (Zhang, 2000: 9). In
fact, language corpora have also been widely used in many areas of linguistic
research for many applications; and corpora can also be of great help in the
analysis, description and teaching of speech acts (Campoy, 2008). The
transcripts analyzed were chosen because they all include naturally occurring
spoken interaction between American English native students. They were
extracted from the Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English
(MICASE) and from the Santa Barbara Corpus of Spoken American English
(SBC):
(1) Media Union Service Encounters (MUS): this transcript from
MICASE includes conversations from 82 speakers in a library and
computer center. It was recorded in October 2000. Its duration is
187 minutes and it contains 17,093 words.
(2) Objectivism Student Group (OSG): It deals with five students in
an informal student-led study group dealing with philosophy. It was
recorded in the University of Michigan in October 2000. The
recording is 125 minute- long and its transcript has 20,830 words.
(3) Doesn't Work in this Household (DW): This recording belongs to
the SBC and it contains a family conversation. Frank and Jan (a
married couple) are talking with Ron, who is visiting them from
12 Ana B. Fernndez-Guerra

California. Brett and Melissa are their junior-high-age children, who


are doing homework and also taking part in the conversation. It was
recorded in 2003 and the transcript contains approximately 8,419
words.
(4) Just Wanna Hang (JWH): Face-to-face conversation among four
women roommates, students at the University of Vermont, that
make plans for the evening, and discuss household matters. It also
belongs to the SBC; it was recorded in 2005 and it contains
approximately 6,218 words.

The procedure followed in this study consisted of watching closely the five
TV episodes and reading carefully the four spoken corpora transcripts in their
entirety, so as to compile all the refusals. These were first classified
according to Salazar, Safont and Codinas (2009) typology of refusal
realization strategies, distinguishing between direct and indirect strategies, as
well as the different subtypes specified above.

5 Results and discussion


The different refusal realization strategies that appeared in the five TV series
are displayed in Table 2. Needless to say, there are a high number of
occurrences of bluntness, perhaps due to the close relationship between
participants, and a high number of indirect refusals providing a reason or
explanation as to why the request, invitation, offer or suggestion cannot be
accomplished. Examples (1) and (2) provide a small sample of these two
commonly used strategies in the five episodes:

(1) - Say something. / - No! (Gr)


- Want some dessert? / - No... (Fe)
- Let me show you... here, come here. Let me see... / - No! (GG)
- Well, cant you just have the party when we get back? / - No. (Fr)
- I refuse to sink to his level.(BB)

(2) - I cant just go in there without him noticing. I mean, theres serious security. (Gr)
- You know, tonight I cant, my roommates having this whole party. (Fe)
- Come on, lets try upstairs. / - There isnt going to be anybody up here. This is pointless.
(GG)
- No really, she didnt sleep well last night, so we cant wake her up. (Fr)
- I cant now, Im working. (BB)

The use of all the subtypes of avoidance strategies is also considerable in the
five episodes, accounting for a 40% of the total occurrences in Felicity and in
Friends, and a 50% in The Big Bang Theory:

(3) - Well, if you put it like that... [and leaves, indicating no] (Gr)
- Oh. Adam, whatre you doing. [Adam leans in. Felicity pulls back.] (Fe)
Using TV series as input source of refusals in the classroom 13

- Do not talk to her. / - I was going for a walk. (GG)


- ...and head to Canada! / - I was kidding. (Fr)
- Look, Howard, this is our third date and we both know what that means. / - We do? / - Sex.
/ - Youre kidding. (BB)

Occurrences of the other indirect refusals, of plain indirect, showing regret,


statement of principle or providing an alternative option or postponement, on
the contrary, is almost insignificant, with only a few instances of these
strategies, and no cases at all of the refuser showing disagreement, criticism
or intention to dissuade the interlocutor of the request, suggestion, offer or
invitation:

(4) Plain indirect: I dont think thats possible, dude. (BB)


Regret/apology: Well, Im sorry, but Chandler and I could really use a weekend away. You
know, to reconnect... emotionally. (Fr)
Change option: - Lets catch up. Take our clothes off, stare at each other... / - What about I
just get a bite to eat. Ive been drinking on an empty stomach. (GG)
Postponement: Lets not discuss this right now, ok? I thought you might want to see some of
your friends. (GG)
Statement of principle: Im not going to. I dont want to compromise what I believe in. (Gr)

Type Strategy Gr Fe GG Fr BB Total


Bluntness 4 4 6 2 3 19
Direct
Negation of prop. 4 4 2 0 0 10
Plain indirect 2 2 0 0 2 6
Reason/Explanation 9 5 6 3 0 23
Regret/Apology 2 0 0 1 0 3
Alt. Change option 0 0 2 1 0 3
Postponement 0 0 1 1 0 2
Indirect

Disagreement 0 0 0 0 0 0
Statement of principle 3 0 1 0 0 4
Non-verbal 2 0 0 1 1 4
Avoidance

Hedging 1 2 2 1 0 6
Change topic 1 4 2 0 2 9
Joking 0 0 0 1 0 1
Sarcasm 1 1 0 2 1 5
Other 1 3 0 1 1 6
Total 30 25 22 14 10 101

Table 2. Number of occurrences of refusals in TV series

The occurrences of refusals used in the two transcripts from the MICASE and
the two transcripts from SBC are shown in Table 3. There is also a wide
variety of refusal strategies which range from avoidance to direct
realizations, although the most employed categories belong, as in the case of
14 Ana B. Fernndez-Guerra

TV series, to the bluntness type and to the strategy of providing a reason or


explanation. Below is one example from each in the four transcripts:

(5) - You dont have any tools or anything, that I could, use? / - No. (MUS)
- Go ahead [] / - No no no no no (OSG)
- Now can I stay up here? / - No. (DW)
- You should make it. / - No. (JWH)

(6) -I dont wanna do this. <LAUGH> Im so sleepy. (MUS)


- You know that it wouldnt work (OSG)
- Its erasable. (DW)
- I dont feel like eating a sandwich. (JWH)

Another frequent strategy type appearing in the students transcripts is the


one of avoidance, either non-verbal avoidance (i.e., ignoring the request),
hedging, changing topic, joking or expressing sarcasm, with a 26% of the
refusals being subtypes of these avoidance strategies:

(7) - <LAUGH> yeah, you wish. Hey, can I please use my computer? (MUS)
- Okay, um, who are, who are we up to now? you- your turn? / - Me? (OSG)
- I dont wanna hear any more. / - [COUGH] [COUGH] (DW)
- So I dont know, ... like they were gonna unpack... (JWH)

Type Strategy MUS OSG DW JWH Total


Bluntness 4 1 4 3 12
Direct
Negation of prop. 4 0 2 0 6
Plain indirect 3 4 1 1 9
Reason/Explanation 8 3 4 4 19
Regret/Apology 2 2 0 0 4
Alt. Change option 3 1 1 0 5
Postponement 3 0 2 0 5
Indirect

Disagreement 4 3 1 0 8
Statement of principle 1 3 2 0 6
Non-verbal 1 5 3 2 11
Avoidance

Hedging 0 0 0 0 0
Change topic 1 3 4 1 9
Joking 1 1 1 0 3
Sarcasm 0 0 2 0 2
Other 0 1 0 0 1
Total 35 27 27 11 100

Table 3. Number of occurrences of refusals in the spoken corpus


Using TV series as input source of refusals in the classroom 15

As regards negation of proposition, plain indirect, regret, alternative,


disagreement and statement of principle, we find instances of all of them, as
the following examples illustrate:

(8) Negation of proposition: I dont vote (DW)


Plain indirect: We dont have a stapler. Downstairs (MUS)
Regret/apology: Im sorry I dont, I dont. (OSG)
Change option: No way. Thats awesome. Ill take one of those. (MUS)
Postponement: Um, no but Im gonna be. I was registered for the summer and Im gonna be
registered for the ... (MUS)
Disagreement/dissuasion/criticism: [snort] That was rude (DW)
Statement of principle: No I know I dont think thats the right, I think thats the wrong
person to do is one. (OSG)

Figure 1 compares the occurrence of the main refusal types in both the
spoken corpora and in TV series. The behavior used when refusing to an
invitation, offer, suggestion or request in both of them is rather similar.
Noteworthy differences, as can be noticed, occur only in the strategy of
disagreement or criticism on the requesters action of asking (not a single
occurrence of this strategy in the TV series) and in the use of direct refusals,
that appeared more often in the TV series (19 instances of bluntness and 10
negations of propositions) than in the spoken corpora (12 cases of bluntness
and 6 negations of proposition).
Overall, however, we can see that there is a wide variety of strategies used in
both of them, and all the conversations display varying degrees of directness
and indirectness.

30.69%
28.71% Spoken corpora
26%
Tv series
22.77%

19%
18%

10%
9%
8%
5.94% 6%
4.95%
4% 3.96%
2.97%
0%
Alternative
Regret

Statement
Direct refusal

Disagreement
Plain indirect

Avoidance
Reason

Figure 1. Types of refusals in TV series and in the spoken corpora: a


comparison.
16 Ana B. Fernndez-Guerra

We also need to take into account adjuncts to refusals. These are part of the
whole speech act, but do not constitute a refusal by themselves. They
represent external modifications to the refusal, supporting the refusal in some
way. In this sense, by accompanying the refusal head act, they vary
politeness levels and reduce the face-threatening act of saying no. Table 4
presents the amount of adjuncts to refusals that were found in TV series and
in the two spoken corpora.
As can be observed, a very small amount of clearly classifiable adjuncts were
found in both of them, accounting for 15% of the refusals in the spoken
corpus and for only 7.92% in the TV series. This may be due to the close
relationship between the interlocutors (except for MUS, in which most
conversations take place between people that do not know each other), and to
the fact that most strategies were indirect refusals. Showing agreement is the
adjunct that appeared more often, being OSG the one with the highest
frequency of this subtype of adjunct to refusals:

(9) - Uh, yeah I dont know maybe not. (OSG)


- Okay well lets... this ones uh your you can take the next one. (OSG)
- No, this one I think ... objectivists would agree with you, I dont see how okay yeah just go
on. (OSG)
Willingness

Agreement
Gratitude

Empathy
Positive

ADJUNCTS TO
Total
REFUSALS

Gr 0 1 0 1 0 2
Fe 0 0 1 0 0 1
TV GG 1 0 1 0 0 2
series Fr 0 0 0 2 0 2
BB 0 0 0 0 1 1
Total 1 1 2 3 1 8
MUS 0 1 1 1 0 3
OSG 1 0 0 6 1 8
Spoken
DW 1 0 0 1 0 2
corpus
JWH 1 0 0 1 0 2
Total 3 1 1 9 1 15

Table 4. Use of adjuncts to refusals in the TV series and in the spoken corpus

The use of the other types of adjuncts was quite low. The following is a
selection of examples containing one of those modification elements made by
Using TV series as input source of refusals in the classroom 17

the interlocutors when they are basically answering no to an offer, request,


etc.:

(10) Positive opinion: I know. But Im just not sure if shes the girl for me. (GG)
Willingness: Well, I was waiting to surprise you, and to see if I passed, but now Im not so
sure I can. (Gr)
Gratitude: Im waiting for a supervisor to get here [...] Thank you. (MUS)
Agreement: Fine, but if we end up not doing this Maxim thing because of this party... (Fr)
Solidarity/empathy: Maybe I dont want to misinterpret the argument [...] no. (OSG)

When comparing the quantitative results obtained in both TV series and


spoken corpora, we can appreciate only some minor differences. On the one
hand, the transcripts from MICASE and SBC display a wider variety of
refusal realization strategies, whereas in the TV episodes, there was an
overuse of direct and avoidance refusals. On the other hand, adjuncts to
mitigate refusals appear more often in naturally occurring discourse than in
the episodes analyzed. Nonetheless, we can appreciate more similarities than
divergences between TV series and naturally-occurring data as far as refusal
head acts and adjuncts are concerned. Besides, these results cannot give rise to
the consideration that refusals employed in the TV programs analyzed are less
natural than those recorded for the MICASE and the SBC. Of course, we have
to realize that differences would probably be bigger if we had analyzed the
original script, because we cannot know to what extent there was some
improvising and/or freedom in changing or naturalizing the dialogues of the
script when recording the scenes.

6 Conclusion
As has been widely stated, a great advantage of video material is that it
provides authentic language input. The present chapter has envisaged the use
of TV series as genuine material that can be employed in the FL classroom. I
was joining then, on this issue, the researchers who consider that using FL
video sequences in the classroom can be beneficial, since these resources
have the potential to enhance learners knowledge of the target language, of
cultural differences, pragmatic aspects, non-verbal forms of communication,
and the like. It is true, nonetheless, that quite a few authors question the
naturalness of the conversations appearing in films and TV programs, as they
are based on previously written scripts. But, as Tatsuki states, we could also
question the naturalness of spoken corpora, because even though the
samples in some ethnographic studies come from so-called natural sources,
they are not always direct, they are filtered through the notes and memory of
the researcher. For this reason, it might not be accurate to refer to them as
natural data (2006: 5).
18 Ana B. Fernndez-Guerra

As I hope to have proved in the previous pages, on the whole, we can say that
TV series do resemble quite well natural and genuine discourse, and can thus
provide learners with exposure to authentic, real-life input in which native
speakers produce refusals. Therefore, this can certainly be helpful in enhancing
learners pragmatic competence in this particular pragmatic issue, considering
the fact that, as studies have shown, there can be considerable differences in the
strategies used when realizing refusals in different languages, which can cause
misunderstandings and pragmatic failure among non-native speakers.
Albeit slight divergences were found in the use of refusals, the use of them in
TV series and in the two corpora of spoken American English, both in the
case of direct refusals and in that of adjuncts, overall results indicate that
refusals in the episodes analyzed correspond fairly closely to the ones taking
place in naturally occurring discourse.
Since the teaching of speech acts should adequately focus on naturally
occurring data, based on discourse-interactive phenomena, and bearing in
mind all the positive implications of using audiovisual materials to develop
learners pragmatic competence in the classroom, we could claim that
segments from TV series can be an excellent input source for several
pedagogical tasks, in order to draw learners attention to the language forms
that are used in English when performing the speech act of refusing,
providing exemplification of most types or strategies used in real-life to
perform the speech act, as well as other variables, such as setting,
participants relationship, social differences, politeness, and the like. This
implies that they can be considered as an authentic and realistic
representation of actual language use to incorporate in the FL classroom,
provided that teachers design appropriate activities to exploit this material.
For those that provide arguments against the authenticity of the language
found in films and TV programs, we could reply, in line with Baddock (1996:
20), that the language of films is made by native speakers, for native speakers
to hear, and so consists of authentic language. Likewise, Grant and Starks
claim that TV material is even better than spontaneous conversations because
it is usually free of a range of performance errors such as stuttering, thought
pauses, repetition, incomplete sentences, slips of tongue and malapropisms
(2001: 43). However, further research should be conducted because the
present study is limited both in the small number of episodes and in the
length of the corpora transcripts analyzed; so that the findings cannot,
obviously, be extrapolated to other pragmatic aspects.

References
Al-Kahtani, S. A. L. (2005) Refusals realizations in three different cultures:
A speech act theoretically-based cross cultural study, Language &
Translation (18): 35-57.
Using TV series as input source of refusals in the classroom 19

Baddock, B. (1996) Using Films in the English Classroom, Hertfordshire:


Phoenix Ltd.
Bardovi-Harlig, K., B. A. S. Hartford, R. Mahan-Taylor, M. J. Morgan and
D. W. Reynolds (1991) Developing pragmatic awareness: Closing the
conversation, ELT Journal (45) 1: 4-15.
Brandt, S. (2005) Can Bart, Monika, Malcolm and Jerry help English
language learners develop their listening skills? The use of sitcoms in
the classroom, 18th Annual EA Education Conference 2005. Available
at http://www.englishaustralia.com.au/ea_conference05/proceedings/
Burt, M. (1999) Using video with adult English language learners, CAELA:
ESL Resorces. Digest. Available at <http://www.cal.org/caela/esl%
5Fresources/digests/video.html>
Campoy, M. C. (2008) Requests in Spoken Corpora: Some Implications for
Corpus as Input Source in the Classroom. In Alcn, E. (ed) Learning
How to Request in an Instructed Language Learning Context, Bern:
Peter Lang: 91-109.
Canning-Wilson, C. (2000) Practical aspects of using video in the foreign
language classroom, The Internet TESL Journal VI: 11.
Chavez, M. (1998) Learners perspectives on authenticity, IRAL (36) 4: 277-
306.
Cho, Y. (2007) Refusal and Politeness in Directive Action Games. Cultural
Differences between Korean and German. In Grein, M. and E.
Weigand (eds) Dialogue and Culture, Amsterdam: John Benjamins:
191-213.
Cooper, R., M. Lavery and M. Rinvolucri (1991) Video, Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Du Bois, J. W., W. L. Chafe, C. Meyer, S. A. Thompson and N. Martey
(2003) Santa Barbara corpus of spoken American English, Part 2,
Philadelphia: Linguistic Data Consortium.
Du Bois, J. W. and R. Englebretson (2005) Santa Barbara corpus of spoken
American English, Part 4, Philadelphia: Linguistic Data Consortium.
Duan, L. and A. Wannaruk (2010) The Effects of Explicit and Implicit
Instruction in English Refusals, Chinese Journal of Applied
Linguistics (33) 3: 93-109.
Eslami, Z. R. (2010) Refusals: How to develop appropriate refusal strategies.
In Martnez-Flor, A. and E. Us-Juan (eds) Speech act performance:
Theoretical, empirical and methodological issues, Amsterdam: John
Benjamins: 217-236.
Esselborn, K. (1991) Neue Beurteilungskriterien fr audiovisuelle
Lehrmaterialen, Zielsprache Deutsch (22) 2: 64-78.
Fernndez-Guerra, A. (2008) Requests in TV Series and in Naturally
Occurring Discourse: A Comparison. In Alcn, E. (ed) Learning How
20 Ana B. Fernndez-Guerra

to Request in an Instructed Language Learning Context, Frankfurt:


Peter Lang.
Fernndez-Guerra, A. and A. Martnez-Flor (2003) Requests in films and in
EFL textbooks: a comparison, ELIA (4): 17-34.
Field, J. (2000) Finding ones way in the fog: listening strategies and second-
language learners, Modern English Teacher (9) 1: 29-34.
Fujioka, M. (2003) Film analysis: A way to raise Japanese EFL learners
sociolinguistic awareness, Multimedia Education (3): 15-25.
Grant, L. and D. Starks (2001) Screening appropriate teaching materials:
Closings from textbooks and television soap operas, IRAL (39) 1: 39-
50.
Guariento, W. and J. Morley (2001) Text and task authenticity in the EFL
classroom, ELT Journal (55) 4: 347-353.
Hart, I. (1992) Video, foreign languages teaching and the documentary
tradition, System (20) 1: 1-13.
Henessey, J. M. (1995) Using foreign films to develop proficiency and to
motivate the foreign language student, Foreign Language Annals (28)
1: 116-120.
Honglin, L. (2007) A comparative study of refusal speech acts in Chinese and
American English, Canadian Social Science (3) 4: 64-67.
Hwang, C. (2005) Learning Sociolinguistically Appropriate Language
Through the Video Drama, Connect with English. Available at
<http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage
_01/0000019b/80/1b/c3/ed.pdf>
Jiayu, L. (2004) A Contrastive Study of Refusal Strategies between English
and Chinese. Thesis presented for The Degree of Master of Arts in the
School of Foreign Studies of Anhui University, Anhui University.
King, K. A. and R. E. Silver (1993) Sticking points: Effects of instruction
on NNS refusal strategies, Working Papers in Educational Linguistics
(9) 1: 47-82.
Kite, Y. and D. Tatsuki (2005) Remedial interactions in film. In Tatsuki, D.
(ed) Pragmatics in language learning, theory and practice, Tokyo:
Japan Association for Language Teaching Pragmatics Special Interest
Group: 99-117.
Kondo, S. (2001) Instructional effects on pragmatic development:
Interlanguage refusal. Paper presented at PacSLRF at University of
Hawaii at Manoa.
Linde, A. (2009) How Polite Can you Get?: A Comparative Analysis of
Interlanguage Pragmatic Knowledge in Spanish and Moroccan EFL
University Students, Porta Linguarum (12): 133-147.
Marks, J. (2000) Listening, English Teaching Professional (16): 7-8.
Using TV series as input source of refusals in the classroom 21

Morrow, K. C. (1995) The pragmatic effects of instruction on ESL learners


production of complaint and refusal speech acts, Unpublished
doctoral dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Rose, K. R. (1997) Film in interlanguage pragmatics, Perspectives: Working
Papers (9) 1: 111-144.
Rose, K. R. (2001) Compliments and compliment responses in film:
Implications for pragmatics research and language teaching, IRAL
(39): 309-326.
Ryan, S. (1998) Using films to develop learner motivation, The Internet
TESL Journal IV: 11.
Sadler, R. W. and B. Erz (2002) I refuse you!An examination of English
refusals by native speakers of English, Lao, and Turkish, Arizona
Working Papers in SALT (9): 53-80.
Salazar, P., M. P. Safont and V. Codina (2009) Refusal Strategies: a proposal
from a sociopragmatic approach, RAEL: Revista Electrnica de
Lingstica Aplicada (8): 139-150.
Sherman, J. (2003) Using Authentic Video in the Language Classroom,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Silva, A. J. B. (2003) The effect of instruction on pragmatic development:
Teaching polite refusals in English, Second Language Studies (22):
55-106.
Simpson, R. C., S. L. Briggs, J. Ovens and J. M. Swales (2002) The Michigan
Corpus of Academic Spoken English, Ann Arbor, MI: The Regents of
the University of Michigan.
Sinem, Z. and O. Tekyildiz (2009) Use of refusals strategies by Turkish EFL
learners and native speakers of English in urban and rural areas, Asian
EFL Journal (11) 3: 299-352.
Stempleski, S. and B. Tomalin (1990) Video in Action, New York: Prentice
Hall.
Tatsuki, D. (1992) Using Schanks MOPs to evaluate pedagogical materials:
Commercial movies versus ELT videos, The Language Teacher (16)
5: 17-21.
Tatsuki, D. (2006) What is Authenticity?, Authentic Communication:
Proceedings of the 5th Annual JALT Pan-SIG Conference. Shizuoka,
Japan: Tokai University College of Marine Science: 1-12.
Tatsuki, D. and Y. Kite (2006) Comparing film dialogue and ethnographic
data cited in pragmatics research, ATEM Bulletin: Teaching English
through Movies (11): 26-39.
Wyburd, J. (1995) Suggested strategies for the use of authentic visual
materials, Tuttitalia (11): 9-11.
Yamanaka, M. (2003) The Use of Movies in EFL Tuition, The Journal of
Gifu Womens University (32): 43-49.
22 Ana B. Fernndez-Guerra

Zhang, W. (2000) Corpus Studies: Their Implications for ELT, IATEFL


Issues (152): 9-10.
Refusing in Second Life

Elina Vilar-Beltrn (Queen Mary University, London)


Sabela Melchor-Couto (Roehampton University, London)

This study analyzes the influence of a stay abroad on Spanish learners refusal
strategies. A group of 11 students were organized in pre and post year abroad dyads;
they were instructed to complete a role-play activity in the virtual world Second Life.
The students communicated via chat and were expected to refuse suggestions,
requests and invitations as specified in the instructions. Similar role-play contexts to
those in Flix-Brasdefer (2004) were used. The results yielded suggest that a stay
abroad may increase both the level of indirectness and variety of the strategies, thus
approximating students refusal performance to that of native speakers.

1 Introduction
The last three decades have witnessed a growth in studies on Interlanguage
Pragmatics (ILP). Within this body of research, and more specifically that of
speech acts, some investigations have considered aspects such as effects of
proficiency level in the development of the target language (Bardovi-Harlig
and Drnyei, 1998; Niezgoda and Rver, 2001; Taguchi 2006) or the results
of explicit or implicit instruction in pragmatics (Alcn, 2005; Flix-
Brasdefer, 2008a; Martnez-Flor, 2006). However, not many studies have
examined the influence of stays in the target language country as a variable
for analysis. Furthermore, most studies that have considered the potential
influence of a Study Abroad (SA) have analyzed languages other than
Spanish (Flix-Brasdefer, 2004). No studies to date have examined the
influence of SA in the development of Peninsular Spanish; in this regard this
study is unique. Furthermore, the speech act under scrutiny has not as yet
received much attention in the literature. It is argued that, while other speech
acts such as apologies or requests (Blum-Kulka and Olshtain, 1986;
Matsumura, 2003; Olshtain and Blum-Kulka, 1985; Schauer, 2006) have
attracted considerable interest, refusals have received less attention, and even
less so in Spanish as a foreign language (FL). Refusals are face-threatening
acts that require the refuser to turn something down and hence, put the
speakers positive and negative face at risk. For that reason, successful
refusals require good pragmatic competence and awareness.
Apart from the fact that this pilot study is unique in dealing with Peninsular
Spanish and also in considering a less investigated speech act and a
somewhat overlooked variable, i.e., refusals and length of stay abroad, it is
also rather novel in its approach towards data collection. In the past, authors
such as Kasper and Dahl (1991) or more recently Flix-Brasdefer (2003;
24 Elina Vilar-Beltrn and Sabela Melchor-Couto

2010) have written extensively on methods of data collection in pragmatic


research. These methods usually refer to written or sometimes on-line
production questionnaires (mainly Discourse Completion Tests (DCTs) or
Discourse Elicitation Tests (DETs)), ethnographic data collection (based on
observers notes, diaries, logs), role-plays, verbal reports and on-line
pragmatic tests. Traditional methods are rather strict in their application, as
they require the subject to be present in order to take part in the study. Unless
these are carried out online, there is a compulsory element of physical
presence, but not only that, the contexts, even natural scenarios, become
rather artificial due to the presence of recording devices. In this digital era,
technology allows for much more flexible and efficient methods to be
implemented, and yet the use of digital data collection is somewhat less
documented. In our study we propose to use Second Life as a context for our
students interactions. The body of research using this platform for data
collection is certainly limited, although the possibilities offered are
considerable.
Second Life is a virtual world that was created in 2003 by Linden Labs; it can
be easily downloaded and accessed online, and anyone can create a user
account for free. Over the past few years, there has been a growing interest in
the use of this environment for learning and teaching; in fact, an increasing
number of studies have been published on the subject (Bell, 2009; Bradshaw,
2006; De Freitas, 2007; Molka-Danielsen et al., 2007). Authors such as
Warburton (2009), Henderson et al. (2009) or Deutschmann et al. (2009)
have highlighted the potential of Second Life for language learning. The
richness and realism of the graphics allows for an immersive experience,
which can have a positive impact on students motivation (Warburton, 2009)
and, at the same time, it opens up endless possibilities when it comes to
simulating and creating real environments for communicative activities.
Subjects find themselves in a completely authentic cultural and linguistic
environment and come face to face with their own virtual reality.
Undergraduate university students nowadays are, in Prenskys (2001) words,
digital natives; they are the first generations that have grown up using
digital technology and thus virtual platforms such as Second Life are very
much suited to what these students are used to. This virtual world has been
the chosen platform for the present study because it offers a novel
environment for students interactions, allowing them to communicate via
voice or chat, as well as a chat storage tool that enables the researchers to
have instant and easy access to the students conversations.

2 Background
As mentioned in the Introduction, not many studies have analyzed the effects
of a stay abroad in the development of pragmatic competence. Flix-
Refusing in Second Life 25

Brasdefers (2004) is to date one of the few studies that have considered the
influence of SA periods in the ability to mitigate and negotiate refusals. He
analyzed role-play data and verbal reports of 24 advanced foreign language
learners of Spanish who had spent between 1 and 30 months abroad.
Nonnative (NNS) speakers were divided into four groups according to the
amount of time spent in the target language country. Findings revealed that
learners who spent 9 months or more in the foreign community showed
greater attempts at negotiation of a refusal than those who spent less than 5
months abroad. Furthermore, bluntness was only observed in the data from
those who spent less than 5 months abroad. In contrast, participants who had
spent between 9 and 30 months abroad demonstrated greater degrees of
interaction and indirectness and thus, an approximation to native speaker
norms. These results are in line with previous studies that have analyzed the
potential effects of foreign contexts in pragmatic development. For example,
Olshtain and Blum-Kulka (1985) investigated whether NNSs of different L1
backgrounds with lengths of stay in Israel that ranged from two to ten years
would assimilate their acceptability perceptions of requests and apologies to
NS norms. It was found that after ten years in Israel, learners perceptions
became similar to those of NSs, learners displayed appropriate levels of
directness according to the Hebrew politeness system and had developed a
greater tolerance for positive politeness strategies. In a similar study, Blum-
Kulka and Olshtain (1986) examined whether the use of external
modification of requests and apologies elicited via DCTs influenced the
pragmatic production of advanced learners with various lengths of stay in
Israel. Consistent results were found with the previous study; in this case
after five years of sojourn the amount of external modification decreases to
approximate to the native norm. In a more recent study, Schauer (2006)
suggests that the learning environment plays a significant role in priming the
language learners linguistic awareness. Participants in her study increased
their pragmatic awareness during their 1-year stay in England. The 53
participants in her study included 16 German students studying at a British
university, 17 German students enrolled in a higher education institution in
Germany, and 20 British English native users. Schauer (2006) showed that
the German EFL participants were less aware of the pragmatic infelicities
than the ESL group and that the ESL learners significantly increased their
pragmatic awareness during their stay in the L2 context, since they detected
more pragmatic infelicities at the end of their sojourn in England than at the
beginning.
While the four studies described above seem to indicate that considerable
progress in learners pragmatic competence is made in the latter stages of
learners residence in the target context and claim that the more the students
stay in the foreign country the better for their pragmatic performance,
Matsumuras (2003) results indicate that the first three months are
26 Elina Vilar-Beltrn and Sabela Melchor-Couto

particularly significant for learners pragmatic development in their L2 in the


study abroad context. She collected data from 137 university-level Japanese
students who spent 8 months in Canada on an academic exchange program
and 71 native speakers of English who studied at the same university. In
order to observe developmental change in their pragmatic competence,
Japanese students were recorded at three-month intervals. The first data
collection process was conducted in Japan when the students prepared for the
study abroad, and the second and the third data collection processes were
conducted in Canada when they had spent approximately one month and four
months on the exchange program. Data were gathered using multiple-choice
and self-report questionnaires. Results show that Japanese students who
received a larger amount of exposure to English became more pragmatically
competent early on in their study abroad and thus highlight factors other than
length of stay abroad that might affect the learning process.
This overview of the relationship between pragmatic development and the
study abroad experience suggests that there are indeed differences between
the levels of language performance of those who have had the opportunity to
live abroad and those whose language learning has been limited to the formal
language classroom at home (Freed, 1998).
The present pilot study explores differences in refusal patterns between two
groups of foreign language learners of Spanish in two UK higher education
institutions. We compared second year (SY) students who had never spent
time in the target language country to final year (FY) students who had spent
their compulsory year abroad in Spain. Our aim was to find out whether the
twelve months they had spent in the foreign country contributed or not to
differences in the way they refused invitations, suggestions and requests in
role-play situations that varied in social distance (solidarity vs. deference)
and degree of imposition (high vs. low). It was also our goal to analyze the
potential benefits of carrying out such a study in the virtual world Second
Life.

3 Methodology

3.1 Participants
The data used for the experiment presented were collected from a group of
Spanish foreign language (SFL) learners studying modern languages degrees
in two universities in England. The participants were 11 students from two
different universities in London (i.e., Queen Mary, University of London and
Roehampton University). One group consisted of FY students who had just
completed the compulsory stay abroad; the second group was made up of
second year students who were preparing for their year abroad. There were 5
subjects in their SY and 6 FY students who had come back from their SA
Refusing in Second Life 27

four months prior to this study. The data obtained from two of the SY
participants was disregarded, as they had spent time in a Spanish-speaking
country. The remaining 3 SY students had never spent time in a Spanish-
speaking country. They were all volunteers, two female and one male
amongst the SYs and four females and two males within the FY group. They
had different L1s (English, French, Hungarian, Polish) and were all at least
bilingual. They completed an on-line Spanish placement test provided by
Instituto Cervantes1, which included three sections vocabulary and
grammar, reading comprehension and listening comprehension. All SYs
obtained a homogeneous result of B1 (+) of the Common European
Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) and FYs achieved a C1
(+). The test reflected their proficiency levels.
No instruction was provided prior to the study, although participants were
told that they had to refuse whatever their partner proposed. Pragmatics is not
a component that features strongly in British modern foreign languages
degrees or indeed in Spanish foreign language textbooks. We can certainly
claim that our participants had never received explicit instruction on
pragmatics, let alone the speech act of refusals. A two-hour workshop was
organized for the students to familiarize with the virtual world of Second Life
prior to the study.

3.2 Procedure
The first stage of this project involved designing the role-play activities to be
developed as well as creating the appropriate setting in Second Life.
Roehampton Universitys virtual island was the setting chosen for the
learners interactions. It was decided that the students, organized in dyads,
would need separate chatting spots to develop their role-play activity. A
hobbit village was purchased almost for free in the Marketplace section in
Second Lifes official website 2. The E-learning Team at Roehampton
University assisted the authors in setting up this virtual scenario as well as
the text-chat storage system provided in Second Life.
The hobbit village comprised six huts (see Image 1). Each couple was
instructed to carry out a role-play situation in each of the huts; however, due
to the fact that there were only 5 SY students, only five situations were
developed.

1
http://ave.cervantes.es/prueba_nivel

2
http://marketplace.secondlife.com/
28 Elina Vilar-Beltrn and Sabela Melchor-Couto

Image 1. Role-play huts

All students were asked to create their avatars and were given a handout
detailing the situations to be performed in each of the huts; two handouts
were produced, one including only the requests, suggestions and invitations
leading to the refusals and the other one explaining what they did not want to
do or could not do. The role-play scenarios chosen for this study are similar
to those used by Flix-Brasdefer (2004) in a study that involved Spanish
learners. A number of modifications were introduced, including removing the
variable power and adding rank of imposition. Brown and Levinson (1987)
identify three main sociopragmatic variables that influence the selection of
specific pragmalinguistic forms, namely power, social distance and ranking
of imposition. Power is related to the relationship between speaker and
hearer; consequently, those in a lower position of power will need to modify
their refusals accordingly. The second variable or parameter, social distance,
is linked to the degree of familiarity and type of relationship between
interlocutors. Again, refusal strategies used between close friends or
strangers will vary. Finally, the ranking of imposition concerns the degree of
imposition involved in each situation. Accordingly, it may relate to the
topical nature of what it is being refused (e.g., to lend someone a bright new
car or a spare piece of paper). On the basis of Brown and Levinsons (1987)
politeness theory, briefly described above, Scollon and Scollon (1995)
Refusing in Second Life 29

identify three main politeness frameworks. These include the deference


politeness system (-P, +D)3, which concerns relations in which no power
differences are present, but social distances are (e.g., colleagues at work).
The second system refers to solidarity politeness (-P, -D), in which neither
power differences not social distance are present (e.g., family members); the
participants are both close and equal. The third system relates to hierarchical
politeness (+P), in which both power differences and social distance are
present (e.g., boss and employee). This system is characterized by
asymmetrical social relations among the participants. The speaker, or
language learner in our case, should develop an awareness of these three
systems when producing pragmatically appropriate refusals, which would in
turn involve suitable modifications in the levels of indirectness. Refusing
implies direct or indirect rejections and hence they threat the interlocutors
face. Pragmatic inappropriateness might result in communication failure.
According to Salazar et al. (2009) this might be due to a limited L2
sociocultural knowledge or linguistic proficiency.
Below is a brief summary of the five role-play situations used in the present
study. The students were presented with a brief description in Spanish (up to
80 words) that would set the context for their interactions.

[HUT 1] You are from Madrid and have been working at a London pub for a month.
You are going back to your country soon. A work colleague invites you for a
goodbye beer, but you cannot make it. (-P, +D, Low Rank of Imposition)

[HUT 2] One of your good friends went as an Erasmus student to the same university
where you will go next year. He/she suggests you take an extra course but you do not
want to. (-P, -D, Low Rank of Imposition)

[HUT 3] You are studying in Spain. You meet a good friend of yours who asks you to
work for him at the library. You cannot make it. (-P, -D, High Rank of Imposition)

[HUT 4] An Erasmus student who you have known for ten months and who you have
helped a lot invites you to his/her birthday party. You are unable to attend. (-P, -D,
Low Rank of Imposition)

[HUT 5] You have just met a student from Queen Mary/Roehampton and asks you to
leave the activity you are doing and go to another Island. You do not want to go. (-P,
+D, High Rank of Imposition)

Each one of the students making a request, invitation or suggestion was


allocated a Hut and was instructed to wait for their partner. Once the
conversation was over, both students would move to the following hut and

3
P stands for Power and D for Distance. The symbol + means that there is a difference in Power
or Distance amongst the participants, whereas the symbol means that there is a close
relationship of Power and Distance.
30 Elina Vilar-Beltrn and Sabela Melchor-Couto

start the relevant role-play. Students were always paired up in FY-SY dyads.
Even though the study ran smoothly and the logistics of the project only
seemed to cause few hiccups, the data obtained in HUT 2 had to be
disregarded due to the amount of communication breakdowns encountered. It
is worth noting here that the students involved in this study performed both
parts of the role-plays on their own. Text-only answers (instant messaging,
IM) were the preferred form of communication for this pilot study, although
voice-chat was also available and might be explored in future studies. The
data were digitally stored in Second Life, which allows easy access to the chat
transcripts for their analysis.

3.3 Data analysis


For the current pilot study, 37 Second Life refusal interactions in Spanish
were examined and the refusal strategies were classified according to the
following types: direct refusal, indirect refusal and adjuncts to refusals. Such
clear-cut distinction has not only been described by taxonomies such as
Beebe et al.s (1990) but also in more recent revisions such as Salazar et al.s
(2009). According to those taxonomies, direct refusals are blunt negative
responses to the speakers queries; indirect refusals make use of mitigation to
convey the message, and finally, adjuncts to refusals accompany the speech
act itself but do not perform its function on their own.
Each role-play interaction in our data contained at least one refusal, although
in some instances more than one was used as a consequence of insistences
mainly on the part of the FYs. Together, our participants employed a total of
147 strategies, which functioned as prerefusals, head acts and postrefusals. In
this order, prerefusals come immediately prior to the negative response,
which is the head act and carries the illocutionary force, and postrefusals are
strategies that conclude the refusal and can mitigate, clarify, emphasize or
justify it (Flix-Brasdefer, 2004).

4 Results

4.1 Analysis of prerefusals, head acts and postrefusals


The first stage of the analysis carried out involved identifying the refusal
strategies used between the two groups and locating the prerefusals, head acts
and postrefusals found in the data. Figure 1 illustrates the percentage of
strategy used by each group. As already mentioned, the two groups employed
a total of 147 strategies from which 34 were prerefusals, 37 head acts and 76
postrefusals.
Refusing in Second Life 31

Figure 1. Refusal strategies

Figure 1 shows that both groups performance is rather similar, with more pre
and postrefusal strategies found in the FYs data. However, head acts were
slightly more frequent in the SY group. In fact, it was in this group that blunt
answers such as no puedo (I cant) or no quiero (I dont want to) were
found, repeated upon insistence of the FY students. The level of indirectness
found amongst those participants who had stayed in the target language
country for twelve months was higher than that found in the SYs data. The
two examples below demonstrate the difference in linguistic ability of one of
our (FY) subjects and that of a (SY):

Example 1: Farewell
FY1 (1) Me encantara tomar una caa
(I would love to have a pint)
[Willingness]
(2) pero no ser posible
(but it will not be possible)
[Head Act]
(3) tengo un montn de cosas que hacer antes de marcharme.
(I have many things to do before I leave)
[Reason/Explanation]

Example 2: Birthday
FY1 (1) Quiero celebrar mi cumpleaos antes de
irmequieres venir?
(I would like to celebrate my birthday before I
leavewould you like to come?)
SY1 (2) Lo siento mucho,
(I am really sorry)
32 Elina Vilar-Beltrn and Sabela Melchor-Couto

[Apology]
(3) pero no puedo!
(but I cant)
[Head Act]
FY1 (4) Qu pena! 
(What a shame!)
SY1 (5) Tengo que trabajar ese da.
(I have to work that day.)
[Reason/Explanation]

The two examples above show how the FY answers were more elaborate than
those of the SY students. In most situations, prerefusals, head acts and
postrefusals were included in one episode, whereas SY students produced
shorter sentences and provided further information as reactions to the FY
students comments. With regard to prerefusals, FYs delayed the head act
more than the SYs. Common examples of strategies used were request for
information / clarification (only found in FYs data), willingness and mainly
apologies. The use of such strategies allowed for smooth transitions in the
interactions and to save the subjects positive face.
According to Figure 1, postrefusals were the strategies more often used, and
sometimes carried on in one turn or were the consequence of the interaction
between the speakers, as in example 3 below.

Example 3: Birthday
SY2 (1) Mira mi cumple es este fin de semana, quieres venir?
(Look my birthday is this weekend, would you like to come?)
FY2 (2) cundo es?
(when is it?)
[Request for information]
SY2 (3) Es el sbado por la noche
(Its on Saturday night.)
FY2 (4) Es que no puedo,
(The thing is that I cant.)
[Head Act]
(5) este fin de semana mis padres vienen a verme!
(My parents are visiting this weekend!)
[Reason/Explanation]
(6) 
[Apology/Emoticon Sadness]
SY2 (7) No me digas
(Really?)
[Postrefusal sequence]
FY2 (8) Lo siento.
(Im sorry.)
[Apology]
(9) Mis padres vienen solo para dos das
(My parents only come for two days.)
[Reason/Explanation]
SY2 (10) Pues qu pena, porque estoy segura de que va a ser una fiesta estupenda.
(What a shame, I am sure it is going to be a great party.)
FY2 (11) Bueno s, te llamar si puedo venir pero no te lo puedo prometer!
Refusing in Second Life 33

(Right, ok, I will call you if I can come but I cant promise you
anything.)
[Indefinite Reply]

The most common postrefusal strategies were explanations and apologies,


which in some occasions appeared as sad faces in our data. It has been argued
that written chat contains characteristics of both oral and written
communication and provides a multimodal approach to the communication
(Sykes, 2005: 421). Instances of indefinite replies such as the example above
were also found, probably as a consequence of the speakers insistence.
Alternatives were also provided as negotiation closures. In general, those
participants who had spent twelve months in the target language used more
turns in their interaction. According to Flix-Brasdefer (2004: 618) as the
LR [length of residence] increases, so does the ability to interact in
accordance with NS norms. Although the results obtained in this study
cannot be taken as conclusive given the small sample used, it seems that this
might also be the case amongst our FYs.

4.2 Analysis of variable-dependent strategies use


One of the aims of this study was to find out whether there was any
relationship between the social distance and degree of imposition in the role-
plays and the strategies used by the two groups involved. Figure 2 shows a
similar behavior between the two groups with regard to low imposition
situations but differs in high imposition situations.

Figure 2. Variable-dependent strategy use


34 Elina Vilar-Beltrn and Sabela Melchor-Couto

The role-play in which a student asked their friend to replace them at work
was the one that elicited more strategies. Data obtained in these interactions
were more elaborated than in those data found in the other three. FY
participants negotiated their refusals more in solidarity situations both with
low and high rank of imposition. Examples 4 and 5 below show the different
responses to a FY and a SY to work for them. Data on the request itself have
also been provided, as it was found that a higher number of mitigation
devices were used in these situations compared to the others. Due to the fact
that Spanish language learners produced all the data being analyzed here, as
opposed to other studies in which either the researchers or native speakers
feature in the interactions, it is believed that there is scope for further analysis
of their invitations, suggestions and requests and whether these, in turn,
might have affected the choice of refusal strategies. However, this will have
to be the topic of another study.

Example 4: Substitution at work


FY3 (1) Qu haces hoy? Te pido un favor muy muy muy muy GRANDE!?
(Do you have any plans today? I need to ask you a very very very very BIG
favor!?)
(2) podras trabajar en la biblioteca?
(could you work in the library?)
SY3 (3) La verdad es que me encantara ayudarte
(The truth is that I would love to help you)
[Willingness]
(4) pero que no tengo tiempo amiga ma.
(but I have no time, my friend.)
[Head Act]

Example 5: Substitution at work


SY3 (1) Mi ta va a dar a luz pronto
(My aunt is going to give birth soon)
(2) y bueno, quera saber si podras ir a trabajar en mi uni esta noche
(and well, I wanted to know if you could work for me in my uni tonight)
(3) te agradecera mucho
(I would really appreciate it)
(4) y te prometo que yo de mi parte en el futuro te devolver el favor
(and I promise that I will pay you back in the future)
(5) lo que sea!!!
(anything!)
FY3 (6) Esta noche?
(Tonight?)
[Clarification request]
(7) Lo siento,
(I am sorry)
[Apology]
(8) pero no puedo
(but I cant)
[Head Act]
[Postrefusal sequence]
Refusing in Second Life 35

(9) tengo examen maana, que tengo que estudiar muchisimo!


(I have got an exam tomorrow and I have a looooot to revise!)
[Reason/Explanation]
(10) Ahh, lo siento
(Ahh, Im sorry)
[Apology]
(11) puedes preguntar a alguien diferente a quien no est en la mismo* clase?
(can you ask another person in a different class?)
[Alternative]

The SY student in example 4 uses two strategies to refuse the request, a


prerefusal, expressing willingness, to delay the head act; whereas the FY
student delays the refusal with two turns and still provides three postrefusal
moves (lines 9, 10 and 11) in which he is very apologetic and tries to help the
speaker suggesting an alternative, that is five turns in total.
Although, as already mentioned, Figure 2 shows a similar behavior between
the two groups of participants there seems to be a mismatch in the number of
strategies used to refuse the suggestion to leave the island. A total of 22
strategies were found for both groups. In order to investigate this further,
their interactions were analyzed and it was observed that due to the direct
replies from the SY students, those who had spent a year abroad developed a
rather insistent approach. In fact, Table 1, which shows the mean of
insistence moves that were found in our data, might illustrate a potential
reason for SYs to have used the same number of strategies as the FYs. It has
to be said that both due to the level of insistence and to the directness of the
refusals, instances of inappropriate behavior such as me tienes harto (Im
sick of (your excuses)) or vete al mismsimo demonio (go to hell) were
encountered as a response to a SY explanation for not wanting to leave the
island.

Mean

SY FY

Solidarity, Low Imposition (Birthday) 2.6 2.8

Deference, Low Imposition (Farewell) 1.4 2


36 Elina Vilar-Beltrn and Sabela Melchor-Couto

Solidarity, High Imposition (Substitution at


work) 2.8 3

Deference, High Imposition (Leave the


Island) 1.6 3.4

Table 1. Mean of insistence moves

In fact, although previous studies have shown that insistence is considered a


sociocultural expectation in various Latin American Spanish varieties (Flix-
Brasdefer, 2008b; Garca, 1999) and indeed, Table 1 above might show an
approximation to such norm on behalf of FY students, it might also be the
case that this perseverance is not performed in the most appropriate way. The
fact that these tasks were not face-to-face and that the students could hide
behind an avatar might also provoke such behaviors - only found in male
data, which in turn were the most direct. Female learners in both groups
produced longer sentences, especially FYs. Previous studies have found that
Venezuelan females tend to be more verbose than males when responding to
a refusal (Garca, 1999).

5 Discussion
In the present pilot study, results from the analysis of strategies used point
towards a superiority regarding negotiation strategies on behalf of those
participants who had spent a year in the target language country. This
superiority was also observed in their use of indirect strategies. These results
are very much in line with Flix-Brasdefer (2004) and seem to confirm that
those participants who had spent twelve months abroad approximated NSs
norms. In Flix-Brasdefers study, those participants who had stayed in the
target language country for more than 9 months demonstrated greater
attempts at negotiation of a refusal than those who had stayed less than 5
months. His baseline data from Mexican Spanish speakers showed that
postrefusals were their preferred means of external modification and,
although it seems that this was also the case for the two cohorts of students
that took part in the present study, the FYs used almost twice as many. In
general, the group of participants who had spent a year abroad outperformed
the other group in terms of complexity and variety of strategies used.
With regard to strategy use depending on a given situation, variables such as
social distance (solidarity and deference) and rank of imposition (high and
low) were considered here. It was found that, apart from the obvious
difference in the number of strategies used, in general there was only one
Refusing in Second Life 37

situation that showed a different pattern between the two groups. The SY
students (i.e., those who had not spent any time abroad) used more refusal
strategies and, in fact, more blunt answers, in the situation where they were
asked to leave the island (deference and high imposition). FYs seemed to
insist in this situation more than in any of the others, which in many cases
resulted in frustration on behalf of both participants. SY students seemed not
to be able to negotiate that situation successfully. It might be that our low-
imposition situations were more common and linguistically and
pragmatically less demanding than the high-imposition ones. But when it
came to higher imposition situations in which the participants did not have a
close relationship, our group of SYs failed to respond appropriately. This, of
course, might not only have been caused by the lack of experience abroad but
also due to the different proficiency levels. In that sense, Taguchi
(forthcoming), in her study of requests and opinions, found that high-
imposition situations required greater levels of linguistic sophistication and
thus, higher proficiency level participants in her study showed superior
performance in appropriateness in such situations. This author found that
proficiency, as opposed to stay abroad, was the sole factor influencing better
performance. In the case of the present study, and due to the overall higher
negotiation capacity showed by the FYs, we would be inclined to suggest that
both proficiency and stay abroad affected the data. Further investigations
should be carried out in order to provide statistically valid results.
Due to the fact that the language analyzed was that used for instant
messaging (IM), potential influences of the year abroad in other areas, such
as digital literacy, have been observed. Typical expressions of Spanish IM
have been found, such as the substitution of the work que (what/that) for its
phonetic sound k and more universal ones such as the use of emoticons to
mitigate the speech act or the use of letter repetition to express insistence
such as Vengaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa (Come onnnnnnnn). Furthermore, the
independence of the students in Second Life meant that they were able to
carry out the role-plays with no external influence; by allowing the
participants to perform the situations on their own, it has also been possible
to obtain data for other speech acts such as requests and suggestions.

6 Conclusion, limitations and implications


Although the results obtained cannot be generalized due to the small-scale of
the pilot study described here, it has been observed that a year abroad might
increase the level of indirectness used by foreign language learners of
Spanish and hence, approximate to native style. However, these data are only
speculative due to the descriptive nature of the findings and the fact that no
statistical analysis could be provided. Despite the small sample size, it is
38 Elina Vilar-Beltrn and Sabela Melchor-Couto

believed that this pilot study provides grounds for more pragmatic research to
be carried out in similar conditions.
For language students, almost every Modern Languages department across
the UK now regards the integrated year abroad as a compulsory part of the
degree program. Every year thousands of students go abroad to fulfill this
standard feature of their program and there is a clear need in understanding in
what ways stays abroad can benefit our students. Larger-scale studies than
the one presented here can shed some light on these matters. Second Life
seems to be an appropriate and effective tool to engage the students and
collect research data. It also provides our participants with attributes they can
take on with them (e.g., digital literacy). The tasks created can be used in the
Spanish foreign language classroom or in specialist workshops for the
improvement of training in intercultural issues and interlanguage pragmatics.

References
Achiba, M. (2003) Learning to request in a second language: a study of child
interlanguage pragmatics, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Alcn, E. (2005) Does instruction work for learning pragmatics in the EFL
context?, System (33) 3: 417-435.
Bardovi-Harlig, K. and Z. Drnyei (1998) Do language learners recognize
pragmatic violations? Pragmatic vs. grammatical awareness in
instructed L2 learning, TESOL Quarterly (32) 2: 233-259.
Beebe, L. M., T. Takahashi and R. Uliss-Weltz (1990) Pragmatic transfer in
ESL refusals. In Scarcella, R., E. S. Andersen and S. D. Krashen (eds)
Developing communicative competence in second language, New
York: Newbury House: 55-73.
Bell, D. (2009) Learning from Second Life, British Journal of Educational
Technology (40) 3: 515-525.
Blum-Kulka, S. and E. Olshtain (1986) Too many words: Length of utterance
and pragmatic failure, Studies in Second Language Acquisition (8) 2:
965-981.
Bradshaw, D. (2006) New Practices in Flexible Learning. Virtual Worlds
Real Learning! Pedagogical Reflections, Australian Flexible Learning
Framework. Department of Education, Science and Training.
Available at:
http://virtualworlds.flexiblelearning.net.au/reports/VWRL_pedagog_r
eflect.pdf
Brown, P. and S. Levinson (1987) Politeness: Some universals in language
use, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
De Freitas, S. (2007) Learning in Immersive Worlds. A Review of Game-
Based Learning. Technical Report, JISC. Available at:
Refusing in Second Life 39

http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/elearninginnovat
ion/gamingreport_v3.pdf
Deutschmann, M., L. Panichi and J. Molka-Danielsen (2009) Designing Oral
Participation in Second Life: A Comparative Study of Two Language
Proficiency Courses, ReCALL (21) 2: 70-90.
Ellis, R. (1992) Learning to communicate in the classroom: A study of two
language learners requests, Studies in Second Language Acquisition
(14) 1: 123.
Flix-Brasdefer, C. (2003) Validity in Data Collection Methods in
Pragmatics Research. In Kempchinsky, P. and C. E. Pieros (eds)
Theory, Practice, and Acquisition. Papers from the 6th Hispanic
Linguistics Symposium and the 5th Conference on the Acquisition of
Spanish and Portuguese, Somerville, MA: Cascadilla: 239-257.
Flix-Brasdefer, C. (2004) Interlanguage Refusals: Linguistic Politeness and
Length of Residence in the Target Community, Language Learning
(4): 587-653.
Flix-Brasdefer, C. (2008a) Pedagogical Intervention and the Development
of Pragmatic Competence in Learning Spanish as a Foreign Language,
Issues in Applied Linguistics (16) 1: 49-84.
Flix-Brasdefer, C. (2008b) Sociopragmatic variation: Dispreferred responses
in Mexican and Dominican Spanish, Journal of Politeness Research
(4) 1: 81-110.
Flix-Brasdefer, C. (2010) Data collection methods in speech act
performance: DCTs, role plays, and verbal reports. In Us-Juan, E.
and A. Martnez-Flor (eds) Speech act performance: Theoretical,
empirical, and methodological issues, Amsterdam: John Benjamins
Publishing: 41-56.
Freed, B. (1998) An overview of issues and research in language learning in
a study abroad setting, Frontiers (4): 3160.
Garca, C. (1999) The three stages of Venezuelan invitations and responses,
Multilingua (18): 391-433.
Henderson, M., H. Huang, S. Grant, and L. Henderson (2009) Language
acquisition in Second Life: Improving self-efficacy beliefs, Same
places, different spaces. Proceedings ascilite Auckland 2009.
Available at
http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/henderson.p
df
Kasper, G. and M. Dahl (1991) Research Methods in Interlanguage
Pragmatics, Studies in Second Language Acquisition (13) 2: 215-247.
Martnez-Flor, A. (2006) The effectiveness of explicit and implicit treatments
on EFL learners confidence in recognizing appropriate suggestions.
In Bardovi-Harlig, K., C. Flix-Brasdefer and A. Omar (eds),
40 Elina Vilar-Beltrn and Sabela Melchor-Couto

Pragmatics and language learning, Manoa, HI: University of


Hawaii: 199-225.
Matsumura, S. (2003) Modelling the relationship among interlanguage
pragmatic development, L2 proficiency, and exposure to L2, Applied
Linguistics (24) 4: 465 491.
Molka-Danielsen, J., D. Richardson, M. Deutschmann and B. Carter (2007)
Teaching Languages in a Virtual World, NOKOBIT Proceedings,
Oslo: Tapir Akademisk Forlag: 97-111.
Niezgoda, K. and C. Roever (2001) Pragmatic and grammatical awareness: A
function of the learning environment? In Rose, K. and G. Kasper (eds)
Pragmatics in Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press: 63-79.
Olshtain, E. and S. Blum-Kulka (1985) Degree of approximation: Nonnative
reactions to native speech act behavior. In Gass, S. and C. G. Madden
(eds) Input in second language acquisition, Rowley, MA: Newbury
House: 303-325.
Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, On the Horizon (9)
5: 1-6.
Salazar, P., M. P. Safont and V. Codina (2009) Refusal Strategies: A
proposal from a sociopragmatic approach, Revista Electrnica de
Lingstica Aplicada (8): 139-150.
Schauer, G. (2006) Knowing when to say what to whom: A longitudinal
investigation of students pragmatic development in a L2 university
context. LAUD paper 648. Duisburg/Essen: Linguistic Agency,
Universitaet Duisburg-Essen.
Scollon, R. and S. W. Scollon (1995) Intercultural Communication: A
Discourse Approach, Oxford: Blackwell.
Sykes, J. M. (2005) Synchronous CMC and Pragmatic Development: Effects
of Oral and Written Chat, CALICO Journal (22) 3: 399-431. Available
at: https://calico.org/html/article_142.pdf
Taguchi, N. (2006) Analysis of appropriateness in a speech act of request in
L2 English, Pragmatics (16): 513-535.
Taguchi, N. (forthcoming) Proficiency, study-abroad, and pragmatic
production. IRAL.
Warburton, S. (2009) Second Life in Higher Education: Assessing the
Potential for and the Barriers to Deploying Virtual Worlds in Learning
and Teaching, British Journal of Educational Technology (40) 3: 414-
426.
The effect of instruction on learners use
and negotiation of refusals1

Eva Alcn-Soler (Universitat Jaume I)


Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch (Universitat Jaume I)

Research into Interlanguage Pragmatics has often focused on the effect of instruction
on speech act production. However, features related to the interactive nature of
conversation are rarely used in most of the pedagogical proposals for teaching the
speech acts. Considering research outcomes on the benefits of pragmatic instruction,
the need to conduct pragmatic intervention at the discourse level (Flix-Brasdefer,
2006b; Kasper, 2006) and the value of audiovisual input as a source of pragmatic
input (Alcn, 2007; Fernndez-Guerra, 2008; Martnez-Flor, 2008), the present study
focuses on the effect of instruction on learners use of refusal strategies and concern
for pragmatics. Alcns (forthcoming) pedagogical proposal for teaching the speech
act of refusals at the discourse level is used during the instructional treatment. In
addition, pragmatic input is provided for the present study by means of scenes from
the series Stargate, which were controlled for speech act type (refusals to requests)
and social distance (+ power and + social distance). Findings from the study support
Schmidts (1993, 1995, 2001) noticing hypothesis, thus providing further evidence
that high levels of attention-drawing activities are helpful for pragmatic learning. In
addition to the differences as regards learners use of refusal strategies, learners
attempts to accommodate the non-compliant nature of the speech act of refusals seem
to have also been influenced by the teaching of refusals at the discourse level.

1 Introduction
Research into Interlanguage Pragmatics (ILP) has often focused on speech
act production. Speech acts such as requests, apologies, complaints and
refusals have received a great deal of attention over the years, but most of
these studies ignore the interactive nature of conversation in their analyses of
speech acts. Similarly, features related to the interactive nature of
conversation are rarely used in most of the pedagogical proposals for
teaching the speech acts or in most studies on speech act instruction
(Martnez-Flor and Alcn, 2007, on suggestions; Olshtain and Cohen, 1990,
on apologies; Rose and Ng Kwai-Fun, 2001, on compliments and
compliment responses; Alcn, 2005, 2008; Martnez-Flor, 2007; Safont,
2005, 2007; Salazar, 2007; Takahashi, 2001; Us-Juan, 2007, on requests;

1
 As coordinator of the LAELA (Lingstica Aplicada a lEnsenyament de la Llengua Anglesa)
research group at Universitat Jaume I (Castelln, Spain), Eva Alcn-Soler would like to
acknowledge that this study is part of a research project funded by (a) the Spanish Ministerio de
Ciencia e Innovacin (FFI2008-05241/FILO) and (b) Fundaci Universitat Jaume I and Caixa
Castell-Bancaixa (P1.1B2011-15).
42 Eva Alcn-Soler and Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch

Kondo, 2008, on refusals). In addition, although results of these studies


support Schmidts (1993, 1995, 2001) noticing hypothesis and provide
evidence of the positive effect of instruction (see also Alcn and Martnez-
Flor, 2005, 2008; Codina, 2008; Jeon and Kaya, 2006; Rose and Kasper,
2001; Takahashi, 2010), they ignore the interactive nature of conversation
and the potential of teaching pragmatics at the discourse level.
In the case of refusals, and as reported by Gass and Houck (1999: 2), the
complexity of the speech act requires face-saving manoeuvres to
accommodate the non-compliant nature of the act. Most of the research on
refusals has applied or adapted Beebe et al.s (1990) taxonomy, thereby
focusing on semantic formulas, especially when dealing with learners or
when contrasting NS and NNS use (see Al-Eryani, 2007; Al-Issa, 2003; Al-
Kahtani, 2005; Flix-Brasdefer, 2003, 2006a; Geyang, 2007; Keshawarz,
Eslami and Ghahraman, 2006; King and Silver, 1993; Kondo, 2001, 2008;
Kwon, 2004; Salazar et al., 2009, among others). However, Flix-Brasdefer
(2009) shows clearly that refusals function as a response to an initiating act
and they are co-constructed by two or more interlocutors over multiple turns.
In a similar line and in the area of language pedagogy, Flix-Brasdefer
(2006b) and Alcn (forthcoming) present pedagogical models for teaching
refusals at the discourse level. Flix-Brasdefer (2006b) presents three
pedagogical sessions for teaching the negotiation of refusals across multiple
turns in Spanish. The first one, communicative actions and cross-cultural
awareness, focuses on cross-cultural awareness of refusing in English and
Spanish, as well as providing pragmalinguistic input on refusals. In the
second one, doing conversation analysis in the classroom, the CA tools
proposed by Pomeranz and Fehr (1997) are used to look at the boundaries of
a refusal sequence, the realization of refusals across multiple turns, the
initiating and ending of the refusal sequence, the strategies used to deliver the
action, the taking of turns across the sequence, and the constructions of roles
and identities of the interlocutors during the accomplishment of the speech
act. Finally, in the last session, communicative practice and feedback,
learners produce refusals by means of role-play activities and receive
feedback from their peers. Similarly, Alcns (forthcoming) pedagogical
model divides the instruction into four optional steps: identifying refusals in
interaction, explaining the speech act set, noticing and understanding refusal
sequences, negotiating and exploring learners use of refusal. The proposal
also incorporates technology into pragmatic instruction by means of the use
of audiovisual materials and on-line tasks focused on pragmatics, as well as
guiding learners towards self-directed learning and reflection.
Considering research outcomes on the benefits of pragmatic instruction, the
need to conduct pragmatic intervention at the discourse level (Flix-
Brasdefer, 2006b; Kasper, 2006) and the value of audiovisual input and
technology as a source of pragmatic input in instructional contexts (Alcn,
The effect of instruction on learners use and negotiation of refusals 43

2007; Fernndez-Guerra, 2008; Martnez-Flor, 2008), the present study


focuses on the effect of instruction on learners use of refusal strategies and
concern for pragmatics. Alcns (forthcoming) pedagogical proposal for
teaching the speech act of refusals is used during the instructional treatment.
In addition, for the present study pragmatic input is provided by means of
scenes from the series Stargate, which were controlled for speech act type
(refusals to requests) and social distance (+ power and social distance). Two
research questions guided the study:
Does instruction make a difference as regards use of refusal
strategies?
Does instruction influence learners negotiation of refusals?

Taking into account the above research questions as well as previous research
on the role of instruction in speech act performance (see Takahashi, 2010, for
a review of the effect of instruction on speech act performance), two research
hypotheses were formulated:
Hypothesis 1: There will be significant differences in learners use
of refusal strategies after the instructional treatment.
Hypothesis 2: There will be changes in learners success in
negotiating refusals.

2 The study

2.1 Participants
The study involved 99 students, all of them enrolled in the Degree in
Translation at the University. Their ages ranged from 18 to 30 years old, the
average age being 22.1 years. Since the months that participants had spent in
a target language country may have influenced the development of pragmatic
competence, we excluded four participants for being bilingual in
English/Spanish, two for having studied in a bilingual English/Spanish school
during secondary education and one for having studied in an English-
speaking environment for more than six months. The 92 students that finally
participated in the study did not show any statistically significant differences
in their level of proficiency in English, as measured by the university
entrance exam they were required to pass in order to enroll in the translation
degree. In addition, participants did not differ to any significant extent with
regard to ethnicity or academic background. Two lecturers also participated
in the study. While one of them focused on teaching refusals during two-hour
sessions held every week for 6 weeks following the pedagogical proposal
outlined below, the other observed the lesson in order to indicate (should it be
the case) any bias shown by the instructor for or against the instruction.
Finally, following Salazar et al.s (2009) taxonomy, two researchers scored
44 Eva Alcn-Soler and Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch

the frequency of direct and indirect strategies as well as adjuncts to refusals,


in addition to examining learners success in negotiating refusals in pre-test
and post-test recorded interviews.

2.2 Instructional treatment


Although in the present study we focus on the speech act of refusal, the
model can be adapted to the teaching of different speech acts and it involves
four steps: (i) Identifying refusals in interaction, (ii) Explaining the speech
act sets, (iii) Noticing and understanding refusal sequences, and (iv)
Negotiating and exploring learners use of refusals. Step 1, Identifying
refusals in interaction, is planned as a teacher-led activity in the classroom to
make learners aware that refusals are co-constructed by two or more
interlocutors over multiple turns. Here three types of awareness-raising
activities dealing with the co-construction of refusals over turns are used:
Learners watch selected sequences from the series Stargate,
which are controlled for speech act type (refusals to requests)
and social distance (+ power and social distance) in their three
languages: Catalan, Spanish and English.
Transcripts are provided and learners are asked to identify the
beginning and end of refusal sequences.
Teachers focus on the structure of the negotiation sequence by
addressing the following questions: In how many turns is the
refusal sequence realized? Is the refusal sequence realized
directly or indirectly? How is it initiated? Who initiates the
sequence? How do interlocutors react to the initiating act? Who
finishes the sequence?

Step 2, Explaining the speech act set, is also planned as a teacher-led activity
in the classroom and it aims to provide pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic
information related to the issue of directness in the performance of refusals.
The instruction focuses on:
Explicit instruction on direct and indirect strategies and on how
to soften refusals in response to a request, taking into account
the power, social distance and degree of imposition involved in
the situation.
Examples taken from the series Stargate, which were controlled
for speech act type (refusals to requests), are provided in
Spanish, Catalan and English and cross-linguistic differences in
the performance of refusals in the three languages are
emphasized.
The effect of instruction on learners use and negotiation of refusals 45

Step 3, Noticing and understanding refusal sequences, focuses on drawing


learners attention to the performance of refusals from a discourse approach.
Learners are encouraged to download specific transcripts of TV series, made
available to them in a virtual classroom, and explore some of the issues
presented in steps 1 and 2 on their own. The following awareness-raising
questions are provided while learners download the transcript of previously
watched sequences of the series in the three languages (Catalan, Spanish and
English).
Underline the lines where the interlocutors negotiate a request.
Is the request accepted?
Identify the negotiation sequence of the refusal
Circle how one of the interlocutors says no to the request
Who initiates the sequence?
How do the other interlocutors react to the initiating act?
Who finishes the sequence?
How many turns can you identify in the negotiated sequence?
Is the refusal realized directly or indirectly?
What language expressions are used?
Why do participants use these expressions?
Is there any difference in the way they say no to the request
when you compare the Catalan, Spanish and English versions?
Based on the interactional sequence, how would you describe
the interlocutors relationship?

The answers to these questions could be downloaded for learners to self-


correct them. Differences in refusal sequences in the Spanish, Catalan and
English versions, if any, were in italics and explained in notes.
Step 4, Negotiating and exploring refusals, gives learners the opportunity to
produce refusals, taking into account the information provided in the
previous teaching stages. Here role-play activities trigger refusal strategies,
and learners self-evaluation of their recorded performance allows them to
monitor their production in terms of pragmatic ability and pragmatic
divergence. Two activities are used here:
Learners are engaged in role-play activities similar to the ones
included in previously viewed audiovisual sequences while
their performance in English is recorded.
Learners watch the audiovisual sequences and compare the
audiovisual input with their own oral production. The questions
used in step 3, Noticing and understanding refusal sequences,
are used by learners to self-evaluate their pragmatic ability.
Learners are asked to indicate divergence from the audiovisual
input, in terms of pragmatic norms. If this is the case, they have
46 Eva Alcn-Soler and Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch

to report whether it is due to insufficient pragmatic ability


(limited grammatical ability, over-generalization of L3
pragmatic norms, negative transfer) or to learners choice
(resistance to using pragmatic norms).
Finally, learners self-evaluation of their pragmatic ability and
explanations of divergence from pragmatic norms are emailed
to the teacher, who provides individual feedback and uses
learners comments for further action research questions.

2.3 Data collection and analysis


The study involves a one-group pre-test/post-test design and an instructional
treatment (see above). Data were collected by means of pre-test and post-test
interviews which were controlled for speech act type (refusals to requests)
and social distance (+ power and social distance). In the pre-test interview, it
was explained to students that the Department was going to organize a
conference and wanted to ask students to register for the conference, which
was going to take place during the exam period. The lecturer informed them
that attendance was not compulsory, but she had to make three attempts to
ask learners to participate in the conference. In addition, there was no chance
of either changing the dates of the conference or of reducing the fees. In the
post-test interview, the student had to decide whether she/he could finally
agree to participate in the conference. The lecturer was also instructed to
make three attempts to ask learners to accept the request to participate in the
conference.
Learners performance in the pre-test and post-test interview was analyzed
both quantitatively and qualitatively. Following Salazar et al. (2009)
classification, which relies heavily on Beebe et al.s (1990) taxonomy of
refusals (see Table 1), descriptive statistics were used to account for
frequency of strategy use (direct, indirect and adjuncts) before and after the
instruction.

REFUSALS
Direct Strategies
1. Bluntness No. / I refuse.
2. Negation of proposition I cant, I dont think so.
Indirect Strategies
The effect of instruction on learners use and negotiation of refusals 47

1. Plain indirect It looks like I wont be able to go.


2. Reason/Explanation I cant. I have a doctors appointment.
3. Regret/Apology Im so sorry! I cant.
4. Alternative:
Change option I would join you if you chose another
restaurant.
Change time
I cant go right now, but I could next week.
(Postponement)
5. Disagreement/ Under the current economic circumstances,
Dissuasion/Criticism you should not be asking for a rise right
now!
6. Statement of
I cant. It goes against my beliefs!
principle/ philosophy
7. Avoidance
Non-verbal:
Ignoring
(Silence, etc.)
Verbal:
o Hedging Well, Ill see if I can.
o Change topic
o Joking
o Sarcasm
ADJUNCTS TO REFUSALS
1. Positive opinion This is a great idea, but
2. Willingness Id love to go, but
3. Gratitude Thanks so much, but
4. Agreement Fine! but
5. Solidarity/Empathy Im sure youll understand, but

Table 1.Taxonomy on the speech act of refusing (Salazar et al., 2009)

As shown in Table 1, the taxonomy divides refusals into semantic formulas,


that is, expressions used to perform the refusal, and adjuncts that accompany
a refusal. Semantic formulas are divided into direct and indirect strategies.
Direct Strategies include instances of both Direct no and Negation of
proposition, with expressions like I cant, I dont think so. Within
Indirect Strategies, although most taxonomies include mitigated refusal for
expressions such as It seems I cant, I dont think I can, the authors
propose the term Plain indirect to avoid the term mitigation since they
consider that all Indirect Strategies could be examples of attempts to mitigate
a direct refusal. Other indirect strategies include: Reason or Explanation,
Regret/Apology, Alternative, which subsumes Change of option and
48 Eva Alcn-Soler and Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch

Postponement, Disagreement, Statement of principle/philosophy and


Avoidance, which is divided into non-verbal and verbal avoidance, in which
the refusal is accomplished via hedging (Well, Im not sure), changing the
topic, joking or expressing sarcasm. As far as Adjuncts are concerned,
although they do not constitute a refusal by themselves, they are used to
soften the refusal. For instance, before turning down the refusal the speaker
may express Willingness (Id love to go, but), Gratitude (Thank you
but), Partial Agreement (Yes, but, OK, but) or Solidarity (Im
sure youll understand, but). In spite of the semantic formulas, we agree
with the authors that context will provide us with information on social
distance, power and degree of imposition (Salazar et al., 2009: 146). The
interplay between these contextual variables, the refusal routine employed
and the conversational turns needed for refusing is also taken into account in
our analysis of learners use of refusals.
Learners use of refusals was coded independently by two researchers, who
discussed cases of discrepancy and reached an agreement on the coding of
strategies for 95% of the data. In addition, refusal sequences were examined
qualitatively to observe changes in learners ability to negotiate a solution
during a response to a refusal.

3. Results and discussion


The number of strategies used in the pre-test and post-test interviews were
identified in order to test Hypothesis 1, which claimed that there would be
significant differences in learners use of refusal strategies after the
instructional treatment. Our first analysis revealed a high percentage of
avoidance strategies in the pre-test interview, which led us to consider
avoidance as a type of strategy frequently used by language learners rather
than a type of indirect strategy, as included in Beebe et al. (1990) and Salazar
et al. (2009). Learners tend to refuse the lecturers requests by means of
silence, reverting to L1 in order to postpone their decision, or asking more
questions. The social distance of the interlocutors, together with a lack of
pragmatic knowledge to negotiate the request may explain these results.
As illustrated in Figure 1, learners in the pre-test interview, that is to say,
before receiving instruction, resort to direct strategies (50.36%), followed by
avoidance strategies (31.29%), indirect strategies being used less frequently
(18.35%). However, in the post-test indirect strategies are the most frequent
(65.58%), followed by direct (23.71%) and avoidance strategies (10.71%).
Thus, a trend towards indirect strategies and a reduction in avoidance
strategies seems to be the path to follow.
The effect of instruction on learners use and negotiation of refusals 49


     












 





   
 
 

Figure 1. Learners use of refusal strategies in the pre-test and post-test


interview

In order to examine whether the differences in strategy use before and after
pragmatic instruction are statistically significant we resorted to statistical
tests. The Kolmogorov-Smirnov test retains the null hypothesis and confirms
a normal distribution in our data (p = 0.284 for the pre-test and p = 0.96 for
the post-test). Thus, we make use of parametric tests to see whether there are
significant differences in learners use of refusal strategies at two different
moments (pre-test and post-test). As shown in Table 2, the t value (t = 7.673)
denotes statistically significant differences that point to a probability level of
p = 0.000. Thus, results of a paired/matched t-test reveal that the differences
in strategy use before and after instruction are large enough to attribute them
to random variations in scores.
50 Eva Alcn-Soler and Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch

Paired Samples Test

Pair 1
Strategy Pre- Strategy Post-
Mean .32283
Paired Differences

Std. Dev. 40355

Std. Error Mean .04207

95% Confidence Lower .23925


Interval of the
Difference Upper .40640

T 7.673

df 91

Sig. (2-tailed) .000

Table 2. Differences in strategy use at the beginning and end of the


instructional period

On comparing the type of strategy used we found that while 80.4% of direct
refusal strategies are used in the pre-test interview, 41.3% do not resort to
direct strategies to refuse the lecturer requests in the post-test interview.
Moreover, the Wilcoxon Signed Ranks test denotes that the differences in use
of direct strategies in the pre-test and post-test interview are significant (Z = -
8150; P = 0.000). Similar patterns can be observed in relation to avoidance
strategies, since the percentage of participants that resort to avoidance
strategies in the pre-test (86.9%) contrasts with findings in the post-test
(69.6%). Finally, in relation to indirect strategies, Figure 2 shows the total
number and types of indirect strategies found in the pre-test and post-test
The effect of instruction on learners use and negotiation of refusals 51

interviews.
Pretest Postest


62.02







31.63 30.47

 23.47
13.57 13.57
10.85
 14.43

Reason Regret Alternative Plain

Figure 2. Learners use of indirect strategies in the pre-test and post-test


interview

As illustrated in Figure 2, the indirect strategies used in the pre-test are:


Reason (62.02%), Regret, Plain Indirect (13.57%) and Alternative (10.85%).
However in the post-test the frequency of providing an explanation or Reason
is considerably reduced, although this was still the most frequent (31.63%),
followed by Plain Indirect (30.47%) and Alternative (23.47%). Finally, the
use of Regret is the indirect strategy that is least frequently used (14.43%).
Thus, it seems that after the instructional treatment the percentage of strategy
use is distributed more heterogeneously among the different indirect
strategies. Moreover, the fact that there is no instance of Disagreement of
Statement of Principles in learners use of refusals in the pre-test and post-
test interviews can be explained as being due to the context of the situation:
52 Eva Alcn-Soler and Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch

negotiating how to say no to a lectures request in a situation of + power and


+ social distance.
Although there seems to be a movement towards the use of indirect
strategies, we resorted to statistical tests to examine whether the difference in
indirect strategy use was statistically significant. First, the total number of
indirect strategies was divided into partitions and the frequency distribution
of the scores was calculated as follows:
Pre-test Indirect =
(0.25*reason) + (0.25*regret) + (0.25*alternative) + (0.25*plain)
Post-test Indirect =
(0.25*reason) + (0.25*regret) + (0.25*alternative) + (0.25*plain)
As shown in Table 3, the mean of indirect strategies used in the pre-test
interview is lower (0.7011) than the mean in the post-test interview (1.8641),
and the range shows that while the distance in the pre-test is one point (0.25-
1.25), in the post-test it is more than two points (1-3.25).

Std. Std. Error Range


Variable Mean N
Deviat. Mean Min. Max.

Pre-Indirect .7011 92 .30164 .03145 0.25 1.25

Post-Indirect 1.8641 92 .48382 .05044 1 3.25

Table 3. Differences as regards use of indirect strategies in the pre-test and


post-test interview

Furthermore, learners use of indirect strategies at two different moments


(pre-test and post-test interview) is statistically significant. Table 3 shows the
results of paired/matched t-tests, which reveal that the differences in strategy
use before and after instruction are large enough to attribute them to random
variations in scores.
The effect of instruction on learners use and negotiation of refusals 53

Descriptive Statistics Statistics Testb


Asym.
Std. Sig.
N Minim. Maxim. Mean Z
Devi. (2-
tailed)
Pre-Reason 92 1 3 1.74 .532
-6.485a .000
Post-Reason 92 1 3 2.36 .526
Pre-Regret 92 0 1 .38 .488
-4.118a .000
Post-Regret 92 0 4 1.08 1.369
Pre-
92 0 1 .30 .463
Alternative
-7.582a .000
Post-
92 0 4 1.75 .990
Alternative
Pre-Plain 92 0 1 .38 .488
-8.272a .000
Pre-Plain 92 1 3 2.27 .648

a. Based on negative ranks.


b. Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test

Table 4. Differences in type of indirect strategy in response to a request in the


pre-test and post-test interview

Finally, in order to calculate the mean number of adjuncts used before and
after pragmatic instruction the total number of adjuncts was divided into
partitions (0.33). As shown in Table 4, the mean number of adjuncts used in
the pre-test interview is lower (0.4484) than the mean in the post-test
interview (1.9477), and the range shows that while the distance in the pre-test
is nearly one point (0.00-0.99), in the post-test it is more than two points
(0.99-3.30). In addition, the Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test shows how the
differences are large enough to attribute them to random variation in scores
(Z = -8,100; p = 0.000 for positive opinion and Z = -8,267; p = 0.000 for
partial agreement).
54 Eva Alcn-Soler and Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch

Std. Std. Error Range


Variable Mean N
Deviation Mean Min. Maxim.

Mitigation-
.4484 92 .28769 .02999 0.00 0.99
Pre

Mitigation-
1.9477 92 .47949 .04999 0.99 3.30
Post

Table 5. Differences in use of adjuncts in response to a request in the pre-test


and post-test interview

A detailed analysis of adjuncts by categories shows that in the pre-test


positive opinion is the most frequent (49.6%), followed by partial agreement
(28%) and Willingness (22.4%). However, in the post-test the use of personal
opinion is reduced (34.99%) in favor of partial Agreement (39.78%). As far
as willingness is concerned, there seem to be no changes in their use (25.23%
in the post-test versus 22.4% in the pre-test). The absence of strategies of
gratitude and solidarity could be explained by learners perception of the
eliciting act. Asking to participate in a conference during the exam period
may be considered unfair by learners and expressing gratitude could have
been understood as a sign of irony, which is not the expected verbal behavior
in an asymmetric situation with a person of higher status. In the same vein,
solidarity strategies such as Im sure you understand; you must know
that are not used by learners. One possible explanation is that the
preference for this strategy could have been understood as directing the
listener towards mutual solidarity, or agreement, which is not pragmatically
appropriate when refusing a person of higher status.
In general, we can claim that the level of directness decreases after pragmatic
instruction, thereby highlighting the advantage of instruction in mitigating
refusals as a speech act of dissent. In addition, the fact that both instructed
and uninstructed learners make frequent use of reasons as an indirect refusal
strategy and refusal responses are accompanied by three adjuncts (positive
opinion, willingness and partial agreement) points towards universal trends in
pragmatics. Thus, our study is in line with the claim that pragmatic
knowledge is universal (Blum-Kulka, 1991), but it also supports the
effectiveness of pragmatic instruction to draw learners attention towards the
ability to understand and produce sociopragmatic meanings with
pragmalinguistic conventions (Alcn and Martnez-Flor, 2005, 2008; Jeon
and Kaya, 2006; Olshtain and Cohen, 1990; Rose, 2005; Rose and Kasper,
2001; Safont, 2005).
The effect of instruction on learners use and negotiation of refusals 55

In relation to Hypothesis 2, the strategies that comprise the speech set of


refusal are examined at the discourse level to see whether qualitative changes
are observed during the interaction. Example 1 and 2 illustrate some of the
changes observed in learners ability to negotiate a solution during a refusal
response in an asymmetric situation of + power and + social distance.

Example 1: Data obtained from one of the pre-test interviews


Time: 1:38
1. L: hi:: please take a seat!
2. S: thank you
3. L: well, <you know> we are going to hold an
important conference and we thought about asking
some of our best students to participate in the
conference
4. S: thats great! thank you.
5. L: so:: I wonder whether you could come next
week to our first meeting
6. S: ((silence))
7. L: it will be great if you could come
8. S: well, next week is not possible (.) I have my
first exam:
9. L: then you could come the following week and
some other students could inform you
10. S: but we have exams until the end of the month and::
11. L: yes, I know but this is also a great opportunity
11. S: ((silence))
12. L: we have selected the best students and now we
need to know if you can <attend the conference>
13. S: ((silence))
14. L: the conference is from::: 20th to 24th July, >I
think<, you might go and check dates of the exams
before saying NO::
15. S: ok
16. L: and let me know your decision by next
<Monday>
17. S: ok
18. L: I have to give the list of participants next week.
So we still have time
19. S: ok.
20. L: can we meet Monday at five?
21. S: yes, Monday
22. L: yes, Monday at.... Oh no. I cant Monday. Lets
meet Tuesday
56 Eva Alcn-Soler and Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch

23. S: ok Tuesday
24. L: same time. Tuesday at 5
25. S: ok
26. L: and >think about it<! Its a great opportunity!
See you on Tuesday!
27. S: yes, see you Tuesday!

The interaction begins with an opening sequence in which the lecturer (L)
asks the student (S) to take a seat, which is accepted (line 1-2). This is
followed by a pre-request, a contextualization of the lecturers request to
participate in the conference (line 3), and students gratitude for thinking of
him as a student to take part in the conference (line 4). In line 5, this is
followed by the lecturer indirect request (I wonder whether you could come
next week to our first meeting). The refusal to this request is accomplished in
line 6 by means of silence, which is not accepted as a refusal and the teacher
indirectly repeats the request (It will be great if you could come). This time
the request is refused by means of a direct strategy (next week is not possible)
followed by a Reason (I have my first exam). From line 9 we can observe
how the interlocutors negotiate a solution to a refusal. After the lecturers
alternative in line 9 (then you could come the following week and some other
students could inform you), which is rejected by the student by means of an
excuse in line 10 (but we have exams until the end of the month and), the
lecturer interrupts the student by expressing partial agreement, but keeps on
trying to persuade him to accept the request in line 11 (yes, I know but this is
also a great opportunity). In line 12 we can observe the learners inability to
deal with the negotiation of the refusal and a silence occurs, which is broken
by an indirect request performed by the lecturer in line 13 (we have selected
the best students and now we need to know if you can attend the conference).
However, the student does not respond to the request and a silence occurs
again in line 14. Finally, the lecturer is in charge of the interaction from line
15 until the end of the interaction. Thus, in line 15 information is provided
about the dates of the conference, although this is not asked for by the
interlocutor (the conference is from 20th to 24th July, I think, you might go and
check dates of the exams before saying no), telling the students when to
decide in line 17 (and let me know your decision by next Monday) and giving
a reason for that in line 19 (I have to give the list of participants next week.
So we still have time...). In contrast, the students use of ok in lines 16, 18 and
20 or the students uptake in lines 22 (yes Monday) and 24 (ok Tuesday) are
to be understood as a listener response to keep the conversation going and a
sign of acceptance of the interlocutors higher position. From line 25 to the
end of the episode we observe a closing sequence where the lecturer is again
in charge of the interaction and the student accepts his role in this asymmetric
situation.
The effect of instruction on learners use and negotiation of refusals 57

Example 2: Data obtained from one of the post-test interviews


Time: 1:04
1. L: hi, Luis, how are you?
2. S: fine, thank you!
3. L: well, have you checked the dates of the exams?
4. S: ye:s, and it is going to be difficult since:::
5. L: have you thought of attending just one or two days?
6. S: well, how many days is the conference?
7. L: four days! but <you have to pay for the [whole
conference>
8. S: [well:::
I would love to attend the conference, but::
9. L: yes! I think it is good for you to have that <experience>
10. S: I have to think that this is my last year and:: I am
worried about the
exams
11. L: well, I have met with some other students and some of
them have
already said yes, so:::
12. S: I could go on 24th after my exam, but I couldnt on::
13. L: well, that would be great! Some of the students cant go
on 24th
14. S: ok, well, Ill:: reconsider >reconsider it< and send you
an email this
evening
15. L: yes, please, do! So I can send the final list of
participants::
16. S: yes, yes Ill do it!
17. L: tomorrow, at the latest!
18. S: ok. Thank you! Bye!
19. L: bye, see you around!

The request-refusal sequence in Example 2 is realized by means of 19 turns.


Similarly to Example 1 the interaction begins with an opening sequence (line
1-2) followed by an indirect request about acceptance to participate in the
conference in line 3 (well, have you checked the dates of the exams?). In line
4 the student tries to refuse the requests using a reason as an indirect strategy
(yes, and it is going to be difficult since...), but he is interrupted by the
lecturer who, in line 5, redirects the request by giving an alternative (have
you thought of attending just one or two days?). The student, in line 6,
manages to refuse the lecturers request by asking for information (well, how
many days is the conference?), which is provided by the lecturer in line 7
58 Eva Alcn-Soler and Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch

(four days, but you have to pay for the whole conference). In line 8, the use of
well and a willingness expression followed by but anticipates the
students refusal to accept the request (well, I would love to attend the
conference, but...). This is understood by the lecturer, who, in line 9,
interrupts the student again and after partial agreement redirects the request
by means of an indirect strategy (yes, I think it is good for you to have that
experience). However, the student manages to express the reasons for the
refusal in line 10 (I have to think that this is my last year and I am worried
about the exams) and interrupts the lecturer to give one possible solution in
line 12 (I could go on 24th after my exam, but I couldnt on...). This is
accepted by the lecturer in line 13 (well, that would be great. Some of the
students cant go on 24th), but the student gains the floor again in line 14 and
suggests the possibility of postponing the final decision (well, Ill reconsider
it and send you an email this evening). Finally, both interlocutors agree in
line 15 (yes, please do. So I can send the final list of participants...) and 16
(yes, yes Ill do it) and the exchange of the negotiated refusal sequence is
closed.

4 Conclusion and limitations


The statistically significant differences in refusal strategy use before and after
pragmatic instruction provide evidence of the positive effect of instruction on
learners use and negotiation of refusals. Findings from the study support
Schmidts (1993, 1995, 2001) noticing hypothesis providing further evidence
that high levels of attention-drawing activities are helpful for pragmatic
learning (see also Alcn and Martnez-Flor, 2005, 2008; Jeon and Kaya,
2006; Rose and Kasper, 2001; Takahashi, 2010). In addition to the
differences as regards learners use of refusal strategies after the instructional
period, learners attempts to accommodate the non-compliant nature of the
speech act of refusals seem to have been influenced by the teaching of
refusals at the discourse level. However, some issues and limitations should
be considered in evaluating the results of the present study. First, we
acknowledge that the language of audiovisual input is scripted and cannot be
considered an authentic model for pragmatic language use, but we resort to it
since authentic input is limited in instructional contexts. Secondly, the effect
of the eliciting act, that is to say a request, may have conditioned learners
strategy use. Similarly, the asymmetric situation in which data were collected
(+ power and social distance) may influence the findings of the present study.
As reported by Flix-Brasdefer (2009), situational variation and individual
variability are issues to be considered in the analysis of refusals. Finally,
some issues underlying the design of the study may be further explored in
future studies. For instance, the intended aim of using technology in the
instruction was to provide learners with more opportunities for self-
The effect of instruction on learners use and negotiation of refusals 59

evaluation and individual feedback, as well as offering them a variety of


choices to allow them to progress at their own pace. However, learners
perception of incorporating technology into pragmatics-focused instruction
has not been addressed and may not match these intentions. Additionally, as
reported in Safont and Alcn (2012), although all our subjects were studying
English as a third language, their degree of bilingualism (Spanish-Catalan)
may influence the use of strategies.

References
Alcn, E. (2005) Does instruction work for pragmatic learning in EFL
contexts?, System (33) 3: 417-435.
Alcn, E. (2007) Fostering EFL learners awareness of requesting through
explicit and implicit consciousness-raising tasks. In Garca Mayo, M.
P. (ed) Investigating tasks in formal language learning, Clevedon:
Multilingual Matters: 221-241.
Alcn, E. (2008) Investigating pragmatic language learning in foreign
language classrooms, International Review of Applied Linguistics
(46) 3: 173-196.
Alcn, E. (forthcoming) Teachability and bilingualism effects on third
language learners pragmatic knowledge, Intercultural pragmatics.
Alcn, E. and A. Martnez-Flor (eds) (2005) Pragmatics in instructed
language learning, System (33) 3 (Special issue).
Alcn, E. and A. Martnez-Flor, A. (eds) (2008) Investigating Pragmatics in
Foreign Language Learning, Teaching and Testing, Clevedon:
Multilingual Matters.
Al-Eryani, A. A. (2007) Refusal strategies by Yemeni EFL learners, The
Asian EFL Journal (9) 2: 19-34.
Al-Issa, A. (2003) Sociocultural transfer in L2 speech behaviors: evidence
and motivating factors, International Journal of Intercultural
Relations (27) 5: 581-601.
Al-Kahtani, S. A. L. (2005) Refusals in three different cultures: A speech act
theoretically-based cross-cultural study, Language and Translation
(18): 35-57.
Beebe, L., T. Takahashi and R. Uliss-Weltz (1990) Pragmatic transfer in ESL
refusals. In Scarcella, R., E. S. Anderson and S. Krashen (eds)
Developing Communicative Competence in Second Language, New
York: Newbury House.
Blum-Kulka, S. (1991) Interlanguage pragmatics: the case of requests. In
Phillipson, R., E. Kellerman, L. Selinker, M. Sharwood Smith and M.
Swain (eds) Foreign/Second Language Pedagogy Research,
Clevedon: Multilingual Matters: 255-272.
60 Eva Alcn-Soler and Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch

Codina, V. (2008) The immediate vs. delayed effect of instruction on


mitigators in relation to the learners language proficiency in English.
In Alcn E. (ed) Learning how to request in an instructed language
learning context, Bern: Peter Lang: 227-256.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2003) Declining an invitation: A cross-cultural study
of pragmatic strategies in American English and Latin American
Spanish, Multilingua (22) 3: 225-255.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2006a) Linguistic politeness in Mexico: Refusal
strategies among male speakers of Mexican Spanish, Journal of
Pragmatics (38) 12: 2158-2187.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2006b) Teaching the negotiation of multi-turn speech
acts: using conversation-analytic tools to teach pragmatics in the FL
classroom. In Bardovi-Harlig, K., J. C. Flix-Brasdefer and S. O.
Alwiya (eds) Pragmatics Language Learning (11): 165-198.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2009) Dispreferred responses in interlanguage
pragmatics refusal sequences in learner-NS interactions, Applied
language Learning (19) 1& 2: 1-28.
Fernndez-Guerra, A. (2008) Requests in TV series and in naturally
occurring discourse: A comparison. In Alcn, E. (ed) Learning how to
request in an instructed language learning context, Bern: Peter Lang:
111-126.
Gass, S. and N. Houck (1999) Interlanguage Refusals: A Cross-cultural
Study of Japanese-English, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Geyang, Z. (2007) A pilot study on refusal to suggestions in English by
Japanese and Chinese EFL learners, Bulletin of the Graduate School
of Education, Part II 56: 155-163. Hiroshima University.
Jeon, E. H. and T. Kaya (2006) Effects of L2 Instruction on Interlanguage
Pragmatic Development. In Norris, J. M. and L. Ortega (eds)
Synthesizing Research on Language Learning and Teaching,
Amsterdam: John Benjamins: 165-211.
Kasper, G. (2006) Speech acts in interaction: Towards discursive pragmatics.
In Bardovi-Harlig, K., C. Flix-Brasdefer and A. S. Omar (eds)
Pragmatics and language learning, 11. Honolulu, HI: National
Foreign Language Resource Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa:
281-314.
Kasper, G. and K. R. Rose (2002) Pragmatic development in a second
language, Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Keshawarz, M. H., Z. R Eslami and V. Ghahraman (2006) Pragmatic transfer
and Iranian EFL refusals: A cross-cultural perspective of Persian
English. In Bardovi-Harlig, K., C. Flix-Brasdefer and A. Omar (eds)
Pragmatics and language learning Volume 11. Honolulu, HI:
University of Hawai'i, National Foreign Language Resource Center:
359-401.
The effect of instruction on learners use and negotiation of refusals 61

King, K. A. and R. E. Silver (1993) Sticking points: Effect of instruction


on NNS refusal strategies, Working Papers in Educational Linguistics
(9) 1: 47-82.
Kondo, S. (2001) Instructional effects on pragmatic development: Refusal by
Japanese EFL learners, Publications of Akenohoshi Womens Junior
College (19) 3: 32-51.
Kondo, S. (2008) Effects on pragmatic development through awareness-
raising instruction: Refusals by Japanese EFL learners. In Alcn, E.
and A. Martnez-Flor (eds) Investigating pragmatics in foreign
language learning, teaching and testing, Clevedon: Multilingual
Matters: 153-177.
Kwon, J. (2004) Expressing refusals in Korean and American English,
Multilingua (23) 4: 339-364.
Martnez-Flor, A. (2007) Analysing request modification devices in films:
Implications for pragmatic learning in instructed foreign language
contexts. In Alcn, E. and M. P. Safont (eds) Intercultural language
use and language learning, Dordrecht: Springer: 245-280.
Martnez-Flor, A. (2008) The effect of inductive-deductive teaching approach
to develop learners use of request modifiers in the EFL classroom. In
Alcn, E. (ed) Learning how to request in an instructed language
learning context, Bern: Peter Lang: 191-225.
Martnez-Flor, A. and E. Alcn (2007) Developing pragmatic awareness of
suggestions in the EFL classroom: A focus on instructional effects,
Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics (10) 1: 47-76.
Olshtain, E. and A. D. Cohen (1990) The learning of complex speech act
behavior, TESL Canada Journal (7) 82: 45-65.
Pomerantz, A. and B. J. Fehr (1997) Conversation analysis: An approach to
the study of social action as sense making practices. In van Dijk, T. A.
(ed) Discourse as social interaction, Discourse Studies: A
Multidisciplinary Introduction, London: Sage Publications: 165-190.
Rose, K. R. (2005) On the effects of instruction in second language
pragmatics, System (33) 3: 385-399.
Rose, K. R. and G. Kasper (eds) (2001) Pragmatics in Language Teaching,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rose, K. R. and C. Ng Kwai-fun (2001) Inductive and deductive approaches
to teaching compliments and compliment responses. In Kenneth, R. R.
and G. Kasper (eds) Pragmatics in Language Teaching, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press: 145-170
Safont, M. P. (2005) Third Language Learners. Pragmatic Production and
Awareness, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Safont, M. P. (2007) Pragmatic production of third language learners: A
focus on request external modifications. In Alcn, E. and M. P. Safont
62 Eva Alcn-Soler and Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch

(eds) Intercultural Language Use and Language Learning, Dordrecht:


Springer: 167-189.
Safont, M. P. (in press) Pragmatic competence in multilingual contexts. In
Chappelle, C. (ed) The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. New
York: John Wiley and Sons.
Safont, M. P. and E. Alcn (2012) Teachability of request act peripheral
modification devices in third language learning contexts. In
Economidou-Kogetsidis, M. and H. Woodfield (eds) Interlanguage
request modification, Amsterdam: John Benjamins: 275-313.
Salazar, P. (2007) Examining mitigation in requests: A focus on transcripts in
ELT coursebooks. In Alcn, E. and M. P. Safont (eds) Intercultural
Language Use and Language Learning, Dordrecht: Springer: 207-
222.
Salazar, P., M. P. Safont and V. Codina (2009) Refusal Strategies: a proposal
from a sociopragmatic approach, Revista Electrnica de Lingstica
Aplicada (8): 139-150.
Schmidt, R. (1993) Consciousness, learning and interlanguage pragmatics. In
Kasper, G. and S. Blum-Kulka (eds) Interlanguage Pragmatics, New
York: Oxford University Press: 21-42.
Schmidt, R. (1995) Consciousness and foreign language learning: A tutorial
on the role of attention and awareness in learning. In Schmidt, R. (ed)
Attention and Awareness in Foreign Language Learning, Honolulu:
University of Hawaii, Second Language Teaching and Curriculum
Center: 1-63.
Schmidt, R. (2001) Attention. In Robinson, P. (ed) Cognition and Second
Language Instruction, New York: Cambridge University Press: 3-32.
Takahashi, S. (2001) The role of input enhancement in developing pragmatic
competence. In Rose, K. R. and G. Kasper (eds) Pragmatics in
Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 171-
199.
Takahashi, S. (2010) The effect of pragmatic instruction on speech act
performance. In Martnez-Flor, A. and E. Us-Juan (eds) Speech Act
Performance. Theoretical, empirical and methodological issues,
Amsterdam: John Benjamins: 127-141
Us-Juan, E. (2007) The presentation and practice of the communicative act
of requesting in textbooks: Focusing in modifiers. In Alcn, E. and M.
P. Safont (eds) Intercultural language use and language learning,
Dordrecht: Springer: 223-243.
The effect of instruction on learners use and negotiation of refusals 63

Appendix 1
TRANSCRIPTION CONVENTIONS

. Falling intonation
? Rising intonation
! Exclamation talk
, Comma indicates a level, continuing intonation; suggesting non-
finality
[ ] Square brackets indicate overlapping utterances
(.) Full stop within brackets indicates a micropause
(2.0) Number within brackets indicates length of pause (to approximately
the nearest second)
ye:s Colon indicates stretching of sound it follows
yes Underlining indicates emphasis
YES Capital letters indicate increased volume
yes Degree marks indicate decreased volume of materials between them
(yes) Brackets indicate transcribers doubts about what is said in the
passage
(xxx) Unintelligible speech
>yes< Speeded-up talk
<yes> Slowed-down talk
((laugh))Aspects of the utterance, such as whispers, coughing, and
laughter, are indicated with double parentheses
SS Students
Sn Unknown Student
S1 Student 1
L Lecturer
R Recorder
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on
1
EFL learners production of refusals

Esther Us-Juan (Universitat Jaume I)

Research into the teaching/learning of pragmatic competence in both second and


foreign language contexts has shown, in general, that simple exposure to input is
insufficient for learners to develop pragmatic competence (Rose, 2005) and therefore,
instruction in pragmatics is necessary to facilitate the learning of this competence in
order to use language appropriately. In an attempt to expand this line of research, the
present study examines the effects of explicit instruction through metapragmatic
information on learners production of an under-researched speech act, that of
refusals. Pedagogical intervention is organized progressively in six steps:
Researching, Reflecting, Receiving, Reasoning, Rehearsing and Revising (Martnez-
Flor and Us-Juan, 2006). These steps are designed to help learners understand the
form-function relationship of refusals in different social contexts. Participants
performance in pre- and post-test was compared. Results showed the benefits that this
pedagogical proposal can have on learners pragmatic production of refusals.

1 Introduction
Over the last few decades, specifically after the original formulation of the
notion of communicative competence (Hymes, 1972), the seminal description
of its components for pedagogical purposes (Canale, 1983; Canale and
Swain, 1980) and the emphasis placed on the component of pragmatic
competence (Bachman, 1990), one of the main goals of language teaching
professionals is the development of learners communicative competence in a
second (L2) or foreign (FL) language. As recent models of communicative
competence have shown (Celce-Murcia, 2007; Us-Juan and Martnez-Flor,
2006), communicating appropriately and effectively in the target language
requires not only mastery over the features of the language system but also
over the pragmatic rules of language use. It is necessary to learn how to use
and understand language that is appropriate to the contextual and cultural
parameters of the specific situation, because failure to do so may characterize
non-native speakers as being insensitive, rude or even offensive. Given this
necessity, instruction in pragmatics has been a major concern in
communicative language teaching (Martnez-Flor and Us-Juan, 2010), but

1
 As a member of the LAELA (Lingstica Aplicada a lEnsenyament de la Llengua Anglesa)
research group at Universitat Jaume I (Castelln, Spain), I would like to acknowledge that this
study is part of a research project funded by (a) the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacin
(FFI2008-05241/FILO) and (b) Fundaci Universitat Jaume I and Caixa Castell-Bancaixa
(P1.1B2011-15).
66 Esther Us-Juan

still language teachers hesitate to incorporate pragmatics in their classrooms.


This hesitation, as summarized by Liu (2010), could be attributed to: i)
inadequacy of the description models offered by theoretical pragmaticists
(Thomas, 1983); ii) difficulty of teaching pragmatics since it involves a high
degree of face threat (Matsuda, 1999); iii) lack of available pedagogical
resources for teaching pragmatics (Matsuda, 1999) and iv) lack of valid
methods for testing pragmatics (Liu, 2006). Consequently, more
interventional studies on pragmatic development that utilize research-based
teaching materials and different testing methods should be conducted to
inform language educators.
Guided by this theoretical framework, the present study attempts to
determine the effectiveness of pragmatic instruction on a group of Spanish
learners studying English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in relation to the
speech act of refusals to requests. The rationale behind the selection of this
speech act derives from the fact that, given its face-threatening nature,
learners need to possess considerable pragmatic expertise to be able to
perform it successfully. To this end, this chapter first presents an overview of
the most pertinent research on teaching English refusals to L2/FL learners.
Following this, it describes the study with a detailed explanation of the
participants, the instructional treatment, the instrument and procedures for
data collection and data analysis. Finally, the findings obtained by means of
analyzing learners responses in the pre- and post-test are presented and
discussed.

2 Literature review on teaching English refusals


A refusal is a speech act that functions as a response to an initiating act such
as a request, an invitation, an offer or a suggestion. The preferred response to
these four speech acts is acceptance which satisfies the initiators positive
face (i.e., the wish to be approved of by others) and therefore, tends to be
performed without much delay, mitigation and explanation. The dispreferred
response is a refusal which means disapproval of the interlocutors idea and
consequently, tends to risk the initiators positive face (Brown and Levinson,
1987). A refusal, as a dispreferred second action, has been considered to be a
potentially face-threatening speech act and, as such, it is generally performed
through indirect strategies, includes mitigation and/or delay within the turn or
across multiple turns (Eslami, 2010). Furthermore, it often requires not only
long sequences of negotiation and cooperative achievements, but also face-
saving maneuvers to accommodate its noncompliant nature and avoid
conflict (Gass and Houck, 1999: 2). Given the complex nature of this speech
act and the inherent risk in offending the interlocutor, there is a need for
learners instruction in this particular speech act. However, as indicated by
Eslami (2010), the number of studies on the effect of instruction on learners
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 67

production of polite refusals in English is quite limited. To my knowledge,


just five interventional studies on English refusals to date have been
conducted (King and Silver, 1993; Morrow, 1995; Kondo, 2001, 2008;
Bacelar Da Silva, 2003; Lingli, 2008).
King and Silvers (1993) study incorporated a pre-, post- and delayed post-
test design with a control group to investigate the effects of instruction on
learners acquisition of refusals to requests and invitations. The sample group
consisted of six intermediate level English as a Second Language (ESL)
learners (four native speakers of Japanese, one of Spanish and one of Greek)
split into the treatment (N=3) and control (N=3) groups. The treatment group
had a 70 minute-lesson which focused on important sociolinguistic variables
in refusing in American English. The lesson included four segments: i) an
introduction with general questions about students experiences in the U.S; ii)
a cross-cultural comparison segment with activities for building awareness
and practice; iii) a teaching segment with explicit teaching of common
refusal strategies and finally, iv) a closing segment with discussion of
possible ways to apply the information to their daily lives. Due to time
constraints, learners had limited opportunities for output practice. The control
group participated in a class on how to make small talk with Americans. The
data were collected by means of a written Discourse Completion Test (DCT)
for both pre-test and post-test and telephone talks as delayed post-test.
Results indicated little effect of instruction on the post-test and no effect of
instruction in the delayed post-test. The authors speculated that lack of
exposure to natural data as input, limited output practice and shortness of
time for instruction could have justified these results.
Using a pre-, post- and delayed post-test design without a control group,
Morrow (1995) examined the teachability of refusals and complaints to
twenty intermediate ESL students (the subjects countries of origin were
Japan, Korea, Columbia, Togo, Senegal, Russia, Turkey and Taiwan). The
instructional intervention lasted three hours and thirty minutes and included
the use of model dialogues, prescribed speech-acts formulae and various
types of performance activities such as role-plays and games. Oral data were
collected prior to, following and six months after the intervention by means
of seven semi-structured role-play tasks which prompted learners to perform
complaints and refusals with peer interlocutors. These data were analyzed
using holistic ratings of clarity and politeness as well as comparing pre-test
and post-test distributions of discourse features with those of native English
speakers. The holistic scores that were assigned to the learners production
revealed a significant improvement from the pre-test to the post-test for the
dimensions of clarity and politeness for both speech acts. There were,
however, no significant differences between the post-test and delayed post-
test data. With respect to this finding, the author argued that these non-
68 Esther Us-Juan

significant results could be attributed to the possible effect of naturalistic


learning that happened between post-tests.
Kondo (2001, 2008) investigated the effects of instruction during the
realization of refusals among thirty-five Japanese intermediate EFL learners
adopting a pre-test/post-test design without a control group. The instructional
treatment, delivered during a ninety-minute class, used implicit and explicit
teaching activities, including model dialogues, explicit explanations, analysis
of semantic formulas, controlled/free tasks, cross-cultural comparison and
discussion. An oral DCT was administered for collecting both pre-test/post-
test refusal data. The test, which consisted of a single item, required learners
to read a written description of a situation and to record their answers orally
on audiotape. Data analysis supported a positive effect of instruction since
Japanese learners used a wider variety of refusal strategies approximating the
American English pattern of refusals.
In a different study, adopting a pre-test/post-test design with a control group,
Bacelar Da Silva (2003) analyzed the effects of instruction on learners
acquisition of refusals to invitations. The sample group consisted of fourteen
low-intermediate ESL learners from various L1s (Japanese, Chinese,
Taiwanese, Serbian and Portuguese) assigned to both treatment (N=7) and
control (N=7) groups. The treatment session lasted fifty-five minutes and
incorporated three main steps. In the first step, learners were presented with
awareness-raising activities after watching three video segments from the
sitcom Friends which depicted invitation/refusal events. Additionally, this
step also incorporated cross-cultural awareness activities in refusing in
English and learners first language. In the second step, learners were given
an inductive presentation of semantic formula and modifiers. In the third and
final step, learners were asked to plan and perform role-plays in front of the
class and then they received explicit corrective feedback from both the
teacher and peers. The control group did not receive any instruction on
refusals. Learners in this group were given a video activity about an episode
of the sitcom Friends which lacked instances of refusals. Production data
were collected using role-plays supplemented by a retrospective verbal report
questionnaire. The results showed that the instructional approach had positive
effects on learners refusing behavior and also exhibited a considerable
degree of L2 pragmatic awareness, as demonstrated in the learners answers
to the retrospective recall questionnaire.
Attempting to widen the instructional target, Lingli (2008) contrasted the
effects of implicit and explicit instruction in the use of English refusals to
four stimulus types: invitations, suggestions, offers and requests. A total of
fifty-eight Chinese EFL learners from two intact groups participated in the
study; twenty-nine were in the explicit instruction group and twenty-nine in
the implicit instruction group. The study employed a pre-, post- and delayed
post-test design without a control group and used as instruments for testing a
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 69

written DCT and a written self-report, to supplement the refusal data. The
treatment implemented lasted two hours for each stimulus type and was
similar to both groups, except that no explicit information was provided for
the implicit group. The general features of teaching for the two groups
included five main stages: i) presentation of learning targets, ii) awareness
raising activities, iii) planning sessions, iv) communication sessions and v)
feedback. Results showed that participants in the study learned how to refuse
appropriately in English after explicit and implicit instruction. Furthermore,
the participants could retain English refusal patterns after three months. As to
the comparison of the two teaching methods, the author speculated that
mainly due to the salient features in the explicit instruction, the performances
in quality of information, level of formality and strategy choices in the
explicit group were better than in the implicit group.
The review of the interventional pragmatic studies on English refusals,
except for the study of King and Silver (1993), shows some evidence of the
effectiveness of instruction. These studies however, have addressed ESL
learners from a mixed L1 (Bacelar Da Silva, 2003; Morrow, 1995) or have
focused on Japanese (Kondo, 2001; 2008) or Chinese EFL learners (Lingli,
2008). As Eslami and Eslami-Rasekh (2008) point out, more studies are
needed in this area to expand the range of the participants L1 in order to
allow researchers and language educators to better assess what is transferable
to other languages. To date, the effect of instruction on Spanish EFL learners
production of refusals has not been investigated. Furthermore, apart from the
study by Bacelar Da Silva (2003), no previous research has used film
sequences for teaching refusals in the classroom. Therefore, taking into
account the value of audiovisual input as a source of pragmatic input in
instructional settings (Martnez-Flor, 2007), it should be interesting to
examine the efficacy of an instructional approach that includes film segments
to raise learners awareness of refusals.

2.1 Purpose of the study


Considering i) the limited number of interventional studies on English
refusals (Eslami, 2010), ii) the lack of research on the effect of instruction of
English refusals on learners from less studied L1 backgrounds (Spanish)
(Eslami and Eslami-Rasekh, 2008) and iii) the need to device research-based
pedagogical material on pragmatics to inform language educators (Liu,
2010), the present study aims to examine the effect of instruction on English
refusals on Spanish EFL learners. Specifically, it poses the following
research question:
1. Is metapragmatic instruction effective as regards the amount and
type of refusal strategies learners produced in a variety of
contrasting situations?
70 Esther Us-Juan

3 The study

3.1 Participants
The subjects of the study were 20 second-year Spanish EFL learners enrolled
in the degree of English at Universitat Jaume I in Castell, Spain. However,
since learners were paired and required each to perform the role of a
requester or a refuser for the production task, just data from 10 students were
considered in the present study since its main aim is to analyze the learners
refusal responses to the elicited requests. The 10 learners (5 males and 5
females; age range, 19-21) had all learned English in classroom settings and
did not differ to any significant extent with regard to ethnicity or academic
background. As for their level of proficiency in English, they all had lower-
intermediate level (or B1 according to the Council of Europe level), as
illustrated by the Quick Placement Test (2001) distributed among them prior
to the beginning of the study. None of the participants had been in English
speaking countries.

3.2 Instructional treatment


The instructional treatment adopted for the present study was an adaptation
of the 6Rs pedagogical framework for teaching pragmatics proposed by
Martnez-Flor and Us-Juan (2006), which incorporated findings from
interlanguage pragmatics research. The treatment, delivered over three
instructional sessions of two hours each, was organized progressively in six
main steps: Researching, Reflecting, Receiving, Reasoning, Rehearsing and
Revising (see Table 1 for the schematic representation of the steps followed
in the instructional treatment).

Sessions Pedagogical Main focus of each step


Framework
1st Session Step 1: Researching Focus on pragmatics and refusals
Step 2: Reflecting Focus on Spanish refusals
2nd Session Step 3: Receiving Focus on English refusals
Step 4: Reasoning Focus on awareness activities in
English
3rd Session Step 5: Rehearsing Focus on oral production activities
in English
Step 6: Revising Focus on peer feedback

Table 1. Outline of the instructional treatment


Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 71

In the first step, researching, learners were first provided with a brief
introduction about key concepts in pragmatics (i.e., Leechs (1983)
distinction between pragmalinguistics and sociopragmatics; Brown and
Levinsons (1987) politeness theory and Brown and Yules (1983) discourse
interaction types). In addition, they were given a basic explanation of what
the speech act of refusal implies (i.e., the fact that it is a dispreferred second
action and it can be expressed directly or indirectly). Then, learners were
asked to become researchers and note down five naturally occurring refusals
they hear or make in their L1. For this activity, learners were provided with
worksheet 1 (see Appendix A) and they were asked to analyze the social
factors (i.e., age, gender, social distance, power and imposition) and setting
that influence the use of particular refusal strategies. The purpose of this first
step was twofold: i) to develop learners awareness of the crucial role
pragmatic issues play in communicative situations and ii) to develop learners
sensitivity to the speech act of refusing that they carry out naturally in their
normal life.
In the second step, reflecting, learners worked on their own L1 samples as the
starting point for the analysis and they reflected on rejection sequences in
requesting interactions by answering basic pragmalinguistic and
sociopragmatic awareness-raising questions. Here, the teacher distributed
worksheet 2 (see Appendix A) to students and, after the individual analysis of
the awareness-raising questions, learners were encouraged to compare their
data with their partners in order to gain access to a wider sample of refusal
strategies. Moreover, this activity helped them think further about how
refusals are made in their L1 and how sociolinguistic factors affect the
appropriate selection of strategies. It was the purpose of this second step to
make learners aware of the important role that the context of the conversation
plays when selecting a particular refusal strategy.
In the third step, receiving, learners were provided with research findings
about how to politely say no in American English, that is, they received
instruction in English refusals. Here, learners were explained that in refusing
a request, Americans often begin with a delay (i.e., expressions such as Oh,
Well, Uhm) and an expression of positive statement (i.e., Thats a good
idea, Id love to). Then, they generally offer an apology (i.e., Im sorry,
Thats too bad) followed by a reason/explanation for the refusal (i.e., I
have a lot of work, I have plans) and sometimes, a suggestion of an
alternative in which the request can be fulfilled (i.e., What about tomorrow?
Maybe some other time...). Learners were taught that this model can change
depending on the contextual and interactional factors, but it is a very
common form among Americans. Worksheet 3 (see Appendix A) includes all
instructional activities practiced in this model presentation. Following that, a
chart of all possible refusal strategies and adjuncts to refusals based on
Salazar et al. (2009) was sketched on a power point presentation and
72 Esther Us-Juan

explained to learners. After this presentation, learners were asked to compare


these English strategies with those found out in their L1 and discuss whether
they had already distributed the Spanish forms in a similar way. The purpose
of this third step was to exclusively instruct learners in all possible linguistic
forms for the speech act of refusing so as to further widen the scope of
strategies presented in textbooks. Once learners were familiarized with all
these speech act realization strategies, instruction then focused on the
sociopragmatic factors that affect their appropriateness of use.
In the fourth step, reasoning, learners were involved in two types of
awareness-raising activities that make them reason and understand how the
form that a refusal in English takes may depend on sociopragmatic factors.
The first awareness-raising activity included nine requesting situations in
which a possible refusal had already been provided. After reading the
situations, learners were asked to provide feedback on the appropriateness of
the refusal and give a reason why they provided that particular feedback. The
situational descriptions were classified as occurring within the university
context (situations 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 and 8) or settings located within the
environment of the learners (situation 4 = at the bank; situation 6 = at the
bakery, and situation 9 = at the bookshop). Additionally, the descriptions of
the situations suggested the social status and degree of social distance
between the requester and refuser. As for the status of the requester relative
to the refuser, situations were classified as low (situations 2, 4 and 7), equal
(situations 1, 5 and 9) and high (situations 3, 6 and 8). Regarding the social
distance between the interactants, situations were planned to be as intimate
(situations 4, 5 and 8), acquaintance (situations 3, 7 and 9) and stranger
(situations 1, 2 and 6). See worksheet 4 (Appendix A) for the instructional
activity learners practiced.
The second awareness-raising activity used film data. Here, learners were
presented with three selected scenes from the film A Walk to remember
(See Andriani, 2008 for the film transcripts). Each scene depicted one of the
three major indirect refusal strategies: i) expression of positive statement; ii)
expression of regret and iii) expression of excuse, reason or explanations.
After watching the scenes, learners were asked to conduct an analysis of the
pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic features of the scenarios by completing
the video worksheet 5 (see Appendix A). A valuable aspect of this activity is
that, in addition to studying the language of refusals, learners were presented
with appropriate models in which they could observe the importance of non-
verbal behavior, such as the speakers tone of voice, body language,
attitudinal behavior or facial expressions. On the whole, the main pedagogic
purpose of this stage was to draw learners attention to the connections
between refusal pragmalinguistic patterns and sociopragmatic information.
In the fifth step, rehearsing, learners were asked to rehearse all acquired
knowledge in the previous steps in production activities. In so doing, a series
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 73

of role-plays with contrasting situations, such as those presented in worksheet


6 (see Appendix A) were used to develop learners pragmatic performance
when refusing a request. Pairs performed their role-plays in front of the class
and the rest of the classmates were provided with worksheet 7 (see Appendix
A) on which they had to state whether the pragmalinguistic forms selected to
express their refusals in each requesting situation were appropriate or not
depending on the sociopragmatic variables of power, social distance and rank
of imposition implied in the situations. The overall purpose of these role-play
activities was to engage learners in a series of contrasting situations with
differing situational variables that may affect the appropriate choice of the
forms that the speech act of refusal could take.
In the sixth and last step, revising, learners revised the outcome of the
communicative activities practiced in the previous step. Learners were
provided with peer feedback in terms of the pragmalinguistic forms selected
to express their refusals, as well as the sociopragmatic factors considered for
an appropriate refusal behavior. This feedback gave learners further practice
in metapragmatic reflection. Such feedback was followed up with teachers
class discussion about the whole teaching 6Rs approach. The purpose of this
last step was to give learners further practice in metapragmatic reflection and
help them make informed pragmatic choices.

3.3 Data collection procedure


The study adopted a one-group pre- and post-test design in order to assess the
effect of metapragmatic instruction on English refusals. The test consisted of
an interactive written DCT that included nine refusal situations to requests.
Each situation included a descriptive caption for the requester and the refuser
and required learners to read the caption and write, in as many turns as
needed, what they would say in that situation. The refusal situations were
classified as occurring within the university context (situations 1, 3, 4, 5, 7
and 8) or settings located within the environment of the learners (at the
cafeteria= situation 2; at the butchers = situation 6, and at the hairdressers =
situation 9). Moreover, the situations were considered for the status of the
requester relative to the learner and social distance between the interactants.
As for the status, situations were classified as low (situations 2, 5 and 7),
equal (situations 1, 4 and 9) and high (situations 3, 6 and 8). Social distance
was understood in terms of the degree of familiarity between the participants
in the role-play descriptions, which was conceptualized as intimate
(situations 5, 8 and 9), acquaintance (situations 1, 3 and 7) and stranger
(situations 2, 4 and 6). Finally, in all situations learners had to perform
refusals in the role of students, that is, they were asked to be themselves and
write what they would say in actual conversation (Trosborg, 1995). The nine
74 Esther Us-Juan

refusal situations are described in detail in Table 2 (see Appendix B for full
description of each role play).

I* Contextual Participants roles Social Social


setting status distance
1 University Student refuses lending equal acquaintance
his/her class notes to
another student
2 Cafeteria Research student refuses low stranger
giving the exact amount of
money to a waitress
3 University Student refuses leaving the high acquaintance
classroom (interacting with
a Professor)
4 University Student refuses lending equal stranger
his/her car to another
student
5 University Research student refuses low intimate
fixing the laptop from a
first-year student
6 Butchers Student refuses wearing high stranger
plastic gloves (interacting
with a woman from the
town hall)
7 University Research assistant refuses low acquaintance
leaving a document in the
library (interacting with the
secretary of the department)
8 University Research assistant refuses high intimate
helping a Professor
finishing an online
questionnaire
9 Hairdressers Student refuses bringing a equal intimate
coffee for his/her colleague

*Interaction

Table 2. Variable distribution in the nine situations from the interactive


written DCT

Pre-test and post-test were distributed one week before and after the
instructional period, respectively. The researcher, who was also the lecturer
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 75

of this group of students, made sure students were sitting in exactly the same
pairs in the pre-and post-test and each one was performing the corresponding
role (i.e., requester or refuser). Students were given ample time to plan and
execute the responses.

3.4 Data analysis and statistical procedure


The collected data were analyzed by amount and type of refusal strategies
used in each response to requests in both the pre-test and post-test and results
were compared. For this analysis, refusal strategies were classified according
to the coding method proposed by Salazar et al. (2009) which relies heavily
on the well-known taxonomy elaborated by Beebe et al. (1990) and classifies
refusal categories into semantic formulas (i.e., those expressions used to
perform a refusal) and adjuncts (i.e., those expressions that cannot be used by
themselves but accompany refusal strategies to soften the nonacceptance)
(see Appendix C).
On the one hand, semantic formulas are divided into the categories of direct
and indirect strategies. As regards direct strategies, two main subtypes are
identified, namely bluntness (i.e., the use of flat no or the performative
verb) and negation of proposition (i.e., expressions than include negations
such as I cant, I wont be able to). Concerning indirect strategies seven
main subtypes are included, namely plain indirect (i.e., to mitigate the
refusal); reason or explanation (i.e., to provide a motive for the
nonacceptance); regret or apology (i.e., to show the refusers bad feelings for
turning down the request); alternative (i.e., to provide a change of option or
time to fulfill the request), disagreement/dissuasion/criticism (i.e., to point
out the negative effect that the act of requesting exerts on the addressee)
statement of principle/philosophy (i.e., to resort to moral convictions or
beliefs to avoid performing the request) and avoidance which includes non-
verbal avoidance, in which the refuser, merely ignores the request by means
of silence, and verbal avoidance, in which the refusal is performed by using
hedges, changing the topic or making mistakes.
On the other hand, adjuncts include five subtypes: positive opinion (i.e., to
express that the request is a good idea but difficult to comply); willingness
(i.e., to show that the refuser would be willing to perform the request but
he/she cannot); gratitude (i.e., to thank the interlocutor for the request);
agreement (i.e., to express the refusers consent before uttering the refusal
itself) and solidarity or empathy (i.e., to solicit the requesters solidarity by
asking his/her sympathy).
A statistical analysis of the data was conducted using a version 14.0 of the
Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS). To discern whether the
differences in the two measures (pre-test and post-test) were significant or
not, a t-test for related samples was used.
76 Esther Us-Juan

4 Results and discussion


The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of instruction on the
appropriate use of refusals in the EFL classroom. More specifically, it
focused on analyzing whether learners produced a greater and a wider variety
of refusal strategies after the instructional period. The analysis of the 180
refusal samples (10 participants x 9 situations x 2 tests) yielded a total of 488
refusal strategies. Of these, 197 were identified in the pre-test data and 291 in
the post-test data. Results from applying the statistical procedure, which are
presented in Table 3, show that the mean of request strategies used per
learner in the pre-test was much lower (M=19.70) than in the post-test
(M=29.10), the difference being statistically significant (p=.000).

N Mean Sig.

Pre-test 10 19.70 .000


Post-test 10 29.10

Table 3. Differences as regards the overall use of refusal strategies in the pre-
test and post-test. Sig. at p<0.05 level

From the above results we can claim that the instructional treatment designed
for the present study had a positive effect on the amount of refusal strategies
used by learners in the post-test. Example (1) illustrates these results by
presenting the performance of the same pair of learners in situation 1 (see
Appendix B) before and after being engaged in the training period.

Example (1)2 -Pre-test (A=requester; B=refuser)


1. A. Hi Maria. Can I ask you for a favor?
2. B. Yes! Sure.
3. A. You know I need your class notes from last week. Is it possible?
4.  B. Im sorry but I need them for studying.
5. A. I can make a photocopy and give them back to you in a few minutes
6.  B. Sorry. I cant. Bye.
7. A. Bye

-Post-test (A=requester; B=refuser)


1. A. You know. I couldnt go to class last week because I was ill.
2. B. Yes, I know. I asked for you.

2
Learners responses in the interactive written DCT have been copied as originally written by
them (independently of having grammatical mistakes). Pseudonyms have been used to preserve
learners anonymity.
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 77

3. A. I would like to ask you if you could lend me your class notes.
4.  B. Uhm I would love to but Im busy right now.
5. A. I can wait. I need the notes for the exam. Please.
6.  B. Well, I dont know. Right now I have a meeting with a teacher. Sorry.
7. A. Okay. Bye.
8. B. Good-bye.

Before receiving instruction (the pre-test) the refusal was performed in two
turns and included four refusal strategies. The first turn (see line 4) consisted
of a regret (Im sorry) and a reason (I need them for studying). Similarly, the
second turn (see line 6) resorted to a regret (Sorry) and a negation of
proposition (I cant). After the instructional period (the post-test) however,
the refusal was also performed in two turns but contained more refusal
strategies. The first turn started with a hesitation (Uhm), then used an
expression of positive feeling towards the request (I would love to) and
finished with an explanation (Im busy right now). The second turn also
started with a hesitation (well), used a type of verbal avoidance, that of
hedging (I dont know), gave a further explanation (I have a meting with a
teacher) and finished with a regret (Sorry). Thus, this performance in the
post-test provides evidence of the learners improved ability to refuse
requests appropriately.
These findings seem to ascertain the positive role of instruction in developing
EFL learners pragmatic competence in the language classroom and are in
line with observational research in interlanguage pragmatics (Alcn and
Martnez-Flor, 2005, 2008; Rose and Kasper, 2001; Tatsuki, 2005).
Specifically, and in line with the studies by Morrow (1995), Kondo (2001;
2008), Bacelar Da Silva (2003) and Lingli (2008), our study has also found
positive evidence regarding the implementation of an instructional treatment
on an under-researched speech act, that of refusals. It is worth mentioning
that the length of the treatment could have played a positive role in assessing
the effectiveness of pragmatic instruction in our study, since it lasted three
sessions of two hours each. In fact, the limited effects of instruction in King
and Silvers (1993) study may have been attributed to the short amount of
instructional time, which was only seventy minutes. Therefore, it appears that
the longer the instructional time implemented, the more pragmatic benefits
learners can get (Martnez-Flor, 2012).
Apart from considering the overall amount of refusal strategies employed by
learners, we also examined the type of general categories (i.e., direct, indirect
and adjuncts) being used prior to instruction (pre-test) and after it (post-test).
As presented in Table 4, the results from applying the statistical procedure
show that direct refusal strategies were more frequent in the pre-test
(M=7.70) than in the post-test (M=0.90). In contrast, indirect refusal
strategies and adjuncts to refusals displayed a higher frequency in the post
test (M=21.90 and M=6.30 respectively) than in the pre-test (M=12.00 and 0
78 Esther Us-Juan

occurrences respectively), all differences being statistically significant


(p=.000).

N Pre-test Post-test Sig.

Direct 10 7.70 0.90 .000


Indirect 10 12.00 21.90 .000
Adjuncts 10 0 6.30 -**

Table 4. Differences as regards the type of formulae for refusals used in the
pre-test and post-test
*Sig. at p<0.05 level
** t cannot be calculated because the standard deviation is 0

A detailed analysis of the different subtypes of refusal strategies employed


within each general category also appears to indicate that the distribution of
use was also different across the two measures (pre-test and post-test). See
Table 5 for the frequency (f) and percentage (%) of refusal strategies used by
learners on pre-test and post-test.

Type Subtype Pre-test Post-test


f % f %
Direct
Bluntness 24 12.2 0 0.0
Negation of proposition 53 26.9 9 3.1
Sub-total 77 39.1 9 3.1
Indirect
Plain indirect 0 0.0 14 4.8
Reason/explanation 43 21.8 82 28.1
Regret/apology 77 39.1 50 17.2
Alternative Change 0 0.0 45 15.5
option 0 0.0 22 7.6
Change time
Disagreement 0 0.0 0 0.0
Statement of Principle 0 0.0 0 0.0
Avoidance Non-verbal 0 0.0 0 0.0
Verbal 0 0.0 6 2.1
Sub-total 120 60.9 219 75.3
Adjuncts
Positive opinion 0 0.0 30 10.3
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 79

Willingness 0 0.0 33 11.3


Gratitude 0 0.0 0 0.0
Agreement 0 0.0 0 0.0
Solidarity/empathy 0 0.0 0 0.0
Sub-total 0 0.0 63 21.6
TOTAL 197 100.00 291 100.00

Table 5: Frequency of refusal strategies used by learners on pre-test and post-


test (n=488)

Regarding the subtypes of direct strategies, learners used the flat no


differently across measures (12.2% or 24/197 in pre-test and no use at all in
post-test) as well as a negation of proposition (26.9% or 53/197 in pre-test
and 3.1% or 9/291 in post-test). Thus, there was a clear change from high
levels of directness (pre-test) to a decrease in the use of direct refusals (post-
test).
Regarding indirect strategies we may say that those used by learners in the
pre-test were deviant from the learning patterns. In fact, the most frequent
type was that of regret/apology (39.1% or 77/197) followed by
reason/explanation (21.8% or 43/197) with no instances of the rest of the
indirect strategies. This pattern clearly shows that the variety of formulae
employed by learners was very limited. In contrast, post-test data displayed a
higher frequency and a wider variety of indirect strategies namely, those of
reason/explanation (28.1% or 82/291), regret/apology (17.2% or 50/291),
alternative change option (15.5% or 45/291), alternative change time (7.6%
or 22/291) and plain indirect (4.8% or 14/291). The remaining two subtypes,
namely disagreement and statement of principle were not found. These
results show that as high levels of directness decreased after the instructional
period, the preference for indirectness increased.
Finally, with respect to the distribution of adjuncts to refusals, learners
significantly improved their performance in the post-test. In fact, no instances
of any of the five types of adjuncts to refusals were employed in the pre-test.
On the contrary, in the post-test, learners displayed a preference for the
strategy of willingness (11.3% or 33/291) followed by that of positive opinion
(10.3% or 30/291). No instances of the other three remaining strategies were
used by learners, namely, gratitude, agreement and solidarity/empathy.
These comparisons between refusal strategies utilized by learners in the pre-
test and post-test show that after instruction their choice of refusal strategies
changed and became more similar to the instructional pattern. Moreover,
their increased use of adjuncts to refusals certainly carried a positive
politeness orientation. Example (2) below, comparing pre-test and post-test
performance of the same pair of learners in situation 5 (see Appendix B),
illustrates the observations just mentioned.
80 Esther Us-Juan

Example (2) -Pre-test (A=requester; B=refuser)


1. A. Hi Sofia. How are you?
2. B. Im fine thanks. And you?
3. A. I need your help. You know I have a paper due in three days and my computer
doesnt work. Could you fix my computer now?
4.  B. Im sorry but I have to do something.
5. A. Please. I need it for writing my paper.
6.  B. I cant today
7. A. Ok. Bye.
8. B. Good bye.
-Post-test
1. A. Good morning Sofia.
2. B. Good morning Elena. I need your help
3. A. Ok. What happens?
4. B. I have a paper due in three days and my laptop doesnt work. As you are an
expert in computers I thought that maybe you could help me.
5.  A. Uhm I would like to. Sorry but I have an important meeting in half an hour.
6. B. Please. I really need my computer.
7.  A. Maybe tomorrow Sorry.
8. B. Please let me know if you can help me tomorrow
9. A. Ok. Bye
10. B. Bye

Prior to instruction (the pre-test), the refusal was performed in two turns and
employed a total of three refusal strategies. The first refusal response (see
line 4) consisted of a regret (Im sorry) and a reason which was not specific (I
have to do something) and the second refusal response simply included a
negation of proposition (I cant). After instruction (the post-test), the learner
also organized the refusal in two turns but approximating the learning target
in content and form. In fact, the first refusal response (see line 5) included a
hesitation (Uhm), then an expression of positive feeling towards the request (I
would like to) followed by a statement of regret (sorry) and a specific reason
(I have an important meeting in half an hour). The second refusal (see line 5)
just included an alternative, that of changing time (Maybe tomorrow)
followed by a regret (Sorry).
These results are therefore in line with previous research (Bacelar Da Silva,
2003; Kondo, 2001; 2008) that found that after treatment, learners used far
more indirect refusal strategies, decreasing the use of direct ones
proportionally. Furthermore, similar to Bacelar Da Silvas (2003) study,
learners also displayed a high level of accuracy in terms of order of strategies
in their refusal turns. Additionally, as in Kondos (2001; 2008) study where
excuses were more specific after instruction, in the present research we also
found a much more accurate content in learners responses. See for instance
the Example 2 previously described, which includes a vague excuse for
stating the reason for refusing in the pre-test (i.e., I cant today) and a
specific one in the post-test (i.e., I have an important meeting in half an
hour). Considering these findings, it seems that the particular teaching
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 81

approach implemented in this study has helped to foster learners pragmatic


knowledge of refusals in terms of both frequency and variety of refusal
strategies.

5 Conclusion
This study was set up to investigate the effect of metapragmatic instruction
on English refusals among Spanish EFL learners. Specifically, the
pedagogical intervention was designed to help learners understand the form-
function relationship of refusals in different social contexts. Results of the
present study showed that the refusal strategies (i.e., direct, indirect and
adjunct to refusals) produced by learners in the pre-test differed significantly
from those produced in the post-test. In fact, results illustrated that the high
use of direct strategies found before instruction decreased after the treatment,
allowing thus for an increase in different indirect strategies, such as those of
reason/explanation, regret/apology, alternative, and plain indirect. Similarly,
after instruction, there was a higher use in frequency and variety of adjuncts
to refusals, including the strategy of willingness and positive opinion, which
also denoted a politeness orientation. Overall, the results obtained in the
study demonstrate the efficacy of the devised instructional approach to
integrate pragmatics in the foreign language learning syllabi.
Additionally, essential pedagogical insights may be drawn from the study.
Firstly, it appears that an explicit instructional model that includes both
awareness raising and production activities implemented throughout three
two-hour sessions has been beneficial for learners. Secondly, it seems that
providing them with a treatment that includes the three necessary conditions
for the acquisition of their pragmatic ability, namely i) exposure to
appropriate and rich input (i.e., from steps 1 to 4 of the approach), ii)
opportunities for communicative practice (step 3) and iii) teachers feedback
(stage 4) has also been positive. Thirdly, the inclusion of the English target
culture and the learners culture in the instructional framework has been
effective to clarify cultural differences and similarities involved in the use of
English refusals (stage 1 of the approach). Finally, audiovisual material has
proved to be a rich and useful source for providing learners with pragmatic
input and practicing awareness-raising activities (step 4 of the approach).
Although this study has some limitations, such as a relatively small number
of participants involved in the instruction, the lack of a control group and the
no inclusion of a delayed post-test, it is our belief it has added new insights
on how pragmatics can be taught and learned through instruction in an EFL
setting. In the meantime and to sum up, it is our hope that the pragmatically
oriented activities elaborated for the present study could facilitate other
language teachers the task of incorporating pragmatics in foreign language
instructional contexts.
82 Esther Us-Juan

References
Alcn, E. and A. Martnez-Flor (2005) Pragmatics in instructed language
learning [Special Issue], System (33) 3: 281-536.
Alcn, E. and A. Martnez-Flor (eds) (2008) Pragmatics in Foreign
Language Learning, Teaching and Testing, Clevedon: Multilingual
Matters.
Andriani, D. (2008) Indirect Refusal Strategies of the Main Characters
Utterances in A Walk to Remember Bachelor thesis, Petra Christian
University.
Bacelar Da Silva, A. J. (2003) The effects of instruction on pragmatic
development: teaching polite refusals in English, Second Language
Studies (22) 1: 55-106.
Bachman, L. F. (1990) Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing,
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Beebe, L. M., T. Takahashi and R. Uliss-Weltz (1990) Pragmatic transfer in
ESL refusals. In Scarcella, C., E. Anderson and D. Krashen (eds)
Developing Communicative Competence in a Second Language, New
York: Newbury House: 55-73.
Brown, P. and S. Levinson (1987) Politeness: Some Universals in Language
Use, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Brown, G. and G. Yule (1983) Teaching the Spoken Language, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Canale, M. (1983) From communicative competence to communicative
language pedagogy. In Richards, J. C. and R. W. Schmidt (eds)
Language and Communication, London: Longman: 2-27.
Canale, M. and M. Swain (1980) Theoretical bases of communicative
approaches to second language teaching and testing, Applied
Linguistics (1) 1: 1-47.
Celce-Murcia, M. (2007) Rethinking the role of communicative competence
in language teaching. In Alcn, E. and M. P. Safont (eds) Intercultural
Language Use and Language Learning, Dordrecht: Springer: 41-57.
Eslami, Z. R. (2010) Refusals: How to develop appropriate refusal strategies.
In Martnez-Flor, A. and E. Us-Juan (eds) Speech Act Performance:
Theoretical, Empirical and Methodological Issues, Amsterdam: John
Benjamins: 217-237.
Eslami, Z. R. and A. Eslami-Rasekh (2008) Enhancing the pragmatic
competence of non-native English-speaking teachers candidates
(NNESTCs) in an EFL context. In Alcn, E. and A. Martnez-Flor
(eds) Investigating Pragmatics in Foreign Language Learning,
Teaching and Testing, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters: 178-197.
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 83

Gass, S. M. and N. Houck (1999) Interlanguage Refusals: A Cross-cultural


Study of Japanese-English, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Hymes, D. H. (1972) On communicative competence. In Pride, J. B. and J.
Holmes (eds) Sociolinguistics, Baltimore: Penguin Books: 269-293.
King, K. A. and R. E. Silver (1993) Sticking points: Effects of instruction
on NNS refusal strategies, Working Papers in Educational Linguistics
(9) 1: 47-82.
Kondo, S. (2001) Instructional effects on pragmatics development: Refusal
by Japanese EFL learners, Publications of Akerohoshi Womens
Junior College (19) 3: 32-51.
Kondo, S. (2008) Effects on pragmatic development through awareness-
raising instruction: Refusals by Japanese EFL learners. In Alcn, E.
and A. Martnez-Flor (eds) Investigating Pragmatics in Foreign
Language Learning, Teaching and Testing, Clevedon: Multilingual
Matters: 153-177.
Leech, G. (1983) Principles of Pragmatics, London: Longman.
Lingli (2008) The Effects of Explicit and Implicit Instruction on Appropriacy
of English Refusals by Chinese EFL Students, Unpublished doctoral
dissertation, Suranaree University of Technology.
Liu, J. (2006) Measuring Interlanguage Pragmatic Knowledge of EFL
Learners, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
Liu, J. (2010) Testing interlanguage pragmatic knowledge. In Trosborg, A.
(ed) Pragmatics across Languages and Cultures (Handbook of
Pragmatics, 7), Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 467-488.
Martnez-Flor, A. (2007) Analysing request modification devices in films:
implications for pragmatic learning in instructed foreign language
contexts. In Alcn, E. and M. P. Safont (eds) Intercultural Language
Use and Language Learning, Dordrecht: Springer: 245-280.
Martnez-Flor, A. (2012) Examining EFL learners long-term instructional
effects when mitigating requests. In Economidou-Kogetsidis, M. and
H. Woodfield (eds) Interlanguage Request Modification, Amsterdam:
John Benjamins: 243 274.
Martnez-Flor, A. and E. Us-Juan (2006) A comprehensive pedagogical
framework to develop pragmatics in the foreign language classroom.
The 6Rs approach, Applied Language Learning (16) 2: 39-63.
Martnez-Flor, A. and E. Us-Juan (2010) Pragmatics and speech act
performance. In Martnez-Flor, A. and E. Us-Juan (eds) Speech Act
Performance: Theoretical, Empirical and Methodological Issues,
Amsterdam: John Benjamins: 3-20.
Martnez-Flor, A. and E. Us-Juan (2011) Research methodologies in
pragmatics: Eliciting refusals to requests, ELIA (11): 47-87.
Matsuda, M. (1999) Interlanguage pragmatics: What can it offer to language
teachers? The CATESOL Journal (11) 1: 39-59.
84 Esther Us-Juan

Morrow, C. K. (1995) The Pragmatic Effects of Instruction on ESL Learners'


Production of Complaint and Refusal Speech Acts, Unpublished
doctoral dissertation, University of New York at Buffalo, Amherst,
NY.
Nguyen, T. M. P. (2006) Cross-cultural Pragmatics: Refusals of Requests by
Australian Native Speakers of English and Vietnamese Learners of
English, Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The University of
Queensland.
Quick Placement Test (2001) Paper and Pen Test, Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Rose, K. R. (2005) On the effects of instruction in second language
pragmatics, System (33) 3: 385-399.
Rose, K. R. and G. Kasper (eds) (2001) Pragmatics in Language Teaching,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Salazar, P., M. P. Safont and V. Codina (2009) Refusal strategies: A proposal
from a sociopragmatic approach, RL: Revista Electrnica de
Lingstica Aplicada (8): 139-150.
Tatsuki, D. (ed) (2005) Pragmatics in Language Learning, Theory and
Practice. Tokyo: JALT, The Japan Association for Language
Teaching, Pragmatics Special Interest Group.
Thomas, J. (1983) Cross-cultural pragmatic failure, Applied Linguistics (4) 2:
91-112.
Trosborg, A. (1995) Interlanguage Pragmatics. Requests, Complaints and
Apologies, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Us-Juan, E. (2010) Requests: A sociopragmatic approach. In Martnez-Flor,
A. and E. Us-Juan (eds) Speech Act Performance: Theoretical,
Empirical and Methodological Issues, Amsterdam: John Benjamins:
237-256.
Us-Juan, E. and A. Martnez-Flor (2006) Approaches to language learning
and teaching: Towards acquiring communicative competence through
the four skills. In Us-Juan, E. and A. Martnez Flor (eds) Current
trends in the Development and Teaching of the Four Language Skills,
Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 3-25.
Us-Juan, E. and A. Martnez-Flor (2008) Teaching learners to appropriately
mitigate requests, ELT Journal (62) 4: 349-357.
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 85

Appendix A: Worksheets

Worksheet 1: Data-collection worksheet (adapted from Martnez-Flor and


Us-Juan, 2006).

L1 Data-collection worksheet

Step 1. Add a refusal to a request: ....................................................................

Step 2: Think about:


1. speakers age and gender:.............................................................
2. role-relationship between the speaker and addressee: .................
3. speakers occupation: ..................................................................
4. speakerss intention: ....................................................................

Step 3. Provide a suitable context: ....................................................................


86 Esther Us-Juan

Worksheet 2: Awareness-raising questions worksheet (adapted from


Martnez-Flor and Us-Juan, 2006).

Awareness-raising questions worksheet

Pragmalinguistic questions:
How many refusal strategies have you thought of?
Can you organize refusal strategies according to types?
How many adjuncts to soften the non acceptance have you thought of?
Can you organize adjuncts to refusals according to types?

Sociopragmatic questions:
Which different refusal strategies and adjuncts have you found
depending on the degree of familiarity that exists between the
speakers?
Which different refusal strategies and adjuncts have you found
depending on the speakers power over the hearer?
Which different refusal strategies and adjuncts have you found
depending on the degree of the imposition involved in the request?
Are the interactional and contextual factors important when selecting a
particular refusal strategy and adjunct?
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 87

Worksheet 3: A model refusal (adapted from Bacelar Da Silva, 2003 and


Eslami, 2010)

How to refuse a request politely in American English:

(1) Read this example (Conversation between friends):

Jack: Hi Claire! Can you help me with final project work?


Claire: Uhm. Id love to. Sorry, but I have to study for an exam
tomorrow. Tomorrow maybe?

(2) Read the different parts of Claires response and say what she did to
politely refuse Jacks request. Circle the correct answer:

1. When Claire says Uhm, she:


a. gives an alternative c. says she feels bad
b. hesitates d. gives a positive opinion

2. When Claire says Id love to, she:


a. gives an alternative c. says she feels bad
b. hesitates d. gives a positive opinion

3. When Claire says Sorry, she:


a. gives an excuse c. says she feels bad
b. hesitates d. gives a positive opinion

4. When Claire says but I have to study for an exam tomorrow, she:
a. gives an excuse c. says she feels bad
b. hesitates d. gives a positive opinion

5. When Claire says Tomorrow maybe?, she:


a. gives an alternative c. says she feels bad
b. hesitates d. gives a positive opinion

(3) Look at Claires response again and list the sequence of phrases
Americans use to say no politely:

Claire: Uhm. Id love to. Sorry, but I have to study for an exam
tomorrow. Tomorrow maybe?
88 Esther Us-Juan

Worksheet 4: Awareness raising activities (from Martnez-Flor and Us-


Juan, 2011: 82-84)

Read the following nine communicative situations in which someone is


making a request and a rejection for a response to each situation. Tick
 ) whether the rejection is appropriate or inappropriate to each
(
particular situation and explain your answer.

[Some situations from this test were adapted from the study conducted by
Nguyen (2006)]

1. You are a student at a University. You are about to go home in your car.
Another student, whom you have never met before, approaches you and asks
you for a lift home saying that you both live in the same area of the city. You
refuse by saying:

- Im sorry, but I am not going straight home. There are quite a few
things I need to do before heading home! Perhaps another day.

Appropriate Inappropriate
Reason:

2. You are a graduate student conducting research at University and teaching


a course on History. You have scheduled a test on the first day of the
following month, and one of your students, whom you have never met
before, asks if he/she can take the test one day earlier so that he/she can go on
holiday with his/her family, as they have bought tickets on the day of the test.
You refuse by saying:

- Sorry, its not possible, as all students must sit the exam on the
scheduled date. I cant make exceptions for you as then I would have
to do so for everyone.

Appropriate Inappropriate
Reason:

3. You are a student in a Business studies class at the university. One of your
lecturers asks you to pick him/her up every day from his/her home, saying
that his/her house is near yours. You refuse by saying:
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 89

- No, I cant. I always have things to attend to before classes.

Appropriate Inappropriate
Reason:

4. You are a student going to the bank to withdraw some money to pay for a
ski trip organized by the university. Once in the bank, you meet your younger
brother/sister who is also there to withdraw some money to pay for an
excursion organized by the High School. He/she is always short of money
and this time, again, he/she asks you to pay for the excursion. You refuse by
saying:

- I cant lend you any money right now. Next weeks your birthday,
just ask mum for it.

Appropriate Inappropriate
Reason:

5. You are a student at University. A classmate, and close friend of yours, has
been sick and has not been able to attend classes. He/she asks if he/she can
borrow your class notes. You refuse by saying:

- I dont want to. It goes against my convictions!

Appropriate Inappropriate
Reason:

6. You are a student who enters a bakery to buy the only cherry oat muffin
left in the shop. You are about to pay for the muffin when a
businessman/woman behind you suddenly explains how he/she came to the
bakery on purpose to buy the delicious muffins baked there for his pregnant
friend and asks you to buy another pastry. You refuse by saying:

- I understand you, but I also came here on purpose to buy this


delicious muffin. Why dont you try the bakery opposite here?

Appropriate Inappropriate
Reason:

7. You are a research student at University who teaches a course in the


Tourism degree. One of your students has made an appointment to see you
for a consultation at a time you do not have office hours. However, he/she
90 Esther Us-Juan

calls and says he/she cannot come on that date and asks for an alternative
date for the consultation. You are pretty busy writing your PhD dissertation.
You refuse by saying:

- No way. Appointments are meant to be kept unless there is a serious


matter intervening! So I dont want to change our appointment.

Appropriate Inappropriate
Reason:

8. You are a research assistant to a Professor, with whom you have a good
academic relationship. At the end of the office hours, you are going to leave.
The Professor asks if you can stay with him/her and help him/her with some
papers. You refuse by saying:

- I am sorry, but I have an urgent appointment that I simply must


attend. I can definitely help tomorrow.

Appropriate Inappropriate
Reason:

9. You are a business student who enters a bookshop looking for a book. In
the bookshop you are stopped by another student doing the same degree as
you, who asks you to fill out a 30-minute questionnaire as part of a work
project. However, you do not have the time to spend 30 minutes filling in the
questionnaire out. You refuse by saying:

- In your dreams! Im a busy person.

Appropriate Inappropriate
Reason:
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 91

Worksheet 5: Film observation worksheet (adapted from Us-Juan and


Martnez-Flor, 2008)

Film observation worksheet

Focus on sociopragmatic features


Step 1. Circle the option you think it is appropriate:
1. Speakers social distance:
close distant very distant
2. Speakers power:
S* > H** S=H S<H
3. Speakers imposition:
low mild high
Step 2. Provide the interactional and contextual factors that take
place in the scenes:

Step 3. Provide additional aspects regarding their non-verbal


behavior (tone of voice, body language, attitudinal
behavior, facial expressions, and so on):

Focus on pragmalinguistic features


Step 4. Note down the refusal strategies that take place in the scenes
and consider whether cultural differences can be observed:
Note: * S=Speaker; **H=Hearer
92 Esther Us-Juan

Worksheet 6: Role-plays

Read the following role-plays, and after preparing them with your
partner, perform them in front of the class.

Role play 1

A. You are a busy professor in your office. A well-known student doesnt


understand some concepts in one of your books. You clarify them to him/her
and when he/she is about to leave, you ask him/her whether he/she can help
you by leaving a book in the library when going home. You ask the student:

B. You are a student in your professors office trying to clarify some doubts
about one of his/her books. After discussing them with the professor, you are
about to leave when he/she asks whether you can help him/her by leaving a
book in the library when going home. You refuse by saying:

Role-play 2

A. You are a student carrying a lot of books in the university canteen. You
want to buy some food so you put all the books on a table and you ask
another student, whom you have never met before, to watch them until you
bring the food. You ask the student:

B. You are a student in the university canteen finishing your lunch. Another
student, who you have never met before, puts his/her books on the table and
he/she asks you to watch them until she brings the food. You see there is a
long queue to buy the food and you do not want to miss class, you cannot
wait. You refuse by saying:
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 93

Worksheet 7: Evaluation worksheet (adapted from Us-Juan, 2010)

ANALYSIS OF THE ROLE-PLAYS (Circle the correct option)

Sociopragmatic features

- speakers social distance:


close distant very distant
- speakers power
S*>H** S=H S<H
- speakers rank of imposition
low mild high
- state their appropriateness of prosodic aspects
CA*** 5 4 3 2 1 VA****
- state their appropriateness of non-verbal communication aspects
CA 5 4 3 2 1 VA
Pragmalinguistic features
- state the appropriateness of the refusals and adjunct devices
CA 5 4 3 2 1 VA
Additional comments (allow space)
*S = Speaker; **H = Hearer; CA = Completely Appropriate; VA = Very
Unsatisfactory
94 Esther Us-Juan

Appendix B: Interactive written DCT (from Martnez-Flor


and Us-Juan, 2011: 71-79)
Read the following nine communicative situations in which you interact with
someone. Pretend you are the person in the situation and write a short
dialogue for each scenario. Use as many turns as needed to express your
requesting and refusing intentions. Student A will make a request and student
B will make a rejection to the request.

SCENARIO 1

A. You are a student at University. You have been sick and were not able to
attend classes last week. You want to know if one of your classmates can
lend you the class notes. You ask the classmate:

B. You are a student at University. You have attended all classes during this
semester. One of your classmates wants to borrow your class notes. Although
you understand he/she has been sick, you do not want to lend your notes. You
refuse by saying:

SCENARIO 2

A. You are a waitress who works in a cafeteria located close to the local
University. A research assistant, whom you have never seen before, wants to
buy a doughnut. You tell him/her it costs 2 euros and ask him/her if he/she
could give you the exact amount of money since you only have money in the
form of notes. You ask the research student:

B. You are a research student at University. You go to a cafeteria, where you


have never been before, to buy a doughnut. Since you dont know the exact
price of the doughnut you have only brought a 20 euro note. When you are
about to pay, the waitress tells you it costs 2 euros and asks you if you could
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 95

give him/her the exact amount of money since he/she only has money in the
form of notes. You refuse by saying:

SCENARIO 3

A. You are a Professor who is in the middle of a lesson. At that moment, a


student walks into class half an hour late and interrupts the lesson. The course
policy states that late arrivals are not permitted, except for serious
documented excuses. You tell the student that his/her behaviour is disruptive
and ask him/her to leave the class. You ask the student:

B. You are a student who arrives half an hour late to class because you had to
go to the doctor for an important health issue. The course policy states that
late arrivals are not permitted, except for serious documented excuses. The
Professor tells you that your behavior is disruptive and asks you to leave the
class. You refuse by saying:

SCENARIO 4

A. You are a student at University. You are about to go home when you see a
student parking the car you are so eager to buy. You have not had the
opportunity to go to the local car dealer to request a test drive. Although you
do not know him/her, you ask if he/she could lend you the car just to drive it
within the University campus for a while. You ask the student:

B. You are a student parking at the University campus. You have already
parked your car when a student, whom you have never seen before, explains
to you that he/she is very eager to buy the same car you have. He/she asks
you if he/she could borrow it to drive it for a while within the University
96 Esther Us-Juan

campus. You refuse by saying:

SCENARIO 5

A. You are a first-year student at University. You have a paper due in three
days and you havent started working on it yet. The day you start working on
it your laptop doesnt work. A close friend of yours is working as a research
student in the department of Computer Science at University. You ask
him/her if he/she can urgently help you fix the laptop. You ask the research
student:

B. You are a research student in the department of Computer Science at


University. While in your office, a first-year student, who is also a close
friend of yours, asks whether you can urgently help her fix the laptop. He/she
explains to you he/she has a paper due in three days and he/she urgently
needs the laptop to start working on it. Although you understand the urgency
of the matter you cannot do it. You refuse by saying:

SCENARIO 6

A. You are a middle-aged man/woman who is responsible for the office of


primary care and health of your town hall. Right now, your office is
informing all local shops about flue prevention techniques they may use to
keep themselves and clients healthy. An important one is the use of plastic
gloves when handling food. You see the shop assistant who is working in the
butchers is not wearing them. You ask the shop assistant:

B. You are a student at University who helps your father working in his
butchers. Very recently, the office of the primary care and health of your
town hall has sent all local shops flue prevention techniques they may use to
Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 97

keep themselves and clients healthy. An important one is the use of gloves
when handling food. A middle-aged man/woman explains to you that he/she
is responsible for the office of primary care and health of your town hall and
asks you to wear plastic gloves to handle food. You refuse by saying:

SCENARIO 7

A. You are a secretary in the English Studies department at University. You


are in an office giving some documents to a research assistant who works in
the same department. It is getting close to the end of the day, and you still
have a lot of things to do, among others leaving a document in the library.
This building is on the research assistants way home, so you wonder
whether he/she could help you by leaving the document in the library when
going home. You ask the research assistant:

B. You are a research assistant working in the English Studies department at


University. You are in your office with the secretary of your department who
is giving you some documents. It is getting close to the end of the day, and
he/she tells you the list of things he/she still has to do, among others leaving a
document in the library which is in your way home. He/she asks you if you
could help him/her by leaving the document in the library when going home.
You refuse by saying:

SCENARIO 8

A. You are a Professor working in your office. Your assistant, with whom
you have a good academic relationship, doesnt understand some concepts in
one of your books. You clarify them to him/her and when he/she is about to
leave, you ask him/her whether he/she can help you to finish an online
questionnaire by discussing some items. You ask the assistant:
98 Esther Us-Juan

B. You are an assistant to a Professor, with whom you have a good academic
relationship. You go to his/her office to clarify some doubts about one of
his/her books. After discussing them with him/her, you are about to leave
when he/she asks you whether you can help him/her to finish an online
questionnaire by discussing some items. You refuse by saying:

SCENARIO 9

A. You are a student enrolled in a hairdressing program at an Academy. As


part of your practicum you are in a reputable salon cutting a womans hair.
You feel tired and you need to drink a coffee to wake up. Your colleague,
and close friend, is not with a client at that moment so you ask him/her
whether he/she can take a coffee for you. You ask your colleague:

B. You are a student enrolled in a hairdressing program at an Academy. As


part of your practicum you are working in a reputable salon. As you do not
have clients, you are sweeping the salon floor. Your colleague, and close
friend, is cutting a womans hair and asks you whether you could take
him/her a coffee to wake up. You refuse by saying:

Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners refusals 99

Appendix C: Taxonomy on the speech act of refusing (from


Salazar, Safont and Codina, 2009: 145).

REFUSALS
Direct Strategies
1. Bluntness No. / I refuse.
2. Negation of proposition I cant, I dont think so.
Indirect Strategies
1. Plain indirect It looks like I wont be able to go.
2. Reason/Explanation I cant. I have a doctors appointment.
3. Regret/Apology Im so sorry! I cant.
4. Alternative:
Change option I would join you if you choose another
restaurant.
Change time I cant go right now, but I could next
(Postponement) week
5. Disagreement/Dissuasion/ Under the current economic
Criticism circumstances, you should not be asking
for a rise right now!
6. Statement of I cant. It goes against my beliefs!
principle/philosophy
7. Avoidance
Non-verbal: Ignoring
(Silence, etc.)
Verbal:
o Hedging Well, Ill see if I can.
o Change topic
o Joking
o Sarcasm
ADJUNCTS TO REFUSALS
1. Positive opinion This is a great idea, but
2. Willingness Id love to go, but
3. Gratitude Thanks so much, but
4. Agreement Fine!, but
5. Solidarity/Empathy Im sure youll understand, but
Refusals in L2 English: Proficiency
effects on appropriateness and fluency

Naoko Taguchi (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh)

This study investigates effects of general proficiency on production of refusals. Fifty-


nine Japanese college students of English at two different proficiency levels
(proficiency determined by TOEFL scores) were evaluated for their ability to produce
a speech act of refusal in a spoken role play task. The task elicited four refusals
(refusals to invitation, offer, request, and suggestion) in two item types: formal and
informal situations. Learners refusals were analyzed for overall appropriateness and
fluency. Appropriateness was assessed quantitatively by rating performance on a six-
point scale, as well as qualitatively by identifying the directness levels of the
linguistic expressions used to produce refusals. Fluency was examined for speech
rates (average number of words per minute). Results revealed a significant
proficiency influence on both appropriateness and fluency, but only a marginal
difference in the types of linguistic expressions used between the two proficiency
groups. There was an interaction between proficiency and item type: proficiency
effect was larger for formal situation refusals than for informal situation refusals on
both appropriateness and fluency.

1 Introduction
The speech act of refusal is a face-threatening act because of its non-
compliant nature. In a refusal to a directive (e.g., request, suggestion), the
speaker averts a threat to her negative face, while a refusal to a commissive
(e.g., offer, invitation) involves the speaker declining support of her positive
face (Brown and Levinson, 1987). If they are not performed appropriately,
refusals could lead to unintended offense and communication breakdown. As
a result, it is important to examine if and/or how second language (L2)
learners refusal patterns might deviate from those of native speakers in order
to account for potential causes of miscommunication and suggest ways to
teach appropriate linguistic strategies involved in this speech act.
This study investigates the effects of general proficiency on production of
refusals. Fifty-nine Japanese college students of English at two different
proficiency levels (determined by TOEFL scores) were evaluated for their
ability to produce a speech act of refusal in role-plays. The task elicited four
refusals (refusals to invitation, offer, request, and suggestion) in formal and
informal situations. Learners refusals were analyzed for overall
appropriateness and fluency. Appropriateness was assessed quantitatively by
rating performance on a six-point scale, as well as qualitatively by identifying
the directness levels of the linguistic expressions used to produce refusals.
Fluency was examined for speech rates (average number of words per
minute). Results revealed a significant proficiency influence on
102 Naoko Taguchi

appropriateness and fluency. There was an interaction between proficiency


and item type: the effect of proficiency was larger for formal situation
refusals than for informal situation refusals on both appropriateness and
fluency.

2 Background
Previous studies that examined interlanguage patterns of refusals typically
used a categorical analysis by comparing native and non-native refusal
strategies for their directness levels based on coding systems (e.g., Al-Eryani,
2007; Beebe, Takahashi and Uliss-Weltz, 1990; Flix-Brasdefer, 2003;
Fujiura, 2007; Garca, 1999; Ikeda, 2007; Kawate-Mierzejewska, 2009;
Robinson, 1992; Takahashi and Beebe, 1987; Widjaja, 1997). An earlier
study by Takahashi and Beebe (1987) examined pragmatic transfer in
Japanese ESL learners refusals. Using a discourse completion test (DCT),
the researchers compared the differences in the order, frequency, and content
of refusal strategies between American and Japanese students. They found
evidence of L1 transfer in all three areas. Frequency of transfer interacted
with proficiency. Low-proficiency learners were more direct in their refusals
than high-proficiency learners, suggesting their lack of pragmalinguistic
knowledge.
In a more recent study, Flix-Brasdefer (2003) investigated the use of direct
and indirect refusal strategies among L1 and L2 speakers of Spanish. Role-
plays with three invitation situations were administered to native speakers of
English, native speakers of Spanish, and advanced learners of Spanish.
Results revealed that Spanish learners were less direct in their choice of
semantic moves compared with their L1 cohort. They could not use certain
linguistic expressions, such as promise of future acceptance (e.g., "I'll call
you. I promise."), conditional expressions (e.g., "We'll stop by, if we can."),
or solidarity (e.g., "You have been an excellent boss"). Follow-up verbal
reports revealed that the lack of L2 sociocultural knowledge limited the use
of strategies even for advanced learners of Spanish.
A few recent studies have analyzed naturalistic interaction of refusals.
Kawate-Mierzejewska (2009) investigated request-refusal sequences by L2
learners of Japanese in telephone conversations. Native Japanese speakers
and American learners of Japanese of advanced proficiency received a phone
call in which they were asked by the researcher to tape-record a telephone
conversation with their friends. If a participant refused the request, the
conversation was transcribed and analyzed by coding the participants refusal
strategies. Results revealed that the learners used a wide variety of refusal
moves (i.e., giving an excuse, delaying a compliance, avoiding the request,
and providing a positive comment), while native speakers refusals were
largely formulaic (i.e., giving an excuse and delaying compliance).
Refusals in L2 English: Proficiency effects on appropriateness & fluency 103

Although these studies revealed that learners were often too direct or too
indirect in their choice of refusal strategies due to cultural differences or
limited L2 proficiency, the question remains as to whether learners' poor
performance is entirely attributable to the choice of particular semantic
moves. Features such as fluency and discourse management could also
contribute to a successful refusal. Several studies incorporated these
interactional features in their analyses. Using open role-plays, Gass and
Houck (1999) analyzed refusals by three Japanese ESL students. Their
analysis extended beyond the coding of refusal expressions to the analysis of
non-verbal features, vocal characteristics, turn-taking sequences, and
communication strategies. Results revealed that the learners negotiated their
way by using various means to establish solidarity with the native speaker
interlocutor. For instance, they often used communication strategies such as
backchannel cues (e.g., nodding, affirmative responses) as emphatic
responses to mitigate the negative effect of refusals. They also used non-
verbal expressions of affect (e.g., laughter) in order to mitigate refusals. They
sometimes called the interlocutor's attention to their non-nativeness (e.g.,
reference to their lack of linguistic knowledge) to solicit support from the
interlocutor. These findings suggest that learners refusals could be analyzed
in a wider range of communicative resources, including discourse tactics and
turn takings.
In another study, Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford (1993) examined L2 refusals
in authentic academic advising sessions between international students and
their faculty advisors in a U.S. university. They documented that
international students became more native-like in their rejections over a 7- to
14-week period. Their success in the rejection speech act was evident in the
increased instances of student-initiated suggestions, long negotiation
sequences, and the use of more credible content as excuses for rejection.
Although students moved over time toward using more suggestions and
became more successful negotiators, they changed less in their ability to use
appropriate forms of rejection. Results suggest that the success of a refusal
does not solely depend on the types of semantic moves used. It also depends
on other interactional features such as overall structuring of talk exchanges
and distribution of turns.
In summary, a refusal requires a constellation of semantic strategies to
mitigate its potential face-threat. Due to this linguistic complexity, even
advanced learners were found to have difficulty performing a refusal at a
proper level of directness and appropriateness. Constructing a target-like
refusal requires knowledge of variety linguistic forms mapped with the right
contextual requirements (i.e., relationship between the speakers, settings, and
degree of imposition). In addition to linguistic knowledge, performance
knowledge is required for a successful refusal. Learners need to have
sufficient discourse and interactional skills to mobilize their knowledge of
104 Naoko Taguchi

form-function mappings and negotiate refusal sequences with their


interlocutors.
While several previous studies have examined performance features such as
non-verbal cues, discourse tactics, and turn-taking, one performance feature
that is limited in empirical investigation is fluency. Lennon (1990: 28)
defined fluency is defined as the rapid, smooth, accurate, lucid, and efficient
translation of thought or communicative intention into language under the
temporal constraints of on-line processing. Fluency involves temporal levels
of speed and promptness in speech articulation, as well as global levels of
spoken commands, and it is an indicator of efficiency in oral production,
including production of speech acts.
Only a few studies to date have examined fluency in speech acts. House
(1996), for instance, investigated the effect of explicit and implicit teaching
in the development of learners' fluency in speech acts. Fluency was measured
at the temporal level (e.g., speech rate, pauses, and repairs) as well as at the
discourse level (e.g., use of discourse strategies, conversational routines, and
gambits). Thirty-two advanced German learners of EFL received implicit or
explicit instruction. Results showed that both groups improved but the
explicit group used more gambits and discourse strategies. Following this
line of study, more research that investigates the fluency aspect of refusals
will add to the interlanguage pragmatics literature. This additional research
will help to advance our understanding of whether or not different
dimensions of refusals e.g., appropriateness, choice of semantic strategies,
and fluency are affected differently or similarly by learners general
proficiency. The present study is an effort in this direction. It investigated the
effects of general proficiency in oral production of refusals. Effects of
proficiency were assessed on three variables: overall appropriateness rated on
a six-point scale, fluency of production measured as speech rate, and
frequency of target-like refusal strategies.

3 Methodology

3.1 Participants
Participants were 59 Japanese learners of English enrolled in a branch
American university in Japan. English was the instructional medium of the
university, and participants were exposed to spoken English mainly through
their classes. However, because approximately 90% of the student population
was Japanese, the participants did not receive extensive English outside the
class. There was no explicit instruction on refusals in class. The participants
formed two proficiency groups: 29 higher-proficiency students (15 males and
14 females, a mean age of 20.48, ranging from 17 to 25) and 30 lower-
proficiency students (15 males and 15 females, a mean age of 19.19, ranging
Refusals in L2 English: Proficiency effects on appropriateness & fluency 105

from 18 to 27) based on the institutional TOEFL scores (ITP TOEFL). The
higher-proficiency L2 group (n = 29) had an average ITP TOEFL score of
508, ranging from 480 to 590. Their average oral proficiency rating was 5.48.
The lower-proficiency L2 group (n = 30) had an average ITP TOEFL score
of 397, ranging from 330 to 457. Their average oral proficiency rating was
2.56. One higher learner had more than six months of experience living
overseas. In addition to L2 learners, native English speakers, 10 males and 10
females, participated in the study and provided base-line data. These native
speakers were all students in a American university with a mean age of
23.35, ranging from 20 to 31.

3.2 Elicitation of refusal speech act


A role-play task was developed to measure learners' ability to perform a
speech act of refusal appropriately and fluently. Three contextual factors
served to create two social situations used in the task: interlocutors' power
difference (P), social distance (D), and the size of imposition (R) (Brown and
Levinson, 1987). These three variables served as major parameters that
dichotomized the role-play situations into two situation types: PDR-high and
PDR-low situations. In PDR-high situations, the speaker had less power, the
interlocutor distance was larger, and the degree of imposition was larger.
PDR-low situations were defined as situations in which the power
relationship was equal, the distance between the interlocutors was smaller,
and the degree of imposition was smaller. These two distinct situations were
created because the purpose of this study was to examine learners'
sociolinguistic sensitivity, their ability to vary their linguistic means
according to contextual variables.
To confirm the PDR-low and PDR-high distinctions, a pilot study was carried
out. This involved developing a questionnaire that described candidate
situations and asked participants to indicate the degree of perceived
ease/difficulty in performing the target speech act on a Likert scale of 1
(easy) to 7 (difficult). Because of the combinations of the three variables (i.e.,
P, D, and R), it was hypothesized that speech acts in PDR-high situations
would be perceived as more difficult to perform than those in PDR-low
situations. Based on the previous literature, one refusal situation (i.e.,
refusing an offer of coffee) was selected as a benchmark PDR-low situation.
The rating of 4 on the scale was placed as the same degree of
easiness/difficulty with the benchmark situation. The greater the number was,
the more difficult the performance was perceived to be, while the smaller the
number was, the easier the performance would be. This questionnaire was
given to 24 participants (13 Japanese and 11 English native speakers) in their
respective native language. As expected, PDR-high situations received higher
ratings, indicating that the speech acts in these situations were perceived to
106 Naoko Taguchi

be more difficult to perform. The rating difference between the categories


was significant using a matched t-test (p < .05). There were no discernible
differences between the Japanese and American participants' responses,
suggesting that the PDR-high and PDR-low distinctions had cross-cultural
validity.
Ratings of individual situations were also examined for trends. In addition to
the PDR-low situation used as a benchmark in the questionnaire (i.e.,
refusing an offer of coffee), a situation with the lowest rating (i.e., refusing
an invitation to the movie) was selected for the role-play task. Among the
three PDR-high situations, two situations with the highest ratings (i.e.,
refusing the teacher's advice to take summer classes and refusing the boss's
request to reschedule work) were selected for the role-play task. Table 1
displays simplified situations.

PDR-low

1. You are in the library studying for tomorrows test. Your friend comes and
asks if you want to take a break and go to the movie with her. You want to
refuse the invitation because you have to study more for the test.

2. You are in the living room in your house watching TV with your older
sister. Your sister has just stood up to make herself a cup of coffee. She is
offering you some coffee too. You want to refuse the offer.

PDR-high

3. You are talking with your teacher in her office. She suggests that you
should take summer session because your grades are low. You want to refuse
the suggestion because you already have plans.

4. You work part-time at a city library. Your boss asks if you can work next
Friday night instead. You want to refuse the request because you are leaving
very early next morning for camping.

Table 1. Simplified refusal-eliciting scenarios used in the role-play task

Data collection took place on campus. Task directions were given by a


female native English speaker interlocutor who interacted with each learner
in role-plays. The participants were given an unlimited amount of time to
prepare mentally. When ready, the participants were instructed to say "I'm
ready" and begin the role-play. All interactions except for the practice
interaction were tape-recorded and transcribed.
Refusals in L2 English: Proficiency effects on appropriateness & fluency 107

3.3 Evaluation of refusal speech act


Three measures were used to analyze learners' refusals: rating of overall
appropriateness, rating of overall fluency, and coding of linguistic
expressions used for refusals.

3.3.1 Rating of appropriateness


Appropriateness was assessed using a six-point rating scale ranging from
zero to five (Table 2). Appropriateness was defined as the ability to perform
language functions appropriately according to social contexts. This definition
subsumed two elements of pragmatic competence: sociopragmatics (i.e., the
ability to evaluate context) and pragmalinguistics (i.e., the ability to choose
appropriate linguistic expressions) (Thomas, 1983). The appropriateness
scale addressed these two elements holistically. Linguistic appropriateness
was the primary trait for evaluation, but grammatical and discourse
competences were also incorporated into the rating descriptors in terms of the
degree to which they interacted with appropriateness. Several references
served as sources when developing the scale (Cohen, 1994; North, 2000;
Sasaki, 1998).

Ratings Descriptors
5 Excellent - Expressions are fully appropriate for the situation.
- No or almost no grammatical and discourse errors.
4 Good - Expressions are mostly appropriate.
- Very few grammatical and discourse errors.
3 Fair - Expressions are only somewhat appropriate.
- Grammatical and discourse errors are noticeable,
but they do not interfere with appropriateness.
2 Poor - Due to the interference from grammatical and
discourse errors, appropriateness is difficult to
determine.
1 Very - Expressions are very difficult or too short to
poor understand.There is no evidence that the intended
speech acts are performed.
0 - No performance

Table 2. Appropriateness rating scale


108 Naoko Taguchi

Six native speaker raters, all experienced ESL instructors, evaluated refusals.
The raters were asked to listen to each role-play interaction and indicate the
rating of appropriateness (0-5) based on the rating descriptions. While rating,
they were asked to judge each request independently of the others. After the
initial group norming session that lasted one to two hours, a set of 20-25
samples was assigned randomly to each rater and evaluated independently.
Two raters evaluated each set of samples. Overall interrater reliability was
0.90, r = 0.89 for PDR-high and r = 0.87 for PDR-low speech acts. About 2%
of the samples that were more than one point off were discussed in the
follow-up meetings, and the average score between the raters was assigned as
the final score.

3.3.2 Oral fluency


In addition to the appropriateness rating, this study measured fluency of
refusals. Fluency was assessed through speech rate. Speech rate is a
component of oral fluency that refers to the fluidity or smoothness of
language use (Freed, 1995). Speech rate (the number of words spoken per
minute) has been used extensively in the previous research of oral fluency
(Ejzenberg, 2000; Freed, 2000; Towell, 2002). In this study, word counts
excluded false starts and repetitions.

3.3.3 Coding framework for linguistic expressions


In addition to the appropriateness rating and speech rate, refusals were
analyzed linguistically by identifying the main linguistic expressions used by
the participants and classifying them into different directness levels based on
a coding system adopted from Beebe et al. (1990) and Nelson et al. (2002).
See Table 3.

I. Direct Expressions
1. No /Negative willingness/ability e.g., I don't want to./I
can't.
II. Indirect Expressions
2. Statement of Regret e.g., I'm sorry.
3. Wish e.g., I wish I could go.
4. Excuse e.g., I have to study for
the exams.
5. Statement of Alternative e.g., I'd rather drink tea.
6. Promise of Future Acceptance e.g., I'll do it next time.
7. Indefinite reply/Hedging e.g., Maybe we can
work something out.
Refusals in L2 English: Proficiency effects on appropriateness & fluency 109

8. Postponement e.g., I'll think about it.


9. Statement of Positive Opinion e.g., I'd love to, but . . .
10. Statement of Empathy e.g., I know you are
busy.
11. Gratitude e.g., Thank you.
12. Repetition/Question e.g., Friday night?

Table 3. Coding framework of refusal strategies

4 Results

4.1 Analysis of appropriateness scores


Table 4 displays descriptive statistics of appropriateness scores. For both
proficiency groups, PDR-high situation refusals were more difficult to
produce than PDR-low situation refusals, as shown in their lower mean
scores. As expected, the mean for the higher-proficiency L2 group was
greater than that for the lower-proficiency L2 group. An independent sample
t-test also confirmed that the between-group difference was statistically
significant, t=-7.29, p=.000 for PDR-high refusals, and t=-2.50, p=.015 for
PDR-low refusals. Effect size comparison showed that the group difference
was greater for the PDR-high refusals (eta-square=.48) than for PDR-low
refusals (eta-square=.10).

Group Situation type Mean SD Min. Max.


Higher L2 group PDR-high 3.58 .63 2.75 5.00
PDR-low 4.35 .64 2.00 5.00
Lower L2 group PDR-high 2.30 .71 1.00 3.75
PDR-low 3.88 .80 1.50 4.75

Table 4. Appropriateness scores by situation type1

4.2 Analysis of speech rates


Table 5 displays descriptive statistics of speech rates for the two L2 groups.
Speech rates for the native speaker group were also provided as baseline data.

1
Each situation type had two items. Mean refers to the average score based on six-point scale
ranging between zero and five. There were 29 higher and 30 lower L2 learners.
110 Naoko Taguchi

All groups demonstrated the same patterns: they were more fluent when
producing PDR-low refusals than PDR-high refusals, as shown in their faster
speech rates. The speech rate for the higher-proficiency L2 group was faster
than that for the lower-proficiency L2 group. An independent sample t-test
confirmed that the difference was statistically significant, t=-6.88, p=.000, for
PDR-high situation refusals, and t=-3.37, p=.001, for PDR-low situation
refusals. Effect size comparison revealed that the group difference was
greater for the PDR-high refusals (eta-square=.38) than PDR-low refusals
(eta-square=.17).

Group Situation type Mean SD Min. Max.


Higher L2 group PDR-high 96.13 23.20 55.07 140.11
PDR-low 113.73 28.53 45.74 168.01
Lower L2 group PDR-high 47.69 21.79 9.9 109.06
PDR-low 84.26 37.78 24.78 224.09
Native speakers PDR-high 185.34 49.09 119.82 311.49
PDR-low 265.02 42.91 172.74 337.76

Table 5. Speech rates by situation type2

4.3 Analysis of linguistic strategies


Table 6 presents analyses of refusal strategies that appeared in PDR-low
situations. All groups used substantially more indirect strategies in these
situations. The proportion of direct refusals was similar between the two L2
groups (about 30%), although native speakers used the greatest proportion of
direct strategies. In terms of the types of indirect strategies used, there was
almost no difference between the two L2 groups. The most common strategy
was giving an excuse. Both L2 groups used apology frequently (16% for the
higher group and 20% for the lower group), although this strategy was rare in
the native speaker data.

NS Higher L2 Lower L2
% (n) % (n) % (n)
I. Direct Expressions 39.5%(30) 33.1%(41) 29.6%(37)

2
Each situation type had two items. Mean refers to the number of words spoken per minute.
There were 20 native speakers, 29 higher and 30 lower L2 learners.
Refusals in L2 English: Proficiency effects on appropriateness & fluency 111

II. Indirect Expressions 60.5%(46) 66.9%(83) 70.4%(88)


2. Apology 2.6(2) 16.1(20) 20.8(26)
3. Wish 2.6(2) 0 0
4. Excuse 34.2(26) 23.4(29) 30.4(38)
5. Alternative 3.9(3) 2.4(3) 0.8(1)
6. Promise for future 0 1.6(2) 3.2(4)
7. Indefinite reply/ 3.9(3) 6.5(8) 1.6(2)
Hedging
8. Postponement 0 0 0
9. Positive opinion 13.2(10) 8.9(11) 7.2(9)
10. Empathy 0 1.6(2) 0
11. Gratitude 1.3(1) 4.8(6) 1.6(2)
12. Repetition/Question 1.3(1) 1.6(2) 4.8(6)
Sum of strategies 78 124 125
Average number of
strategies per item 2.0 2.1 2.1

Table 6. Percentages and frequencies of refusal expressions in PDR-low


situations3

Learners use of apologies is shown in the examples (2) and (3) below. In
contrast, native speakers used an expression of positive evaluation (e.g., "I'd
love to") often, as shown in (1):

NS sample (I= interlocutor; NS= native speaker):


Refusing the movie invitation:
(1) I: Do you wanna take a break and go to the movie?
NS: Ah...I'd love to, but I just crammed with all my studying right
now, so I, I really shouldn't. Maybe some other time.

Higher-Proficiency L2 Sample (I= interlocutor; L= learner):


Refusing the movie invitation:
(2) I: Hey, would you like to take a break from studying, and then...
L: What?
I: From your studying and go to the movie with me?
L: Movie? Ah...now?
I: Yeah, now.
L: Sorry, I have to study hard.
I: Oh, OK.
L: Yes, so I can't go with you now.

3
The numbers in the parentheses show the raw counts. There were 20 native speakers (NS), 29
higher and 30 lower L2 learners. Each participant produced two PDR-low refusals, so the total
number of refusals analyzed was 40 for native speakers, 58 for higher L2 learners, and 60 for
lower L2 learners.
112 Naoko Taguchi

I: OK.
L: So, next time, I can go.

Lower L2 Sample:
Refusing the offer of coffee:
(3) I: Hey, I'm gonna make some coffee. Do you want some?
L: Sorry, no thank you.

As shown above, multiple strategies often appeared in combination. In (1),


the native speaker participant used four different strategies: positive
evaluation, excuse, direct rejection with "I shouldn't," and promise for future.
L2 learners also employed multiple strategies. As shown in (3), the higher-
proficiency L2 learner used three different expressions: repetition of part of
the invitation (i.e., "move, now?"), apology, excuse, and promise for the
future. The lower-proficiency L2 group also used multiple strategies although
they were very brief. Average number of strategies per refusal was almost the
same across groups, 2.0 for native speakers and 2.1 for the L2 groups.
Table 7 displays distributions of refusal expressions in PDR-high situations.
All three groups used a greater number of strategies in PDR-high situations
than in PDR-low situations. Native speakers used a wider range of strategies
than L2 learners. On average, they used three different strategies per refusal,
while the means were 2.7 for the higher-proficiency L2 group and 2.5 for the
lower-proficiency L2 group.
When the distributions of direct and indirect strategies are compared,
approximately four to five times more direct expressions (i.e., explicit "no" or
indication of unwillingness) were found in L2 learner refusals than in native
speaker refusals. Hence, L2 learners, regardless of proficiency levels, did not
seem to know appropriate, indirect ways to downgrade their refusals in these
face-threatening situations. As a result, they used more direct expressions,
such as explicit statements of negative willingness or ability, which were
considered inappropriate in this formal context.

NS Higher L2 Lower L2
% (n) % (n) % (n)

I. Direct Expressions 5.0%(6) 23.1%(37) 21.0%(33)

II. Indirect Expressions 95.0%(115) 76.9%(123) 78.0%(117)


2. Apology 0.8(1) 11.3(18) 27.3(41)
3. Wish 0 0 0
4. Excuse 30.6(37) 35.0(56) 40.7(61)
5. Alternative 9.9(12) 0 0.7(1)
6. Promise for future 2.5(3) 1.3(2) 2.7(4)
7. Indefinite reply/Hedging 28.9(35) 11.9(19) 2.0(3)
Refusals in L2 English: Proficiency effects on appropriateness & fluency 113

8. Postponement 3.3(4) 0 0
9. Positive opinion 0.8(1) 4.4(7) 1.3(2)
10. Empathy 8.3(10) 3.8(6) 0.7(1)
11. Gratitude 2.5(3) 0 0
12. Repetition/Question 7.4(9) 9.4(15) 6.7(10)

Sum of strategies 121 160 150

The average number of


strategies per item 3.0 2.7 2.5

Table 7.4 Percentages and frequencies of refusal expressions in PDR-high


situations5

Among the indirect strategies, giving an excuse was most frequent, appearing
in between 30% and 40% of the refusals across the three groups. Some
indirect, face-saving expressions appearing in PDR-high situations included
indefinite replies, hedging, and suggesting alternatives. All were common in
the native speaker data. Almost 30% of native speakers refusals included
indefinite replies and hedging (e.g., "I'm not sure", "Maybe it's not possible"),
while higher-proficiency L2 learners used them only 12% of the time, and the
lower-proficiency L2 group almost never used them (2%). By using elements
of hedging or indefiniteness instead of direct rejections, speakers do not have
to specify their precise rejection intentions, and they can consequently avoid
the potential provocation of being precise. As illustrated in native speaker
samples below, specific lexical and phrasal hedging devices, such as
"probably" and "kind of" in (5), function to soften the impositive force of
refusals. In other occasions, syntactic properties such as clause structures, as
shown in the samples (6), also had a mitigating function in refusals.

NS Samples:
Refusing to reschedule work:
(5) I: So can you come in work the night before instead?
NS: Probably that wouldn't work out. We have to leave early next
morning, on Saturday, so it kind of defeat the purpose.

4
Tables 6 and 7 appeared in Taguchi (2007) which examined the effect of task difficulty in oral
speech act production.

5
The numbers in the parentheses show the raw counts. There were 20 native speakers (NS), 29
higher and 30 lower L2 learners. Each participant produced two PDR-high refusals, so the total
number of refusals analyzed was 40 for native speakers, 58 for higher-proficiency L2 learners,
and 60 for lower-proficiency L2 learners.
114 Naoko Taguchi

Refusing to reschedule work:


(6) I: Do you think you can work on Friday night before that
Saturday instead?
NS: Ah . . . if you really need me I could, but we're just leaving
really early on Saturday, so it'd be nice not to have to work Friday.

A small proportion of hedging devices and indefinite expressions was


identified in the higher-proficiency L2 learner data (i.e., about 12%) as
shown in (7). Because the proportion in the lower-proficiency L2 group was
only 2%, there seemed to be some L2 proficiency effect in the use of this
particular type of indirect expression.

Higher-Proficiency L2 Sample:
Refusing to reschedule work:
(7) I: Ah . . . but do you think you could work on Friday night before
that Saturday instead?
L: Well, maybe it's difficult because I have to leave home early in
the morning, so I would like to sleep.

Another common mitigating strategy among native speakers was asking for
alternatives. Approximately 10% of native speakers gave alternatives during
a refusal, while the percentage of use was almost zero in both L2 groups. The
alternatives strategy helps speakers to convey the intention of rejections
without actually articulating rejections. See the native speaker data (8):

NS Sample:
Refusing to reschedule work:
(8) I: I need someone to work on Friday night. Do you think you can
work then?
NS: Ah . . . gee . . . we wanted to, we wanted to leave that night . . .
ah . . . is there something else I can do?

In stark contrast with native speakers, L2 learners used apologies quite often.
About 27% of the lower-proficiency L2 group and 11% of the higher-
proficiency L2 group used apologies, while the percentage of use was less
than 1% in native speaker data. Apologies were more common in PDR-high
situations than in PDR-low ones, suggesting that the learners who were not
familiar with hedging or indefinite expressions used apologies as politeness
strategies to downgrade the refusals. The learners used apologies in
combination with direct expressions in order to modulate the impact that their
directness was likely to have on the interlocutor. See example (9).

Lower-Proficiency L2 Sample:
Refusing to reschedule work:
(9) I: Do you think you can work on Friday night?
L: Ah, I'm so sorry. Ah . . . I want to, I will leave early morning.
I: OK, OK, I understand.
Refusals in L2 English: Proficiency effects on appropriateness & fluency 115

In addition, there were several cases where learners negotiated over multiple
turns when rejecting the teacher's suggestion. They responded to the
suggestion with questions in order to negotiate the circumstance with the
teacher and delay the rejections. The questions often allowed learners to
avoid committing to the teacher's suggestion. The excerpt below from the
higher-proficiency L2 group is an example of this type of avoidance of
rejection. The questions usually took a form of requesting information (10).
This type of question appeared more frequently in PDR-high situations,
suggesting that, similar to apologies, this strategy was used by learners in
order to minimize the degree of face-threat in direct rejections.

Higher-Proficiency L2 Samples:
Refusing the advice to take summer classes:
(10) I: I was just looking at your grades and they seem a little bit low,
so I think you should take summer school.
L: Summer school?
I: Uh.
L: Oh, how long is gonna be?
I: Summer school? Maybe about, ah. . . two months or about three
months.
L: Ah . . . that's long, because I've heard I'm gonna about to do
this summer, but I'm really feeling, I'm . . . this is kind of possible to do
that, but . . .
I: OK, well, good luck making a, making a decision.

5 Discussion
This study examined L2 proficiency influence on appropriateness and
fluency of refusals, as well as on the choice of linguistic strategies used to
construct refusals. Results revealed that, regardless of the speakers
proficiency, production of PDR-low refusals was easier and faster than that
of PDR-high refusals. There was a statistically significant effect of
proficiency on appropriateness scores and speech rates; however, the effect
was greater for PDR-high refusals than for PDR-low refusals.
The difficulty involved in PDR-high refusals probably stemmed from the
greater number of supporting moves required in these refusals. Native
speakers in this study used many complex sentences and mitigated them with
supporting devices, such as hedges and indefinite responses. These
expressions were rare in L2 data. Instead, L2 learners used expressions that
were too direct (e.g., explicit "no" for refusals), or too implicit (e.g.,
questioning). Due to greater linguistic demand in PDR-high situations, the
proficiency effect was probably more evident in these situations than in PDR-
low refusals. Higher-proficiency learners were more skilled at locating
appropriate linguistic forms and producing them efficiently under the on-line
demand of speaking.
116 Naoko Taguchi

In contrast, PDR-low refusals were found to be easier and faster to produce,


and there was a smaller proficiency effect, probably due to these refusals
lower degree of psychological and cognitive demand. When interacting with
a close friend or family member in low-imposition situations, a speaker has
little need to use overly polite expressions. As a result, the expressions
required for these refusals are relatively short, conventionalized, and thus are
easy to produce. In addition, learners' familiarity with situations could
contribute to the relative ease of PDR-low refusals. These informal situations
were probably more frequently experienced by learners, both in L1 and L2,
and thus were more contextually accessible. For these recurrent, standardized
situations, learners probably had available to them ready-made linguistic
expressions that reduced the processing load. As a result, proficiency did not
serve as advantage for this type of refusal.
Regarding the choice of linguistic strategies, although the higher-proficiency
L2 group approximated native speaker patterns more closely than lower-
proficiency group, they were also found lacking in certain syntactic devices
to modify refusals. Both learner groups used more direct expressions than
native speakers in PDR-high situations. L2 learners, particularly lower
proficiency ones, did not know how to mitigate their refusals with hedging or
indirect replies. In PDR-high situations, learners used more apologies and
questions as strategies to convey politeness, although these types of strategies
were rare in the native speaker data. These findings imply that, although
learners were aware of differences between PDR-high and PDR-low
situations and tried to style-shift appropriately according to context, they
lacked the adequate linguistic resources to do so. This tendency was similar
between the two proficiency groups, but slightly more noticeable among
lower-proficiency L2 learners than higher-proficiency learners because they
used more apologies and fewer hedging devices or indefinite expressions.
The use of the apology strategy might have resulted from negative L1
transfer. Almost 30% of the lower-proficiency L2 learners used apologies as
a mitigating device in formal refusals, while less than 1% of the native
speakers used apologies. These findings confirm Kasper's (1992) claim that if
the L1 strategy is perceived as appropriate and frequently used, it is likely to
be transferred to the L2 context. Learners' poor performance in formal speech
acts, then, seemed to have resulted from multiple factors, including their
overall low proficiency, lack of linguistic resources, and negative transfer of
L1 linguistic conventions. This tendency of L1 transfer was weaker for
higher-proficiency learners, who used apologies in 11% of their refusals.

6 Conclusion and implications


The present findings suggest that more target-like refusals found in the
higher-proficiency L2 group derived from a combination of multiple factors.
Refusals in L2 English: Proficiency effects on appropriateness & fluency 117

For one, these factors were characterized as appropriate degree of politeness


and formality encoded in refusals, grammaticality of expressions, and
comprehensibility and completeness of speech acts (see the rating scale in
Table 2). Other factors were fluent articulation of speech (found in faster
speech rate) and the choice of more target-like semantic and lexical
strategies. These findings imply that differences between the high- and low-
proficiency L2 groups refusals cannot solely be attributed to the choice of
target-like linguistic strategies used to realize refusals, although this
attribution has been common in previous studies (e.g., Al-Eryani, 2007;
Beebe, Takahashi and Uliss-Weltz, 1990; Garca, 1999; Kawate-
Mierzejewska, 2009). Rather, the differences in part resulted from other
features encoded in the rating scale (i.e., grammaticality and discourse
competence), as well as from oral fluency.
These findings make several contributions to the existing practice of speech
act analysis. First, the majority of the previous studies targeted intermediate
to advanced L2 learners and very rarely included lower-level learners.
Therefore, a proficiency effect on fluency, grammaticality, and discourse
aspects of refusals was seldom noted. The existing coding frameworks of the
directness levels of linguistic forms may work effectively for advanced
learners who already have good control of overall linguistic management so
that their pragmatic control stands out. However, these frameworks alone
may not be effective when analyzing pragmatic competence for lower-level
learners because their fluency, grammatical abilities, and discourse abilities
are still below the threshold level needed to support pragmatic performance.
In addition, the majority of previous studies have used written DCT to elicit
speech acts. As a result, real-time features of speaking ability (e.g., oral
fluency) that reflect proficiency differences have often been excluded from
analysis. In a real-time, on-line task, learners must utilize knowledge
strategically in order to maximize available memory resources. They need to
process linguistic information quickly to accomplish their communicative
goals and solve communication problems as they emerge. Due to these
constraints of face-to-face interaction, strategic conversation management
skills and fluency become salient features that characterize target-like refusal
production. Because such features are not observable in written DCT, future
research should expand the scope of data collection instruments to elicit
spoken, interactive features for more fine-tuned analysis of refusals.

References
Al-Eryani, A. A. (2007) Refusal strategies by Yemeni EFL learners, Asian
EFL Journal (9) 2: 19-34.
Bardovi-Harlig, K. and B. Hartford (1993) Learning the rules of academic
talk: A longitudinal study of pragmatic change, Studies in Second
118 Naoko Taguchi

Language Acquisition (15): 279-304.


Beebe, L.M., T. Takahashi and R. Uliss-Weltz (1990) Pragmatic transfer in
ESL refusals. In Scarcella, R. C., E. S. Anderson and S. D. Krashen
(eds) Developing communicative competence in a second language,
New York: Newbury House: 55-73.
Brown, P. and S. Levinson (1987) Universals in language usage: Politeness
phenomena. In Goody, E. N. (ed) Questions and politeness: Strategies
in social interaction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cohen, A. (1994) Assessing language ability in the classroom, Rowley, MS:
Newbury House.
Ejzenberg, R. (2000) The juggling act of oral fluency: A psycho-
sociolinguistic metaphor. In Riggenbach, H. (ed) Perspectives on
fluency, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press: 287-313.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2003) Declining an invitation: A cross-cultural study
of pragmatic strategies in American English and Latin American
Spanish, Multilingua (22) 3: 225-255.
Freed, B. (1995) What makes us think that students who study abroad
become fluent? In Freed, B. (ed) Second language acquisition in a
stay abroad context, Amsterdam: John Benjamins: 123148.
Freed, B. (2000) Is fluency, like beauty, in the eyes (and ears) of the
beholder? In Riggenbach, H. (ed) Perspectives on fluency,
Michigan: The University of Michigan Press: 243-265.
Fujiura, S. (2007) Comparative study on the Japanese and the Korean
Refusals, Studies in Comparative Culture (78): 1-10.
Garca, C. (1992) Refusing an invitation: A case study of Peruvian style,
Hispanic Linguistics (5) 1-2: 207-243.
Garca, C. (1999) The three stages of Venezuelan invitations and responses,
Multilingua (18) 4: 391-433.
Gass, S. M., and N. Houck (1999) Interlanguage refusals, Berlin: Mouton de
Gruyter.
House, J. (1996) Developing pragmatic fluency in English as a foreign
language, Studies in Second Language Acquisition (18): 225-252.
Ikeda, Y. (2007) Examining the way to improve intermediate students oral
communication in Japanese: Refusals to invitations made by native
speakers of American English studying Japanese, Japanese Language
and Japanese Education (35): 127-154.
Kasper, G. (1992) Pragmatic transfer, Second Language Research (8) 3: 203-
231.
Kawate-Mierzejewska, M. (2009) Refusals in Japanese telephone
conversations. In Taguchi, N. (ed) Pragmatic competence, New York:
Mouton de Gruyter: 199226.
Lennon, P. (1990) Investigating fluency in EFL: A quantitative approach,
Language Learning (40) 3: 387-417.
Refusals in L2 English: Proficiency effects on appropriateness & fluency 119

Nelson, G. L., J. Carson, M. A. Batal and W. E. Bakary (2002) Cross-cultural


pragmatics: Strategy use in Egyptian Arabic and American English
refusals, Applied Linguistics (23) 2: 163-189.
North, B. (2000) The development of a common framework scale of language
proficiency, New York: Peter Lang.
Robinson, M. A. (1992) Introspective methodology in interlanguage
pragmatics research. In Kasper, G. (ed) Pragmatics of Japanese as a
native and target language (Technical Report #3), Honolulu, HI:
University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Second Language Teaching and
Curriculum Center: 27-82.
Sasaki, M. (1998) Investigating EFL students' production of speech acts: A
comparison of production questionnaires and role plays, Journal of
Pragmatics (30) 4: 457-484.
Taguchi, N. (2007) Task difficulty in oral speech act production, Applied
Linguistics (28) 1: 113-135.
Takahashi, T., and L. Beebe (1987) The development of pragmatic
competence by Japanese learners of English, JALT Journal (8): 131-
158.
Thomas, J. (1983) Cross-cultural pragmatic failure, Applied Linguistics (4) 2:
91-109.
Towell, R. (2002) Relative degrees of fluency: A comparative case study of
advanced learners of French, International Review of Applied
Linguistics (40) 2: 117-150.
Widjaja, C.S. (1997) A study of data refusal: Taiwanese vs. American
females, University of Hawaii Working Papers in ESL (15) 2: 1-43.
The role of proficiency in the production
of refusals in English in an instructed context1

Victria Codina-Espurz (Universitat Jaume I)

The present study attempted to explore the role that learner proficiency plays in the
written production of refusals. A total of 100 Spanish university undergraduates
representing four proficiency levels in English participated in the study. To assess
learners pragmatic competence, a written Discourse Completion Test (DCT) was
administered. Learners production of refusals was analyzed following Salazar,
Safont and Codinas (2009) taxonomy. Results indicated that, with regard to the
production of direct refusal strategies, beginners (A1) outperformed the rest of the
groups included in the present study. Additionally, most learners showed a preference
for the use of indirect strategies, and in line with other studies (Kwon, 2004; Sadler
and Erz, 2002) most of the participants resorted to the ubiquitous pattern of refusing
by expressing regret for not complying with the request, as well as presenting an
excuse for not being able to do so. As for adjuncts, we have suggested that the least
proficient group may have transferred L1 patterns into the L2. Moreover, we have
claimed that, due to age differences of the beginners, age could make a difference in
L2 pragmatic development, and deserves further analysis.

1 Introduction
The major and probably most important goal in second/foreign language (L2)
learning is to be able to communicate successfully in the L2, which in turn
implies not only being able to understand but also be understood by both
other learners of the L2 as well as native speakers (NSs) of the target
language.
Although successful communication has been for many years equated to
using the L2 grammatically correct, especially in instructed settings, it is
incontrovertible that grammatical competence is not enough, and that L2
learners need to use the L2 accurately and appropriately. Moreover,
successful L2 learners need to exhibit an acceptable command of pragmatic
knowledge in the target language. Consequently, how L2 learners acquire and
develop their pragmatic ability in the L2 has become one of the major
concerns in the study of L2 development.

1
As a member of the LAELA (Lingstica Aplicada a lEnsenyament de la Llengua Anglesa)
research group at Universitat Jaume I (Castelln, Spain), I would like to acknowledge that this
study is part of a research project funded by (a) the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacin
(FFI2008-05241/FILO) and (b) Fundaci Universitat Jaume I and Caixa Castell-Bancaixa
(P1.1B2011-15).
122 Victria Codina-Espurz

Differences between learners pragmatic ability and native speaker (NS)


norms have been supported by many studies (Alcn and Codina, 2002;
Bardovi-Harlig, 2001; Hassall, 2001; Takahashi, 2001; Trosborg, 1995).
Although some of this pragmatic knowledge, as Kasper (1997) argues, is
universal and can be transferred from their L1, learners do not necessarily
take advantage of the knowledge they already possess, and may need to be
explicitly taught. Here, pedagogic intervention is justified on the grounds of
making learners aware of the knowledge they have available. Moreover, in
environments where opportunities for developing pragmatic competence may
be scarce (Jeon and Kaya, 2006), a role for pragmatic instruction seems
sensible. Although the so-often reported mismatch between learner pragmatic
and grammatical competences (Kasper and Schmidt, 1996; Takahashi, 1996)
advocates for pragmatic instruction, research results appear to be most
controversial when considering the role of L2 language proficiency in
pragmatic development. Some authors argue that a certain degree of
linguistic competence may be necessary, though not sufficient, for
developing pragmatic competence (Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford, 1990;
Hoffman-Hicks, 1992) whereas others suggest that pedagogical pragmatic
intervention may be necessary even at beginning levels of language
instruction (Tateyama et al., 1997). Therefore, although many studies (Alcn,
2005; Eslami-Rasekh et al., 2004; Martnez-Flor, 2008; Safont, 2003, 2004;
Salazar, 2003; Takahashi, 2001) support the need for pragmatic instruction,
intervention may be only effective once the learner possesses a certain degree
of proficiency in the L2. Thus, the need to attain a threshold level of L2
linguistic ability as a prerequisite for the effect of pragmatic instruction to
kick in remains controversial (Codina, 2008).
Research of learners pragmatic transferability into L2 performance seems to
provide contradictory results (Tran, 2002), as well. Some authors claim
pragmatic transfer seems to occur (Beebe, Takahashi and Uliss-Weltz, 1990;
Yamagashira, 2001) others do not find confirmatory evidence for
transferability (Chang, 2008; Robinson, 1992). Moreover, L1 transfer could
be affected by the learners proficiency level in the L2 (Takahashi, 1996). In
this respect, most studies suggest that more proficient learners can take
advantage of being more advanced linguistically and transfer their L1
pragmatic knowledge into the L2 (Keshavarz et al., 2006; Takahashi and
Beebe, 1987), in contrast to less proficient learners whose limited language
ability prevents them from benefiting from this transferability.

2 Research on production of refusals


Learners production of refusals, unlike learner production of other speech
acts (i.e., requests), has not been as widely researched. Like with many other
aspects involved in learning a language, the fact that we are able to perform a
The role of proficiency in the production of refusals 123

particular speech act in our L1 does not imply that it is performed in the same
way or even it means the same in the L2. The learning of how to say no
happens very early in our childhood, so it is a speech act that most speakers,
at least in the most direct way, master in the L1 from an early age. However,
when learning an L2, the situation is somewhat different. It is obvious that
the learner needs to learn a new set of linguistic elements to perform the act
of refusing. Moreover, the L2 learner also needs to learn the sociopragmatic
norms associated with refusing in another language. As we know, what may
be acceptable and/or appropriate in one culture can be totally unacceptable
and inappropriate or even insulting in another.
Unlike production of other speech acts, refusing in an L2 is a more complex
task to accomplish than requesting or inviting, for example, due to its face-
threatening nature, which demands from the learner a high L2 pragmatic
ability (Flix-Brasdefer, 2003). Thus, research on how learners convey the
act of refusing in an effective and appropriate manner and how learners learn
to save face in the L2 and avoid a misunderstanding or even worse, an
embarrassing or insulting situation, becomes crucial in the study of
interlanguage pragmatics. In this respect, like much of the research dealing
with the study on a particular speech act, some studies have attempted to
provide a taxonomy on the linguistic realizations of the targeted speech act.
Therefore, several proposals have been presented to classify the different
strategies used when refusing in English (Beebe, Takahashi and Uliss-Weltz,
1990; Salazar, Safont and Codina, 2009).
Much of the research has been devoted to exploring cross-cultural differences
in the realization of refusals (Flix-Brasdefer, 2003; Fujiwara, 2004; Gass
and Houck, 1999; Geyang, 2007; Kondo, 2001; Kwon, 2004; Sadler and
Erz, 2002). In most cases, differences in terms of the overall frequency of
strategies used have been found, and lead researchers to advocate for the
importance of knowing how refusals are realized in English in order to avoid
pragmatic failure (Al-Issa, 2003; Kwon, 2004). Furthermore, claims about
the teachability of refusals have also been made (Kondo, 2008).
A great number of studies have focused on describing how L2 learners
perform the act of refusing (Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford, 1991; Keshavarz,
Eslami and Ghahreman, 2006). Most of the studies focusing on non-native
refusal production have examined how non-native speakers differ from
natives when refusing in English and have usually found both quantitative
and qualitative differences in the use of the semantic formulas to perform the
refusal, and suggested a role for instruction. Other studies have focused on
how refusals are performed among a particular group of non-native speakers
in an attempt to determine the most frequently used strategies, or describe
how task or data collection instrument affects production of refusals (Duan
and Wannaruk, 2008). In many instances researches have emphasized the
lack of correspondence between grammatical and pragmatic competences
124 Victria Codina-Espurz

and pointed out that even advanced L2 learners lack the necessary
sociocultural knowledge in the L2 (Flix-Brasdefer, 2003). Provided that
proficiency may determine the linguistic expressions learners use in speech
act production, some researchers have claimed that advanced learners tend to
produce more target-like expressions, and thus approximate to native-like
performance (Taguchi, 2007). Yet, we believe that more studies are needed to
study how some of these individual differences (age, gender, proficiency,
etc.) may affect the production of refusals in particular and other speech acts
in a wider sense. In light of some of these results, the present study attempted
to explore how learner proficiency affected their written production of
refusals.

3 The study
The purpose of the present study was to determine the differences, if any, in
refusal production by non-native speakers of English at different levels of
English proficiency. Thus, this study attempted to analyze how L2
proficiency affects written production of refusals. In particular, we analyzed
the refusal strategies learners produced at four levels of English proficiency
when asked to conduct a written task.
The main objective of the study was twofold. On the one hand, we attempted
to determine if the overall number of refusal strategies increased as learners
exhibit a higher level of proficiency in the L2. On the other hand, we also
analyzed how strategy choice relates to proficiency level. That is, we aimed
at exploring how L2 proficiency qualitatively and quantitatively affects
written refusal production.
In short, the following two questions have guided this study:
1. Whether higher-proficiency learners will produce more refusal
strategies than lower-proficiency learners in written production in
English.
2. Whether higher-proficiency learners will exhibit a greater variety
of refusal strategies than lower-proficiency learner in written
production in English.

3.1 Subjects
A total of 193 university undergraduate students from two different majors
(Education, English Philology), and University/Education for the Elderly
were initially considered for the present study. Since we intended to compare
learners production of refusals at different proficiency levels, subjects were
chosen in order to represent as many proficiency levels as possible.
Proficiency level was determined by the Quick Placement Test (Oxford
University Press). After administering and analyzing the subjects results on
The role of proficiency in the production of refusals 125

the Quick Placement Test, only four different proficiency levels could be
identified: Beginner (A1), Elementary (A2), Lower-Intermediate (B1), and
Upper-Intermediate (B2). However, the majority of the initial sample of
subjects exhibited either an A2 or B1 level in English and was dropped from
consideration in the study for the sake of keeping the same number of
individuals in each group. Thus, out of the total initial sample only 100 were
finally selected to represent the four proficiency groups (25 subjects each)
identified. Although English majors were expected to exhibit an advanced
level of proficiency in English (C1 or C2), as Figure 1 illustrates, this was not
the case. Unfortunately, the subgroup of English majors (mainly sophomores)
included in this study did not surpass an upper-intermediate level of
proficiency in English.
A high percentage of the participants (73%) were female, while only 27%
were male. Subjects age ranged between 19 and 77 years old (mean almost
26 years of age, mode 19 years old). This high dispersion in age is due to the
consideration of a small group of senior subjects (a total of nine) enrolled in a
university program called University/Education for the Elderly.

Figure 1. Subjects distribution according to their proficiency level in English


126 Victria Codina-Espurz

3.2 Data collection


Learner production of refusals was elicited by means of a Discourse
Completion Test (DCT). In this type of elicitation instrument, a situation is
presented and the respondent is asked to reply to that situation in the way s/he
believes s/he would in real-life, which usually leads the respondent to make
use of the targeted speech act. Although the use of DCTs as a means of
researching speech acts production has been questioned (Houck and Gass,
1996; Kasper and Dahl, 1991) mostly on the grounds of their artificiality
away from real-life situations (Golato, 2003) and on the type of data they
yield which differs from the data L2 learners would produce in natural
occurring speech (Hartford and Bardovi-Harlig, 1992), DCTs still appeal to
many (Lorenzo-Dus, 2001; Olshtain, 1993; Olshtain and Blum-Kulka,1985)
when it comes to studying certain variables (Houck and Gass, 1996),
determining the pragmalinguistic knowledge L2 learners posses (Kasper,
2000), collecting large amounts of data (Beebe and Cummins, 1996; Geyang,
2007), or when the researcher prioritizes the readiness and easiness of
administration.
The DCT used in this study consisted of nine situations (some adapted from
Al-Issa, 2003; Duan and Wannaruk, 2008; King and Silver, 1993; and
Nguyen, 2006) depicted in a variety of contexts (a university, a bank, a
bakery, a bookshop, etc.) all of them familiar to the participants. All nine
situations (Table 1) prompted a refusal to a request and were controlled for
the variables of social status (H- high, E-Equal, L-low), social distance (S-
stranger, A-acquainted, I-intimate), and gender (S-same, O-opposite),
although the analysis of these variables was not the object of the present
study.

Situation Context status distance gender


1 university H I O
2 greengrocers E A S
3 university L A O
4 movie theater H S O
5 university E I S
6 home L I O
7 university H A O
8 university L S S
9 university E S S

Table 1. Variable distribution in the Discourse Completion Test


The role of proficiency in the production of refusals 127

The DCT was administered by the learners professor during regular class
time.

3.3 Data analysis


Learners responses from the DCT were analyzed following Salazar, Safont
and Codinas (2009) taxonomy on refusals (Table 2) and in terms of
frequency of the different semantic strategies and adjuncts provided by the
respondents. The type of strategy used for each subject in each of the nine
situations was identified and coded according to the aforementioned
taxonomy.

REFUSALS
Direct Strategies
1. Bluntness No.
2. Negation of proposition I cant.
Indirect Strategies
1. Plain indirect It looks like I wont be able to go.
2. Reason/Explanation I have a doctors appointment.
3. Regret/Apology Im so sorry! I cant.
4. Alternative:
Change option I would join you if you choose
another restaurant.

Change time (Postponement) I cant go right now, but I could


next week.
3. Disagreement/Dissuasion/Criticism Under the current economic
circumstances, you should not be
asking for a raise right now!
6. Statement of principle/philosophy I cant. It goes against my beliefs!
7. Avoidance
Non-verbal: Ignore (Silence, etc.)
Verbal:
o Hedging
o Change topic
o Joking
o Sarcasm
ADJUNCTS TO REFUSALS
1. Positive opinion This is a great idea, but
2. Willingness Id love to go, but
3. Gratitude Thanks so much, but
4. Agreement Fine, but
128 Victria Codina-Espurz

5. Solidarity/Empathy Im sure youll understand, but

Table 2. Taxonomy on the Speech Act of Refusals (Salazar, Safont and


Codina, 2009)

In order to illustrate how the analysis was done, for example, the response
provided by subject 59 to situation 2 (a classmate requests to borrow a
dictionary), in which the learner refused by saying

Subject 59: Im sorry, I need my dictionary now. Ask another student.

was coded as:

[regret] + [reason] + [change option]

Thus, data were analyzed for each of the subjects in order to examine the
different strategies used at each proficiency level and in an attempt to explore
how learners L2 proficiency may affect strategy choice, both qualitatively
and quantitatively. Grammatical accuracy was not taken into account when
analyzing the learners production of refusals. As long as the strategy the
learner used to refuse the request was unequivocally understood by the
researcher, this was coded and counted as valid. Thus, the total number and
type of refusal strategies used were calculated for each subject in each of the
nine situations presented in the DCT.
In order to determine whether differences in refusal production were
statistically significant among the four proficiency groups, a one-way
ANOVA was conducted.

3.4 Results and discussion


Results will be presented by comparing group performance and analyzing the
frequencies of the strategies produced following Salazar, Safont and Codinas
(2009) taxonomy.

3.4.1 Proficiency and production of refusals


Contrary to our expectations, beginners outperformed all the groups with
regard to the number of refusals they produced (A1= 501 instances, A2=454
instances, B1= 491 instances, B2= 455 instances). In attempting to answer
the first question that motivated the present study and analyze the effect of
proficiency level in English on the production of refusal strategies in written
performance, as Table 4 shows, statistically significant differences were
found (F (3,96)=2.63; sig.=.05) as regard to the use of Direct Strategies.
The role of proficiency in the production of refusals 129

However, no statistically significant differences were found with regard to L2


learner written production of Indirect Strategies (F (3,96)=1.85; sig.=.14) and
Adjuncts (F (3,96)=1.23; sig.=.30) among the groups.
Based on the data collected, evidence exists that language proficiency played
a role in determining the number of direct strategies in L2 learners written
production of refusals, but not with regard to their production of indirect
strategies or adjuncts.

Levene Statistic df1 df2 Sig.

DIRECT 1.114 3 96 .347


INDIRECT 1.099 3 96 .353
ADJUNCTS 1.352 3 96 .262

Table 3. Levenes test of homogeneity of variances

Sum of Mean
Squares df Square F Sig.
DIRECT Between Groups 24.720 3 8.24 2.63 .05*
Within Groups 300.320 96 3.12
Total 325.040 99
INDIRECT Between Groups 60.560 3 20.18 1.85 .14
Within Groups 1046.080 96 10.89
Total 1106.640 99
ADJUNCTS Between Groups 3.470 3 1.15 1.23 .30
Within Groups 89.920 96 .93
Total 93,390 99
*. The mean difference is significant at the .05 level.

Table 4. One-Way ANOVA

Descriptive statistics (see Table 5) indicate that with regard to the production
of direct refusal strategies, beginners (A1) outperform the rest of the
proficiency groups included in the present study. The mean for beginners is
significantly higher (M=2.36) than the mean for the elementary (M=1.84),
Lower-intermediate (1.24), and Upper-intermediate (M=1.12) groups.
Actually, a closer analysis of the data reveals that as proficiency increases,
the mean in the production of direct refusals diminishes.
130 Victria Codina-Espurz

95%
Confidence
Interval for
Mean
Std. Lower Upper
N Mean SD Error Bound Bound Min. Max.
A1 25 2.36 1.729 .346 1.65 3.07 0 7
A2 25 1.84 2.211 .442 .93 2.75 0 8
DIRECT

B1 25 1.24 1.665 .333 .55 1.93 0 7


B2 25 1.12 1.364 .273 .56 1.68 0 5
Total 100 1.64 1.812 .181 1.28 2.00 0 8
A1 25 16.80 2.693 .539 15.69 17.91 12 22
INDIRECT

A2 25 15.72 3.336 .667 14.34 17.10 9 22


B1 25 17.72 2.189 .438 16.82 18.62 13 21
B2 25 16.00 4.518 .904 14.13 17.87 0 25
Total 100 16.56 3.343 .334 15.90 17.22 0 25
A1 25 .88 1.364 .273 .32 1.44 0 6
ADJUNCTS

A2 25 .60 .816 .163 .26 .94 0 3


B1 25 .68 .690 .138 .40 .96 0 2
B2 25 1.08 .862 .172 .72 1.44 0 3
Total 100 .81 .971 .097 .62 1,00 0 6

Table 5. Descriptive statistics on the use refusal strategies

These results suggest a clear preference for direct strategies among beginning
learners when refusing in English. However, as the L2 learner becomes more
proficient in English, s/he seems to disfavor the use direct strategies.
Beginners lack the linguistic ability to allow them to approach the
confrontational nature of refusing to a request in a more indirect manner. As
learners become more proficient in the English language, their production of
direct strategies diminishes in favor of an increase of more indirect devices or
even adjuncts.
In order to further analyze the overall production of refusals produced by the
respondents, post-hoc multiple comparisons (Table 6) were made among the
four proficiency groups. With regard to direct strategy use, post-hoc
comparisons indicate that the difference is statistically significant between
the beginners and the lower-intermediates (mean difference=1.1, CI=2.1, .1,
p<.05) as well as the beginners versus the upper-intermediates (mean
difference=1.2, CI=2.2, .25, p<.05), but not between the beginners and the
elementary group. Although the mean for the A2 group is lower than that of
the A1 group, the difference between the groups is not statistically
significant.
The role of proficiency in the production of refusals 131

Multiple comparisons
Dependent (I) (J) 95%
Variable Confidence
Proficiency Proficiency Interval for
level as level as Mean Mean
measured measured Differences Std. Lower Upper
by the QPT by the QPT (I-J) Error Sig. Bound Bound
DIRECT Beginner(A2) .520 .500 .301 -.47 1.51
(A1) (B1) 1.120* .500 .027 .13 2.11
(B2) 1.240* .500 .015 .25 2.23
Elementary (A1) -.520 .500 .301 -1.51 .47
(A2) (B1) .600 .500 .233 -.39 1.59
(B2) .720 .500 .153 -.27 1.71
Lower (A1) -1.120* .500 .027 -2.11 -.13
Intermed. (A2) -.600 .500 .233 -1.59 .39
(B1) (B2) .120 .500 .811 -.87 1.11
Upper (A1) -1.240* .500 .015 -2.23 -.25
Intermed. (A2) -.720 .500 .153 -1.71 .27
(B2) (B1) -.120 .500 .811 -1.11 .87
INDIRECT Beginner (A2) 1.080 .934 .250 -.77 2.93
(A1) (B1) -.920 .934 .327 -2.77 .93
(B2) .800 .934 .394 -1.05 2.65
Elementary (A1) -1.080 .934 .250 -2.93 .77
(A2) (B1) -2.000* .934 .035 -3.85 -.15
(B2) -.280 .934 .765 -2.13 1.57
Lower (A1) .920 .934 .327 -.93 2.77
Intermed. (A2) 2.000* .934 .035 .15 3.85
(B1) (B2) 1.720 .934 .069 -.13 3.57
Upper (A1) -.800 .934 .394 -2.65 1.05
Intermed. (A2) .280 .934 .765 -1.57 2.13
(B2) (B1) -1.720 .934 .069 -3.57 .13
ADJUNCTS Beginner (A2) .280 .274 .309 -.26 .82
(A1) (B1) .200 .274 .467 -.34 .74
(B2) -.200 .274 .467 -.74 .34
Elementary (A1) -.280 .274 .309 -.82 .26
(A2) (B1) -.080 .274 .771 -.62 .46
(B2) -.480 .274 .083 -1.02 .06
Lower (A1) -.200 .274 .467 -.74 .34
Intermed. (A2) .080 .274 .771 -.46 .62
(B1) (B2) -.400 .274 .147 -.94 .14
Upper (A1) .200 .274 .467 -.34 .74
132 Victria Codina-Espurz

Intermed. (A2) .480 .274 .083 -.06 1.02


(B2) (B1) .400 .274 .147 -.14 .94

*. The mean difference is significant at the .05level.

Table 6. One-Way ANOVA: Post-Hocs

As for indirect strategy use, there is a statistically significant difference


between the elementary and the lower-intermediate groups (mean
difference=-2.0, CI=-,15, -3.85, p<.05). None of the comparisons with
regard to the production of adjuncts is statistically significant.
Figure 2 better illustrates the distribution of refusal strategies exhibited by the
four L2 proficiency groups considered in the present study.

Figure 2. Overall pattern of refusal strategy use

As can be observed, in general, learners show a clear preference for the use
of indirect strategies in contrast to the limited use of direct strategies and
adjuncts. Also, it is interesting to note that B2 learners tend to use fewer
The role of proficiency in the production of refusals 133

direct strategies (especially in comparison to the A1 group), but their use of


adjuncts slightly increases with respect to the other groups.

3.4.2 Production of direct strategies


With regard to the production of direct strategies (see Table 7), the greatest
difference is with regard to Negation of Proposition: 48 instances in
beginners whereas only 15 instances among upper-intermediates. The use of
Bluntness, although somewhat higher among elementary learners, appears to
be produced in a similar frequency in the rest of the groups.

Proficiency level as measured by the QPT N Sum Mean SD


Beginner (A1) Bluntness 25 11 .44 1.193
NegProp 25 48 1.92 1.187
Total 59
Elementary (A2) Bluntness 25 22 .88 1.716
NegProp 25 24 .96 1.207
Total 46
Lower Intermediate (B1) Bluntness 25 9 .36 1.075
NegProp 25 22 .88 1.130
Total 31
Upper Intermediate (B2) Bluntness 25 13 .52 .872
NegProp 25 15 .60 .645
Total 28

Table 7. Descriptive statistics for the use of direct strategies

As Figure 3 shows, the overall number of direct strategies diminishes as


English proficiency increases. In line with previous studies (Gass and Houck,
1999; Salazar, Codina and Mart, 2010), lower proficient learners tend to
employ more direct strategies than the rest of L2 learners. As learners
become more competent in the target language, they can resort to other type
of strategies to perform the act of refusing. At early stages of learning,
students limited L2 proficiency may preclude them from refusing in a more
indirect manner.
134 Victria Codina-Espurz

Figure 3. Frequencies of direct strategies produced by each group

3.4.3 Production of indirect strategies


With regard to the use of indirect strategies, Table 8 summarizes the results at
the four proficiency levels considered in the present study.

Proficiency level as measured by the QPT N Sum Mean S.D.


Beginner (A1) Plain Indirect 25 4 .16 .473
Reason 25 179 7.16 .898
Regret 25 158 6.32 2.036
Change Option 25 22 .88 1.054
Postponment 25 28 1.12 1.054
Disagreement 25 10 .40 .500
Principle 25 17 .68 .476
AvoidNV 25 0 .00 .000
AvoidVerbal 25 2 .08 .277
Total 420
Elementary (A2) Plain Indirect 25 2 .08 .277
Reason 25 186 7.44 1.044
Regret 25 138 5.52 2.786
Change Option 25 17 .68 1.108
Postponment 25 28 1.12 1.054
Disagreement 25 7 .28 .458
The role of proficiency in the production of refusals 135

Principle 25 15 .60 .500


AvoidNV 25 0 .00 .000
AvoidVerbal 25 0 .00 .000
Total 393
Lower Intermediate Plain Indirect 25 3 .12 .440
(B1) Reason 25 180 7.20 1.291
Regret 25 168 6.72 1.792
Change Option 25 29 1.16 1.143
Postponment 25 34 1.36 1.114
Disagreement 25 15 .60 .577
Principle 25 13 .52 .510
AvoidNV 25 0 .00 .000
AvoidVerbal 25 1 .04 .200
Total 443
Upper Intermediate Plain Indirect 25 6 .24 .663
(B2) Reason 25 163 6.52 1.584
Regret 25 131 5.24 1.985
Change Option 25 36 1.44 1.502
Postponment 25 30 1.20 1.080
Disagreement 25 18 .72 .843
Principle 25 12 .48 .510
AvoidNV 25 0 .00 .000
AvoidVerbal 25 4 .16 .374
Total 400

Table 8. Descriptive statistics in the use of indirect strategies

In contrast to what it has been observed with L2 production of direct


strategies, most learners have made an extensive use of indirect strategies to
refuse a request. However, in contrast to L2 learner production of directs
strategies, no regular pattern can be determined in terms of production of
indirect strategies increasing or diminishing depending on the learners
proficiency level.
As reported in other studies (Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford, 1991), by far, the
most frequent strategy used by learners across the four proficiency groups is
that of providing an excuse, reason, or explanation why they cannot comply
with the request, followed by that of regret. Actually, the preferred pattern to
refuse a request appears to be the co-occurrence of:

[regret] + [reason]

This result is in line with most studies dealing with refusals among learners
of English (Gass and Houck, 1999; Kondo, 2001; Salazar, Codina and Mart,
2010). With regard to L1 production, the use of reason appears to be quite
universal when refusing. Liao (1994) and Chen, Ye and Zhang (1995) report
136 Victria Codina-Espurz

the production of reason as the most frequently used refusal strategy in


Chinese, as well. At the other side of the spectrum, not many instances of
Plain Indirect or Avoidance-Verbal are found in our data across the four
groups. It may be construed that learners may need to be more advanced
linguistically in order to be able to perform these two strategies when
refusing in English.
With regard to the remaining indirect strategies, their use seems to increase
among the more proficient learners (B1 and B2), mainly with respect to
Alternative (Change Option and Change Time) and Disagreement.
When evaluating Alternative, the difference in frequency among the groups is
with regard to Change Option (17 instances in the elementary group versus
36 instances in the upper-intermediate, although 22 instances in the
beginners). However, no major differences are found with regard to the other
type of alternative, the offer of a change in time or Postponement. This may
be explained by the fact that offering to comply with the request later or at
some other time may contribute to save face and, therefore, soften the refusal
in an attempt to avoid confrontation (Chen, Ye and Zhang, 1995). Moreover,
this type of strategy appears to be universal and learners may be transferring
their L1 sociocultural knowledge into their L2 when tackling the
confrontational situation.
As for Disagreement, a slight increase from elementary learners (7 instances)
to the upper-intermediate subjects (18 instances) is observed. However, the
A1 group, by producing more instances of disagreement (10 instances) than
their immediate more proficient group, the A2 (7 instances), does not fit into
the pattern of a gradual increase of strategy use.
As far as the strategy Statement of Principle or Philosophy, we observe a
slight decrease in the number of instances from lower to higher-proficient
learners. All the instances of this type of strategy were produced in situation
8, in which the learner was lead to refuse by appealing to personal
convictions when asked to provide his/her signature in support for a political
cause. The use of this type of strategy among respondents from different
proficiency groups only in this particular situation may contribute to question
the validity of the DCT as a research instrument in the study of speech act
production (Rose and Ono, 1995). With the type of prompt given, it simply
seemed obvious to refuse by appealing to personal convictions. The fact that
this strategy was more frequently used among A1 learners than B2 learners
may indicate, for example, an instance of L1 transfer taking place at earlier
stages of L2 development. In Spanish culture, although people overtly talk
about politics, they tend to be quite reluctant when it comes to giving support
to a political cause or party in writing.
Like Changs (2008) study, no instances of Avoidance (Non-verbal) were
found in our data. This result was somewhat expected due to the nature of the
data collecting instrument since the DCT forces the student to provide a
The role of proficiency in the production of refusals 137

written answer. The learner is not really provided the option to avoid in a
non-verbal manner by either ignoring the request or offering some sort of a
gesture to respond to the speakers request. Therefore, this result may be
different when learners engage in an oral task (even in instructed settings), in
a natural situation or spontaneous conversation. Even spoken activities
conducted in instructional settings are not likely to elicit many instances of
non-verbal avoidance because learners are expected to perform and complete
the instructional task.
Figures 4a, 4b, 4c, and 4d summarize the means of indirect strategies used
and better illustrate the overall pattern in the production of indirect refusals
across the four proficiency levels analyzed in this study.

Figure 4a. Indirect strategy use in beginners Figure 4b. Indirect


strategy use in elementary
learners
138 Victria Codina-Espurz

Figure 4c. Indirect strategy use in lower Figure 4d. Indirect strategy
intermediates use in upper intermediates

To summarize, our results reveal that firstly, independently of their


proficiency level, L2 learners favor the use of indirect strategies over any
other type of refusal device. In line with Changs (2008) study, Spaniards,
like Chinese, are very concerned with saving face, which may explain the
higher incidence of indirect refusals found in the present study. Secondly, it
can be claimed that the production of Regret usually in combination with
Reason stands out from the rest of indirect strategies.

3.4.4 Production of adjuncts


With respect to the use of adjuncts (see Table 9), results show a higher
frequency of Willingness in all groups. Actually, a closer analysis of the data
indicates a preference for showing willingness to comply with the speakers
request followed by a reason why they cannot fulfill the desire, and,
therefore, the request.
The role of proficiency in the production of refusals 139

Proficiency level as measured by the QPT N Sum Mean S.D.


Beginner (A1) Positive Opinion 25 0 .00 .000
Willingness 25 15 .60 .816
Gratitude 25 0 .00 .000
Agreement 25 1 .04 .200
Solidarity 25 6 .24 .831
Total 22
Elementary (A2) Positive Opinion 25 1 .04 .200
Willingness 25 10 .40 .577
Gratitude 25 1 .04 .200
Agreement 25 1 .04 .200
Solidarity 25 2 .08 .277
Total 15
Lower Intermediate (B1) Positive Opinion 25 2 .08 .277
Willingness 25 12 .48 .586
Gratitude 25 0 .00 .000
Agreement 25 0 .00 .000
Solidarity 25 3 .12 .332
Total 17
Upper Intermediate (B2) Positive Opinion 25 1 .04 .200
Willingness 25 14 .56 .768
Gratitude 25 5 .20 .500
Agreement 25 4 .16 .473
Solidarity 25 3 .12 .332
Total 27

Table 9. Descriptive statistics for the use of adjuncts

The total number of adjuncts is higher in the upper-intermediate group (27


instances) than in the other groups. However, beginners produced more
instances (22) than A2 and B1 subjects.
With regard to beginners, it is interesting to note that almost half of the
subjects were much older than the rest of the subjects included in the present
study. Older subjects, probably for reasons of vital experiences, were able to
compensate their lack of linguistic ability (i.e., proficiency in English in this
study) by transferring their L1 politeness values into the L2. The elderly, by
reasons of knowledge of the world, and education, know better the polite
innuendos associated with an act of refusing and seemed to have applied
them when refusing in the L2. This fact could explain the overall greater
production of adjuncts in beginners (22 instances) in contrast to the
elementary (17 instances) and lower-intermediate (15 instances) subjects.
140 Victria Codina-Espurz

As Figure 5 illustrates, beginners clearly show a preference for Willingness


(15 instances) followed by Solidarity (6 instances). Although the frequency
of adjuncts of willingness is lower in the rest of the groups, we can observe
an increase in the production of other types of adjuncts. Beginners seem to
concentrate on using the adjunct of Willingness. However, as proficiency
increases, learners (mostly B2) exhibit a greater variety of adjuncts in
English.

Figure 5. Adjuncts mean in the four proficiency groups

In assessing the B2 group, then, it is interesting to note that upper-


intermediates outperformed the rest of the groups and that the difference in
the number of adjuncts is mostly due to the production of other types of
adjuncts, which the rest of groups hardly used or did not produce at all. The
higher linguistic competence of B2 learners could explain the greater variety
and number of adjuncts produced.
The apparently contradictory results when comparing A1 and B2 learners
lead us to question to what extent L1 transfer is a matter of L2 proficiency
alone; that is more proficient learners being more likely to transfer than less
proficient learners (Takahashi and Beebe, 1987; Robinson, 1992), or a matter
of age and prior knowledge (older L2 learners possessing more knowledge of
the world) as well.
The role of proficiency in the production of refusals 141

4 Conclusion
In the present study, some of the refusal strategies were underrepresented due
to the type of instrument used to collect the data. As mentioned above,
certain strategies (avoidance non-verbal) were not present in our data, which
we attributed to the type of instrument used to collect our data. Therefore,
different results could be obtained when other types of activities or test
(DCTs vs role plays) are used to elicit the refusals. Different elicitation
measures, then, can yield differences in results (Rose and Ono, 1995). Also
the type of data collected (oral vs written) could provide divergent results.
Thus from a methodological perspective, studies which focus on production
in naturally occurring interaction among L2 speakers in contrast to studies
based solely on elicited data are needed in order to better understand how L2
learners deal with refusing in English.
In general, and in line with other studies, (Kwon, 2004; Sadler and Erz,
2002) at least at the four proficiency levels considered here, most learners
resort to the ubiquitous pattern of refusing by expressing regret for not
complying with the request, as well as presenting an excuse for not being
able to do so. However, as several studies ( Flix-Brasdefer, 2004; Salazar,
Codina and Mart, 2010; Tanck, 2004) have claimed, regardless of L2
proficiency level, learners still do not seem to possess enough
pragmalinguistic knowledge to produce a variety of refusal strategies. As
pointed out by many researchers (Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford, 1990; Flix-
Brasdefer, 2003; Hoffman-Hicks, 1992) a certain level of linguistic
competence in the L2 does not guarantee the same level in pragmatic
development.
We have suggested that our least proficient group may have transferred L1
patterns into the L2, mainly in the production of adjuncts. However, we have
claimed that due to the difference in age of some of our subjects, age could
make a difference in L2 pragmatic development, and therefore, it deserves
further analysis. Age differences in learners production of refusals should be
considered, but differences in gender should also be pursued as some studies
suggest (Kinjo, 1987).
Unfortunately, advanced learners (C1 and C2) could not be included in the
present study. Therefore, it would be interesting to examine a wider spread
of proficiency levels to determine whether a pattern more similar to the way
native-speakers of English refuse in English emerges, which could then
suggest the need of a threshold level in English for the L2 learner to be able
to assimilate to the sociocultural norms of the target language community.
142 Victria Codina-Espurz

References

Alcn, E. (2005) Does instruction work for learning pragmatics in the EFL
context?, System (33) 3: 417-435.
Alcn, E. and V. Codina (2002) Practice opportunities and pragmatic change
in a second language context: The case of requests, Estudios de
Lingstica Aplicada (3): 123-138.
Al-Issa, A. (2003) Sociocultural transfer in L2 speech behaviors: Evidence
and motivating factors, International Journal of Intercultural
Relations (27): 581-601.
Bardovi-Harlig, K. (2001) Evaluating the empirical evidence: Grounds for
instruction in pragmatics? In Rose, K. R. and G. Kasper (eds)
Pragmatics in Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press: 13-32.
Bardovi-Harlig, K. and B. S. Hartford (1990) Congruence in native non-
native conversations: Status balance in the academic advising session,
Language Learning (40) 4: 467-501.
Bardovi-Harlig K. and B. S. Hartford (1991) Saying no in English: native
and non-native rejections, Pragmatics and language learning:
Monograph Series (2): 41-57.
Beebe, L. M. and M. C. Cummins (1996) Natural speech data versus written
questionnaire data: How data collection method affects speech act
performance. In Gass, S. and J. Neu (eds) Speech Acts Across
Cultures, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 65-86
Beebe, L. M., T. Takahashi and R. Uliss-Weltz (1990) Pragmatic transfer in
ESL refusals. In Scarcella, R., E. S. Andersen and S. Krashen (eds)
Developing Communicative Competence in Second Language, New
York: Newbury House: 5573.
Chang, Y. F. (2008) How to say no: An analysis of cross-cultural difference
and pragmatic transfer, Language Sciences (31) 4: 477-493.
Chen X., L. Ye and Y. Zhang (1995) Refusing in Chinese. In Kasper G. (ed)
Pragmatics of Chinese as native and target language (Technical
Report #5), Manoa: University of Hawaii Press: 119163.
Codina-Espurz, V. (2008) The immediate vs the delayed effect of instruction
on mitigators in relation to the learners language proficiency in
English. In Alcn, E. (ed) Learning How to Request, Bern: Peter
Lang: 227-256.
Duan, L. and A. Wannaruk (2008) The comparison between written DCT and
oral role-plays in investigation upon English refusal strategies by
Chinese EFL students, Sino-US English Teaching (5) 10: 8-18.
Eslami-Rasekh, Z., A. Eslami-Rasekh and A. Fatahi (2004) The effect of
explicit metapragmatic instruction on the speech act awareness of
The role of proficiency in the production of refusals 143

advanced EFL students, Teaching English as a Second or Foreign


Language-EJ (8) 2:1-12.
Flix-Brasdefer, C. (2003) Declining and invitation: A cross-cultural study of
pragmatic strategies in American English and Latin American
Spanish, Multilingua (22) 3: 225-255.
Flix-Brasdefer, C. (2004) Interlanguage refusals: Linguistics politeness and
length of residence in the target community, Language Learning (54)
4: 587-653.
Fujiwara, Y. (2004) An intercultural pragmatics study on Japanese resistivity
and American acceptability of refusals, Intercultural Communication
Studies, XIII (2): 472-490.
Gass, S. M. and N. Houck (1999) Interlanguage Refusals. A cross-Cultural
Study of Japanese-English, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Geyang, Z. (2007) A pilot study on refusal to suggestions in English by
Japanese and Chinese EFL learners, Hiroshima University, Bulletin
Graduate School of Education (56): 155-163.
Golato, A. (2003) Studying compliment response: A comparison of DCTs
and recordings of natural occurring data talk, Applied Linguistics (24)
1: 90-121.
Hartford, B. and K. Bardovi-Harlig (1992) Experimental and observational
data in the study of interlanguage pragmatics. In Bouton, L. and Y.
Kachru (eds) Pragmatics and Language Learning, Urbana-
Champaign: University of Illinois Vol. 3: 33- 52.
Hassall, T. (2001) Modifying requests in a second language, International
Review of Applied Linguistics (IRAL) (39) 4: 259-283.
Hoffman-Hicks, S. (1992) Linguistic and pragmatic competence: Their
relationship in the overall competence of the language learner,
Pragmatics and Language Learning, Monograph Series (3): 66-80.
Houck, N. and S. M. Gass (1996) Non-native refusals: A methodological
perspective. In Gass, S. M. and J. Neu (eds) Speech Acts across
cultures: Challenges to communication in a Second Language,
Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 45-64.
Jeon, E. H. and T. Kaya (2006) Effects of L2 Instruction on Interlanguage
Pragmatic Development. In Norris, J. M. and L. Ortega (eds)
Synthesizing Research on Language Learning and Teaching,
Amsterdam: John Benjamins: 165-211.
Kasper, G. (1997) Can pragmatic competence be taught? Honolulu:
University of Hawaii, Second Language Teaching and Curriculum
Center. Retrieved from the web:
http://www.lll.hawaii.edu/nflrc/NetWorks/ NW6/
Kasper, G. (2000) Data collection in pragmatics research. In Spencer-Oatey,
H. (ed) Culturally Speaking: Managing Rapport through Talk across
Cultures, New York: Continuum: 316-341.
144 Victria Codina-Espurz

Kasper, G. and M. Dahl (1991) Research methods in interlanguage


pragmatics, Studies in Second Language Acquisition (13) 2: 215-247.
Kasper, G. and R. Schmidt (1996) Developmental issues in interlanguage
pragmatics, Studies in Second Language Acquisition (18) 2: 149-169.
Keshavarz, M. H., Z. R. Eslami and V. Ghahreman (2006) Pragmatic transfer
and Iranian EFL refusals: A cross-cultural perspective of Persian and
English. In Bardovi-Harlig, K., C. Flix-Brasdefer and A. S. Omar
(eds) Pragmatics and Language Learning, Volume 11 Honolulu, HI:
University of Hawaii Press, National Foreign Language Resource
Center: 359-401.
King, K. A. and R. E. Silver (1993) Sticking points: Effects of instruction
on NNS refusal strategies, Working Papers in Educational Linguistics
(9) 1: 47-82.
Kinjo, H. (1987) Oral refusals of invitations, Journal of Asian Culture (1):
83-106.
Kondo, S. (2001) Instructional effects on pragmatic development: Refusal by
Japanese EFL learners, Publications of Akenohoshi Womens Junior
College (19) 3: 32-51.
Kondo, S. (2008) Effects of pragmatic development through awareness-
raising instruction: Refusals by Japanese EFL learners. In Alcn, E.
and A. Martnez-Flor (eds) Investigating Pragmatics in Foreign
Language Learning, Teaching, and Testing, Clevedon: Multilingual
Matters: 153-177.
Kwon, J. (2004) Expressing refusals in Korean and in American English,
Multilingua (23) 4: 339-364.
Liao, C. (1994) A Study of the Strategies, Maxims and Development of
Refusals in Mandarin Chinese, Taiwan: The Crane Publishing
Company.
Lorenzo-Dus, N. (2001) Compliment responses among British and Spanish:
A contrastive study, Journal of Pragmatics (33) 1: 107-127.
Martnez-Flor, A. (2008) The effect on an inductive-deductive teaching
approach to develop learners use of request modifiers in the EFL
classroom. In Alcn, E. (ed) Learning How to Request, Bern: Peter
Lang: 191-225.
Nguyen,T. M. P. (2006) Cross-Cultural Pragmatics: Refusals of Requests by
Australian Native Speakers of English and Vietnamese Learners of
English, Master Dissertation, The University of Queensland.
Olshtain, E. (1993) Learning in society. In Hadley, A. O. (ed) Research in
Language Learning: Principles, Processes, and Prospects,
Lincolnwood: National Textbook Company: 47-65.
Olshtain, E. and S. Blum-Kulka (1985) Degree of approximation: Non-native
reactions to native speech act behavior. In Gass, S. and C. Madden
The role of proficiency in the production of refusals 145

(eds) Input in Second Language Acquisition, Rowley, MA: Newbury


House: 303325.
Robinson, M. A. (1992) Introspective methodology in interlanguage
pragmatics research. In Kasper, G. (ed) Pragmatics of Japanese as
Native and Target Language, Manoa: University of Hawaii Press.
Technical Report (3): 27-82.
Rose, K. and R. Ono (1995) Eliciting speech act data in Japanese: The effect
of questionnaire type, Language Learning (45) 2: 191-223.
Sadler, R.W. and B. Erz (2002) I refuse you! An examination of English
refusals by native speakers of English, Lao, and Turkish, Arizona
Working papers in SALT (9): 53-80.
Safont, M. P. (2003) Instructional effects on the use of request acts
modification devices by EFL learners. In Martnez-Flor, A., E. Us,
and A. Fernndez (eds) Pragmatic Competence and Foreign
Language Teaching, Castell: Servei de Publicacions de la Universitat
Jaume I: 211232.
Safont, M. P. (2004). An analysis on EAP learners pragmatic production: A
focus on request forms, Ibrica (8): 23-39.
Salazar, P. (2003) Pragmatic instruction in the EFL context. In Martnez-Flor,
A., E. Us, and A. Fernndez (eds) Pragmatic Competence and
Foreign Language Teaching, Castell: Servei de Publicacions de la
Universitat Jaume I: 233-246.
Salazar, P., V. Codina and O. Mart (2010) Refusal strategies by elementary
EFL university students. In Bueno Alonso, J., D. Gonzlez lvarez,
U. Kirsten Torrado, A. E. Martnez Insa, J. Prez Guerra, E. Rama
Martnez and R. Rodrguez Vzquez (eds) Analizar Datos>Describir
Variacin, Vigo: Servizo de Publicacins Universidade de Vigo.
Salazar, P., M. P. Safont and V. Codina (2009) Refusal strategies: A proposal
from a sociopragmatic approach, RAEL: Revista Electrnica de
Lingstica Aplicada (8): 139-150.
Taguchi, N. (2007) Task difficulty in oral speech act production, Applied
Linguistics (28) 1: 113-135.
Takahashi, S. (1996) Pragmatic transferability, Studies in Second Language
Acquisition (18) 2: 189-223.
Takahashi, S. (2001) The role of input enhancement in developing pragmatic
competence. In Rose, K. R. and G. Kasper (eds) Pragmatics in
Language Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 171-
199.
Takahashi, S. (2005) Pragmatic awareness: Is it related to motivation and
proficiency? Applied Linguistics (26) 1: 90-120.
Takahashi, T. and L. Beebe (1987) The development of pragmatic
competence by Japanese learners of English, JALT Journal 8 (2): 131-
155.
146 Victria Codina-Espurz

Tanck, S. (2004) Speech act set of refusal and complaint: A comparison of


native and non-native English speaker production, TESOL Working
Papers (4) 2: 1-22.
Tateyama, Y., G. Kasper, L. P. Mui, H. Tay and O. Thananart (1997) Explicit
and implicit teaching of pragmatics routines. In Bouton, L. (ed)
Pragmatics and Language Learning,
Vol. 8. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: 163-
177.
Tran, G. Q. (2002) Pragmatic and discourse markedness hypothesis,
Proceedings of the 2002 Conference of the Australian Linguistic
Society. Retrieved from the web:
http://www.als.asn.au/proceedings/als2002/Tran.pdf
Trosborg, A. (1995) Interlanguage Pragmatics. Requests, Complaints, and
Apologies, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Yamagashira, H. (2001) Pragmatic Transfer in Japanese ESL Refusals,
Kagoshima Immaculate Heart College, English Department. 4-22-1
Toso, Kagoshima 890-8525, Japan. Retrieved from the web:
www.kjunshin.ac.jp/juntan/bulletin/No.31.
Refusing in L2 Spanish:
The effects of the context of learning
during a short-term study abroad program

Csar Flix-Brasdefer (Indiana University)




This chapter examines the effects of learning context on the production of refusals
among 12 US learners of Spanish studying abroad during an eight-week summer
program in Mexico. Two control groups were included: an at home group of US
learners of Spanish and a group of native speakers of Spanish. Learner data were
collected twice, beginning (pretest) and end of observation period (posttest), using a
modified version of the Multimedia Elicitation Task (Schauer, 2004). Native speaker
data were collected once. Results are analyzed for frequency and strategy type and for
situational variation in strategy use at the beginning and end of the observational
period.

1 Introduction
This chapter examines the effects of context of learning on the production of
refusals among US learners of Spanish during an eight-week summer
immersion program in Mexico. The acquisition of pragmatic knowledge,
such as the learners ability to produce and comprehend social action (e.g.,
requests, compliments) or interactional activities (e.g., leave-takings or
issuing and responding to requests) in study abroad (SA) contexts has
received little attention in comparison to the acquisition of pragmatics in at
home (AH) contexts. My understanding of pragmatics centers on meaning
as communicated by a speaker (or writer) and interpreted by a listener (or
reader) (Yule, 1996: 3). Pragmatic knowledge, according to Leech (1983)
and Thomas (1983), is comprised of two components: (1) pragmalinguistic
competence knowledge about and performance of the conventions of
language use or the linguistic resources available in a given language that
convey particular illocutions in contextually appropriate situations (Leech,
1983: 11), and (2) sociopragmatic competence knowledge of and
performance consistent with the social norms in specific situations in a given
society, as well as familiarity with variables of social power and social
distance. To develop pragmatic knowledge in SA (and in AH) contexts,
learners not only need to develop their ability to make form-meaning
connections, but also they need to consider the significance of context and
the pragmatic function expressed through their illocutions in pragmatically-
appropriate contexts (Schmidt, 1993). This chapter focuses on the
development of one aspect of pragmatic knowledge, namely, the ability to
refuse an invitation, a request, and an offer, in two learning contexts (all
148 Csar Flix-Brasdefer

university-level students): U.S. learners studying Spanish in Central Mexico


(SA) and U.S. learners studying Spanish in a foreign language (FL) context
in the United States, namely, at home (AH), where exposure to natural input
in the target language is limited. The present study adopts Martinsens (2008)
definition of short-term study abroad programs, i.e., those lasting two
months or less (p. 504).
The present study examines the speech act of refusals as the main unit of
analysis. Refusals belong to the category of commissives (Searle, 1975)
because they commit the refuser to performing an action (Searle, 1977). As a
reactive speech act, a refusal functions as a response to an initiating act and is
considered a speech act by which a speaker [fails] to engage in an action
proposed by the interlocutor (Chen et al., 1995: 121). Like other speech
acts, refusals are sensitive to social variables such as gender, age, level of
education, power, and social distance (Brown and Levinson, 1987; Flix-
Brasdefer, 2008a). According to previous research (Beebe et al., 1990; Flix-
Brasdefer, 2008a), a refusal response may be expressed directly (No; I
cant) or indirectly. If a refusal is expressed indirectly, the degree of
complexity increases, as the speaker has to choose the appropriate form or
forms to soften the negative effects of a direct refusal. Refusals may be
mitigated by means of adverbs and/or mental state predicates
(Unfortunately, I dont think Ill be able to attend the party), justifications
for the refusal (I have plans), an indefinite reply (I dont know if Ill have
time), an alternative (Why dont we go out for dinner next week instead?),
a postponement (Id rather take this class next semester), or by setting a
condition for future acceptance (If I have to take the class later, Ill take it
then). Refusals can also be realized by employing a series of other speech
acts such as requests for clarification (Did you say Saturday?) or additional
information (What time is the party?), a promise to comply (Ill do my
best, but I cant promise you anything), or an expression of regret or apology
(Im really sorry; I apologize). Finally, a refusal response is often
accompanied by a positive remark (Congratulations on your promotion. I am
very happy for you, but), an expression of willingness (Id love to,
but), an expression of gratitude (Thanks for the invitation), or showing
partial agreement with an interlocutor (Yes, I agree, but). The present
study examines whether the ability to refuse in a second language shows
improvement at the end of a summer study abroad program according to the
learning context, namely, SA vs. AH.

2 Previous research in study abroad contexts


Previous research in study abroad contexts has investigated progress (or lack
thereof) at the end of the study abroad experience in oral proficiency and
fluency (Freed et al., 2004; Isabelli-Garca, 2003), pronunciation (Daz-
Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 149

Campos, 2004), oral language oral skills (Martinsen, 2008), accuracy during
monitoring processing (DeKeyser, 2010), and individual differences
(Isabelli-Garca, 2006); however, learners acquisition of aspects of
pragmatic competence has received considerably less attention. This section
will review relevant literature on the acquisition of pragmatic competence in
study abroad contexts. To date, this research has generally been conducted
among learners in SA contexts who do not receive formal instruction in
pragmatics and who spend short periods abroad (6-8 weeks), a semester, or a
year abroad (10 months). It also includes learners in AH contexts and Native
Speakers (NSs) of the target language as well as NSs from the learners L1.
While inclusion of all these groups is rare in one single study, when two
learner groups are compared, pre- and posttest data are often collected at
various times during the observational period, beginning, middle, and end, or
simply at the beginning (pretest) and end of the study abroad experience
(posttest). Instruments used to collect learner data in SA contexts include
various formats of role plays, production questionnaires, natural data, and
methods of measuring perceptive skills such as the Likert scale, multiple-
choice questionnaires, diaries or metapragmatic assessment tasks to elicit
reflections of the learners pragmatic choices.
In general, this line of research focuses on developmental patterns,
comparing the SA group (beginning and end of study abroad period) to the
production of NSs of the target language. For example, Barron (2003)
examined the development of L2 pragmatic competence among 33 Advanced
Irish learners of German in Germany with data collected at three times, T1
(prior), T2 (during), and T3 (end of observational period) using a Free
Discourse Completion Task (FDCT). In addition, data from two control
groups of NSs (NSs of German and NSs of English [Ireland]) were collected
to examine L1 transfer and deviation from or approximation to the target
norms. The pragmatic targets included the acquisition of requests, offers, and
refusals of offers. Overall, while some progress was noted for requests (e.g.,
internal modification, mainly, an increase in syntactic complexity over time)
and offers, little change was noted for refusals, where development is slower
[than] in [] other situations (Barron, 2003: 216). Little change in the
learning of refusals to requests by US learners of Spanish in Spain was also
noted in VonCanons (2006) study using pre- and posttest data from SA
learners which also included two control groups of NSs (L1 English and L1
Spanish). In VonCanons study, the posttest data from the SA learners did not
approximate the NS norm at the end of one semester. Using the same learner
population as her 2003 study (over 10 months abroad) and one NS control
group (NSs of German), Barron (2006) examined the sociolinguistic
competence of advanced learners of German in the use of forms of address,
namely, you-formal (Sie, V) and you-informal (du, T) at two times, prior to
150 Csar Flix-Brasdefer

and at the end of the study abroad period. Overall, the results showed some
change over the ten-month study period, mainly in informal situations.
In an examination of requests by US learners of Spanish during one semester
(four months) in Valencia, Spain, Bataller (2010) analyzed the production of
requests in two role-play situations with two groups, 31 US learners of
Spanish and 32 NSs from Valencia, Spain. The results of her study showed
little change (from pre- [beginning] to posttests [end of study abroad period])
with regard to the choice of request strategy type (direct or indirect) that
approximated the pragmatic norms of the host culture. Specifically, most
learners showed a preference for direct (over indirect, as observed in the NS
data) requests, even in the posttest measures. In a different learning context,
Magnan and Back (2006) examined the development of pragmatic features of
requests for help (address forms, polite forms, and direct and indirect
requests) among six learners of French over one semester in France. One
striking finding of this study was the change in the opposite direction,
namely, from more indirect requests [pretest] in the program OPI [Oral
Proficiency Interview] (12 direct vs. 15 indirect) to fewer indirect requests in
the post-program OPI [posttest] (21 direct vs. 17 indirect) (Magnan and
Back, 2006: 33). Finally, using natural data from a variety of service
encounters in Toledo, Spain, Shively (2011) investigated the pragmatic
development of requests among seven US learners over a semester (14
weeks). Unlike the previous studies, the learners in Shivelys study received
pedagogical intervention, specifically, explicit instruction in pragmatics with
regard to requests in this region of Spain in the context of service encounters.
Results showed that some changes in the opening sequences and a change
from indirect (e.g., puedo comprar can I buy) to direct requests (e.g.,
elliptical requests such as cien gramos de salchichn 100 grams of salami),
reflecting the pragmatic norm of NSs in this region of Spain. Another change
included a shift from speaker- to hearer-oriented verbs in learners requests,
similar to the NS data.
A different line of research focused on pragmatic development by contrasting
the SA group to the AH group to examine changes as a result of the learning
context. For example, Rodrguez (2001) examined learners ability to judge
the appropriateness of Spanish requests over the course of one semester, and
found no significant differences between the SA and the AH groups in the
assessment of request forms. In contrast, Matsumura (2001) examined
changes over time in the learners sociocultural perception of social status
during an 8-month study abroad program. For this study, data were collected
from three groups: Japanese learners of English in Canada (SA), Japanese
learners of English in Japan (SA), and a group of NSs from the same region
in Canada (Vancouver). A multiple-choice questionnaire was used to assess
perceptions of social status when offering advice. Learner data were collected
at four times: prior to departure (T1), and then three times while studying
Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 151

abroad (every three months), (T2, T3, T4). Results showed an advantage for
the SA group (over the AH group) over time as well as an approximation of
the production of this group to NS norms with regard to perception of
offering advice in situations of equal and unequal status. In an examination of
communication strategies by learners of Spanish in Alicante over the course
of one semester, Lafford (2004) found that although both groups decreased
their reliance on communication strategies (e.g., self-repair, circumlocution,
asking for confirmation) learners in the SA group used significantly fewer
communication strategies on the posttest than the AH group. The data for this
study consisted of extracts and role plays taken from OPI interviews both
before (pre-test) and after (post-test) study abroad.
Other studies used NS data as a comparison to account for approximation to
the NS norm (with both SA and AH learners). In one such study with data
collected from a Multimedia Elicitation task (MET), Schauer (2004) reported
that the majority of the SA group (German Speakers in Britain) tended to use
syntactic downgraders (over lexical downgraders) in later sessions. In a
subsequent study, Schauer (2007) used the same SA learners as in her 2004
study and two control groups (an AH group and a NS group from the target
culture) to examine the frequency and type of external modifiers in requests
over an academic year. Results showed that the SA group and the NSs used a
broader repertoire of external modifiers (e.g. disarmers and preparators) than
the AH learner group. Finally, using role-play data and verbal reports, Flix-
Brasdefer (2004) examined pragmatic development of learners of Spanish in
the use lexical and syntactic mitigators in refusals to an invitation, a request,
and a suggestion. The learners were returnees from various Spanish-speaking
countries in Latin America, whose experiences ranged from 1 month abroad
to two years and six months. Results showed that the use of lexical and
syntactic mitigators was more frequent and varied as length of residence
increased (especially among learners who had spent nine months abroad or
longer), approximating the NS pragmatic norm.
Overall, the studies reviewed above showed that learners in the SA context
made greater gains at the end of the observational period than those in the
AH context who were not exposed to authentic pragmatic input from the
target culture. Given the experimental nature of this research, most studies,
with the exception of Shively (2011), used experimental data from perception
and production instruments, such as written productions questionnaires in
various forms, open role plays, role plays taken from OPIs, and perception
data such as Likert scales, verbal reports, and multiple-choice questionnaires.
Taken together, the studies above also reveal that changes in pragmatic
development do not always favor the SA learners at the end of the treatment
period. For example, the change from direct to indirect requests in Spain
(Bataller, 2011), direct to less indirect requests in France (Magnan and Back,
2006), and from direct to indirect refusals in Spain (VonCanon, 2006)
152 Csar Flix-Brasdefer

showed that the learners posttest data at the end of the observation period
was far from approximating the pragmatic norms of NSs. While the issue of
length of residence is often considered as a possible explanation (Flix-
Brasdefer, 2004), it is also important to analyze the interplay of other
variables such as proficiency level and intensity of interaction (Bardovi-
Harlig and Bastos, 2011). And, with regard to refusals, the few studies
reviewed above that examined this speech act reported very little change over
time when making refusals to an offer or a request. Individual variation is
another issue that was not given sufficient attention in most of the studies that
examine the effects of study abroad on the development of pragmatic
competence in the L2. Also, it should be noted that the aforementioned
studies vary with regard to inclusion or absence of learners in an AH context.
Finally, since the length of stay alone did not have a significant effect on
production and recognition of conventional expressions in the host
environment (Bardovi-Harlig and Bastos, 2011), it raises the question of
whether a summer study abroad program (6-8 weeks), as in the present study,
is beneficial for improving learners pragmatic knowledge.
The current study set out to investigate the following research questions:
1) To what extent do learners in a short-term SA program improve
their ability to refuse when compared to AH learners and NSs of the
target language?
2) To what extent does situational variation influence the SA
learners ability to refuse in a short-term study abroad program?

3 Method

3.1 Participants and data collection procedures

Three groups provided the data for the current study: an SA group and two
control groups, namely, a group of AH learners and a group of NSs. The SA
group consisted of 12 US learners of Spanish (8 females and 4 males) on an
eight-week program in central Mexico (mean age: 20.58 years old). No
heritage speakers were included in the present study. These learners were part
of a US study abroad program representing seven US universities. Each
student had studied Spanish at the fifth-semester level prior to participating in
this program at a Mexican university. In addition, they had all studied
Spanish in a formal classroom setting for an average of 4.8 years. In Mexico
the learners took two or three courses in Spanish with Mexican faculty in
literature, film, advanced Spanish language, and Hispanic cultures. Students
attended classes four days a week and social activities around the city every
Friday. All of the learners lived with a Mexican host family during this
period and they were expected to speak Spanish at all times with their
families and at all program events. Scheduled program activities included
Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 153

visits to Mexican museums, theaters, concerts, and trips to other cities and
states around Mexico. In addition, most students participated in voluntary
service on a weekly basis at nursing homes, day camps with Mexican
children, daycare centers, etc. Spanish was used at all times during the
program scheduled events and voluntary service. Thus, the SA group enjoyed
a wide range of opportunities to socialize and speak Spanish in different
contexts: with their host families, at school, in scheduled program activities,
and during their independent time in the city.
One of the two control groups included 12 US learners of Spanish studying at
a Midwestern US university (AH group, 10 females; 2 males [mean age: 21
years old]) for six weeks, which is the duration at the US university where
the data were collected (summer season in same year). These learners were
taking one or two summer courses in Spanish beyond the fifth semester.
Similar to the SA group, the learners in the AH condition were taking
summer courses in Spanish literature, Hispanic Culture, and writing. They
had studied formal Spanish in the classroom for an average of 5.25 years.
None of these learners had studied Spanish in a Spanish-speaking country.
Learners in the AH group were mainly exposed to input in the classroom
with non-native speaker instructors, while the SA learners took classes with
Mexican faculty. Finally, the NS group consisted of 15 NSs from
Guanajuato, Mexico (8 males and 7 females [mean age: 23.3 years old]) who
were students in different majors at the same university where the SA group
studied.
After signing the consent form, in accordance with the Institutional Review
Board procedures, the SA learners were asked to respond orally to 15
situations presented in a modified version of the Multimedia Elicitation Task
(MET) (Schauer, 2004; 2007) delivered through a PowerPoint presentation in
a computer lab. The situations included four requests, four compliments, four
responses to compliments, and three refusals (one to an invitation, one to an
offer, and one to a request). The data from the three refusal situations were
used for the present study. The MET was originally designed by Schauer
(2004) to examine the production of requests among learners in both SA and
AH contexts. As pointed out by Schauer (2007: 200), this instrument
ensures that all of [the] learner data have indeed been collected under
comparable circumstances without any interference of factors, such as the
professionals interlocutors mood or tone. Unlike the traditional Discourse
Completion Task or the role plays (Flix-Brasdefer, 2010; Kasper, 2000), the
MET was designed to ensure equal conditions for every participant by
providing different types of input: audio, visual, and written input. It should
be noted that this instrument was designed to produce experimental data
under controlled conditions, and thus, and the data it produces cannot not be
equated to natural data.
The three refusal situations included in the present study include:
154 Csar Flix-Brasdefer

1) Refusing a friends invitation to attend a birthday party. (-Power,


-Distance)
2) Refusing an offer of food from a host mother. (-Power, -Distance)
3) Refusing a request to lend a cell phone to a stranger on the street.
(-Power, + Distance)

Each situation included a photo describing the situation with NSs of the
target culture and items from the target culture to illustrate the setting. For
each item, the participants read a situation prompt that described the setting,
participants, their gender, the speech act in question (e.g., to elicit a refusal to
friends invitation), and the relationship between the interlocutors, namely,
social status, distance, and degree of familiarity between the interlocutors. In
the next slide the learner read and listened to the invitation by a NS of
Spanish speaker to which the learner was asked to respond. After the
participants initial oral response, an insistence to an invitation, an offer, or a
request was issued by the NS, and the participant responded again. An
insistence was included in each situation because it represents a sociocultural
expectation in various regions of the Spanish-speaking world, including
Mexico (Flix-Brasdefer, 2008a; 2008b) and Peru (Garca, 1992).
The data for the SA group were collected on-site in Mexico at two different
times, namely shortly after arrival (pretest Time 1 [end of week 1]) and
right before learners departed for the United States (posttest Time 2 [end of
week 8]). Before the data were collected, each learner completed the
Language Contact Profile (LCP) (Freed et al., 2004) which gathers
information about the learners experience with Spanish, language
proficiency, frequency and variety of input, demographics, etc. The
questionnaire was completed at the beginning and end of the program for
each learner group. Then, each learner met with a research assistant to
complete the oral questionnaire at an office. Participants read each of the 15
situations and responded orally. Learners met the research assistant, read the
situations, listened to the opening of each dialogue and recorded their
responses. The data for the AH group were also collected twice, at the
beginning of the summer session (week 1) and at the very end of the summer
program (week 6). Finally, for the NS group, the researcher assistant in
Mexico contacted Mexican students from the same university and invited
them to participate in the study. The NS data were collected over a three
week period in different places at the university: cafeterias, classrooms, and
in offices. There was a 15-second transition between the situations in the
power point presentation. All responses were digitally recorded and
transcribed by a Mexican research assistant and verified by the author.
Since the current study aims at examining the production of forms (rather
than their use in social interaction), the oral production questionnaire was
Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 155

designed to elicit learners explicit knowledge of L2 refusals to invitations,


offers, and requests.

3.2 Data analysis



The data were analyzed according to a classification of refusal strategies
proposed in previous studies that was adapted for the current study (Beebe et
al., 1990; Flix-Brasdefer, 2008a). The analysis of refusal responses was
coded for strategies including direct refusals, indirect refusals, and adjuncts
to refusals. Table 1 shows the strategies used to code the data of the present
study, followed by examples. Examples are taken from Flix-Brasdefer
(2008a) and from the data of the present study.

Direct
Direct refusal No / No, I cant / Its impossible for me to attend
the party

Indirect
Reason / I have plans
Explanation Im having dinner with my parents who are
visiting
Indefinite reply Oh, I dont know if I can come to your party.
Deja ver si puedo, no te aseguro nada let me see
if I can, I cant promise you anything
Apology/Regret I apologize / Im sorry
Lo siento Im sorry / Por favor, perdneme
please, forgive
Me da mucha pena, pero no puedo asistir (I feel
really bad, but I cant attend)
Alternative Why dont we out for dinner next week?

Adjuncts to
Refusals
Willingness Me encantara celebrar contigo, pero.. I would
love to celebrate with you, but
Gratitude Thanks for the invitation
Gracias Thanks / Muchas gracias thank you
very much
Positive Remark Thats a good idea, but
El guacamole se ve muy bueno, pero
The guacamole looks very good, but
156 Csar Flix-Brasdefer

Well-wishing Buena suerte en la fiesta good luck at the party


Empathy I understand you are in a pinch, but
Entiendo lo que dices, pero no puedo prestarte mi
celular
I understand what you are saying, but I cannot
lend you my cell
        
Table 1. Classification of refusal strategies and examples

The SA and AH groups (12 learners per group) each produced a total of 72
responses for all three situations (pretest = 36; posttest = 36). The NS group
produced a total 45 responses (15 NSs one time only).
The data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences
(SPSS), version 19. In addition to the analysis of descriptive statistics, the
pretest and posttest data for each group (SA and AH) were analyzed using a
related samples t-test to examine gains over time. An independent samples t-
test was also used to examine levels of significance in the use of particular
strategies between the learner groups and the NS group. The probability level
was set at p = .05. Finally, to ensure inter-coder reliability, the data (L2
Spanish and L1 Spanish) were coded independently by the author and the
research assistant according to the classification in Table 1. A comparison of
the independent coding revealed that the researchers coincided in their
classification of 95% of the data, and the remaining 5% of the cases were
discussed in detail. Overall, the researchers arrived at a mutual agreement in
the coding of 98% of the data.

4 Results and discussion

4.1 Refusal strategies in SA and AH contexts



This section presents the results for the first research question which
examined whether SA learners ability to refuse an invitation, an offer, and a
request became more target-like after eight weeks of immersion in the target
culture when compared to AH learners (with no experience abroad) and NSs
of the host environment. Overall, the learners in the SA context produced a
higher number of strategies (n = 380) than the learners in the AH condition (n
= 269). In addition, on each measure the production of strategies of the SA
group also outpaced that of the AH group (SA: 178 [47%]; posttest: 202
[53%]); AH: (pretest: 119 [44%]; posttest: 150 [56%]). In fact, the SA group
produced a higher number of strategies on each measure than the NS group
(n = 161), in particular, at the end of the observational period (SA: 202 vs.
NS 150).
Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 157

Figure 1 shows the total distribution of direct and indirect refusals and
adjuncts to refusals for both learner groups (AH and SA) and the NS group in
all three situations (see Table 1 for strategy type for indirect refusals and
adjuncts to refusals and examples).  

Figure 1. Total distribution of direct and indirect refusals and adjuncts to


refusals in SA and AH groups and NSs

With regard to direct refusals, both learner groups increased the frequency of
this strategy from pre- to posttest. In contrast, however, the NS group
produced a much lower frequency of direct refusals (10%; 16 of 161 cases)
than both learner groups at the end of the observational period, AH (posttest;
26%; 39 of 150 cases) and SA group (posttest: 20%; 40/202 cases). Although
the use of direct refusals increased among both learner groups and moved
away from target-like production (i.e., less direct), the posttest measure of the
SA group reflected a lower percentage of direct refusals (20%) than the AH
group (26%). Figure 1 also shows that both learner groups improved their
preference for indirect refusals and adjuncts to refusals over time,
approximating NS pragmatic behavior with regard to the overall frequency of
strategy use. This increase was more pronounced in the SA group.
Table 2 shows the total means and standard deviations for direct and indirect
refusals, and adjuncts to refusal for the two learner groups (AH and SA) in
each measure as well as for the NS group.
158 Csar Flix-Brasdefer

At Study Native
Strategy

Home Abroad Speakers


Type

(N = 12) (N = 12) (N = 15)


Pretest Posttest Pretest Posttest

M = 2.67 M = 3.25 M = 2.58 M = 3.33 M = 1.07


Refusal
Direct

SD = 1.435 SD = 1.138 SD = 1.311 SD = 1.44 SD = .961

M = 3.42 M = 5.08 M = 7.50 M = 8.92 M = 5.93


Refusals
Indirect

SD = 1.621 SD = 1.782 SD = 2.541 SD = .73 SD = 2.685


Adjuncts to

M = 3.83 M = 4.17 M = 4.75 M = 4.58 M = 3.73


Refusals

SD = 2.290 SD = 2.552 SD = 1.712 SD = 2.02 SD = 2.052


Table 2. Means and standard deviations for Direct Refusals, Indirect Refusals
and Adjuncts to Refusals

Table 2 shows that both learner groups increased their means for the use of
direct and indirect refusals over time from pre- to posttest. Only the AH
group increased the use of adjuncts to refusals on the posttest measure. The
results of a related samples t-test showed no significant differences for the
SA group in the use of these strategies (direct and indirect refusals, and
adjuncts to refusals) (p = < .05). However, a related samples t-test did show a
significant difference for the AH group for overall use of indirect refusals
(pretest [M = 3.42]; posttest [M = 5.08]), t (11), -2.246, p = .046). Further, an
independent samples t-test that compared the means on the learner posttest
measures to the NS group showed a significant difference in the use of direct
refusals in both the AH and NS groups. That is, the AH (M = 3.25) and SA
(M = 3.33) posttest measures each differed significantly from that of the NS
group, whose mean was significantly lower (M = 1.07). Thus the behavior of
both learner groups deviated from the NS pragmatic norm in the use of direct
refusals to an invitation, an offer, and a request at the end of the observational
period. Similarly, a significant difference was observed in the overall use of
indirect refusals when the mean of the SA posttest measure (M = 8.92) was
compared to that of the NS group (M = 5.93), t (25) = 3.33, p = .003). That is,
the SA group used significantly more indirect strategies after eight weeks in
the target culture than the NS group, whereas no significant differences were
Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 159

observed between the AH posttest means (Time 2) and the NS mean for the
use of indirect refusals.
Two important findings with respect to quantity of refusals strategies
produced by the learners and their preference for direct refusals are worth
discussing. Verbosity was a characteristic of learners production that was
revealed in study abroad contexts in previous studies. According to
Edmondson and House (1991: 273), verbosity or waffling refers as the
excessive use of linguistic forms to fill a specific discourse slot or move,
i.e., achieve a pragmatic goal. Magnan and Back (2006) and Flix-
Brasdefer (2004) found that learners with SA experience spoke more than
NSs producing requests and refusals, respectively. Schauer (2007) also found
that her SA learners used more external modifications in requests than her NS
group. In the current study, in the SA group verbosity was particularly noted
in the use of more indirect strategies at the end of the observational period (M
= 8.92), and less frequently used in the NS group (5.93). As a communication
strategy, verbosity helps learners to fulfill a metacommunicative function by
making the information more explicit (Flix-Brasdefer, 2004: 633).
Verbosity should be viewed as a developmental stage in the interlanguage
system of the SA learners. Verbosity reflects the conflicting experience of
language learners at a stage in their interlanguage development which is well
beyond the threshold of communicative competence, but still a long way
before near-nativeness (Faerch and Kasper, 1989: 245). And, although
verbosity appears to violate Grices (1975) maxim of quantity, it serves a
different purpose, namely an attempt to be more indirect by using longer and
a higher frequency of reasons and alternatives than NSs. It should be noted
that among the NSs reasons and alternatives were fewer (and expressed with
fewer words) than among the learner groups. By contrast, a lower use of
indirect strategies by AH learners (in comparison to both the SA and NS
groups) may indicate that they lack the real-life experience of having to
solely rely on their L2 to achieve desired outcomes (Schauer, 2007: 212).
Thus, in the present study the impact of the host environment influenced the
learners overuse of indirect refusals; specifically, more frequent and longer
reasons/explanations were noted in the learner data than in the NS group,
whose responses were shorter.
Further, the finding that both SA and AH learners showed an increased
preference for direct refusals at the end of the observational period represents
an development in the opposite direction than what was expected, as direct
refusals were infrequent among the NSs. A similar finding was noted in
Magnan and Backs study (2006), in which learners (after a semester abroad
in France) moved from more indirect strategies [Pretest] to fewer indirect
requests [posttest] (p.33), as measured by an OPI. The authors concluded
that one semester abroad was not enough time to achieve approximation to
the NS norm with regard to greater variety in request types, either direct or
160 Csar Flix-Brasdefer

indirect, or to the expected shift in the balance of request types from direct to
indirect overall (p. 34). A similar finding was noted by Bataller (2010), who
concluded that after one semester in Spain learners slightly changed the
strategies they used to request a service after being immersed in the target
country for 4 months (p. 171). Specifically, Batallers learners preferred
more direct requests (on pre- and posttest measures), while NSs preferred
indirect requests at least in one situation. With regard to refusals, the SA
group in VonCanon (2007) showed very little improvement when refusing a
request, when compared to the results of the NS group from the same region
in Spain. And Barron (2003) found some improvement in the production of
refusals of offers among Irish learners in Germany; specifically, an increase
was noted (from beginning to end of observation) in the use of lexical and
phrasal downgraders in four of six situations. And in their analysis of
requests and apologies among US learners of Spanish, Shively and Cohen
(2008) found similar results to those obtained in this study, namely, that in
certain ways the SA learners shifted their behavior that most likely resembled
the NS group, and in other cases these learners moved away from the NS
Spanish norms.
In the current study, an increase was noted mainly in the frequency of
indirect refusals and adjuncts to refusals from the pre- to posttest among
those in the SA group, which approximated the NS pragmatic norm.
Table 3 shows the total means and standard deviations for strategy type in the
use of indirect refusals and adjuncts to refusals for both learner groups
(pre/posttest) and NS group and across all three situations. (See Table 1 for
types of indirect refusals and adjuncts to refusals).
Strategy

At Study Native
Type

Home (N = 12) Abroad (N = 12) Speakers


Pretest Posttest Pretest Posttest (N = 15)

M = 2.67 M = 3.25 M = 2.58 M = 3.33 M= 1.07


Refusal
Direct

SD = 1.435 SD = 1.138 SD = 1.311 SD = 1.435 SD = .961

M = 1.08 M = 2.08 M = 3.17 M = 3.33 M= 3


Reason

SD = .793 SD = 1.379 SD = .44 SD = .778 SD = 1.69


Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 161

M= .58 M= .50 M= .67 M = 1.17 M= 1.07


Indefinite
Reply

SD = .996 SD = .522 SD = .778 SD = .577 SD = .594


Alternative

M= .33 M= .25 M= .83 M = 1.08 M= .87

SD = .651 SD = .622 SD = 1.467 SD = .313 SD = 1.125

M = 1.42 M = 2.25 M = 2.83 M = 3.33 M= 1


Apology

SD = .996 SD = 1.357 SD = 1.586 SD = 1.073 SD = 1.363


Willingness

M= .75 M= .75 M = 1.17 M= .83 M= .80

SD = .965 SD = .622 SD = .835 SD = .207 SD = .775

M = 1.08 M= 1 M = 1.08 M= .75 M= .67


Positive
Remark

SD = .669 SD = .739 SD = .900 SD = .179 SD = .724

M = 1.83 M = 2.17 M= 2 M = 2.33 M= 2


Gratitude

SD = 1.899 SD = 1.528 SD = 1.537 SD = .376 SD = 1.134

M= .08 M= .25 M= .25 M = .50 M= .20


Wishing
Well-

SD = .289 SD = .622 SD = .452 SD = .905 SD = .414

M= .08 M= .00 M = .25 M = .17 M= .07


Empathy

SD = .289 SD = .000 SD = .452 SD = .389 SD = .258

Table 3. Distribution of strategies in three refusal situations


162 Csar Flix-Brasdefer

Table 3 shows that the preference for strategy type varied for each learner
group (on each measure) and in the NS group. With regard to the first three
indirect refusals (reason, indefinite reply, and alternative), although the
means of the SA group increased over time, a related samples t-test that
compared the means for strategy use from pre- to posttest showed no
significant differences for each of these strategies (p = .05). The SA posttest
data approximated the means noted in the NS group for the use of these
strategies; in particular, an increase was noted in the use of indefinite reply
and alternative. However, for the AH group, the results of a related samples t-
test that compared the means of the use of the reason strategy from pre- (M =
1.08) to posttest (M = 2.08) showed a significant difference between these
two, t (11) = -2.35, p = .039, at the end of the observational period. Thus, the
results of the present study show that although the AH group displayed a
change in their production of refusals in the direction of the NS norm at the
end of the observational period in one strategy (reason), the learners in the
SA condition showed change toward the NS pragmatic norm in the use of
three indirect strategies, namely, reasons, indefinite replies, and alternatives.
Previous studies on refusals to invitations and to requests show that these
strategies predominate among NSs of Spanish of different varieties (Flix-
Brasdefer, 2008a; 2008b; Garca, 1999).
The results for the fourth indirect refusal strategy, namely, apology/regret,
showed deviation from the NS norm in both the frequency and content. The
results of a related samples t-test showed that the difference was not
significant within each of the learner groups. However, an independent
samples t-test that compared the means of this strategy on the posttest
between the AH (M = 2.25) and the NS group (M = 1) as well as the SA (M =
3.33) and NS group (M = 1), showed significant differences (AH: t (25) =
2.37, p = .026; SA: t (25) = 4.85, p = .000). As noted in Table 3, the
apology/regret strategy was infrequent among the NSs (M = 1). The use of an
expression of apology/regret was more frequent when refusing a request for
help from a stranger in the NS group (12 of 15 cases), less frequent when
refusing an invitation (2 of 15 cases), and almost absent when refusing an
offer for a second helping of food (1 of 15 cases). Although the distribution
of this strategy was similar among the groups for each situation, learners in
both conditions overused this strategy as time increased. In addition to
differences in frequency use, the content of apology/regret was different
between the NS and the learner groups. Of the 15 cases of apology/regret
noted in the NS group overall, only two included the form lo siento (Im
sorry) (or lo siento mucho Im really sorry) by one male participant when
refusing a request for help from a stranger). The majority of NSs produced
different forms commonly used among NSs of Mexican Spanish of this
community, such as qu pena (I feel bad), me da mucha pena (I feel really
bad), disculpa/e or disclpame (I apologize [formal or informal] or forgive
Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 163

me), and lo lamento (I regret it). With the exception of two participants in
the SA group who used one instance each of apology/regret on the posttest
measure (2 of 40 cases), the majority of the learners in the SA and AH groups
overused this strategy on both the pre- and posttest and with one form,
namely, lo siento Im sorry, and to a lesser degree, lo siento mucho Im
really sorry.
The overuse of lo siento Im sorry by SA and AH learners across the three
situations can be viewed as either a developmental stage or as need for
instruction in the appropriate use of this strategy and form. With regard to
formula use, Bardovi-Harlig (2006) provides an incisive account of formula
research in L2 pragmatics. According to the author, in early stages of
development, formulas are unanalyzed because they literally cannot be
analyzed by the learner grammar. They are, thus, unanalyzable. In fact, the
unanalyzability of the formula is crucial in the developmental account
(Bardovi-Harlig, 2006: 6). Thus, although the AH and SA learners had taken
at least one or two courses in Spanish (advanced language, composition,
literature, or Hispanic Culture) beyond the fifth semester level, their
pragmatic ability to express an apology, through frequent use of lo siento
(Im sorry) with little or no intensification, reflected only their
pragmalinguistic knowledge of and transfer from their L1. Since only two
learners in the SA group showed an increase in the use of the apology/regret
strategy expressed through using other forms commonly used among NSs of
Spanish from this region, it appears that the host environment abroad did not
influence the majority of the learners ability to broaden their repertoire of
other forms according to the NS pragmatic norm. Learning to express an
apology/regret in Spanish entails not only grammatical development in the
use of other forms of regret and apology (e.g., me da pena I regret it,
disclpeme forgive me, lo lamento I regret it) (pragmalinguistic
knowledge), but also a sociopragmatic knowledge of the social norms, social
status and power, and situational variation with regard to the appropriateness
of when, where, and with whom to use this strategy. Thus, the overuse of this
strategy can be interpreted in at least two ways. Specifically, the presence of
this strategy in the data at the end of the study abroad experience represents a
stage where the internal grammar of the formulas exceeded [the learners]
grammar more generally (Bardovi-Harlig, 2006: 6). Alternatively, it may
reflect a need for pedagogical intervention with regard to pragmatics for most
learners; that is, teaching them how to produce and recognize expressions of
apology/regret according to NSs norms in different regions of the Spanish-
speaking world (Flix-Brasdefer, 2008a; Mrquez-Reiter, 2000) prior to
study abroad and during their in-country stay (Shively, 2010).
Finally, as noted in Table 3, both learner groups (AH and SA) and the NS
group employed five different strategies as adjuncts to refusals, which were
utilized prefacing or following the refusal response. Of these, four strategies
164 Csar Flix-Brasdefer

were used with low frequencies by all groups (willingness, positive remark,
well-wishing, and empathy), as reflected in the low means for each of these
strategies. The use of expressions of gratitude was most frequent, and, as
seen in Table 3, the means for this strategy increased in the posttest data,
approximating NS norm in the frequency of strategy use. However, despite
the increase from pre- to posttest among the AH and SA groups, a related
samples t-test that compared means on both measures showed no significant
difference within each learner group. This change observed in the data from
fewer to more expressions of gratitude shows an approximation to the NS
pragmatic norm.
To illustrate the frequency, content, and distribution of these strategies, the
following examples present refusal responses produced in each of the three
groups: (main refusal response is underlined).

(1) Study abroad group


Pretest (Refusal to invitation, female, learner #6 )
Invitation response: Ah s, me gustara ir, pero no puedo.
Oh, yes, Id like to go, but I cant
Insistence response: Ah s, si puedo venira - vendra?
Oh yes, if I can I would come (incorrect form) would come (correct form)
Posttest (Refusal to invitation, female, learner #6 )
Offer response: lo siento no puedo. Im sorry, I cant
Insistence response: si puedo, venir. If I can, I will come
(incorrect verb form)

(2) At Home group (Refusal of offer, male, learner #8)


Pretest (female, Refusing request for help)
Offer response: Ahm ((balbucea)) me gusta mucho el guacamole tengo, no tengo
hambre.
Um, ((Hesitates)) I like the guacamole a lot I am,
Im not hungry
Offer insistence: Mmmh no s.
Um I dont know
Posttest (Offer of food, male, learner #8)
Offer response: Muchas gracias, me gust- a mi me gusta comer el guacamole, pero yo
no come mucho. Lo siento.
Thanks a lot, I liked it I like to eat guacamole but I dont eat
(wrong verb form) a lot. Im sorry
Insistence response: Muchas gracias. Un poco ms.
Thanks a lot. A little more.

(3) Native Speaker group


a) Refusal to invitation (female)
Invitation response: Ay la verdad s me encantara porque:: van a estar todos nuestros
amigos, pero:: es que tengo que hacer mi tarea y ya es mucha
y la verdad tengo exmenes para maana, pero me los saludas
a todos, gracias.
Well, the truth is I would love to, because all of our friends are
going to be there, but the thing is that I have to do my
Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 165

homework and I have a lot of it and really I have exams


tomorrow, but tell everyone I said hi, thanks
Insistence response: Voy a hacer todo lo posible por ir, vas a ver
que aunque sea llego un poquito tarde pero llego. Gracias.
Im gonna do everything I can to go, youll see, even if I get
there a little late, Ill be there
b) Refusal of offer for food (male)
Offer response: Seora muchsimas gracias, le qued muy rico, pero ya estoy
muy lleno. Quiz ms tarde.
Maam, thanks so much, it turned out really delicious but Im
already really full. Maybe a little later.
Insistence response: Estoy muy agradecido seora, de verdad le qued riqusimo. Es
el ms rico que he probado en toda mi vida, pero estoy muy
lleno y no quiero que me haga dao.
I really appreciate it, maam, it really turned out
very delicious. Its the best I have ever tried in all my life, but
Im really full and I dont want it to make me sick.

4.2 Situational variation and strategy use in the Study


Abroad group

This section presents the results for the second research question which
addresses the issue of variation across the three situations among the SA
group. Table 4 shows the frequencies and percentages for each of the 10
strategies observed in the SA data on each measure, and across the three
situations. The strategies that occurred in the data were: direct refusal,
indirect refusals (reason, indefinite reply, alternative, apology), and adjuncts
to refusals (willingness, positive remark, gratitude, well-wishing, empathy).

Refusing Invitation Refusing Offer Refusing Request


Strategy
Type

Pretest Posttest Pretest Posttest Pretest Posttest


Refusal

f= 9 f = 15 f = 12 f = 14 f = 10 f = 11
Direct

%= 15.5 %= 20.5 %= 20 %= 21.9 %= 16.7 %= 16.9


Reason

f= 7 f = 10 f = 15 f = 15 f = 16 f = 15

%= 12.1 %= 13.7 %= 25 %= 23.4 %= 26.7 %= 23.1


Indefinite

f= 6 f = 11 f= 1 f= 3 f= 1 f= 0
Reply

%= 10.3 %= 15.1 %= 1.7 %= 4.7 %= 1.7 %= 0


166 Csar Flix-Brasdefer
Alternative

f= 2 f= 1 f= 2 f= 1 f= 6 f = 11

%= 3.4 %= 1.4 %= 3.3 %= 1.6 %= 10 %= 16.9

f= 8 f = 12 f= 3 f= 2 f = 23 f = 26
Apology/
regret

%= 13.8 %= 16.4 %= 5 %= 3.1 %= 38.3 %= 40


Willingness

f = 11 f= 8 f= 1 f= 2 f= 2 f= 0

%= 19 %= 11 %= 1.7 %= 3.1 %= 3.3 %= 0


Positive
Remark

f= 3 f= 0 f = 10 f= 9 f= 0 f= 0

%= 5.1 %= 0 %= 16.6 %= 14 %= 0 %= 0
Gratitude

f= 9 f = 11 f = 15 f= 17 f= 0 f= 0

%= 15.5 %= 15.1 %= 25 %= 26.6 %= 0 %= 0

f= 3 f= 5 f= 0 f= 0 f= 0 f= 1
Wishing
Well-

%= 5.1 %= 6.8 %= 0 %= 0 %= 0 %= 1.5

f= 0 f= 0 f= 1 f= 1 f= 2 f= 1
Empathy

%= 0 %= 0 %= 1.7 %= 1.6 %= 3.3 %= 1.5

Total f = 58 f = 73 f = 60 f= 64 f = 60 f= 65

Table 4. Distribution of strategies by situation in the SA group for pretest and


posttest (N = 12)

As mentioned in section 4.1, the SA group produced a total of 380 strategies.


Of these, 47% (178 of 380) were noted shortly after learners arrived in the
host environment and 53% (202 of 380) were produced at the end of the
observational period. With regard to the total frequency, no major differences
were found across the three situations (refusing invitation: 131 of 380;
Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 167

refusing offer: 124 of 380; refusing request for help: 125 of 380). In each
situation direct refusals showed a slight increase on the posttest. While the
SA group produced a total of 71 instances of direct refusals (pretest: 31;
posttest: 40), the NS group only produced 16 direct refusals that were almost
evenly distributed across the three situations (invitation: 5; offer: 6; request:
5). In both the SA group and the NS group a reason that functioned as an
indirect refusal was more frequent in two situations, namely, refusing an
offer of food and refusing a request for help from a stranger on the street. As
noted in Table 4, there was no major increase in the use of reasons across the
three situations from pre- to posttest. The pre (n = 38) and posttest data (n =
40) mirrored the NSs use of reasons (n = 40). Further, an indefinite reply
was the expected and most frequent strategy when refusing a friends
invitation to a birthday party (15 of 16 cases).The preference for this strategy
was noted in the SA group with an increase from pre- (10.3%) to posttest
(15.1%). A similar positive direction was observed in the alternative strategy
which was mainly used among NSs when refusing a request for help (9 of 13
cases); there was an increase in the frequency of use of this strategy from the
pre- (10% or 5 of 12 learners) to posttest (16.9% or 7 of 12 learners).
With regard to apology/regret, the NS group mainly used this strategy when
refusing a request for help (12 of 15 cases). As noted in Table 4, among the
SA learners this strategy was employed in two situations, refusing an
invitation and refusing a request for help. In both of these situations there was
a slight increase in the frequency of strategy use from Time 1 to Time 2.
However, unlike the NS group, which used the expression lo siento (Im
sorry) very infrequently, the SA (and the AH group) group used this
expression often on the pretest. And as mentioned in section 2.1, only two
learners in the SA group employed other expressions used by NSs on the
posttest measure in one situation (refusing an invitation) (i.e. es una pena
its too bad and disclpame forgive me). More importantly, the SA group
overused the apology/regret in the request situation (using the lo siento form)
on both the pre-test (11 of 12 learners; 38.3% or 23 of 60 cases) and the
posttest (12 learners; 40% or 26 of 65 cases). Thus, it is unknown whether the
use of this strategy would continue to increase among the learner group with
longer lengths of stay in the host environment, or whether it would shift
toward the NS pragmatic norm both by reducing its frequency in situations of
this nature as well as broadening the repertoire of expressions used to convey
apology and regret in Spanish.
Finally, situational variation was also noted in the preference for adjuncts to
refusals that preceded or followed the main refusal. For example, similar to
the NS group, the SA group used expressions of willingness and positive
remarks infrequently when refusing an invitation and an offer of food on both
measures. Although an expression of gratitude was employed more
frequently when refusing an offer of food among the SA group (with a slight
168 Csar Flix-Brasdefer

increase on the posttest measure [from 15 to 17 cases]), the NS group used


this strategy more frequently (13 of 15 participants or 23 of 61 cases), with a
greater degree of formality (e.g., se lo agradezco I appreciate it) and with
intensifiers and repetition (e.g., Gracias, muchas gracias seora Thanks,
thanks very much, maam; Muchsimas gracias por invitarme a tu fiesta
Thanks so much for inviting me to your party, as documented in previous
research (Flix-Brasdefer, 2008a) for the same situation. Some of the
strategies commonly noted in the NS group data included Muchas gracias
seora thanks very much, maam; muchsimas gracias thank you so
much; se lo agradezco I really appreciate it; estoy muy agradecido seora
Im really thankful, maam. The last two strategies shown in Table 4 (well-
wishing and empathy) were infrequently used across the three situations.

5 Concluding remarks

The present study set out to investigate the effects of study abroad on US
learners of Spanish when refusing an invitation, an offer, and a request for
help during an eight-week study abroad program in central Mxico. To
examine whether the learning context had an effect on the production of
refusals, two control groups were included in the study, an AH learner group
(pre/posttest data) and a NS control group, which included university-level
students from the same university and region where the SA learners studied.
Although individual variation in strategy use is an important factor to
consider when analyzing the data for each group, the data from the SA group
show that after eight weeks of exposure to the host environment there was
some change in the SA group regarding the learners ability to refuse in
situations of equal status, but with different degrees of familiarity between
the interlocutors (Research Question #1). Among the learners, a change was
noted in the frequency and content of some indirect strategies commonly
used to refuse in Spanish (reason, indefinite reply, and alternative) and in one
adjunct to a refusal, namely, expression of gratitude. However, a change was
also noted in the AH group with regard to an increase in the use of indirect
strategies from the pretest to the posttest, although the frequency in all
situations was lower than in both the SA and NS group. The data for the
present study also show deviation from the NS pragmatic norm in both
learner groups, specifically, a resistance to reducing the use of direct refusals
and adopting more indirect strategies, as well as a limited distribution of
expressions of apology/regret. Although situational variation was noted in the
learner groups with regard to preference for strategy use (Research Question
#2), the increases of the SA group observed on the posttest measure were
below those of the NS group for reasons, indefinite reply, alternative, and
expression of gratitude. The high frequency of direct refusals and
apology/regret in both learner groups represents instances of deviation from
Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 169

the NS pragmatic norm. In addition, the increase of direct refusals in the


opposite direction (i.e., away from NS norms) among the SA from pre- to
posttest across the three situations may be due to a lack of sufficient input in
a variety of contexts in the host environment. Alternatively, this behavior
could be attributed to an insufficient exposure to input in formal and informal
settings and a lack of intensity of interaction, as reported in previous studies
with low-intermediate to low-advanced (Bardovi-Harlig and Bastos, 2011),
advanced (Barron, 2006; Flix-Brasdefer, 2004), and intermediate-level
learners who had longer lengths of residence in SA contexts (Magnan and
Back, 2006). As observed in previous research (Bardovi-Harlig and Bastos,
2011; Dietrich et al., 1995; Kasper and Rose 2002), length of stay is not an
interesting variable in SA contexts; instead, intensity of interaction in the host
environment is a more reliable variable. Thus, although some change is
observed in programs with four months abroad or longer, intensity of
interaction plays an important role in short-term study abroad programs
(lasting 6-8 weeks) for developing pragmatic knowledge.
Future research should focus on the analysis of individual variation with
regard to strategy use for each participant at the beginning and end of the
observational period in order to account for developmental stages through
which learners pass in the SA learning context. Most importantly, since in
various cases the SA learners of the present study moved away from the NS
pragmatic norms, researchers should incorporate a pedagogical component in
their methodological design in studies with SA students prior to departure,
while in-country, and post-country re-connection as proposed by Shively
(2010). However, to examine whether instruction yields some effect in a
study abroad context, at least two SA learner groups should be included, one
group who receives instruction in pragmatics for the pragmatic target in
question and another group without the pedagogical component. Two AH
groups should also be provided with similar conditions. In addition, the type
of instruction provided (implicit or explicit) (Flix-Brasdefer, 2006; 2008c;
Hasler-Barker, in progress; Rose, 2005) and the type of instrument use to
gather the data (Flix-Brasdefer, 2010) should be described in detail, along
with an individual analysis of the learner characteristics and, the amount of
input the learners received during the treatment period in both formal and
informal contexts. In particular, learners should be made aware of forms used
to express pragmatic intent (pragmalinguistic knowledge) and the contexts in
which those expressions are appropriately used (sociopragmatic knowledge).
Furthermore, in order to raise learners awareness of certain aspects of the
L2, directing their attention to specific elements of the input is an essential
condition for the learning of pragmatics (Schmidt, 1993). Finally, study
abroad research offers potential pedagogical implications for Program
Directors and Offices of Study Abroad who aim at maximizing the learners
170 Csar Flix-Brasdefer

ability to communicate successfully in an L2, as a result of their participation


in short or long programs in the host environment.

References
Bardovi-Harlig, K. (2006) On the role of formulas in the acquisition of L2
pragmatics. In Bardovi-Harlig, K., J. C. Flix-Brasdefer and A. Omar
(eds) Pragmatics and Language Learning, Vol. 11, National Foreign
Language Resource Center. Honolulu: HI, University of Hawaii
Press: 1-28.
Bardovi-Harlig, K., and T. Bastos (2011) Proficiency, length of stay, and
intensity of interaction, and the acquisition of conventional
expressions in L2 pragmatics, Intercultural Pragmatics (8) 3: 347-
384.
Barron, A. (2003) Acquisition in Interlanguage Pragmatics: Learning How to
Do Things with Words in a Study Abroad Context, Amsterdam: John
Benjamins.
Barron, A. (2006) Learning to say You in German: The acquisition of
sociolinguistic competence in a study abroad context. In DuFon, M.
A. and E. Churchill (eds) Language Learners in Study Abroad
Contexts, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters: 59-88.
Bataller, R. (2010) Making a request for a service in Spanish: Pragmatic
development in the study abroad setting, Foreign Language Annals
(43) 1: 160-175.
Beebe, L. M., T. Takahashi and R. Uliss-Weltz (1990) Pragmatic transfer in
ESL refusals. In Scarcella, R. C., E.S. Andersen and S.D. Krashen
(eds) Developing communicative competence in second language,
New York: Newbury House: 55-73.
Brown, P. and S. Levinson (1987) Politeness: Some Universals in Language
Use, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chen, X., L. Ye and Y. Zhang (1995) Refusing in Chinese. In Kasper, G. (ed)
Pragmatics of Chinese as native and target language, Technical
Report #5. Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Center.
Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii at Manoa: 119-163.
DeKeyser, R. (2010) Monitoring processes in Spanish as a second language
during a study abroad program, Foreign Language Annals (43) 1: 80-
92.
Daz-Campos, M. (2004) Context of learning in the acquisition of Spanish
second language phonology, Studies in Second Language Phonology
(26) 2: 249-273.
Dietrich, R., W. Klein and C. Noyau (1995) The acquisition of temporality in
a second language, Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 171

Edmonson, W., and J. House (1991) Do learners talk too much? The waffle
phenomenon in interanguage pragmatics. In Phillipson, R., E.
Kellerman, L. Selinker, M. Sharwood Smith and M. Swain (eds)
Foreign/Second Language Research Pedagogy Research: A
Commemorative Volume for Claus Frch, Clevedon: Multilingual
Matters: 273-87.
Frch, C., and G. Kasper (1989) Internal and external modification in
interlanguage request realization. In Blum-Kulka, S., J. House and G.
Kasper (eds) Cross-Cultural Pragmatics: Requests and Apologies,
Norwood, NJ: Ablex: 221-247.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2004) Interlanguage refusals: Linguistic politeness and
length of residence in the target community, Language Learning (54)
4: 587-653.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2006) Teaching the negotiation of multi-turn speech
acts. Using conversation-analytic tools to teach pragmatics in the
classroom. In K. Bardovi-Harlig, J. C. Flix-Brasdefer and A. Omar
(eds) Pragmatics and Language Learning, Vol. 11, National Foreign
Language Resource Center. Honolulu: HI, University of Hawaii
Press:165-197.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2008a) Politeness in Mexico and the United States: A
Contrastive Study of the Realization and Perception of Refusals,
Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2008b) Sociopragmatic variation: Dispreferred
responses in Mexican and Dominican Spanish, Journal of Politeness
Research (4) 1: 81-110.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2008c) Teaching Spanish pragmatics in the classroom:
Explicit instruction of mitigation, Hispania (91) 2: 477-492.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2010) Data collection methods in speech act
performance: DCTs, role plays, and verbal reports. In Us-Juan E. and
A. Martnez-Flor (eds) Speech act performance: theoretical,
empirical, and methodological issues, Amsterdam: John Benjamins:
41-56.
Freed, B. F. (ed) (1995) Second Language Acquisition in a Study Abroad
Context, Amsterdam: Johns Benjamins.
Freed, B., D. P. Dewey, N. Segalowitz and R. Halter (2004) The language
contact profile, Studies in Second Language Acquisition (26) 2: 349-
356.
Garca, C. (1992) Refusing an invitation: A case study of Peruvian style,
Hispanic Linguistics (5) 1-2: 207-243.
Garca, C. (1999) The three stages of Venezuelan invitations and responses,
Multilingua (18) 4: 391-433.
172 Csar Flix-Brasdefer

Grice, P. H. (1975) Language and conversation. In Cole, P. and J. Morgan


(eds) Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech acts, New York: Academic
Press: 41-58.
Hasler-Barker, M. (in progress) Effects of Pedagogical Intervention on the
Production of the Compliment and Compliment Response Sequence by
Second Language Learners of Spanish, Unpublished PhD
Dissertation, Indiana University, Bloomington.
Isabelli-Garca, C. L. (2003) Development of oral communication skills
abroad, Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad (9):
149-173. Available at:
http://www.frontiersjournal.com/issues/vol9/vol907_isabelligarcia.ht
m
Isabelli-Garca, C. L. (2006) Study abroad social networks, motivation and
attitudes: Implications for second language acquisition. In DuFon, M.
A. and E. Churchill (eds) Language Learners in Study Abroad
Contexts, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters: 231-258.
Kasper, G. (2000) Data collection in pragmatics research. In Spencer-Oatey,
H. (ed) Culturally speaking: Managing rapport through talk across
cultures, London: Continuum: 316-341.
Kasper, G. and K. Rose (2002) Pragmatic Development in a Second
Language, Malden: Blackwell.
Lafford, B. (2004) The effect of context of learning on the use of
communication strategies by learners of Spanish as a second language,
Studies in Second Language Acquisition (26) 2: 201-225.
Leech, G. N. (1983) Principles of Pragmatics, New York: Longman.
Magnan, S. and M. Back (2006) Requesting help in French: Developing
pragmatic features during study abroad. In Wilkinson, S. (ed) Insights
from Study Abroad for Language Programs, Boston: Heinle: 22-44.
Mrquez-Reiter, R. (2000) Linguistic Politeness in Britain and Uruguay: A
Contrastive Study of Requests and Apologies, Philadelphia, PA: John
Benjamins.
Martinsen, R. A. (2008) Short-term study abroad: Predicting changes in oral
skills, Foreign Language Annals (43) 3: 504-530.
Matsumura, S. (2001) Learning the rules for offering advice: A second
language socialization, Language Learning (51) 4: 635-679.
Rodrguez, S. (2001) The perception of requests in Spanish by instructed
learners of Spanish in the second- and foreign-language contexts: A
longitudinal study of acquisition patterns, Unpublished doctoral
dissertation, Indiana University, Bloomington.
Rose, S. (2005) On the effects of instruction in second language pragmatics,
System (33) 3: 385-399.
Schauer, G. A. (2004) May you speak louder maybe? Interlanguage
pragmatics development in requests. In Foster-Cohen, S. H., M.
Refusing in L2 Spanish: Effects of a short-term study abroad program 173

Sharwood Smith, A. Sorace and M. Ota (eds) EUROSLA Yearbook,


Amsterdam: John Benjamins: 253-273.
Schauer, G. A. (2007) Finding the right words in the study abroad context:
The development of German learners use of external modifiers in
English, Intercultural Pragmatics (4) 2: 193-220.
Schauer, G. A. (2009) Interlanguage pragmatic development: The study
abroad context, London: Continuum.
Schmidt, R. (1993) Consciousness, Learning and Interlanguage Pragmatics.
In Kasper, G. and S. Blum-Kulka (eds) Interlanguage Pragmatics,
New York: Oxford University Press: 21-42.
Searle, J. R. (1975) Indirect speech acts. In Cole, P. and J. L. Morgan (eds)
Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech Acts, New York: Academic Press:
59-82.
Searle, J. R. (1977) A classification of illocutionary acts. In Rogers, A., B.
Wall and J. Murphy (eds) Proceedings of the Texas Conference on
Performatives, Presupposition, and Implicatures, Washington, DC:
Center for Applied Linguistics: 2745.
Shively, R. L. (2010) From the virtual world to the real world: A model of
pragmatics instruction for study abroad, Foreign Language Annals
(43) 1: 105-137.
Shively, R. L. (2011) L2 pragmatic development in study abroad: A
longitudinal study of Spanish service encounters, Journal of
Pragmatics (43) 6: 1818-1835.
Shively, R. L., and A. D. Cohen (2008) Development of Spanish requests and
apologies during study abroad, kala: Revista de Lenguaje y Cultura,
(13) 20: 57-118.
Thomas, J. (1983) Cross-Cultural Pragmatic Failure, Applied Linguistics (4)
2: 91-112.
VonCanon, A. (2006) Just saying no: Refusing Requests in a Spanish as a
first and second language, Unpublished PhD dissertation, The
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.
Yule, G. (1996) Pragmatics, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Learners production of refusals:
Interactive written DCT versus oral role-play1

Alicia Martnez-Flor (Universitat Jaume I)

Scholars in the field of interlanguage pragmatics (ILP) have examined second


language learners development of pragmatics by means of employing different data
collection instruments (Beebe and Cummings, 1996; Duan, 2008; Houck and Gass,
1996; Martnez-Flor, 2006; Sasaki, 1998; Yuan, 2001). Findings from this research
have showed the existence of task effects, since learners performance varied
depending on the task they were involved in. Specifically, given the interactive nature
of role-plays and authentic discourse, learners responses in the oral tasks were longer
and more elaborate than those elicited in the written form. Therefore, ILP researchers
have claimed the need to further investigate this area by widening the types of
instruments being employed as well as the context in which they are used. Bearing
these assumptions in mind, the present study aims at examining the effects of two
production instruments (i.e., interactive written discourse completion test (DCT) and
oral role-plays) on learners use of refusals in a foreign language setting. The
participants included 20 Spanish university learners who were required to make
refusals to requests in written and oral production instruments. In these research
methods, all situations i) varied according to the sociopragmatic factors of status and
social distance; ii) were set at familiar contexts to the participants; and iii) asked
learners to perform refusals in the role of students. Learners performance when
making refusals in the interactive written DCT and oral role-plays was compared.
Results from such a comparison will be presented and discussed, and pedagogical
implications highlighted.

1 Introduction

Over the last decades, the area of interlanguage pragmatics (ILP) has shown
an increasing interest in examining how learners pragmatic competence in a
second (L2) or foreign (FL) language is learnt and taught (Alcn and
Martnez-Flor, 2005, 2008; Ishihara and Cohen, 2010; Kasper and Rose,
2002; Martnez-Flor et al., 2003; Rose and Kasper, 2001; Tatsuki, 2005).
Since pragmatic language use is a very complex phenomenon with a lot of
contextual factors influencing its actual performance, it is of paramount

1
As a member of the LAELA (Lingstica Aplicada a lEnsenyament de la Llengua Anglesa)
research group at Universitat Jaume I (Castelln, Spain), I would like to acknowledge that this
study is part of a research project funded by (a) the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacin
(FFI2008-05241/FILO) and (b) Fundaci Universitat Jaume I and Caixa Castell-Bancaixa
(P1.1B2011-15).
176 Alicia Martnez-Flor

importance to carefully design the methods2 that elicit learners production


of a given pragmatic feature. In fact, how to collect appropriate data is a
crucial issue in pragmatic research since the use of a particular elicitation
instrument may potentially influence research outcomes (Alcn and
Martnez-Flor, 2008; Nurani, 2009). That is the reason why continuous
improvements concerning research methodologies in the pragmatics realm
have been developed (Bardovi-Harlig, 1999; Cohen, 2004; Flix-Brasdefer,
2010; Kasper, 2000; Kasper and Dahl, 1991; Kasper and Roever, 2005),
although there is still the need to further investigate this area by widening the
types of data collection methods created, as well as including learners from
distinct linguistic backgrounds (Trosborg, 2010).
Within this framework, the aim of this chapter is to examine the effects on
two elicitation instruments (i.e., interactive written DCT and oral role-play)
on learners production of refusals in a FL context. To this end, we will first
provide a detailed literature review on data collection methods employed in
ILP by differentiating between oral and written production data.
Additionally, the studies that have been conducted with the aim of comparing
both oral and written production data will also be described. Then, we will
present our particular study with an explanation of how the two instruments
were elaborated. Finally, concluding remarks of the present study will be
mentioned and suggestions for further research will be proposed.

2 Literature review on data production collection


instruments in ILP

Kasper and Roever (2005) have examined the main methodological


approaches that have been employed to analyze how target language
pragmatics is learnt. The authors divide the data collection instruments used
in ILP into three groups: i) examining spoken interaction; ii) questionnaires;
and iii) self-report data. The method employed in the first group has been the
recording of authentic discourse which allows the researcher to observe how
participants produce and understand pragmatic information and how they
interact in contextual settings. However, since the researcher has no control
over the interaction or over how different variables influence participants
behavior in conversation, other instruments have been proposed within this
group such as elicited conversation and role-plays. In those cases,
interactional data are obtained under controlled conditions, since the
researcher can determine the setting of the interaction and control the

2
Terminology related to research methodologies varies from one study to another.
Throughout this paper, terms such as research methods, instruments, tasks, elicitation measures
or elicitation techniques are used interchangeably.
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 177

variables intervening in it. Moving to the second group, different


questionnaires have been used to examine learners pragmatic competence.
Thus, discourse completion tasks (DCTs) have been used to collect pragmatic
production of speech act strategies, multiple choice questionnaires serve to
measure recognition and interpretation of utterances and scaled-response
formats have been utilized to evaluate learners perceptions of pragmatic
errors or appropriateness of speech act realization strategies. Finally, in
relation to the third group, that of self-report data, the use of interviews,
diaries and think-aloud protocols have been proposed in order to obtain
information on learners cognitive processes regarding their pragmatic
performance.
Among these data collection methods, the most widely used to collect
learners production data, either oral or written have been the role-play and
the DCT, respectively. According to Flix-Brasdefer (2010), a common
characteristic of these two elicitation instruments concerns the fact that
different variables, such as the situation, politeness factors, gender and age of
the participants, or their proficiency level, can be controlled. Therefore, for
the purposes of the present study we focus on these two production
instruments which are described in detail in the next two subsections.

2.1 Collecting oral production data: Role-play

The role-play has been considered as a type of instrument that provides


learners with a detailed description of a situation they are required to
perform. More specifically, it is a simulation of a communicative encounter
that elicits spoken data in which two interlocutors assume roles under
predefined experimental conditions (Flix-Brasdefer, 2010: 47). Depending
on the extent of the interaction (i.e., amount and variety of production
involved), a distinction has been made between closed and open role-plays
(Kasper and Roever, 2005). Closed role-plays consist of a single informant
turn in response to the description of a situation that involves specific
instructions. In contrast, learners engaged in open role-plays are only
presented with the situation and asked to perform it without any further
guidelines. Thus, open role-plays may involve as many turns and discourse
phases as interlocutors need in order to maintain their interaction.
Furthermore, arranging different roles may allow researchers to observe how
the sociopragmatic factors of power, distance and degree of imposition
(Brown and Levinson, 1987) may influence learners selection of particular
pragmalinguistic forms to express the communicative act involved in the
role-play performance.
Apart from all these positive characteristics, namely those of representing
oral production, operating the turn-taking mechanism and the fact that they
involve opportunities for interaction/negotiation, the use of role-plays to
178 Alicia Martnez-Flor

collect learners oral production also entails certain limitations. As Golato


(2003) points out, the roles learners may be asked to perform are often
fictitious or imagined, and this fact may influence their production when they
have to act roles they have never played in real life. In addition, this author
also mentions that performing role-plays, in contrast to authentic
conversations, does not imply any consequences for the learners and,
consequently, not only what is said but how it is said may not reflect real
speech. Other aspects that should also be taken into account refer to the
number of participants to get involved in this oral task, since it may not be
possible to arrange the appropriate conditions for a large number of pairs to
perform the role-plays and the subsequent transcription of the long
conversations may be very time-consuming for the researcher. In spite of
these limitations, the role-play has still been regarded as more ethnographic
and similar to authentic language use, by involving a face-to-face interaction
between two interlocutors, than written production techniques, such as the
DCT which is described below.

2.2 Collecting written production data: DCT

The DCT involves a written description of a situation followed by a short


dialogue with an empty gap that has to be completed by the learner. The
context specified in the situation is designed in such a way that the particular
pragmatic aspect under study is elicited. One of the advantages attributed to
this instrument consists of its allowing control over the contextual variables
that appear in the situational description and which may affect learners
choice of particular forms when writing their responses. Moreover, the use of
DCTs allows the researcher to collect a large amount of data in a relatively
short period of time (Houck and Gass, 1996). However, as noted by Kasper
and Roever (2005), the fact that they can be administered faster than other
data collection instruments does not mean that this is always the easiest
instrument to be employed. As these authors argue, it is designing the DCT
that is best suited to the goals of the study and the evaluation process that
takes time to develop (see also Bardovi-Harlig, 1999 on this point).
In addition to this consideration, this research method has also been criticized
for being too artificial, as it presents short written segments rather than real-
life extracts (Rose, 1994) and, as a pen and paper instrument, it has also been
claimed to resemble a test-like method (Sasaki, 1998). This is because,
despite the responses being thought of as being oral, learners are asked to
respond in a written mode what they think they would say in a particular
situation, which may not exactly correspond to what they would actually say
in the same setting under real circumstances (Golato, 2003). This is the
reason why current attempts to strengthen the design of the typical single-
turn DCT are done so that the quality of a particular study can be improved
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 179

(see for instance the content-enriched DCT in Billmyer and Varghese (2000);
the cartoon oral production task in Rose (2000); the multiple-rejoinder DCT
in Cohen and Shively (2003); the computer-based multimedia elicitation task
in Schauer (2004) or the student-generated DCT in McLean (2005); among
others).
Additionally, although employing a DCT may involve all the previously
mentioned limitations, Kasper and Rose (2002) point out that this instrument
still indicates which particular forms and strategies learners choose to employ
in a given situation. Thus, the authors claim that although not comparable to
face-to-face interaction, it can provide pertinent information regarding
learners pragmalinguistic and metapragmatic knowledge on the specific
pragmatic feature under study. In fact, Kasper (2000: 329) indicates that DCT
is an effective data collection instrument when the objective of the
investigation is to inform the speakers pragmalinguistic knowledge of the
strategic and linguistic forms by which communicative acts can be
implemented, and about their sociopragmatic knowledge of the context
factors under which particular strategies and linguistic choices are
appropriate. In contrast, if the aim of the study is to focus on conversational
interaction and the sequencing of communication, then an interactive
elicitation technique such as the role-play should be employed.
After reviewing the two most typical instruments used to collect learners
production data in ILP research (i.e., role-plays and DCTs) and acknowledge
that both present advantages and limitations, research has been conducted
with the aim of examining whether the differences of employing either
instrument influences the results of the study. A review of this research is
provided next.

2.3 Studies comparing oral and written production data

2.3.1 Studies conducted in SL contexts

One of the first studies comparing data from a written DCT with oral data
from authentic interactions, in this case from telephone conversations
between two native speakers (NSs), was conducted by Beebe and Cummings
(1985, later published in 1996). By comparing the refusals employed by the
NSs in these two types of production instruments, the authors observed that
the length and amount of data obtained in the oral responses was not only
longer and greater but also more repetitive and elaborated than in the written
one. Moreover, the telephone conversations also provided the participants
with opportunities to cooperate and, consequently, negotiate their refusal
exchanges. However, the authors also found that although the oral data
showed a better representation of authentic talk, the DCT could still be
validated, since the content of semantic formulae was similar in the two
180 Alicia Martnez-Flor

instruments. Similar findings were observed in Hartford and Bardovi-


Harligs (1992) research, which also dealt with authentic production data. In
particular, the authors contrasted the use of rejections by NSs and non-native
speakers (NNSs) of English in a written DCT and in an authentic encounter,
namely that of an academic advising session, and investigated the frequency
and the type of rejection strategies employed in the two production situations.
Results indicated a narrower range of semantic formulae and downgraders in
the DCT than in the oral conversations. Additionally, participants were less
polite in the written production questionnaire since only a fewer status
preserving strategies were used. Regarding the length of the responses,
differences were also found since the authentic encounters revealed longer
exchanges containing instances of turn-taking and negotiation strategies. In
the same line, Houck and Gass (1996) investigated the use of refusals to four
types of situations (i.e., suggestions, offers, invitations and requests) by NSs
and Japanese learners of English as a Second Language (ESL) in a written
DCT and a role-play that was videotaped. Results indicated that the data from
the role-play involved longer and a wider use of negotiation segments than
the DCT. Additionally, since the role plays were videotaped, the data from
this production instrument revealed the existence of a richer variety of
meaningful resources and the negotiations were described beyond the notion
of the simple response found in the single-turn type of DCT.
In contrast to the findings observed in the studies described above, Rintell
and Mitchell (1989) found no significant differences in the responses
obtained from a DCT and a closed role-play. The authors compared the use
of requests and apologies by ESL learners and English NSs in these two
production instruments and examined the response length and range of
linguistic strategies. Regarding the length of responses, role plays elicited
much longer responses than the written DCT from NNSs participants, but not
from NSs. This length difference between the two groups of participants was
caused by the NNSs longer supportive moves, repetitions, and hesitations.
As far as the variety of strategies is concerned, no significant differences
were found in the responses from the two production methods. These results
may have been due to the fact that the closed type of role-play did not
involve any interaction between two or more participants, since only one turn
was allowed. Similarly, the results from Eisenstein and Bodmans (1993)
study, which examined the expressions of gratitude produced by NSs and
NNSs of English in an open DCT administered both orally and in writing,
showed that both tools elicited similar responses in terms of the content of
semantic formulas. However, the oral version of the DCT allowed
participants with more turns to produce their responses producing thus longer
productive segments of gratitude. More recently, in a comparison of data-
gathering methods (i.e., written DCTs, oral DCTs, field notes and natural
conversations), Yuan (2001) examined the production of compliment and
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 181

compliment responses and also observed that providing participants with


only one turn in the oral and written DCTs did not generate the interaction
that is observed in role-plays and natural conversations. Nevertheless, in
terms of amount of data, results showed that responses from the oral DCT
still included a higher number of features typical of natural speech. Finally, in
the study conducted by Schauer and Adolphs (2006) on expressions of
gratitude, the authors contrasted data from a corpus of naturally occurring
spoken English (i.e., the Cambridge and Nottingham Corpus of Discourse in
English CANCODE) with a written DCT completed by English NSs.
Results showed important differences between the two types of production
data in terms of interaction and negotiation strategies. In fact, the corpus data
offered a broader picture of how collaborative negotiation in the expression
of gratitude occurred and the predominance of extended turns to express such
expressions. However, despite the lack of expressing gratitude over several
conversational turns, the data elicited with the DCT contained a great variety
of interactional formulaic sequence categories, such as the use of three
possible language learner strategies for thanking, which were not found in the
corpus data. In this sense, the authors suggest that there are advantages to
collecting both kinds of data since they complement each other.

2.3.2 Studies conducted in FL contexts

As can be observed, a common characteristic shared by the previously


described studies concerns the fact that all were conducted in SL contexts.
This fact is important, since as Sasaki (1998) argues, most of the situations
described in the instruments designed to elicit participants responses may
not be appropriate in a FL setting because participants may not be familiar
with them. Taking this consideration into account, Sasaki (1998) compared
the elicitation of requests and refusals in a written DCT with role-plays
specifically designed for a group of Japanese learners studying English as a
Foreign Language (EFL). Results obtained from this comparison were in line
with previous research, since responses from the role-plays were longer than
the written responses. According to the author, this length difference could
have been caused by the frequent use of features typical of oral data, such as
repetitions and hesitations. Additionally, the data obtained from the role-
plays also showed more variety of strategies than those found in the written
questionnaire. However, despite the fact that both production instruments
were found to elicit different samples in terms of response length and
content, findings showed that the types of central speech act expressions for
requests and refusals used in the responses were similar across the two
methods. Also focusing on an EFL setting, Safont and Alcn (2001)
examined Spanish learners amount and type of requests in a DCT and an
open role-play. Results regarding the type of strategy used showed a wider
182 Alicia Martnez-Flor

variety of strategies in the oral than in the written task, where participants
restored mainly to direct and hearer-oriented strategy types. Moreover,
responses from the oral role-play were longer involving several moves,
requests for clarification, comprehension checks or paraphrasing.
Nevertheless, the difference in use of requestive strategies was quantitatively
higher in the DCT than in the oral role-play, probably due to the fact that the
interlocutor in the role-play was another learner instead of the presence of a
NS, as it was the case in previous studies conducted in SL settings.
In the same vein, Safont (2005) contrasted Spanish EFL learners production
on requests in a DCT with role-play data and found that the oral task revealed
longer responses, involving more than one turn, than the written
questionnaire. However, in terms of number of request realization strategies,
the author reported that learners produced more appropriate responses in the
DCT than in the oral research method. The author claimed that these results
might have been due to the fact that the written task was carried out
individually with no time constraints, whereas the oral role-play involved an
interlocutor and it was tape-recorded. Similar results were obtained in
Martnez-Flors (2006) study which examined the task effects on two
production instruments specifically designed for her study (i.e., phone
messages and emails) on Spanish EFL learners production of suggestions.
Results showed that a greater number of pragmalinguistic forms for
suggestions were found in the written production task. The author points out
that this may have been due to the fact that the particular oral production task
(i.e., phone messages) employed in her study allowed participants to produce
only one turn, which may have seemed to resemble more a type of closed
role-play than an open role-play, which involves more than one turn.
Additionally, learners responses in the written task were longer and more
elaborate than those found in the oral task. This may have been caused by the
fact that the written production task in this study was not the typical pen and
paper DCT mainly used in previous studies but rather an email which seemed
to be a task learners were familiar with.
Also in an EFL setting, Salazar (2008) examined the amount and type of
Spanish learners request modification devices in DCTs and role-plays.
Results from her study showed that the DCT provided a wider amount of
mitigation devices than the oral role-play. The author argued that planning
time positively influenced the quantity and quality of learners output, since
in the DCT learners had ample time to reflect on their production, whereas in
the role-play students may have felt more under time pressure as they had to
formulate the request almost immediately after the situation was read and the
roles assigned. Regarding the type of request modifiers employed (i.e.,
internal versus external request modification devices), a qualitative analysis
of the data indicated that the role-play elicited a wider range of internal
modification devices, such as hesitators or attention-getters, thus
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 183

approximating to natural discourse. In contrast, more external modifiers, such


as grounders or the use of the marker please, were used in the DCT which
reflects that learners may have had more time to think in the written task
about longer justifications or reasons for the ensuing request. Finally, Duan
(2008) investigated the use of refusals to four types of situations (i.e.,
invitations, suggestions, offers and requests) by Chinese EFL students in a
written DCT and a role-play task. Regarding the choice of a particular type of
semantic strategy for refusals, no differences were found in the two
production instruments. However, the oral role-plays were found to yield a
more natural expression with typical features of authentic spoken language,
such as lots of pause fillers and broken sentences. Regarding the length of the
responses, findings showed that the written sentences were longer than those
found in the oral role-plays. According to the author, this may have been due
to the fact that students English level was not very high and therefore their
performance in the oral and spontaneous activity of the role play could have
not be longer and more complete.

2.3.3 Summary

The review of the previous studies that have compared results from oral and
written production data has overall revealed that: i) given the interactive
nature of role-plays and authentic discourse, participants responses in the
oral elicitation instruments are longer and more elaborate than those elicited
in written form3; ii) the amount of appropriate speech act formulas used is
higher in the oral task in those studies conducted in SL contexts, whereas the
written production task contains a greater number of strategies in studies
conducted in FL contexts; and iii) different and inconclusive findings have
been obtained regarding the type of the semantic formulas used to express a
particular pragmatic feature, since some studies have obtained a wider range
of strategies in the oral task, whereas in other studies similar responses have
been found in both research methods. An explanation of these results is
provided next.
First, the findings regarding the length of the responses in oral (i.e., role-
plays and authentic encounters) and written (i.e., DCT) production
instruments seem to suggest that the DCT responses differ from natural
conversation primarily in that the elicitation method is not interactive. That is
the reason why instances of turn-taking, negotiation strategies, features of
cooperation or repetition are missing in the written DCT task. In fact, Sasaki
(1998: 479) concludes in her study pointing out that:

3
See, however, Martnez-Flors (2006) and Duans (2008) studies, which found longer
responses in the written production tasks.
184 Alicia Martnez-Flor

because the differences between the two methods appear to result from the
interactive nature of role plays, the results might have been different if the production
questionnaire had not taken the traditional open-ended form, but had required the
participants to write a more interactive exchange such as in a drama script. Further
studies should develop such interactive production questionnaires and compare their
responses with role play responses.

In this sense, it seems there is a need for more naturalistic production


questionnaires that with minor modifications could allow the speech act to be
viewed in the context of interaction. An interactive type of DCT could
account for this fact by making that two participants instead of one were
involved in the task of writing a dialogue with different conversational
exchanges.
Secondly, the results concerning the amount of appropriate semantic
formulae found in the oral and written production instruments appear to
indicate that the context in which the study is placed can affect the results.
The setting may imply important considerations when designing and
administering different research methods, since the context in which a
language is learnt affects the chances learners may have to develop their
pragmatic competence (Safont, 2005). In fact, the opportunities for being
exposed to and being able to use the target language are more restricted in a
FL context, where these chances are limited to the classroom. For this reason,
it seems that a higher number of strategies were found in the oral research
methods when the studies were conducted in SL contexts, since the
participants were either NSs or ESL students. Thus, they could have been
more familiarized with the activity of talking and producing the elicited
pragmatic feature when naturally interacting in the oral mode. In contrast,
learners in an FL setting do not have as many opportunities to interact and
produce the target language orally outside the classroom and they may have
not felt confident when participating in the role-play activity, which
additionally is tape-recorded. That is why they produced a greater number of
strategies in the written instruments, since this activity was carried out
individually with no time constraints.
Thirdly, mixed results have been found as far as the choice of the type of the
semantic formulae is concerned. Some studies found that the data obtained
from the oral production methods included more variety of strategies than
those found in the written task (Hartford and Bardovi-Harlig, 1992; Houck
and Gass, 1996; Safont and Alcn, 2001; Salazar, 2008; Sasaki, 1998). In
contrast, other studies indicated that both production instruments elicited
similar responses in terms of the content of semantic formulas (Beebe and
Cummings, 1996; Duan, 2008; Eisenstein and Bodman, 1993; Rintell and
Mitchell, 1989). These different results may have been related to the
particular design and elaboration of the DCT, which differed in each study.
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 185

Following Kaspers (2000) assumptions regarding the effectiveness of the


DCT as a valid source of pragmalinguistic data and being reflective of the
sociopragmatic aspects of a particular speech act, we believe that production
data elicited by DCTs, when created in an accurate way, allows the
researcher to examine how learners activate their pragmatic knowledge. In
fact, Sasaki (1998) concluded that despite the fact that oral and written
production instruments were found to elicit different samples in terms of the
content and variety of strategies, findings still showed that the types of
central speech act expressions for requests and refusals used in the responses
were similar across the two methods. In this sense, and although a written
questionnaire should never be regarded as a substitute for natural data, DCTs
could still be validated if they are carefully created and implemented
considering the goals of the study in question and the participants involved in
it (Bardovi-Harlig, 1999; Kasper and Rose, 2002).

2.4 Purpose of the study


Considering the previous assumptions regarding the need to investigate the
effectiveness of an interactive production questionnaire (Sasaki, 1998), the
importance of paying attention to the setting where the study takes place
(Safont, 2005) and the careful elaboration of the written instrument (Bardovi-
Harlig, 1999; Kasper and Rose, 2002), the purpose of the present study is to
examine the task effects on two production methods (i.e., an interactive
written DCT and an oral role-play) on learners use of refusals in an EFL
context. To that end, the following research questions were investigated:
Are learners responses similar in length in both production
instruments?
Is learners amount of refusal strategies similar in both production
instruments?
Is the learners choice of the type of the semantic formula to
express a refusal similar in both production instruments?

3 Method
3.1 Participants
Participants for the study consisted of 16 students who were enrolled in the
degree of English Studies at the University4. Before the study took place,

4
It is important to mention that there were in fact 32 students participating in the study, all of
them from the same course and with the same proficiency level in English. However, since they
were arranged in pairs to make the two production tasks, 16 of them had to make the requests
involved in each situation (i.e., requester) and the other 16 students had to refuse those requests
186 Alicia Martnez-Flor

students were distributed a background questionnaire and a Quick Placement


Test (2001). On the one hand, the purpose of the background questionnaire
was to obtain learners personal information, such as their gender, age, length
of time spent learning English or exposure to English outside the classroom.
On the other hand, the Quick Placement Test was given to the students to
know their level of proficiency in English. After checking the responses in
both questionnaires, the participants of this study were 11 females and 5
males who had all learned English in the FL classroom and their ages ranged
between 21 and 32 years old, the average age being 22.72 years. Concerning
the length of time spent studying English, 62% had studied it between 7 and
10 years, 28% of them had studied English between 2 and 6 years, and 10%
had been studying English for more than 10 years. As for their proficiency
level of English, they all had an upper intermediate level, which corresponds
to a B2 according to the Council of Europe level.

3.2 Pragmatic feature examined

The pragmatic feature addressed in this study is that of refusal, a highly


complex speech act that functions as a response to an initiating act (i.e.,
request, invitation, suggestion or offer). Since acceptance or agreement is
usually preferred in response to these four speech acts, saying no can mean
disapproval of the interlocutors intentions and consequently, a threat to the
interlocutors face. Therefore, as Chen (1995: 6) points out, refusals are
considered to be a face threatening act (FTA) in that either the speakers or
listeners positive or negative face is risked when a refusal is called for or
carried out. Due to the face-threatening nature they entail, refusals tend to be
indirect, include mitigation, and/or delay within the turn or across turns
(Houck and Gass, 1999). In fact, they involve a long negotiated sequence
with lots of face-saving maneuvers to accommodate its noncompliant nature
(Houck and Gass, 1996), and that is why refusing appropriately requires a
high level of pragmatic competence (Chen, 1995).
Given the complexity involved in the performance of this FTA, various
strategies need to be used to avoid offending the interlocutor. Indeed, to
refuse appropriately and in a socially acceptable manner, special attention
needs to be paid to what is said since as Takahashi and Beebe (1987: 133)
note, the inability to say no clearly and politely has led many nonnative
speakers to offend their interlocutors. Indeed, if refusals are challenging for
NSs due to the lengthy negotiation moves they may involve, they are even
more challenging for NNSs and learners who may lack the necessary

(i.e., refuser). Since the focus of the present study is to analyze learners refusals, we are going to
pay attention to only the learners producing the refusal responses to the elicited requests.
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 187

linguistic proficiency, sociocultural knowledge and pragmatic ability to


produce this speech act appropriately (Salazar et al., 2009). In this sense, in
order to avoid learners be perceived rude, demanding or even offensive, there
is a need to make them aware of how the negotiation of a refusal may entail
frequent attempts at directness or indirectness and various degrees of
politeness that are appropriate to the situation (Eslami, 2010: 218).
To this end, different classifications of refusal strategies have been proposed
(Beebe et al., 1990; Rubin, 1983; Turnbull and Saxton, 1997; Ueda, 1972),
among which the most influential and well-known is the one elaborated by
Beebe, Takahashi and Uliss-Weltz (1990). Their classification is divided into
semantic formulas, either direct or indirect (i.e., those expressions used to
perform a refusal) and adjuncts (i.e., those expressions which accompany a
refusal but which cannot by themselves be used to perform a refusal).
Drawing on this classification, Salazar et al. (2009) present a taxonomy for
the analysis of EFL learners refusal behavior by adopting a conversational
perspective (see Table 1). Such a taxonomy has been adopted in the present
study for several reasons: i) it takes into account previous research conducted
on refusals in the fields of cross-cultural and ILP (Al-Eryani, 2007; Bardovi-
Harlig and Hartford, 1991; Flix-Brasdefer, 2003; Houck and Gass, 1999;
Kwon, 2004; Sadler and Erz, 2002; among others); ii) it considers the
importance of how the contextual variables of social distance, power and
degree of imposition affect the appropriate use of refusal routine (Brown and
Levinson, 1987); and iii) it follows the work by Kasper (2006) on ILP to
account for a discourse perspective in the study of refusal behavior.

REFUSALS
Direct Strategies
1. Bluntness No. / I refuse.
2. Negation of proposition I cant, I dont think so.
Indirect Strategies
1. Plain indirect It looks like I wont be able to go.
2. Reason/Explanation I cant. I have a doctors appointment.
3. Regret/Apology Im so sorry! I cant.
4. Alternative:
Change option I would join you if you choose another
restaurant.
Change time I cant go right now, but I could next
(Postponement) week
188 Alicia Martnez-Flor

5. Disagreement/Dissuasi Under the current economic


on/Criticism circumstances, you should not be
asking for a rise right now!
6. Statement of I cant. It goes against my beliefs!
principle/philosophy
7. Avoidance
Non-verbal: Ignoring
(Silence, etc.)
Verbal:
o Hedging Well, Ill see if I can.
o Change topic
o Joking
o Sarcasm
ADJUNCTS TO REFUSALS
1. Positive opinion This is a great idea, but.
2. Willingness Id love to go, but.
3. Gratitude Thanks so much, but
4. Agreement Fine!, but.
5. Solidarity/Empathy Im sure youll understand, but

Table 1. Taxonomy on the speech act of refusing (from Salazar, Safont and
Codina, 2009: 145)

This taxonomy classifies refusal categories into Semantic Formulas and


Adjuncts. On the one hand, the Semantic Formulas consist of those strategies
that are actually used to perform a refusal and are divided into direct and
indirect. Direct Strategies include two main subtypes: i) bluntness, which
entails the use of a flat no or the performative verb I refuse, and ii)
negation of proposition, which involves expressions that contain negations
(e.g., I cant, I dont think so).
Indirect Strategies are divided into seven main subtypes: i) plain indirect,
which refers to those expressions that mitigate the refusal (e.g., It seems I
cant); ii) reason or explanation, in which the refuser indicates the reason
why he/she is rejecting the request (e.g., I have a meeting, My mum is
sick); iii) regret or apology, in which the refuser expresses he/she feels bad
for turning down the request (e.g., Sorry, Im so sorry, I cant); iv)
alternative, which includes change of option, in which the refuser suggests a
different alternative in which the request can be fulfilled (e.g., I can do it if
you choose a different place) and change of time, in which the refuser
promises to comply the request at later time (e.g., I promise to do it next
week); v) disagreement/dissuasion/criticism, in which the refuser disagrees
about the requesters action of asking or dissuades him/her from asking (e.g.,
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 189

with this weather, you should not be asking to go out for a walk!); vi)
statement of principle/philosophy, in which the refuser resorts to moral
beliefs to avoid performing the request (e.g., I never lend money to
strangers); and vii) avoidance, which includes non-verbal avoidance, in
which the refuser merely ignores the request by means of silence or going
away, and verbal avoidance, in which the refusal is performed by using some
hedges (e.g., Well, Ill see), changing the topic or making a joke.
On the other hand, Adjuncts refer to those expressions that accompany a
refusal but do not constitute a refusal by themselves. They include five
subtypes: i) positive opinion, in which the refuser expresses that the request is
a good idea but he/she cannot comply with it (e.g., This is a great idea, but
); ii) willingness, in which the refuser expresses that he/she would be
willing to perform the request but he/she cannot (e.g., Id love to help, but
); iii) gratitude, in which the refuser softens his/her refusal by thanking
his/her interlocutor (e.g., Thanks a lot, but ); iv) agreement, in which the
refuser expresses his/her consent before actually making the refusal itself
(e.g., Yes, but ); and v) solidarity or empathy, in which the refuser
demands the solidarity of the requester by asking for his/her sympathy (e.g., I
realize you are in a difficult situation, but ).
After describing the different refusal strategies included in Salazar et al.s
(2009) taxonomy (see Table 1 above), it is important to point out that, as
previously stated, refusals function as a second pair part in response to other
speech acts such as requests, suggestions, invitations and offers. In the
present chapter, we have considered the refusal strategies given to a
particular speech act, that of requests. Requests, as Trosborg (1995: 187)
claims, are considered as an illocutionary act whereby a speaker (requester)
conveys to a hearer (requestee) that he/she wants the requestee to perform an
act which is for the benefit of the speaker. Therefore, the speakers role is to
perform a request which he/she would like to be complied in his/her benefit,
whereas the hearers response would be that of refusing such a request.
Consequently, performing that refusal in an appropriate way would require a
good level of pragmatic competence in order not to offend the speakers
request5.

3.3 Instruments

The two particular instruments used in the present study were an oral role-
play and an interactive written DCT, which consisted of nine refusal

5
In this particular study we have not paid attention to the taxonomy of requests but to the
responses provided to them by means of refusals. Therefore, an analysis of requests is not
provided.
190 Alicia Martnez-Flor

situations. In order to design these two production instruments, we took


previous research on the field of ILP into account. First, all situations varied
according to the sociopragmatic factors of social status and social distance
(Brown and Levinson, 1987) and, consequently, three levels of social status
were considered (i.e., low, equal and high) as well as three levels of social
distance (i.e., stranger, acquaintance and intimate). Second, given the fact
that all our participants were university students, we followed the guidelines
developed by Hudson et al. (1995) and set all the situations at familiar
contexts to these participants (i.e., six situations at the university and three
situations in other contexts, namely a hairdressers, a cafeteria and a
butchers). Finally, in all situations, learners had to perform refusals in the
role of students, that is, they were asked to be themselves and perform as they
thought they would actually do under the same circumstances (Trosborg,
1995) (see Table 2).

Contextual Participants Social status Social distance


setting roles < = > St. Ac. Int
.
Sit.1 University Student refuses X X
lending his/her class
notes to another
student
Sit.2 Cafeteria Research student X X
refuses giving the
exact amount of
money to a waitress
Sit.3 University Student refuses X X
leaving the classroom
(interacting with a
Professor)
Sit. 4 University Student refuses X X
lending his/her car to
another student
Sit.5 University Research student X X
refuses fixing the
laptop from a first-
year student
Sit.6 Butchers Student refuses X X
wearing plastic gloves
(interacting with a
woman from the town
hall)
Sit.7 University Research assistant X X
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 191

refuses leaving a
document in the
library (interacting
with the secretary of
the department)
Sit.8 University Research assistant X X
refuses helping a
Professor finishing a
online questionnaire
Sit.9 Hairdressers Student refuses X X
bringing a coffee for
his/her colleague

Table 2. Variable distribution in the nine situations from both the interactive
DCT and the role-play

The nine refusal situations were exactly the same in both production
instruments so as to easily compare the results between the two instruments.
Additionally, in order to compare these two methodologies, the role-play was
made open, whereby the respondent was allowed to interact freely with the
interlocutor (see Appendix A for an example of the description of a situation
and the picture related to situation 5)6. Similarly, the interactive DCT
allowed learners to write as many turns as they needed for each situation (see
Appendix B for an example of the description of situation 5). In this sense,
both instruments gave learners the opportunity to interact and produce the
necessary responses across different turns7.
It is also important to mention that the situations were first used in a pilot
study with five NSs and four other FL students from the same population to
check whether the situations were clearly understood and elicited the speech
act under study (i.e., refusals). After receiving their comments and checking
their responses, we revised the nine situations.

3.4 Data collection procedure

Students were asked to come in pairs (n =16 pairs) to the researchers office
in order to perform nine different oral role-plays. The role playing was done

6
Such a situation has been chosen as a way to show an example of one of the situations that
takes place in the most used contextual setting, that of the university.

7
For more specific details about the elaboration of the two instruments and the presentation of
the nine situations, see Us-Juan and Martnez-Flor (forthcoming).
192 Alicia Martnez-Flor

on two different days and the researcher followed the same two steps with
each pair of students. First, she asked the students their full name and then
she explained that they were going to watch nine different situations which
had to be acted out by way of a role-play. For each situation, the researcher
showed them a picture and read aloud what the situation involved. After
reading these situations, she told them who had to perform each particular
role, that is, who the requester was and who the refuser was. The researcher
explained any doubts students had regarding the particular vocabulary they
needed for a given situation when necessary, and the task was performed
with no time restraints. After performing the nine role-plays, the same
procedure was followed with the next two students. All participants
responses were tape-recorded and transcribed (see Appendix C for the
transcription codes based on Jeffersons [2004] transcription symbols).
Two weeks after the participants had completed role playing, they responded
to the interactive written DCT during a regular class. The participants
responded to exactly the same nine refusal situations used for the role plays.
The researcher, who was also the lecturer of this group of students in a
particular course, made sure students were sitting in exactly the same pairs
that have participated in the role-playing activity (i.e., each student had the
same role as a requester or as a refuser as in the oral role-plays they had
previously performed). The students were given ample space and time to
write their responses. The role-plays were chosen before the DCT to
minimize practice effects for the role-plays, where spontaneity was more
desirable. All participants written responses were checked to examine the
quality of handwriting so that they could be properly read and analyzed.

3.5 Data analysis and statistical procedure


In order to analyze the data, we examined all the refusals employed by the
learners in these two production instruments, which made a total of 288
samples (16 students x 2 instruments x 9 situations). The collected data were
analyzed in terms of response length, amount of refusal formulae produced in
each sample and type of refusal strategy used. Following Sasaki (1998: 463),
the response length was measured by the number of words used in each
response. A contracted form such as Im was counted as a single word, as
was each repetition (e.g., I, I) and hesitation (e.g., graduation-, graduation).
Interjections such as oh, ah, and hmmm were not counted. As far as
the refusal strategies, they were counted and classified according to the
taxonomy developed by Salazar et al. (2009), which has been previously
explained in subsection 3.2. After examining all the responses and classifying
the refusal formulae, we contrasted the use of them in both the oral and
written production instruments to ascertain whether there were similar or
different responses in one of the methods than in the other. In order to discern
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 193

whether the differences in the two elicitation instruments were significant or


not, we employed a t-Test for related samples.

4 Results and discussion


The first research question of our study concerned the comparison between
the length of learners responses in the interactive written DCT and the oral
role-play to ascertain whether they were similar in length in both production
instruments. The results in Table 3, which presents the mean response length
of the 16 participants written and oral responses, indicate that no statistically
significant differences were found between the two instruments.

Situation Interactive written DCT Oral role-play Sig.

Situation 1 29.55 30.50 .153


Situation 2 38.89 39.95 .089
Situation 3 25.75 26.17 .111
Situation 4 16.23 17.52 .173
Situation 5 31.06 31.98 .097
Situation 6 18.65 19.55 .123
Situation 7 26.50 27.96 .169
Situation 8 27.35 28.75 .075
Situation 9 17.75 18.75 .133

Table 3: Mean response lengths of the 16 participants for the 9 situations


* Sig. at p<0.05 level

As shown in Table 3, learners responses for the nine situations in the


interactive written DCT and the oral role-play did not differ in terms of
length. In fact, the responses in the written instrument were long and
elaborate, similar to those found in the oral role-play exchanges. These
findings seem to contradict previous research, which found that learners
responses in the oral elicitation methods were longer, more repetitive and
elaborated than those found in the written ones (Beebe and Cummings, 1996;
Hartford and Bardovi-Harlig, 1992; Safont, 2005; Sasaki, 1998; among
others). The fact that the written responses in these studies differed from
natural conversation was based primarily on the fact that the written
elicitation method was not interactive. That is the reason why Sasaki (1998)
194 Alicia Martnez-Flor

argued for the need to elaborate an interactive production questionnaire and


then compare the responses with those elicited by the role-play. In so doing
and after analyzing our data, we may indicate that the design of a type of
interactive DCT, that elicits a sequence of spontaneous conversational
exchanges between two interlocutors working in pairs, has exerted an
influence on the length of learners responses when refusing. In order to
illustrate this fact, the following example8 shows the performance of the
same pair of learners in situation 8 on the two production instruments:

(1) - DCT (interactive written instrument)


1. A. Good morning
2. B. Good morning Fernando I have some doubts
3. A. Ok. Lets see
()
4. A. OK. So, have you understood all the concepts in my book?
5. B. Yes, everything is clear now. Thanks.
6. A. Well now do you have a minute?
7.  B. Oh! Im sorry, but I have a meeting in 10
minutes and Id like to make some
photocopies first. Why?
8. A. Well, Id like you to help me finish this online questionnaire.
See
9.  B. Oh, Im so sorry, but its too late. Do you think
we could do this tomorrow? I could
help you tomorrow.
10. A. It will take just two minutes. Then, I could send it to the
head department. What do you think?
11.  B. Oh, sorry. Id love to, but this meeting
is so important. I can come back after the
meeting. Is that OK?
12. A. Well, yes, that would be OK. See you then.
13. B. OK. Bye, see you later.

- Role-play (oral instrument)


1. A. hello good morning er (.) Elsa
2. B. good morning Pedro er (.) I have some doubts (.) er I dont
know
3. A. okay sit down please
4. B. I need some help [er
5. A. [okay lets see (.) okay so did I clarify your
doubts?
6. B. yeah yeah=the doubts are okay now thanks
7. A. okay and are going home now?=Id like to ask you if you
can help me finishing an
online questionnaire (.) I would like to discuss some items with
you so=do you mind helping me?

8
Learners responses in the written DCT have been copied as originally written by them
(independently of having grammatical mistakes). Pseudonyms have been used to preserve
learners anonymity.
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 195

8.  B. Oh (.) Im sorry but Im a bit in a hurry=I have


to take the 3 p.m. train=my car broke
down yesterday
9. A. Oh I see (.) but it will only take two minutes
10.  B. Uff (.) Id really like to but if I dont take this
train I cant go to pick up my car=sorry
11. A. I see (.) well (.) the thing is that I need it for today.
12.  B. So=why dont you ask Ana?=she is in her
office=You could ask her (.) er (.) Im
very sorry but I have to leave
13. A. Ok no problem=Ill ask her
14. B. Bye (.) see you tomorrow
15. A. Bye see you

As can be observed in Example 1, both instruments allowed learners to


interact through different turns. In the sample from the DCT, the learner
expressed his refusal responses in three different turns, namely the third (line
7), the fourth (line 9) and the fifth turn (line 11). Those responses were quite
long (18 words, 20 words and 20 words, respectively) and somewhat
elaborated, since they included different refusal formulae. Particularly, the
first refusal response (see line 7) included two types of strategies (e.g., a
regret Im sorry, but; and an explanation I have a meeting in 10 minutes
and Id like to make some photocopies first), the second refusal response (see
line 9) included three refusal formulae (e.g., a regret Im so sorry, but; a
reason its too late; and an alternative, that of changing time do you think
we could do this tomorrow? I could help you tomorrow); and the third refusal
response (see line 11) included four refusal formulae (e.g., a regret sorry;
willingness Id love to, but; a reason this meeting is so important; and an
alternative, that of changing time I can come back after the meeting).
Similarly, by paying attention to the sample from the role-play, it can be seen
that the learner also expressed his refusal responses in three different turns,
namely the fourth (line 8), the fifth (line 10) and the sixth turn (line 12).
These responses were also long (22 words, 20 words and 22 words,
respectively) and elaborated with a variety of refusal strategies. Specifically,
the first refusal response (see line 8) included three types of formulae (e.g., a
regret Im sorry, but; a reason Im a bit in a hurry; and an explanation I
have to take the 3 p.m. train. My car broke down yesterday), the second
refusal response (see line 10) included three refusal strategies (e.g.,
willingness Id really like to, but; a reason if I dont take this train I cant
go to pick up my car; and a regret sorry); and the third refusal response (see
line 12) also included three refusal formulae (e.g., an alternative, that of
changing option why dont you ask Ana? She is in her office. You could ask
her; a regret Im very sorry, but; a reason I have to leave).
After examining these two interactional exchanges, it can be claimed that
instead of being allowed with only one turn to refuse, as it happened in the
classical format of DCTs, the learners have more turns to express their
196 Alicia Martnez-Flor

refusing intentions with this type of interactive DCT. That is the reason why
the refusal responses elicited through this instrument are relatively long and
negotiated, thus resembling the natural turn-taking behavior found in oral
role-plays and authentic encounters. In fact, the learner in Example 1 above
expressed his refusal responses in three different turns, as it happened in the
role-play. The findings related to the first research question seem therefore to
suggest that the interactive DCT elicits data with some of the characteristics
of oral data, such as instances of turn-taking, negotiation strategies, features
of cooperation and repetition. In this sense, it has had a positive effect
regarding learners response length when refusing.
Moving to the second research question of our study, it examined the amount
of refusal strategies used in the written DCT and the oral role-play to
ascertain whether it was similar in both production instruments. In order to
analyze this research question, we compared learners overall production of
refusal formulae in both instruments (see Figure 1).

48.40%
DCT
Role-play
51.60%

Figure 1. Overall use of refusal formulae in the interactive written DCT and
oral role-play

As can be seen in Figure 1, it seems that learners almost used the same
amount of formulae to express a refusal in the written DCT (51.60%) as in
the oral role-play (48.40%), their use being slightly higher in the former, that
is, in the written production instrument. Results from applying the statistical
procedure, which are illustrated in Table 4, reveal that the difference
observed between learners amount of refusal expressions in the DCT and the
role-play is not statistically significant (p<0.05).
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 197

N Mean Sig.

DCT 16 24.06 .123

Role-play 23.19

Table 4. Differences as regards the overall use of formulae for refusals in the
written and oral production tasks
* Sig. at p<0.05 level

In view of these results, we may therefore claim that our second research
question indicates that a similar amount of strategies was found in both
instruments. This may have been related to the fact that performance in the
DCT was not conducted individually as in previous studies (Martnez-Flor,
2006; Safont, 2005; Safont and Alcn, 2001; Salazar, 2008). It seems that in
these studies participants produced a higher amount of strategies for the
particular speech act examined in the written DCT since students were doing
the task individually with ample time to reflect on their production. Thus,
planning time and reflection on what they were producing positively
influenced their pragmatic output. In contrast, since in our particular study
learners were also working in pairs, it appears that they were spontaneously
interacting with their partners instead of being individually thinking about
what they would write in a particular situation. Thus, it seems that learners
produced the same amount of refusal strategies in both production
instruments given the interactive nature of them. In order to examine this
fact, Example 2 shows the performance of the same pair of learners in
situation 1 on the two production instruments:

(2) - DCT (interactive written instrument)


1. A. Good morning. Excuse me, have you attended all classes
during this semester?
2. B. Yes, of course. Why?
3. A. Well I have been sick and I couldnt attend classes last
week and
4. B. and you need all my class notes, right?
5. A. Yes, only those from last week.
6.  B. Im so sorry, but Im in a hurry now. We can
talk about it another day. Sorry.
7. A. Wait please! I need the notes to prepare the next exam.
Please!
8.  B. I cant lend them now. Im late. Sorry. Bye.
9. A. OK. Bye.
- Role-play (oral instrument)
1. A. um (.) hey Felipe er you know (.) um (.) last week I was ill
and I couldnt attend
198 Alicia Martnez-Flor

lessons
2. B. yeah I know that=
3. A. um I have missed some important lessons [and
4. B. [eh
5. A. but (.) umyou know could you just lend me the notes from
last week?
6.  B. well (.) now I cant because Im very busy (.) I
have to meet some classmates for a
project worksorry
7. A. oh (.) so you could lend me next week
8.  B. well (.) I dont know (.) ehI have a lot of work:
(.) sorry
9. A. okay (.) I appreciate if you can help me (.) let me know
please=
10. B. okay bye
11. A. bye

As can be observed, the learner expressed his refusing intentions in two


different turns either in the DCT or the role-play, producing the same amount
of refusal formulae in both instruments. On the one hand, the sample from
the DCT included four types of refusal formulae in the first turn (see line 6),
namely a regret (e.g., Im so sorry, but); a reason (e.g., Im in a hurry now);
an alternative, that of changing time (e.g., We can talk about it another day);
and a regret (e.g., Sorry), and three types of refusal strategies in the second
turn (see line 8), namely a negation of the proposition (e.g. I cant); a reason
(e.g., Im late); and a regret (e.g., Sorry). On the other hand, the sample from
the role-play also contained four types of refusal strategies in the first turn
(see line 6), namely a negation of the proposition (e.g., I cant); a reason
(e.g., because Im very busy); an explanation (e.g., I have to meet some
classmates for a project work); and a regret (e.g., sorry), and three types of
refusal formulae in the second turn (see line 8), namely a type of verbal
avoidance, that of hedging (e.g., I dont know); a reason (e.g., I have a lot of
work); and a regret (e.g., sorry).
After analyzing this example, it can be seen that learners overall
performance in the two instruments was similar in relation to the quantity of
refusal formulae produced. The results related to the second research
question seem therefore to indicate the fact that both elicitation instruments
were interactive and made learners produce their responses in a
conversational mode had an effect regarding learners amount of formulae
when refusing.
Apart from considering learners response length when refusing and the
overall amount of refusal formulae produced in the two instruments, we were
also particularly interested in examining the type of refusal strategies used in
both instruments. Thus, we posed our third research question, which involved
the comparison between the type of refusal strategy chosen by learners in the
interactive written DCT and the oral role-play to ascertain whether the type
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 199

used was similar in both research methods. In order to investigate this issue,
we analyzed a total of 288 samples from the two production methods by
following Salazar et al.s (2009) taxonomy described in subsection 3.2. It is
worth pointing out that the written instrument contained 385 instances of
refusal strategies, and the oral instrument a total of 361 formulae for refusals.
Figure 2 below shows the type of strategies used by learners, namely direct,
indirect or adjuncts, when refusing in the two production research methods.

249
235
250

200

150
105 DCT
98
Role-play
100

31 28
50

0
direct indirect adjuncts

Figure 2. Type of refusal strategies used by learners in the interactive written


DCT and oral role-play

As can be observed in Figure 2, the distribution of use of the strategies in


both instruments was fairly similar. Learners preference was for indirect
refusal strategies in both methods (i.e., 249 occurrences in the DCT and 235
in the role-play), followed by the use of adjuncts (i.e., 105 in the DCT and 98
in the role-play), and finally the use of direct strategies (i.e., 31 in the DCT
and 28 in the role-play). The results from applying the statistical procedure,
which are presented in Table 5, indicate that no statistically significant
differences regarding the type of strategy used were found between the two
elicitation methods.

DCT Role-play Sig.


Direct 1.94 1.75 .188
Indirect 15.56 14.69 .261
Adjuncts 6.56 6.13 .089

Table 5. Differences as regards the type of formulae for refusals used in the
written and oral production tasks
* Sig. at p<0.05 level
200 Alicia Martnez-Flor

A detailed analysis of the different subtypes of refusal formulae employed


within each of the three main types (i.e., direct, indirect and adjuncts) also
appears to indicate that the distribution of use was similar across the two
instruments. As far as the subtypes of direct strategies are concerned, learners
used bluntness, that is a flat no quite similarly in both instruments (i.e., 2
instances in the DCT and 3 instances in the role-play), as well as the negation
of proposition, such as I cant at the moment (i.e., 29 occurrences in the
DCT and 25 occurrences in the role-play). Regarding indirect strategies,
learners mainly used the subtype of reason/explanation (i.e., 105 instances in
the DCT and 101 instances in the role-play), followed by regret/apology (i.e.,
65 in the DCT and 61 in the role-play), alternative, that of change of time
(i.e., 41 in the DCT and 42 in the role-play), alternative, that of change of
option (i.e., 30 in the DCT and 23 in the role-play), verbal avoidance (i.e., 6
in the DCT and 4 in the role-play), and plain indirect (i.e., 2 in the DCT and 4
in the role-play). The remaining three subtypes, namely disagreement,
statement of principle and non-verbal avoidance, were not found in either
data from the DCT or the role-play. Finally, in relation to the distribution of
formulae for adjuncts, learners resorted mainly to the strategy of willingness
(i.e., 63 instances in the DCT and 59 instances in the role-play), followed by
agreement (i.e., 42 instances in the DCT and 39 instances in the role-play).
No instances of the three remaining subtypes of adjuncts were found in either
the written or the oral instrument, namely the positive opinion, gratitude and
solidarity strategies.
These results are therefore in line with previous research that found that the
two research methods (i.e., written and oral production instruments) elicited
similar responses regarding learners choice of a particular type of strategy
for the investigated speech act (Duan, 2008; Eisenstein and Bodman, 1993;
Rintell and Mitchell, 1989). To this respect, it is important to pay attention to
the type of elicitation instruments used in these particular studies. On the one
hand, the study by Rintell and Mitchell (1989) on requests and apologies
compared the responses obtained from a DCT and a closed role-play. The
variety of strategies obtained for both speech acts was similar in the two
elicitation methods, since both instruments allowed only one turn. On the
other hand, in Eisenstein and Bodmans (1993) research on expressions of
gratitude, the fact that the instrument was the same, namely an open DCT
administered both orally and in writing, was the reason why the responses
were similar in both methods in terms of the content of semantic formulas.
Therefore, it seems that if the instruments employed to elicit learners
pragmatic output are created and distributed in the same conditions, similar
responses regarding learners choice of semantic strategies for a particular
speech act can be obtained. In fact, the research that found a wider variety of
strategies in the oral task than in the written one was because they compared
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 201

a written single-turn DCT with an open role-play or an authentic encounter


that allowed multiple turns (Hartford and Bardovi-Harlig, 1992; Houck and
Gass, 1996; Safont, 2005). In our particular study, therefore, both the oral
and written instruments were created in the same way and allowed learners to
interact in pairs through different turns, and this may have been the reason
why no differences were found.
Additionally, it is also interesting to point out that the range of strategies used
appeared to be distributed in a similar way, that is those subtypes that were
not used at all in the written DCT were neither found in the oral role-play. In
line with Duans (2008) study, this may have been due to the fact that the
participants were the same in the two tasks, so they were using the same
strategies they know. Moreover, since the nine situations in the two tasks
were exactly the same (i.e., refusing to a request), it seems that the choices
for particular strategies could have been limited to those situations. The
elaboration of situations that involved refusing to other initiating acts, such as
suggestions, offers or invitations, could have possibly elicited other types of
refusal strategies. In fact, and as previously mentioned, among the five
subtypes of adjuncts, namely positive opinion, willingness, gratitude,
agreement and solidarity, only willingness and agreement were employed. It
appears that the strategies of positive opinion (e.g., This is a great idea, but
), gratitude (e.g., Thanks so much, but ) or solidarity (e.g., Im sure
youll understand, but ) are more often used when responding to an
invitation or a suggestion rather than a request (see for instance the studies by
Flix-Brasdefer, 2003, 2008 on refusing to invitations or the studies by
Geyang, 2007 and Sattar et al., 2010 on refusing to suggestions).
Finally, in relation to the distribution of particular strategies across the
different situations, it is also worth mentioning that the use of direct
strategies (which was the type less used) was only produced in those
situations that involved refusing to an equal or low status person. See for
instance the example 2 previously presented, which involved a situation
between two students who shared equal social status. In both the DCT and
the role-play the use of a negation of proposition (i.e., a direct subtype) was
used (e.g., I cant lend them now in the DCT and I cant in the role-play). In
contrast, no instances of direct strategies were found in the rest of situations
which involved refusing to a person of a higher status. See for instance the
example 1 previously mentioned, which involved refusing to a professor. All
strategies were from the indirect type or adjuncts, but no instances of direct
refusal strategies were used. This could be explained by learners perception
of the eliciting act. Since refusing is a dispreferred act, learners seemed to
have employed indirect strategies to mitigate their refusing intentions in
asymmetric situations that involved a person of higher status. That is why
they avoided a plain no or an expression such as I cant, which are quite
202 Alicia Martnez-Flor

face-threatening strategies and not pragmatically appropriate when refusing a


person of higher status.
Summing up, the findings related to the third research question seem
therefore to suggest that the particular elaboration of the DCT, which allowed
learners to interact through different turns as the role-play, had an effect
regarding learners choice of the particular types of strategies used when
refusing.

5 Concluding remarks
The aim of the present paper was that of comparing learners performance
when making refusals to requests in two different production instruments
(i.e., an interactive written DCT and an oral role-play) to examine the
response length, amount of refusal formulae and type of strategies used in
both tasks. Results from our study have indicated that i) learners response
length when refusing; ii) the amount of refusal formulae employed; and iii)
the type of refusal strategy chosen was somewhat similar across the two
research methods. Considering these findings, it may be claimed that the
particular two instruments employed in this study were found to elicit
comparable learners behavior when refusing to a variety of requestive
situations. More specifically, the design of a written DCT that adopted an
interactive structure similar to the role-play appeared to have exerted a
positive effect on learners responses. In fact, the samples obtained from this
written instrument were relatively long, showed a negotiation of meaning
over the course of several turns and contained a variety of semantic strategies
to express a refusal in different situations. In this sense, it seems that
although written production questionnaires have received a lot of criticism,
when created in an accurate way, can still be effective data collection
instruments to examine how learners activate their pragmatic knowledge.
The present study is subject to some limitations that lead to a number of
issues to be examined in future research. One limitation concerns the
particular population of learners involved in the study, since it consisted of a
small sample of 16 male and female university students with an upper
intermediate level of proficiency in English. Thus, the number of participants
taking part in the study and the specific student individual variables may have
influenced the results. In fact, research with a larger group of students or with
just male or female participants would have probably provided different
results. Another limitation that may be attributed to the present study relates
to the fact that no instruments eliciting learners self-report data were
implemented. By employing a type of introspection method, such as think-
aloud protocols or retrospective verbal reports, learners pragmatic
development when producing refusals could have been examined by paying
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 203

attention to their planning and thought processes9. Additionally, the use of


this sort of concurrent and retrospective reporting would have also served to
increase the level of trustworthiness of the results obtained in the present
study, since they function as a tool that complement and validate the
instruments employed to collect learners pragmatic production. For this
reason, the effects of integrating this type of self-reporting methods should be
further examined in future empirical investigations.
To sum up, and despite the above limitations, it is our belief that the present
study has contributed to the field of ILP by offering new insights into
research methodology through the elaboration and comparison of two
production data collection instruments that involved interaction between the
participants. Thus, the results obtained in this study, although tentative, may
expand the scope of enquiry in the ILP field as well as open several lines of
investigation to be examined in future research.

References
Alcn, E. and A. Martnez-Flor (eds) (2005) Pragmatics in Instructed
Language Learning [Special Issue], System 33 (3): 381-536.
Alcn, E. and A. Martnez-Flor (eds) (2008) Investigating Pragmatics in
Foreign Language Learning, Teaching and Testing, Clevedon:
Multilingual Matters.
Al-Eryani, A. A. (2007) Refusal strategies by Yemeni EFL learners, The
Asian EFL Journal (9) 2: 19-34.
Bardovi-Harlig, K. (1999) Researching Method. In Bouton, L. F. (ed)
Pragmatics and Language Learning, vol. 9, Urbana, IL: University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: 237-264.
Bardovi-Harlig, K. and B. S. Hartford (1991) Saying no in English: Native
and non-native rejections, Pragmatics and Language Learning:
Monograph Series (2): 41-57.
Beebe, L. M. and M. C. Cummings (1985) Speech act performance: A
function of the data collection procedure, Paper presented at the Sixth
Annual TESOL and Sociolinguistics Colloquium, TESOL, New York.
Beebe, L. M. and M. C. Cummings (1996) Natural Speech Data Versus
Written Questionnaire Data: How Data Collection Method Affects
Speech Act Performance. In Gass, S. and J. Neu (eds) Speech Acts
Across Cultures, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 65-86.
Beebe, L. M., T. Takahashi and R. Uliss-Weltz (1990) Pragmatic transfer in
ESL refusals. In Scarcela, C., E. Anderson and S. Krashen (eds)

9
See for instance the studies by Woodfield (2008, 2010) and Salazar (this volume) on this
issue.
204 Alicia Martnez-Flor

Developing communicative competence in a second language, New


York: Newbury House: 55-73.
Billmyer, K. and M. Varghese (2000) Investigating instrument-based
pragmatic variability: Effects of enhancing discourse completion tests,
Applied Linguistics 21 (4): 517-552.
Brown, P. and S. Levinson (1987) Politeness: Some Universals in Language
Use, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chen, H. J. (1995) Metapragmatic judgement on refusals: its reliability and
consistency, Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American
Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Cohen, A. D. (2004) Assessing speech acts in a second language. In Boxer,
D. and A. D. Cohen (eds) Studying speaking to inform second
language learning, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters: 302-327.
Cohen, A. D. and R. L. Shively (2003) Measuring speech acts with multiple
rejoinder DCTs, Language Testing Update (32): 39-42.
Duan, A. W. (2008) The comparison between written DCT and oral role-
plays in investigation upon English refusal strategies by Chinese EFL
students, Sino-US English Teaching 5 (10): 8-18.
Eisenstein, M. and J. W. Bodman (1993) Expressing gratitude in American
English. In Kasper, G. and S. Blum-Kulka (eds) Interlanguage
pragmatics, New York: Oxford University Press: 64-81.
Eslami, Z. R. (2010) Refusals: How to develop appropriate refusal strategies.
In Martnez-Flor, A. and E. Us-Juan (eds) Speech act performance:
Theoretical, empirical and methodological issues, Amsterdam: John
Benjamins: 217-236.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2003). Declining an invitation: A cross-cultural study
of pragmatic strategies in American English and Latin American
Spanish, Multilingua 22 (3): 225-255.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2006) Teaching the negotiation of multi-turn speech
acts: Using conversation-analytic tools to teach pragmatics in the FL
classroom. In Bardovi-Harlig, K., J. C. Flix-Brasdefer and S. O.
Alwiya (eds) Pragmatics and Language Learning, vol. 11, Honolulu,
HI: National Foreign Language Resource Center, University of
Hawaii at Manoa: 165-197.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2008) Perceptions of refusals to invitations: Exploring
the minds of foreign language learners, Language Awareness 17 (3):
195-211.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2010) Data collection methods in speech act
performance: DCTS, role plays, and verbal reports. In Martnez-Flor,
A. and E. Us-Juan (eds) Speech act performance: Theoretical,
empirical and methodological issues, Amsterdam: John Benjamins:
41-56.
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 205

Geyang, Z. (2007) A pilot study to suggestions in English by Japanese and


Chinese EFL learners, Bull Grad. School Educ. Hiroshima University,
Part II (56): 155-163.
Golato, A. (2003) Studying Compliment Responses: A Comparison of DCTs
and Recordings of Naturally Occurring Talk, Applied Linguistics (24)
1: 90-121.
Hartford, B. S. and K. Bardovi-Harlig (1992) Experimental and
Observational Data in the Study of Interlanguage Pragmatics. In
Bouton, L. F. and Y. Kachru (eds) Pragmatics and language learning,
vol. 3, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: 33-52.
Houck, N. and S. M. Gass (1996) Non-Native Refusal: A Methodological
Perspective. In Gass, S. M. and J. Neu (eds) Speech Acts Across
Cultures, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 45-64.
Houck, N. and S. M. Gass (1999) Interlanguage Refusals. A cross-cultural
study of Japanese-English, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Hudson, T., E. Detmer and J. D. Brown (1995) Developing Prototypic
Measures of Cross-Cultural Pragmatics (Technical Report, 7),
Honolulu: University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Ishihara, N. and A. D. Cohen (2010) Teaching and learning pragmatics.
Where language and culture meet, Harlow: Pearson.
Jefferson, G. (2004) Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In
Lerner, G. (ed) Conversation analysis: Studies from the first
generation. Pragmatics and beyond series, Amsterdam: John
Benjamins: 13-31.
Kasper, G. (2000) Data collection in pragmatics research. In Spencer-Oatey,
H. (ed) Culturally Speaking. Managing Rapport Through Talk Across
Cultures, London/New York: Continuum: 316-341.
Kasper, G. (2006) Beyond repair: Conversation analysis as an approach to
SLA. In Bardovi-Harlig, K. and Z. Drnyei (eds) Themes in SLA
Research. AILA Review 19, Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins: 83-99.
Kasper, G. and M. Dahl (1991) Research Methods in Interlanguage
Pragmatics, Studies in Second Language Acquisition (13): 215-247.
Kasper, G. and C. Roever (2005) Pragmatics in Second Language Learning.
In Hinkel, E. (ed) Handbook of Research in Second Language
Teaching and Learning, Mahwah/New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates: 317-334.
Kasper, G. and K. R. Rose (1999) Pragmatics and SLA, Annual Review of
Applied Linguistics (19): 81-104.
Kasper, G. and K. R. Rose (2002) Pragmatic Development in a Second
Language (Language Learning Monograph Series), Oxford:
Blackwell.
Kwon, J. (2004) Expressing refusals in Korean and American English,
Multilingua (23): 339-364.
206 Alicia Martnez-Flor

Margalef-Boada, T. (1993) Research Methods in Interlanguage Pragmatics:


An Inquiry into Data Collection Procedures, Unpublished doctoral
dissertation, Indiana University.
Martnez-Flor, A. (2006) Task effects on EFL learners production of
suggestions: A focus on elicited phone messages and emails,
Miscelnea (33): 47-64.
Martnez-Flor, A., E. Us-Juan and A. Fernndez-Guerra (eds) (2003)
Pragmatic Competence and Foreign Language Teaching, Castell:
Servei de Publicacions de la Universitat Jaume I.
McLean, T. (2005) Why no tip?: Student-generated DCTs in the ESL
classroom. In Tatsuki, D. (ed) Pragmatics in language learning,
theory, and practice, Tokyo: Pragmatics Special Interest Group of the
Japan Association for Language Teaching: 150-156.
Nurani, L. (2009) Methodological issues in pragmatic research: is discourse
completion test a reliable data collection instrument?, Journal
Sosioteknologi Edisi (17) 8: 667-678.
Quick Placement Test (2001) Paper and Pen Test, Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Rintell, E. and C. J. Mitchell (1989) Studying Requests and Apologies: An
Enquiry into Method. In Blum-Kulka, S., J. House and G. Kasper
(eds) Cross-Cultural Pragmatics: Requests and Apologies, Norwood
NJ.: Ablex: 248-272.
Rose, K. R. (1994) On the Validity of DCTs in Non-Western Contexts,
Applied Linguistics (15) 1: 1-14.
Rose, K. R. (2000) An exploratory cross-sectional study of interlanguage
pragmatic development, Studies in Second Language Acquisition (22)
1: 27-67.
Rose, K. R. and G. Kasper (eds) (2001) Pragmatics in Language Teaching,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rubin, J. (1983) How to tell when someone is saying no revisited. In
Wolfson, N. and E. Judd (eds) Sociolinguistics and language
acquisition, Cambridge: Newbury House: 10-17.
Sadler, R. W. and B. Erz (2002) I refuse you! An examination of English
refusals by native speakers of English, Lao, and Turkish, Arizona
Working Papers in SLAT (9): 53-80.
Safont, M. P. (2005) Third Language Learners: Pragmatic Production and
Awareness, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Safont, M. P. and E. Alcn (2001) Elicitation instruments in analysing the
use of requestive strategies by foreign language learners of English. In
Gonzlez-lvarez, E. and A. Rollings (eds) Studies in Contrastive
Linguistics. Proceedings of the 2nd International Contrastive
Linguistics Conference. Santiago de Compostela: Servizo de
Publicacins de Universidade de Santiago de Compostela: 925-933.
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 207

Salazar, P. (2008) Task analysis on mitigation in the speech act of requesting:


Discourse completion task and role-play. In Alcn, E. (ed) Learning
how to request in an instructed language learning context, Bern: Peter
Lang: 143-161.
Salazar, P. (this volume) Production of refusals: Insights from stimulated
recall. In Mart-Arnndiz, O. and P. Salazar-Campillo (eds) Refusals
in instructional contexts and beyond, Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Salazar, P., M. P. Safont and V. Codina (2009) Refusal strategies: A proposal
from a sociopragmatic approach, RL: Revista Electrnica de
Lingstica Aplicada (8): 139-150.
Sasaki, M. (1998) Investigating EFL Students Production of Speech Acts: A
Comparison of Production Questionnaires and Role Plays, Journal of
Pragmatics (30) 4: 457-484.
Sattar, H. Q. A., S. C. Lah and R. R. Suleiman (2010) A study on strategies
used in Iraqi Arabic to refuse suggestions, The International Journal
of Language Society and Culture (30): 81-95.
Schauer, G. A. (2004) May you speak louder maybe? Interlanguage
pragmatic development in requests, EUROSLA Yearbook (4): 253-
272.
Schauer, G. A. and S. Adolphs (2006) Expressions of gratitude in corpus and
DCT data: Vocabulary, formulaic sequences, and pedagogy, System
(34) 1: 119-134.
Takahashi, T. and L. M. Beebe (1987) The development of pragmatic
competence by Japanese learners of English, JALT Journal (8) 2: 131-
155.
Tatsuki, D. (ed) (2005) Pragmatics in Language Learning, Theory and
Practice, Tokyo, JALT: The Japan Association for Language
Teaching, Pragmatics Special Interest Group.
Trosborg, A. (1995) Interlanguage Pragmatics. Requests, Complaints and
Apologies, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Trosborg, A. (2010) Introduction. In Trosborg, A. (ed) Pragmatics across
languages and cultures, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 1-39.
Turnbull, W. and K. L. Saxton (1997) Modal expressions as facework in
refusals to comply with requests: I think I should say no right
now, Journal of Pragmatics (27) 2: 145-181.
Ueda, K. (1972) Sixteen ways to avoid saying no in Japan. In Condon, J.
and S. Mitsuko (eds) Intercultural Encounters with Japan:
Communication, Contact and Conflict, Tokyo: The Simul Press: 185-
192.
Us-Juan, E. and A. Martnez-Flor (forthcoming) Research methodologies in
pragmatics: Eliciting refusals to requests.
208 Alicia Martnez-Flor

Woodfield, H. (2008) Problematising discourse completion tasks: Voices


from verbal report, Evaluation and Research in Education (21) 1: 43-
69.
Woodfield, H. (2010) What lies beneath?: Verbal report in interlanguage
requests in English, Multilingua: Journal of Cross-Cultural and
Interlanguage Communication (29) 1: 1-27.
Yuan, Y. (2001) An Inquiry into Empirical Pragmatics Data-Gathering
Methods: Written DCTs, Oral DCTs, Field Notes, and Natural
Conversations, Journal of Pragmatics (33) 2: 271-292.
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 209

Appendix A: Situation 5 from the oral role-play instrument

Situation 5

A. You are a first-year student at University. You have a paper due in three
days and you havent started working on it yet. The day you start working on
it your laptop doesnt work. A close friend of yours is working as a research
student in the department of Computer Science at University. You ask
him/her if he/she can urgently help you fix the laptop. You ask the research
student:

B. You are a research student in the department of Computer Science at


University. While in your office, a first-year student, who is also a close
friend of yours, asks whether you can urgently help her fix the laptop. He/she
explains to you he/she has a paper due in three days and he/she urgently
needs the laptop to start working on it. Although you understand the urgency
of the matter you cannot do it. You refuse by saying:
210 Alicia Martnez-Flor

Appendix B: Situation 5 from the interactive written DCT


instrument

SCENARIO 5

A. You are a first-year student at University. You have a paper due in three
days and you havent started working on it yet. The day you start working on
it your laptop doesnt work. A close friend of yours is working as a research
student in the department of Computer Science at University. You ask
him/her if he/she can urgently help you fix the laptop. You ask the research
student:

B. You are a research student in the department of Computer Science at


University. While in your office, a first-year student, who is also a close
friend of yours, asks whether you can urgently help her fix the laptop. He/she
explains to you he/she has a paper due in three days and he/she urgently
needs the laptop to start working on it. Although you understand the urgency
of the matter you cannot do it. You refuse by saying:

Produce a short dialogue (Use as many turns as needed to express your


requesting and refusing intentions).

A: ________________________________________________________
B: ________________________________________________________
A: ________________________________________________________
B: ________________________________________________________
A. ________________________________________________________
B: ________________________________________________________
Learners refusals: Interactive written DCT versus oral role play 211

Appendix C: Transcription notations

According to Jefferson (2004), the following transcription notations were


used (adopted from Flix-Brasdefer, 2006: 194).

Contiguous utterances
= Equal signs indicate no break up or gap. They are placed when
there is no interval between adjacent utterances and the second
utterance is linked immediately to the first.
Overlaps
[ A left bracket indicates the point of overlap onset.
] A right bracket indicates the point at which two overlapping
utterances end, if they end simultaneously, or the point at
which one of them ends in the course of the other. It is also
used to parse out segments of overlapping utterances.
Intervals
( ) Parentheses indicate the time in seconds and placed within an
utterance mark intervals or pauses in the stream of talk.
- A dash marks a short untimed pause within an utterance.
Characteristics of speech delivery
: A colon marks a lengthened syllable or an extension of the
sound.
::: More colons prolong the sound or syllable.
. A period marks fall in tone.
, A comma marks continuing intonation.
? A question mark signals rising intonation.
Research method effects on third
language learners refusals1

Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord (Universitat Jaume I)


Laura Portols-Falomir (Universitat Jaume I)

Research in interlanguage pragmatics has largely ignored the multilingual


background of language learners (Kasper, 2007, Safont-Jord, in press). Although
some studies have been conducted (Safont-Jord, 2003, 2005a, b; Safont-Jord and
Alcn, in press), they have focused on the learners requestive behavior. No studies
on L3 learners refusals have been published to date. Additionally, research methods
employed in the analysis of L2 and L3 learners pragmatic competence elicit the
target pragmatic item in an artificial way, whether it be, written (i.e., Discourse
Completion Test) or oral (i.e., role-play), as they provide learners with a written/oral
prompt for an imaginary situation. In fact, learners provide potential answers
(provided that fact tool place). Researchers have widely criticized this approach as it
does not account for real communication. There are a number of situational factors
influencing pragmatic and communicative development as shown by recent research
(Dewaele, 2007) which are not considered if data collection is restricted to controlled
pragmatic production. On that account, this paper compares refusal strategies
employed in a DCT and in an instructional setting, that of the language classroom, by
second and third language learners. Participants were 12 adult English learners
engaged in an intermediate English course. They were Catalan-Spanish bilingual (6
subjects) and Spanish monolingual (6 subjects). As expected, results show a
difference in the type of refusal strategies employed in real (i.e., classroom) and royal
(i.e., oral role-play) interaction and they also point to the advantage of L3 over L2
learners in the variety of refusal strategies employed.

1 Introduction
The main aim of the present paper is to examine the effect of two variables
on the pragmatic production of learners of English as a Foreign Language.
On the one hand, we have taken into account the effect of the research
method adopted on the use of refusal strategies. On the other, we have
considered the learners linguistic background, that is, whether they were
monolingual or bilingual and thus were learning English as a second (i.e., L2)
or as a third language (i.e., L3). Bearing our purpose in mind, we shall first
consider those studies which have contrasted results obtained by means of an

1
 As members of the LAELA (Lingstica Aplicada a lEnsenyament de la Llengua Anglesa)
research group at Universitat Jaume I (Castelln, Spain), we would like to acknowledge that this
study is part of a research project funded by (a) the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacin
(FFI2008-05241/FILO), (b) Fundaci Universitat Jaume I and Caixa Castell-Bancaixa
(P1.1B2011-15), and (c) VALi+d program of Conselleria dEducaci de la Generalitat
Valenciana.
214 Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols-Falomir

oral production task and those using ethnographic or pseudo natural data.
Secondly, research on the role of bilingualism in language learners
pragmatic production will be taken into account and a particular focus will be
given to the use of L3 refusals. Finally, results from our study on the effect of
the research method and bilingualism in English learners production of
refusals will be described.

1.1 Research methods in IL exhortative acts


According to Clark and Bangerter (2004), three main methods have been
employed in pragmatics research, namely those of intuition, observation and
experiment.

() With intuitions, you imagine examples of language used in this or that situation
and ask yourself whether they are grammatical or ungrammatical, natural or
unnatural, appropriate or inappropriate. This was Searles method. With experiments,
you invite people into the laboratory, induce them to produce, comprehend or judge
samples of language, and measure their reactions. With observations, you note what
people say or write as they go about their daily business. We will name these methods
by their characteristic locations: armchair, laboratory and field (Clark and Bangerter,
2004: 25).

Interlanguage pragmatics research has adopted methods employed in L1


pragmatics, and has particularly made use of laboratory experiment
methods. As stated by Jucker (2009), these elicitation techniques (i.e.,
laboratory) rely on the informants cooperation. Participants have to imagine
situations and report the way they would behave or the way they would
expect others to behave in them. Some authors seek to determine the most
effective method for measuring pragmatic ability (Brown and Ahn, 2011;
Yamashita, 1996). For that purpose, they have taken into account issues like
reliability, dependability or validity. Yet, results to date are not conclusive as
the effectiveness of the method chosen depends on a number of variables like
the goal of the study, raters or administrators, among others.
Bearing in mind the goal of our study, that is, the effect of the method used in
examining pragmatic production, we shall take into account studies that do
not necessarily adopt a prescriptive but a descriptive viewpoint. In other
words, they merely aim at describing the role of the elicitation technique
employed. In this respect, we may state that most IL pragmatists have
resorted to two main techniques, oral and written, that is, role-plays and
discourse completion tests. Some studies that have contrasted the effect of the
use of different laboratory methods are those of Houck and Gass (1996),
Sasaki (1998) and Safont-Jord (2005a, b).
Houck and Gass (1996) examined refusals produced by a group of ESL
learners in two tasks a DCT and role-play. Findings show that results were
quantitatively and qualitatively different in the two elicitation methods.
Research method effects on third language learners refusals 215

Therefore, participants employed a higher quantity and a wider variety of


refusal types in the role-play than in the DCT task. In another learning
setting, Sasaki (1998) examined the performance of twelve Japanese EFL
university students in a discourse completion test and a role-play task. Both
instruments included 4 situations that elicited the use of request acts routines
and four situations that required that use of refusal formulas. According to
the author, results revealed that the role-play task allowed for more variation
and longer responses than the written production questionnaire (i.e., DCT).
Sasaki attributed such difference to the interacting nature of the role-play, as
they were given more than one turn to express their refusing intention. On the
contrary, participants were only provided with one turn to refuse in the
written production questionnaire. Therefore, results coincided with those
reported by Houck and Gass (1996) stated above and they further confirmed
the importance of the role of the elicitation technique employed.
Similarly, Safont-Jord (2005a, b) in her study of IL requests pointed out that
students behaved differently in the open role-play and in the DCT production
questionnaire. The author analyzed the use of request forms by 160 female
learners of English. Participants were provided with prompts that required the
use of requests. In the case of the role play task, they were asked to act out
the situation in pairs, while they performed individually in the written DCT.
In line with previous studies (Houck and Gass, 1996; Sasaki, 1998), results
showed that a wider amount of request strategies were employed in the oral
than in the written task. However, unlike reported by former research, longer
responses were produced in the DCT task. The author attributes this finding
to perceived time constraints due to the presence of the interlocutor in the
oral task. In addition to that, their performance in the written DCT allowed
for further planning and revision of the answers provided.
Laboratory methods, like those of the DCT and role-play tasks, have been
widely criticized as they do not account for real communication. There are a
number of situational factors influencing pragmatic and communicative
development as shown by recent research (Dewaele, 2007) which are not
considered if data collection is restricted to controlled pragmatic production.
Due to this fact, we find studies that include the use of more ethnographic
data (Eisenchlas, 2011) and/or compare results obtained by means of these
field techniques with those from experiment or laboratory methods (Yuan,
2001).
In a recent study, Eisenchlas (2011) examines the presence of Spanish advice
acts in natural on-line interaction. The author collected data from on-line
advice about relationship break-ups in eight websites. Results were compared
to those advice pragmalinguistic routines employed in language teaching
textbooks. As argued by Eisenchlas, advising strategies in natural and royal
interaction differed considerably. In fact, findings raised the
misrepresentation of advice formulas in pedagogical material leading to a
216 Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols-Falomir

series of implications for the teaching and acquisition of pragmatic


competence in foreign language learning settings. The author concludes by
pointing out the importance of bringing real pragmatic data to the language
classroom in order to improve the learners communicative competence in
the target language.
Yuan (2001) examined and compared the use of several laboratory and field
techniques in eliciting compliments. The author particularly focused on oral
and written DCTs, field notes and natural conversations. Laboratory
techniques were distributed to 87 informants, while field notes were taken in
51 oral interviews which also represented natural conversations. As reported
in other studies mentioned before (Houck and Gass, 1996; Sasaki, 1998), the
oral DCT elicited longer responses than the written version of the same test.
Nevertheless, as reported by the author, these techniques cannot elicit
elaborated negotiations which may take place in natural speech. In fact,
ethnographic data would represent a more accurate picture of real language
use. The author concludes by stating that the selection of a data-gathering
method should depend on the goal of the study. In this respect, Yuan (2001)
raises the usefulness of laboratory methods for describing realization patterns
of a given speech act in one language, and the convenience of more
ethnographic data collection techniques in identifying those sociolinguistic
features that are involved in language use.
In the present study, we have considered the classroom as sociolinguistic
setting in the analysis of refusal strategies. We made use of a laboratory
technique in eliciting refusal pragmalinguistic routines and we resorted to a
field technique in describing the presence of refusals in classroom discourse.
In addition to that, we have also taken into account the linguistic background
of participants as it has been identified as one variable that may have an
effect on the pragmatic production of language learners.

1.2 The role of bilingualism in language learners


pragmatic production
Although the multilingual background of language learners has been
traditionally ignored in IL pragmatics studies, some attention has been paid to
pragmatic production of bilingual speakers learning a third language.
Existing studies have focused on the use of request head acts (Koike and
Flanzer, 2004; Koike and Palmiere, 2011; Safont-Jord, 2005a, b), the use of
peripheral modification items accompanying request head acts (Safont-Jord
and Alcn, in press) and the awareness on refusal behavior (Alcn, 2011).
Koike and Flanzer (2004) analyzed the use of requests and apologies on the
part of third and second language learners. Participants were ten Spanish-
English bilinguals and seventeen English monolinguals learning Portuguese
at a beginner level. A written discourse completion task was distributed to
Research method effects on third language learners refusals 217

elicit pragmatic production. An analysis of the data collected revealed that


the bilingual subgroup noticed pragmatic features of the target language more
quickly and differently from the monolingual subgroup, that is, those English
learners of Portuguese as a Second Language.
The advantage of bilinguals is also present in Safont-Jords (2005a, b)
research study. The author examined the pragmatic production and awareness
on the part of 80 bilingual and 80 monolingual learners of English aged 20.9.
Data were collected by means of two written discourse completion tests, two
oral role-play tasks and two discourse evaluation tests. The oral and written
pragmatic production tasks elicited requestive behavior, while the pragmatic
awareness tests were employed so that participants acknowledged the
appropriateness of those request formulas used. Findings from the study
point to the advantage of third over second language learners. Bilingual
learners of English as a third language outperformed their monolingual
counterparts in the pragmatic production and pragmatic awareness tasks.
These participants not only employed a wider amount and range of request
strategies in the role-play and DCT tasks, but they also identified appropriate
request strategies more frequently and linked the choice of specific
pragmalinguistic routines to politeness criteria.
In line with these results, Safont-Jord and Alcn (in press) further examined
the role of bilingualism in the pragmatic competence of language learners.
The authors focused on teachability and bilingualism effects in the
production of request modifiers. Participants were 120 female learners of
English as a second (n=80) and a third (n=80) language. The average age was
20.9 and they had never been to an English speaking country for more than
three weeks. Data were collected by means of a written pre-test and a written
post-test. Both tests included situations that called for the use of requests and
varied in terms of politeness criteria (i.e., solidarity, degree of imposition,
relationship among interlocutors and the like). The instructional period that
took place between the tests distribution involved learners in various
production and awareness tasks. Findings obtained by contrasting data from
the pre-test and post-test revealed significant differences between the two
learner groups. In fact, the study indicated that bilinguals outperform
monolinguals in the number and variety of internal and external modifiers
employed both before and after having received formal instruction.
According to the authors, further research is needed in order to explore the
actual development of interactional competence in third language learners.
In line with the above proposal and focusing on the same sociolinguistic
context, Alcns (2011) study examined the pragmatic awareness of bilingual
(Catalan and Spanish) learners of English in instructional contexts. The
author focused particularly on the benefits that teaching the speech act of
refusal from a discourse perspective could have on learners pragmatic
awareness. Ninety-two students of English as a foreign language (52
218 Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols-Falomir

receptive and 40 productive bilinguals) participated in the study, which


involved a one-group pre-test/post-test design and an instructional treatment.
Retrospective verbal reports (RVR) were used to examine the information
attended to during the pre-test and post-test interviews, that is to say, before
and after receiving instruction on refusal strategies (pragmalinguistic
information) and factors influencing strategy use (sociopragmatic
information). Research findings showed that both receptive and productive
bilinguals increased their pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic awareness of
refusals in English after the instructional treatment, but the latter seemed to
show a higher degree of pragmatic awareness and higher communicative
sensitivity. This was made apparent mainly in the form of a concern for the
interlocutors feelings, and using a conversational approach that can be
defined as hearer-oriented. In this vein, it is suggested that further research
should be carried out to explore the advantage of bilingualism in developing
interpersonal skills both in educational and non-educational contexts.
Bearing this idea in mind as well as other findings and suggestions from
previous research, we have conducted the present study which aims at
identifying the effect of the research method employed and the linguistic
background of English learners in their pragmatic production. To our
knowledge, no study has contrasted the presence of refusal strategies in data
collected from an open role-play task with data taken from classroom
discourse. Yet, studies (Houck and Gass, 1996; Safont-Jord, 2005a, b;
Sasaki, 1998) contrasting learners performance in oral and written pragmatic
production tasks (i.e., role-play and DCT) highlight the effect of the research
method employed. Furthermore, Eisenchlas (2011) examines the presence of
specific pragmalinguistic routines in natural discourse to demonstrate their
misrepresentation in ELT material. To our view, this might also affect the
presence of such routines in classroom discourse given the role that textbooks
may have in the language classroom (i.e. acting as masters rather than
servants in current EFL courses). However, there is a need for studies
examining non-controlled pragmatic data from language learners. In fact, as
argued by some authors (Jucker, 2009; Sasaki, 1998) the role of data
collection techniques in the analysis of language learners pragmatic
competence deserves further research. Bearing this issue in mind, we have
focused our analysis on the use of pragmalinguistic refusal routines in natural
classroom discourse and a role-play task. In so doing, we have also taken into
account our subjects degree of bilingual competence. Therefore, the
hypotheses guiding the present study are as follows.
HYP1. Types of refusals will vary in terms of number and type
according to the research method employed ( Safont-Jord, 2005a,
b; Sasaki, 1998)
HYP2. Bilingual learners of English will employ a wider variety of
refusal strategies in their performance compared to their
Research method effects on third language learners refusals 219

monolingual counterparts. (Alcn, 2011; Koike and Palmiere, 2011;


Safont-Jord, 2005a, b; Safont-Jord and Alcn, in press)

2 Method

2.1 Participants
This is a cross-sectional study involving 12 adult English students engaged in
a B2 Level English Course. Their average age was 40.2. None of them had
been in an English speaking country before for more than one month. They
were carefully selected from a wider sample including 30 students so that
there was an equal number of male and female subjects and the same amount
of bilingual and monolingual participants. A bilingualism test designed on
the basis of Bakers (1993) and Weis (2000) definition of bilingual
competence was distributed to all participants. On the one hand, we
considered as bilingual (Catalan-Spanish) speakers, those participants who
were exposed and made regular use of both languages (i.e., productive
bilinguals). On the other hand, monolingual (Spanish) learners of English as
a second language understood both community languages (Catalan and
Spanish) but never made use of Catalan and were not regularly exposed to it
(i.e., receptive bilinguals). Participants were thus distributed into two groups
according to their degree of bilingual competence as shown in table 1 below.

Monolingual Bilingual
Male 3 3
Female 3 3

Table 1. Participants distribution

2.2 Data collection procedure


Data for the present study were collected by means of an open role-play task
(see Appendix A) and they were also taken from classroom discourse
recordings. The participants were engaged in an English course that did not
include any pragmatic training as far as refusal acts were concerned. Besides,
the typology employed for our analysis was that of Salazar et al. (2009)
which relied heavily on Beebe et al.s taxonomy (1990). It is best illustrated
in Table 1 as follows.
220 Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols-Falomir

REFUSALS
Direct Strategies
Flat no No.
Negation of proposition I cant, I dont think so.
Indirect Strategies
Plain indirect It looks like I wont be able to go.
Reason/Explanation I cant. I have a doctors appointment.
Regret/Apology Im so sorry! I cant.
Alternative:
Change option I would join you if you choose another
restaurant.
Change time (Postponement) I cant go right now, but I could next week
Disagreement/Dissuasion/ Under the current economic
Criticism circumstances, you should not be asking
for a rise right now!
Statement of I cant. It goes against my beliefs!
principle/philosophy
Avoidance
Non-verbal: Ignoring
(Silence, etc.)
Verbal:
Hedging Well, Ill see if I can.
Change topic
Joking
Sarcasm

Table 2. Taxonomy on the speech act of refusing (Salazar et al., 2009)

The instruments employed for analyzing the use of refusal strategies on the
part of learners belong to two different subtypes, that is, the laboratory and
the field. On the one hand, our participants were engaged in an open role-play
task which included ten situations that they were asked to act out. In all
situations one of the peers was prompted to refuse. Situations varied in terms
of social distance, power relationships and degree of familiarity (see
Appendix A). On the other hand, we audio-taped classroom discourse from
24 two-hour sessions. These sessions included teachers explanations,
learners performance in oral tasks and learners comments related to
classroom dynamics. For the purposes of the present study, we have mainly
examined learners comments as we felt they would best illustrate pseudo-
natural language use. In addition, we thought that most instances of refusing
behavior could be obtained in this specific discourse type.
Research method effects on third language learners refusals 221

The Kolmogorov-Smirnov test rejected the null hypothesis and did not
confirm a normal distribution in our data (p = 0.00 for the role-play task and
p = 0.01 for classroom data). Thus, we made use of non-parametric tests,
namely those of the Wilcoxon-Signed Ranks test and the Mann-Whitney test.
The former test was used to see whether there were significant differences in
the type and amount of refusal strategies elicited by means of two research
methods (laboratory and field). The Mann-Whitney test was applied to our
data in testing hypothesis 2, and thus, accounting for bilingualism effects in
refusals production.

3 Results and discussion


The first hypothesis of the study predicted that the number and types of
refusal pragmalinguistic routines would vary according to the research
method employed (Safont-Jord, 2005a, b; Sasaki, 1998). As illustrated in
Figure 1 below, a wider amount of refusal strategies were employed in the
role-play test than in classroom discourse.

Figure 1. Number of refusal strategies employed

According to results from the Wilcoxon Signed ranks test (Z= -6.791), the
above quoted difference is statistically significant (p= .001). In our opinion,
results are in line with the nature of the method employed since the
laboratory method is merely used to elicit refusal behavior. Furthermore, as
argued by Yuan (2001), controlled pragmatic production tests are most useful
in describing realization patterns of a given speech act in one language. In
order to further test out first hypothesis we also examined the types of refusal
routines obtained.
222 Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols-Falomir

Figure 2. Refusal strategies from role-play test and classroom discourse

As shown in Figure 2 above, the type of refusal pragmalinguistic routines


varied according to the method employed in their analysis. While the open
role-play task involved a wider amount of formulas, classroom discourse
seemed to include higher variety. In light of the results reported here, we may
state that the first hypothesis of this study is confirmed by our findings. Some
examples are presented as follows.

Example 1 (from classroom discourse)


T: Why do you think Peter asked her about the party? (Question related to a video)
S10: (silence)
S9: mhm (2) >maybe (4) I think Id rather not speak today
T: OK Paula what do you think?
S7: Are we playing that same game we played in last session? I liked that
(changing topic)
T: Pepe, would you please answer the question?
S5: I was busy yesterday and I have been teaching the whole day today so.

Example 2 (from role-play task)


SITUATION 1
A. You are a student at University. You have been sick and were not able to attend
classes last week. You want to know if one of your classmates can lend you the
class notes. You ask the classmate:

B. You are a student at University. You have attended all classes during this
semester. One of your classmates wants to borrow your class notes. Although you
understand he/she has been sick, you do not want to lend your notes. You refuse by
saying:
S1: Could you please lend me your notes? I was sick
S2: Im sorry I cant.
Research method effects on third language learners refusals 223

S6: Would you lend me your notes because I have been sick and have not attended
classes?
S7: Im afraid I cannot. Sorry.

As shown in examples 1 and 2 above, we see that classroom discourse allows


for further elaboration and variation. While the role-play task elicits more
regret-apology forms, we find more instances of avoidance strategies in
classroom discourse.
We agree with Yuan (2001) regarding the convenience of more ethnographic
data collection techniques in identifying those sociolinguistic features that are
involved in language use. Moreover, we believe that there is no best method
in analyzing pragmatic data, but its suitability highly depends on the research
goal of a given study (Jucker, 2009). Yet, if our aim is to analyze pragmatic
competence of language learners, we should include field techniques and a
more ethnographic approach (Kasper, 2007). Otherwise, we may get a partial
account of the participants pragmatic competence as demonstrated by our
data. The pragmalinguistic routines of avoidance were not present in the
controlled production task but they were in spontaneous classroom discourse.
This might have been due to the sociolinguistic and affective variables
involved in the classroom setting, like the relationship between interlocutors,
imposition, anxiety or feeling insecure (see example 1 above). The fact that
natural discourse not only includes information on sociolinguistic variables
but it also includes on their pragmatic competence also bears important
pedagogical implications.
An important sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic variable is that of the
linguistic background of learners. As indicated in our second hypothesis, we
expected bilinguals to outperform monolinguals. In testing our second
hypothesis we compared bilingual and monolingual learners use of refusal
pragmalinguistic strategies.

Figure 3. Global amount of refusal routines employed and bilingualism


effects
224 Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols-Falomir

As illustrated in Figure 3 above, the bilingual group (i.e., productive Catalan-


Spanish bilinguals learning English as a third language) employed a wider
amount of refusal formulas. The Mann Whitney test was applied to our data
to check whether such difference was statistically significant. According to
the results obtained, the bilingual group performance differed significantly
(p=.005) from the pragmatic production of their counterparts. These findings
are in line with previous studies on the pragmatic performance of third
language learners (Safont-Jord, 2005a, b; Safont-Jord and Alcn, in press).
Moreover, they seem to confirm our second hypothesis which predicted the
advantage of third over second language learners of English. Nevertheless, in
order to further examine bilingualism effects in refusals production, we paid
particular attention to the types of refusal strategies employed by each learner
subgroup.

Figure 4. Bilingualism effects and refusal strategies employed

As illustrated in Figure 4 above, third language learners not only employed a


wider amount of refusal forms but they also made use of a wider variety of
these pragmalinguistic routines. In fact, strategies belonging to the alternative
and avoidance type were merely employed by bilingual learners, while
monolingual speakers resorted to direct, reason and regret forms.
Research method effects on third language learners refusals 225

Example 3
T: Next week well start with our newsletter project. Youll work in groups. Which
group will be first?
S9 (bilingual): We may talk about our ideas next month (3) >maybe< they could
[start]
S12 (bilingual): [Our] group will be third then (4) we have very good and
interesting ideas.
S2 (monolingual): We cannot start. We will not be first (6) another group.

Example 4
SITUATION 3
A. You are a Professor who is in the middle of a lesson. At that moment, a
student walks into class half an hour late and interrupts the lesson. The course
policy states that late arrivals are not permitted, except for serious documented
excuses. You tell the student that his/her behavior is disruptive and ask him/her
to leave the class. You ask the student:

B. You are a student who arrives half an hour late to class because you had to go to
the doctor for an important health issue. The course policy states that late arrivals
are not permitted, except for serious documented excuses. The Professor tells you
that your behavior is disruptive and asks you to leave the class. You refuse by
saying:
S5: Please, you should leave the class.
S6 (bilingual): Actually, I would next time, but today I have been at the doctor. I
could not postpone the appointment. Im sorry.
S11: Could you please leave the classroom? It is too late
S12 (monolingual): No, I cant. Im afraid I wont leave the class.

As shown in examples 3 and 4 above, bilingual learners of English as a third


language produced longer and more complex responses both in the role-play
task and in natural classroom discourse. Interestingly, bilinguals did not
resort to direct refusal routines as much as monolinguals did. Their
performance included more elaborated answers which revealed a somehow
further developed interactional competence. To our view, these findings
confirm Jessners (1999; 2006) assumptions on the communicative
competence of multilinguals. According to this author, the inherent
complexity of multilingualism enables third language learners to
acknowledge particular norms of communication. This fact has also been
reported by previous research (Alcn, 2011; Safont-Jord, 2005a, b) dealing
with the use of request and refusal speech act realization patterns.
Nevertheless, further research is needed involving other pragmatic aspects
and third language learners from various linguistic backgrounds.
We believe that our results may be significant to the extent that they present
further evidence on the idea that third language acquisition is both
quantitatively and qualitatively different from second language acquisition
processes. Furthermore, as raised by recent research (Aronin and Hufeisen,
2009; Jessner, 2008; Safont-Jord, 2011), third language learners of English
226 Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols-Falomir

should be regarded as distinct entities bearing in mind the specificities of


multilingual processing (Herdina and Jessner, 2002).

4 Conclusion
The present study aimed at examining the effect of the research method
employed and the role of bilingualism in English learners pragmatic
production. For that purpose, we have particularly focused on refusal
behavior that was codified on the basis of Salazar et al.s taxonomy (2009).
The first hypothesis guiding our study predicted that refusal strategies
obtained from laboratory and field techniques would be different in terms of
quantity and quality. Our results have confirmed this hypothesis and the
examples presented here (see Examples 1 and 2 in the previous section) have
shown that refusals obtained from classroom discourse were more elaborated
and indirect than those obtained by means of a controlled pragmatic
production test (i.e., role-play task). Considering these findings, we have
pointed out the implications of using laboratory techniques in interlanguage
pragmatics research. We believe that data obtained from DCTs or role-play
tasks may well serve the purpose of describing specific realizations of
particular speech acts but they also present a partial account of the learners
pragmatic competence. Controlled-pragmatic production tasks (i.e., DCTs
and role-play tasks) may be very useful for instructional purposes, but we do
need real pragmatic data to test and analyze pragmatic development of
English learners. Hence, more ethnographic approaches are suggested in
diagnostic assessments of language learners pragmatic competence.
The second hypothesis of the present study predicted the advantage of
bilingual over monolingual learners in their use of refusal pragmalinguistic
routines. Results from the Mann Whitney Test confirm our hypothesis and
they present further evidence on the inherent complexity of multilingualism.
We have argued for the acknowledgement of third language learners as a
distinct entity on the basis of recent findings (Barron, 2003; Safont-Jord,
2011). As argued by scholars in the field (Aronin and Hufeisen, 2009; Cenoz,
2009; Jessner, 2008) and as shown by our study, third language acquisition is
quantitatively and qualitatively different from second language acquisition
processes. Nevertheless, our study may be subject to a number of limitations
as we have only included 12 participants and we have focused on a series of
pragmalinguistic routines linked to refusal acts. Therefore, further research is
needed to explore the development of pragmatic competence on the part of
third language learners by considering other pragmatic aspects. In so doing,
we may best understand the processes underlying communicative
competence in multilinguals. Given the fact that the world is multilingual
(Cenoz, 2009), the global construct of communicative competence may well
benefit from research findings in that respect.
Research method effects on third language learners refusals 227

References
Alcn, E. (2011) Pragmatic awareness: Is it related to instruction and
bilingualism? Paper presented at 2011 AILA Conference, Beijing.
Aronin, L., and B. Hufeisen (2009) The exploration of multilingualism,
Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Baker, C. (1993) Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism,
Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Barron, A. (2003) Acquisition in Interlanguage Pragmatics: Learning how to
do things with words in a study abroad context [Pragmatics and
Beyond New Series 108], Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Beebe, L. M., T. Takahashi and R. Uliss-Weltz (1990) Pragmatic transfer in
ESL refusals. In Scarcella, R., E. S. Andersen and S.D. Krashen (eds)
Developing communicative competence in second language, New
York: Newbury House: 55-73.
Brown, J. D. and R. Ahn (2011) Variables that affect the dependability of L2
pragmatics tests, Journal of Pragmatics (43) 1: 198217.
Cenoz, J. (2009) Towards Multilingual Education: Basque Educational
Research from an International Perspective, Bristol: Multilingual
Matters.
Clark, H. and A. Bangerter (2004) Changing ideas about reference. In
Noveck, I. A. and D. Sperber (eds) Experimental Pragmatics:
Palgrave Studies in Pragmatics, Language and Cognition, Palgrave
Macmillan: 2549.
Dewaele, J. M. (2007) Still trilingual at ten: Livias multilingual journey.
Multilingual Living Magazine, 66-70. Retrieved from
http://www.bicultural family.org.
Eisenchlas, S. (2011) On-line interactions as a resource to raise pragmatic
awareness, Journal of Pragmatics (43) 1: 5161.
Herdina, P. and U. Jessner (2002) A dynamic model of multilingualism,
Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Houck, N. and S. M. Gass (1996) Non-native refusals: A methodological
perspective. In S. M. Gass and J. Neu (eds) Speech Acts across
Cultures, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 45-64.
Jessner, U. (1999) Metalinguistic awareness in multilinguals. Cognitive
aspects of third language learning, Language Awareness (8) 3&4:
201-209.
Jessner, U. (2006) Linguistic Awareness in Multilinguals: English as a Third
Language, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Jessner, U. (2008) Teaching third languages: Findings, trends and challenges,
Language Teaching (41) 1: 15-56.
228 Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols-Falomir

Jucker, A. (2009) Speech act research between armchair, field and


laboratory: The case of compliments, Journal of Pragmatics (41) 8:
16111635.
Kasper, G. (2007) Pragmatics in Second Language Learning: An update,
Language Learning Roundtable, American Association for Applied
Linguistics Annual Conference. Accessed
7.7.2008: http://www.aaal.org/index.php?id=53.
Koike, D. and V. Flanzer (2004) Pragmatic transfer from Spanish to
Portuguese as an L3: Requests and apologies. In Simoes, A., L.
Wiedemann and A. Carvalho (eds) Portuguese for Spanish speakers:
Acquisition and teaching/Portugus para falantes de espanhol:
Acquisico e ensino, So Paulo: Editora Pontes: 95-114.
Koike, D. and D. Palmiere (2011) First and Second Language Pragmatics in
Third Language Oral and Written Modalities, Foreign Language
Annals (44) 1: 80-104.
Safont-Jord, M. P. (2003) Metapragmatic awareness and pragmatic
production of third language learners of English: A focus on request
acts modifiers, International Journal of Bilingualism (7) 1: 43-69.
Safont-Jord , M. P. (2005a) Third language learners. Pragmatic production
and awareness, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Safont-Jord, M. P. (2005b) Pragmatic Production of Third Language
Learners of English: A focus on Requests Acts Modifiers,
International Journal of Multilingualism (2) 2: 84-104.
Safont-Jord, M. P. (2011) Early requestive development in consecutive third
language learning, International Journal of Multilingualism (8) 3:
256-276.
Safont-Jord, M. P. (in press) Pragmatic competence in multilingual contexts.
In Chappelle, C. (ed) Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics, New York,
NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Safont-Jord, M. P. and E. Alcn (in press) Teachability of request act
peripheral modification devices in third language learning contexts. In
Economidou-Kogetsidis, M. and H. Woodfield (eds) Interlanguage
request modification. Pragmatics and beyond new series, Amsterdam:
John Benjamins.
Salazar, P., M. P. Safont-Jord and V. Codina (2009) Refusal strategies: a
proposal from a sociopragmatic approach, Revista Electrnica de
Lingstica Aplicada (8): 139-150.
Sasaki, M. (1998) Investigating EFL students' production of speech acts: A
comparison of production questionnaires and role plays, Journal of
Pragmatics (30) 4: 457-484.
Wei, L. (2000) The Bilingualism Reader, London: Routledge.
Research method effects on third language learners refusals 229

Yamashita, S. O. (1996) Six measures of JSL pragmatics (Technical Report


#14), Honolulu: University of Hawaii, Second Language Teaching
and Curriculum Center.
Yuan, Y. (2001) An inquiry into empirical pragmatics data-gathering
methods: written DCTs, oral DCTs, field notes, and natural
conversations, Journal of Pragmatics (33) 2: 271292.
230 Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols-Falomir

Appendix A
SITUATION 1

A. You are a student at University. You have been sick and were not able
to attend classes last week. You want to know if one of your classmates
can lend you the class notes. You ask the classmate:

B. You are a student at University. You have attended all classes during
this semester. One of your classmates wants to borrow your class notes.
Although you understand he/she has been sick, you do not want to lend
your notes. You refuse by saying:

SITUATION 2

A. You are a waitress who works in a cafeteria located close to the local
University. A research assistant, whom you have never seen before, wants
to buy a doughnut. You tell him/her it costs 2 euros and ask him/her if
he/she could give you the exact amount of money since you only have
money in the form of notes. You ask the research student:

B. You are a research student at University. You go to a cafeteria, where


you have never been before, to buy a doughnut. Since you dont know the
exact price of the doughnut you have only brought a 20 euro note. When
you are about to pay, the waitress tells you it costs 2 euros and asks you if
you could give him/her the exact amount of money since he/she only has
money in the form of notes. You refuse by saying:

SITUATION 3

A. You are a Professor who is in the middle of a lesson. At that moment, a


student walks into class half an hour late and interrupts the lesson. The
course policy states that late arrivals are not permitted, except for serious
Research method effects on third language learners refusals 231

documented excuses. You tell the student that his/her behaviour is


disruptive and ask him/her to leave the class. You ask the student:

B. You are a student who arrives half an hour late to class because you
had to go to the doctor for an important health issue. The course policy
states that late arrivals are not permitted, except for serious documented
excuses. The Professor tells you that your behaviour is disruptive and asks
you to leave the class. You refuse by saying:

SITUATION 4

A. You are a student at University. You are about to go home when you
see a student parking the car you are so eager to buy. You have not had
the opportunity to go to the local car dealer to request a test drive.
Although you do not know him/her, you ask if he/she could lend you the
car just to drive it within the University campus for a while. You ask the
student:

B. You are a student parking at the University campus. You have already
parked your car when a student, whom you have never seen before,
explains to you that he/she is very eager to buy the same car you have.
He/she asks you if he/she could borrow it to drive it for a while within the
University campus. You refuse by saying:

SITUATION 5

A. You are a first-year student at University. You have a paper due in


three days and you havent started working on it yet. The day you start
working on it your laptop doesnt work. A close friend of yours is
working as a research student in the department of Computer Science at
University. You ask him/her if he/she can urgently help you fix the
laptop. You ask the research student:
232 Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols-Falomir

B. You are a research student in the department of Computer Science at


University. While in your office, a first-year student, who is also a close
friend of yours, asks whether you can urgently help her fix the laptop.
He/she explains to you he/she has a paper due in three days and he/she
urgently needs the laptop to start working on it. Although you understand
the urgency of the matter you cannot do it. You refuse by saying:

SITUATION 6

A. You are a middle-aged man/woman who is responsible for the office of


primary care and health of your town hall. Right now, your office is
informing all local shops about flue prevention techniques they may use
to keep themselves and clients healthy. An important one is the use of
plastic gloves when handling food. You see the shop assistant who is
working in the butchers is not wearing them. You ask the shop assistant:

B. You are a student at University who helps your father working in his
butchers. Very recently, the office of the primary care and health of your
town hall has sent all local shops flue prevention techniques they may use
to keep themselves and clients healthy. An important one is the use of
gloves when handling food. A middle-aged man/woman explains to you
that he/she is responsible for the office of primary care and health of your
town hall and asks you to wear plastic gloves to handle food. You refuse
by saying:

SITUATION 7

A. You are a secretary in the English Studies department at University.


You are in an office giving some documents to a research assistant who
works in the same department. It is getting close to the end of the day, and
you still have a lot of things to do, among others leaving a document in
the library. This building is on the research assistants way home, so you
wonder whether he/she could help you by leaving the document in the
library when going home. You ask the research assistant:
Research method effects on third language learners refusals 233

B. You are a research assistant working in the English Studies department


at University. You are in your office with the secretary of your
department who is giving you some documents. It is getting close to the
end of the day, and he/she tells you the list of things he/she still has to do,
among others leaving a document in the library which is in your way
home. He/she asks you if you could help him/her by leaving the document
in the library when going home. You refuse by saying:

SITUATION 8

A. You are a Professor working in your office. Your assistant, with whom
you have a good academic relationship, doesnt understand some concepts
in one of your books. You clarify them to him/her and when he/she is
about to leave, you ask him/her whether he/she can help you to finish an
online questionnaire by discussing some items. You ask the assistant:

B. You are an assistant to a Professor, with whom you have a good


academic relationship. You go to his/her office to clarify some doubts
about one of his/her books. After discussing them with him/her, you are
about to leave when he/she asks you whether you can help him/her to
finish an online questionnaire by discussing some items. You refuse by
saying:

SITUATION 9

A. You are a student enrolled in a hairdressing program at an Academy.


As part of your practicum you are in a reputable salon cutting a womans
hair. You feel tired and you need to drink a coffee to wake up. Your
colleague, and close friend, is not with a client at that moment so you ask
him/her whether he/she can take a coffee for you. You ask your colleague:

B. You are a student enrolled in a hairdressing program at an Academy.


As part of your practicum you are working in a reputable salon. As you do
not have clients, you are sweeping the salon floor. Your colleague, and
234 Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord and Laura Portols-Falomir

close friend, is cutting a womans hair and asks you whether you could
take him/her a coffee to wake up. You refuse by saying:
Production of refusals: Insights from
stimulated recall1

Patricia Salazar-Campillo (Universitat Jaume I)




This paper aims at determining the production of refusals by means of role plays and
stimulated recall. The combination of orally-elicited data and the retrospective
interview seems to be useful in order to substantially improve our understanding of
learners performance of this speech act, as the present study shows that although role
plays are close to what can be considered natural data (as compared with, for
example, discourse completion tasks), the analysis of the stimulated recall interviews
revealed that many participants behavior would have been different if they had been
in real face-to-face interaction. Due to the exploratory nature of this study, it should
be regarded as a first step to a larger investigation into the relationship between data
collection procedures of refusals and learners verbalizations of their thoughts in
order to ascertain production and perceptions of refusals.

1 Introduction
Refusals are an interesting speech act to investigate in the field of
interlanguage pragmatics (ILP) due to their face-threatening nature.
Pragmatic failure may be deemed as being much more offensive than
syntactic or lexical errors (Koike, 1995) in conversations involving both
native speakers (NSs) and non-native speakers (NNSs). This claim has been
corroborated by Yamagashiras (2001: 261) words: the speech act of refusal
is highly problematic and susceptible to misunderstanding.
Of paramount importance is thus making NNSs or English-as-a-foreign
language (EFL) learners aware of the impact of refusing in an inappropriate
way in cross-cultural communication, since it has been widely reported (i.e.,
Rose, 1999) that pragmatic learning is poorly fostered in the EFL context due
to constraints such as large classes, few tuition hours and little opportunity
for intercultural communication. Moreover, other research has examined
pragmatic features in textbooks suggesting an inadequate presentation of
speech acts (Boxer and Pickering, 1995; Vellenga, 2004). Taking these
caveats into account, the first goal of the present study is to examine what

1
As a member of the LAELA (Lingstica Aplicada a lEnsenyament de la Llengua Anglesa)
research group at Universitat Jaume I (Castelln, Spain), I would like to acknowledge that this
study is part of a research project funded by (a) the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacin
(FFI2008-05241/FILO) and (b) Fundaci Universitat Jaume I and Caixa Castell-Bancaixa
(P1.1B2011-15).
236 Patricia Salazar-Campillo

refusal strategies EFL learners elicit for some given contexts in role play
situations. Secondly, we aim to analyze via stimulated recall methodology,
aspects of the production of refusals which may provide useful data in the
ongoing exploration of refusal behavior.
Therefore, we aim at answering the following research questions:
1. Are learners aware of sociopragmatic variables when eliciting
refusals? (Alcn and Guzmn, 2010)
2. Is stimulated recall methodology a valid indicator to report
learners accounts of their thoughts while producing refusals?
(Gass and Mackey, 2000; Nabei and Swain, 2002)

Two research hypotheses were suggested taking into account the above
research questions:
Hypothesis 1: When verbalizing their refusals, learners will be
aware of sociopragmatic features of the given situation.
Hypothesis 2: Stimulated recall will offer insightful comments in
order to interpret and supplement learners production of refusals.

2 Refusal strategies: a taxonomy


Most of the data on refusals have been analyzed using Beebe et al.s (1990)
classification, which obtained data on refusals by means of a Discourse
Completion Task (DCT, henceforth). Several studies (e.g., Flix-Brasdefer,
2003; Gass and Houck, 1999; Turnbull and Saxton, 1997) have used this
classification, including more or fewer categories. Recently, Salazar, Safont
and Codina (2009) have proposed a taxonomy which relies heavily on Beebe
et al. (1990); yet, we find Salazar et al.s (2009) proposal more suitable to
serve our purposes as it takes both a sociopragmatic and a discourse
perspective into account. Thus, contextual variables such as social distance
and status are at stake in our analysis of refusal behavior. Table 1 presents
this taxonomy.

REFUSALS
Direct Strategies
1. Bluntness No./ I refuse.
2. Negation of proposition I cant, I dont think so.
Indirect Strategies
Production of refusals: Insights from stimulated recall 237

1. Plain indirect It looks like I wont be able to


go.
2. Reason/Explanation I cant. I have a doctors
appointment.
3. Regret/Apology Im so sorry! I cant.
4. Alternative:
Change option I would join you if you
choose another restaurant.
Change time (Postponement) I cant go right now, but I
could next week.
5. Disagreement/Dissuasion/Criticism Under the current economic
circumstances, you should
not be asking for a rise right
now!
6. Statement of principle/philosophy I cant. It goes against my
beliefs!
7. Avoidance
Non-verbal: Ignoring (Silence, etc.)
Verbal:
o Hedging Well, Ill see if I can.
o Change topic
o Joking
o Sarcasm
ADJUNCTS TO REFUSALS
1. Positive opinion This is a great idea, but
2. Willingness Id love to go, but
3. Gratitude Thanks so much, but
4. Agreement Fine!, but
5. Solidarity/Empathy Im sure youll understand,
but

Table 1. Taxonomy on the speech act of refusing (Salazar et al., 2009)

It should be noted that boundaries between strategies are sometimes blurred


and that in some cases contextual variables may determine whether or not a
strategy belongs to one category.

3 Pragmatic elicitation techniques


Concern about the appropriateness of different pragmatic elicitation
techniques can be found in numerous studies (Chen, 1995; Duan and
Wannaruk, 2008; Nelson et al., 2002) and the debate seems to revolve around
238 Patricia Salazar-Campillo

two main methods in data gathering: one belonging to the written mode, the
Discourse Completion Task (DCT) and the other belonging to the oral mode
(role play). Both techniques have advantages and disadvantages, which we
deal with below.

3.1 Discourse completion task


In a DCT, a situation is described to the participants in the study who have
then to elicit the targeted speech act in the next turn. As widely reported in
much of the literature on speech acts, DCTs are especially worth to handle
certain variables (e.g., age, mother tongue, etc.). In addition, they also allow
for gathering a large amount of data and statistics are easily used for analysis
and comparison of data. However, the main disadvantage for DCTs centers
on their validity to reflect real interaction, that is, respondents write what they
would answer in a particular situation, which is taken to be equivalent to
what they would really say if they were actually in that situation but face-to-
face (Turnbull, 2001). This means that the richness of naturally-occurring
speech acts cannot be captured by DCTs. Other disadvantages point to the
fact that DCTs do not reflect real-time interactional sequences (Duan and
Wannaruk, 2008) and some research (Golato, 2003) shows that DCTs may
not be the most appropriate method to elicit data from speakers of non-
western languages.

3.2 Role plays


As mentioned above, DCTs may not adequately allow speakers to perform
speech acts found in naturalistic data. In this sense, role plays are closer to
what is expected as occurring in natural discourse. In these tasks, speakers
are required to take a role in which they have to perform a specific speech
act. Role plays have been employed in interlanguage pragmatics studies (e.g.,
Houck and Gass, 1996; Sasaki, 1998), and it has been found that longer
responses were elicited thanks to this tool (Rintell and Mitchell, 1989);
likewise, role plays contained more interaction between speakers than written
questionnaires (Eisenstein and Bodman, 1993). Nonetheless, some voices
(e.g., Duan and Wannaruk, 2008) claim that role plays, as they are mostly
motivated by the researchers goals, may not reflect valid elicitations of
pragmatic strategies. As a consequence, discrepancies may arise between the
interactions in the role play an in authentic discourse. Yet, in the present
study, we opted for using role plays as data elicitation procedure as they
invite for more natural speech across several turns. On that account, we
adhere to Edmonsons (1981: 26) words some speech acts are the result not
of a single utterance but of a negotiation, a cooperative achievement, or a
conversational outcome between two speakers.
Production of refusals: Insights from stimulated recall 239

4 Stimulated recall methodology


In the early 70s, Corder (1973) argued for the use of intuitive data in SLA
research. Since then, introspective techniques have been applied
systematically in research methodology covering multiple fields of enquiry
(for example, translation, communication strategies, reading performance,
etc.). Within the range of introspective methods, stimulated recall
(henceforth, SR) aims at exploring learners thought processes at the time
they were performing a task. This is accomplished by means of presenting
learners a strong stimulus to help them remember, usually their own
conversation on a tape or their performance on videotape. SR can therefore
reveal aspects of learners performance which may be ignored by simply
using one method of data collection. As Gass and Mackey (2000) point out,
SR data may help in triangulating or supplementing performance-based data.
Despite the widespread interest in gathering introspective information,
including SR data, Ericsson and Simon (1984) point out several controversial
points to the use of this type of data, such as issues of accuracy and
veridicalidity. As for recall accuracy, in early studies of SR methodology,
Bloom (1954) found that if recalls took place a short period of time
(approximately 48 hours) after the task, accuracy approached 95%. As a
consequence, the shorter the span of time between the task reported and the
reporting itself, the higher accuracy might be achieved. Cohen (1987) also
considers the temporal distance between action and verbalization (or recency
effect) as decisive for the validity of the data. This author distinguishes three
types of verbalization along the temporal dimension: a) simultaneous
introspection (talking or thinking aloud while performing a writing or reading
task, for example), b) immediate retrospection, which takes place just after
task completion, and c) delayed retrospection after a period of time has
elapsed and can be documented by means of diary studies or group
discussions.
The second problem in SR is veridicalidity: a verbal report is nonveridical if
it does not accurately reflect the underlying primary process (Russo et al.,
1989: 760). Nonveridicality may be due to either omission (i.e., not reporting
all thoughts) or commission (i.e., reporting thoughts that did not occur).
Notwithstanding these two drawbacks, retrospective verbalization is a
method which has gained ground in recent literature (Egi, 2004; Goh, 2000;
Leow and Morgan-Short, 2004; Nabei and Swain, 2002) as it has proved
useful in shedding light on learners perceptions about their performance both
in different tasks and in interaction.
240 Patricia Salazar-Campillo

5 The study

5.1 Participants
Prior to the study, an intact class of undergraduates enrolled in a compulsory
subject studying English Philology at a Spanish university carried out a
Quick Placement Test (Oxford University Press). In order to control for the
variable of proficiency, only those students with the same level were chosen
(according to the Council of Europe Scale, they were Independent Users or
B2 level). Therefore, from the larger sample size, only ten Spanish (2 males
and 8 females) participated in the study. They were in their 20s (mean age=
22) and on average, they had been studying English for 12.7 years.

5.2 Instrument
Five role plays were devised in order to elicit refusals (see Appendix 1).
From a sociopragmatic point of view, these role plays included two major
variables: social distance (stranger, acquaintance and intimate) and social
status (low, equal and high) put forward by Brown and Levinsons (1987)
politeness theory. Table 2 depicts the distribution of these variables in the
five situations.

Situation Distance Status


Refusal 1 classmates notes acquaintance equal
Refusal 2 waitress stranger low
Refusal 3 professor acquaintance high
Refusal 4 car stranger equal
Refusal 5 laptop intimate low

Table 2. Variable distribution

5.3 Data collection procedure


Before the data collection, the participants were asked if they were willing to
perform a series of role plays on videotape. They all agreed and signed a
consent form giving their permission.
A first individual meeting with each student was arranged to perform the five
role plays whose aim was to elicit refusals on the part of the student. The
researcher was the requestor and the student had to refuse each situation in
Production of refusals: Insights from stimulated recall 241

several turns, as the researcher did not accept the first refusal as a rule and
was, on occasions, quite insistent. The 50 conversations (10 participants x 5
role plays) were video-recorded in two consecutive days and transcribed.
Once each student had carried out the role play, he/she was told to come back
to the researchers office within one hour. The subjects were not informed
that they would be asked for retrospective comments in this second meeting
so as not to affect their verbalizations. In the SR interviews, subjects watched
their performance on video and were allowed to stop the video-recording if
there was something they remembered about task performance. Recall was
prompted by the researcher by asking questions such as Why did you say
those words? or What were you thinking when you laughed here?
SR conversations were audio-recorded and later transcribed. In order to
reduce the level of omissions, and thus increase veridicalidity, the researcher
asked for retrospective report after each of the five role plays. This procedure
is commonly used in language research (Ericsson and Simon, 1987) and has
been found to provide useful information. Following Gass and Mackeys
(2000) proposals for increasing validity and reliability, in the present study
the time delay between task performance and recall was minimized (as we
said earlier, the SR took place one hour after the role play). Key to the
reliability issue is a) the need to reduce anxiety, b) participants need to be
stimulated to remember rather than being presented a new perspective and c)
they also should be allowed to produce a relatively unstructured answer. In
our study the subjects felt comfortable as they knew the researcher (she was
one of their lecturers), they were asked questions conforming Gass and
Mackeys (2000) instructions and they could code switch into Spanish or
Catalan to verbalize their thoughts more precisely if necessary.

5.4 Results and discussion


An in-depth quantitative analysis of refusals is beyond the scope of the
present study. However, refusals under investigation demonstrate that there
was a recurrent or typical order. Following Takahashi and Beebe (1987) and
Sasaki (1998), we considered the typical order the one used by at least 40%
of the participants. Salazar et al.s (2009) taxonomy presented in Table 1 was
used to codify the refusal strategies. As can be seen in Table 3, subjects opted
for indirect strategies when refusing by first regretting not being able to
comply with the request and then by providing a reason or explanation to
further support the refusal in four out of the five situations. This picture is
different in the car situation, as bluntness heads the refusal followed by regret
and reason. This may be explained by the high degree of imposition (i.e.,
lending ones car to a stranger) and by the same status of the requestor and
the requestee. We may therefore claim that Hypothesis 1 is confirmed, as
learners were aware of the sociopragmatic variables present in each situation.
242 Patricia Salazar-Campillo

Situation Order of formula


Refusal 1 classmates notes regret + reason
Refusal 2 waitress regret + reason
Refusal 3 professor regret + reason
Refusal 4 car bluntness + regret
+ reason
Refusal 5 laptop regret + reason

Table 3. Typical order of refusal formulas

The above table clearly shows that learners production of refusals in their
role plays revolve around two strategies to mitigate: regret (Sorry, I cant)
and reason, that is, the learners provided a motive for not complying with the
request. The results of our study are in line with some others (i.e., Bardovi-
Harlig and Hartford, 1991; Beebe et al., 1990; Sadler and Erz, 2002)
reporting regret and reason as the most common strategies of refusals. It is
also worth noting that due to the interactive nature of the role play, learners
refusals were produced over several turns.
In order to ascertain why our subjects had produced a specific refusal
strategy, SR interviews were conducted after they had watched a videotape of
themselves performing the task. The examination of the SR conversations
reveals that the students verbalization of their thoughts at the moment of
carrying out the role play may be classified into 6 categories, as follows:
1. Acceptance: on many occasions, students reported that they would
have accepted the interlocutors request instead of refusing it.
2. Provision of reasons: SR data offer frequent reports on reasons or
excuses explaining the justification for not complying with the
request.
3. Personal experience: when speaking out their thoughts, a number of
students appealed to a prior bad experience as the basis for refusing.
4. Making interlocutor aware of the situation: some students reported
that, in order to refuse, they tried to make their requestor aware of
the situation or problem to empathize with him/her.
5. Common sense: some interviews revealed that students appealed to
common sense so as not to accept the request.
6. Obeying the rule: this category was exclusively found in Role play 3
(professor) in which the variable of higher-status interlocutor may
Production of refusals: Insights from stimulated recall 243

have played an important role thus not letting other way out but to
follow the rule.

We may state that Hypothesis 2 is confirmed, since those 6 categories


provide us with rich and valuable comments on why and how the participants
elicited their refusal strategies. Thus, via SR, new supplementary information
can be collected which can be helpful in the understanding of refusal
behavior. In this vein, and for the sake of clarity, the above classification will
be applied to the five role plays in order to shed more light on the
relationship between each refusal situation and the students verbalizations.

- Situation 1 (classmates notes)


In this first role play, 8 students reported that in a real situation, they would have
never refused the request and indeed they would have accepted to lend the notes to a
classmate. Students verbalized their thoughts as follows (grammar mistakes have not
been corrected):
S6: Im not the kind of person that I would do that (i.e., refusing to lend her notes)
S8: Its a real cruel thing
We therefore may claim that as the request was not a high imposition and the status of
participants was equal, refusing was considered not pertinent in Situation 1 as the
number of acceptances shows.

- Situation 2 (waitress)
When asked to verbalize what their thoughts were when saying no to the waitress, 6
students reported they were trying to look for excuses, 2 students used a previous
personal experience to help them refuse and the remaining 2 subjects tried to make
the waitress aware of their problem and solve it. This is clearly illustrated by Student
3:
S3: I just wanted the woman to understand the reason why I was doing something
wrong so I wanted the woman to understand why.

- Situation 3 (professor)
As mentioned earlier, this is the only role play in which, apart from giving reasons (7
students), two subjects reported they had to obey the rule and did not attempt to refuse
any more. As Student 2 said: and I know if this is the rule I I have to accept
it. Moreover, in this role play, one student also resorted to her own experience when
refusing to the professors request.

- Situation 4 (car)
In this situation, the status of participants was equal but the distance was high, as they
were strangers. Yet, 2 students said they would lend their new car to the unknown
university student:
S2: if a person comes here to university and asks me that of course I will say yes,
if this person has a driving license of course and I was thinking that I was being so
rude, because you are in a context, the university, where people is like normal, they
are not going to destroy your car.

However, the remaining 8 students reported saying no to lending their car


based on a previous bad experience (2 students); another two resorted to
244 Patricia Salazar-Campillo

providing reasons and 4 subjects appealed to common sense to refuse to


comply with the request.

S3: I couldnt rely on someone that I dont know thats what I tried to say
to this person, that it is not normal to ask that if you are not a close friend.
S8: I I think that the situation it was like who are you? And it was
very strange, very surrealistic because a person that you dont know who
is is telling you that if he can drive your car and its not OK.

- Situation 5 (laptop)
As in Situation 1, the majority of students, seven in this case, said in the SR interview
that if this had been a real situation, they would have consented to comply with the
request:
S5: I I was thinking that I of course I would help one of my friends if she is
so desperate she needed my help so I was being a little bit rude.
S9: this was kind of difficult to me because I would do it, because hes my friend
and he needs only five minutes, although Im busy I would do it so I felt bad
about this situation.
Reasons to refuse were reported by 2 subjects and one student tried to make the
interlocutor aware of the situation when asked why she had refused the request.

In all, this analysis of the students recalls in each role play is directly related
to the findings that the indirect categories of Regret and Reason are the most
widely used in our study. However, as pointed out by Salazar et al. (2009),
other strategies may appear which are not part of any taxonomy if data are
collected in more natural conversation (for example, accepting the initial
refusal if the petitioner is persistent). Due to the fact that our analysis of SR
was based on spoken data, we found out that indeed in several situations the
subjects would have consented to the request. This is an interesting finding
which may help in the construction of valid role plays taking into account
variables such as degree of intimacy, age or social status.

6 Conclusion
The results of the present study show that learners are aware of face-
threatening acts as refusals when they are given a context and some
sociopragmatic variables. This fact can be quantitatively attested by means of
percentage of use of specific strategies and also more qualitatively
demonstrated by the learners reports carried out after task performance.
Nonetheless, the analysis of spoken data prompted by the SR interview
shows that although role plays are closer to what may be regarded as natural
data in comparison, for example, to DCTs, there is still a wide gap as to
whether it reflects actual production of refusals. Indeed, the research we have
conducted reveals that on some occasions learners would not have refused,
since some variables at stake allowed the refusal to be turned into acceptance.
Production of refusals: Insights from stimulated recall 245

The present study is subject to a number of limitations. First, we should point


out the small sample (10 undergraduates with similar age) which may well
under-represent a larger language population; second, as for the limitations
with the SR method, we concur with Yingers (1986: 271) claims that the
SR videotape produces a new view, which is subject to the luxury of meta-
analysis and reflection. In the same line, Tjeerdsma (1997) notes the
possibility that the learners are reacting to what is watched on the videotape,
rather than recalling the taped performance. A further limitation refers to the
level of students, as higher proficiency learners may elicit other types of
indirect strategies which might be more elaborate including adjuncts to soften
the refusal. Notwithstanding these issues, the present study may add to the
advances of stimulated recall methodology as an aid to triangulate
performance-based data.

References
Alcn, E. and J. Guzmn (2010) The effect of instruction on learners
pragmatic awareness: a focus on refusals, International Journal of
English Studies (10) 1: 65-80.
Bardovi-Harlig, K. and B. S. Hartford (1991) Saying no in English: native
and non-native rejections, Pragmatics and language learning:
Monograph Series (2): 41-57.
Beebe, L. M., T. Takahashi and R. Uliss-Weltz (1990) Pragmatic transfer in
ESL refusals. In Scarcella R. C., E. S. Andersen and S. D. Krashen
(eds) Developing communicative competence in a second language,
New York: Newbury House: 55-73.
Bloom, B. (1954) The thought processes of students in discussion. In French,
S. J. (ed) Accent on teaching: Experiments in general education, New
York: Harper: 23-46.
Boxer, D. and L. Pickering (1995) Problems in the presentation of speech
acts in ELT materials: the case of complaints, ELT Journal (49) 1: 44-
58.
Brown, P. and S. C. Levinson (1987) Politeness: Some Universals in
Language Usage, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chen, H. J. (1995) Metapragmatic judgment on refusals: Its reliability and
consistency. ERIC Document (ED 391 381).
Cohen, A. D. (1987) Using verbal reports in research on language learning.
In Faerch, C. and G. Kasper (eds) Introspection in second language
research, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters: 82-95.
Corder, S. P. (1973) The elicitation of interlanguage. In Svartvik, J. (ed)
Errata: Papers in error analysis, Lund: CKW Geerup: 36-48.
246 Patricia Salazar-Campillo

Duan, L. and A. Wannaruk (2008) The comparison between written DCT and
oral role plays in investigation upon English refusal strategies by
Chinese EFL students, Sino-US English Teaching (5) 10: 8-18.
Edmonson, W. (1981) Spoken discourse, London: Longman.
Egi, T. (2004) Verbal reports, noticing, and SLA research, Language
Awareness (13) 4: 243-264.
Eisenstein, M. and J. W. Bodman (1993) Expressing gratitude in American
English. In Kasper, G. and S. Blum-Kulka (eds) Interlanguage
pragmatics, New York: Oxford University Press: 64-81.
Ericsson, K. A. and H. A. Simon (1984) Protocol analysis, Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press.
Ericsson, K. A. and H. A. Simon (1987) Verbal reports on thinking. In
Faerch, C. and G. Kasper (eds) Introspection in second language
research, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters: 24-53.
Flix-Brasdefer, J. C. (2003) Declining an invitation: a cross-cultural study of
pragmatic strategies in American English and Latin American
Spanish, Multilingua (22) 3: 225-255.
Gass S. and N. Houck (1999) Interlanguage refusals: A cross-cultural study
of Japanese-English, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Gass, S. and A. Mackey (2000) Stimulated recall methodology in second
language research, Mahwah, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Goh, C. (2000) A cognitive perspective on language learners listening
comprehension problems, System (28) 1: 55-75.
Golato, A. (2003) Studying compliment responses: A comparison of DCTs
and recordings of naturally occurring talk, Applied Linguistics (24) 1:
90-121.
Houck, N. and S. Gass (1996) Non-native refusals: A methodological
perspective. In Gass, S. and J. Neu (eds) Speech acts across cultures,
Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 45-64.
Koike, D. A. (1995) Transfer of pragmatic competence and suggestions in
Spanish foreign language learning. In Gass, S. and J. Neu (eds)
Speech acts across cultures, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 257-281.
Leow, R. P. and K. Morgan-Short (2004) To think aloud or not to think
aloud, Studies in Second Language Acquisition (26) 1: 35-57.
Nabei, T. and M. Swain (2002) Learner awareness of recasts in classroom
interaction: A case study of an adult EFL students second language
learning, Language Awareness (11) 1: 43-63.
Nelson, G. L., J. Carson, M. Al Batal and W. El Bakary (2002) Cross-cultural
pragmatics: Strategy use in Egyptian Arabic and American English
refusals, Applied Linguistics (23) 2: 163-189.
Rintell, E. M. and C. J. Mitchell (1989) Studies of requests and apologies: An
inquiry into method. In Blum-Kulka, S., J. House and G. Kasper (eds)
Production of refusals: Insights from stimulated recall 247

Cross-cultural pragmatics: Requests and apologies, Norwood, NJ:


Ablex: 248-272.
Rose, K. R. (1999) Teachers and students learning about requests in Hong
Kong. In Hinkel, E. (ed) Culture in Second Language Teaching and
Learning, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 167-180.
Russo, J. E., Johnson, E. J. and D. L. Stephens (1989) The validity of verbal
protocols, Memory & Cognition (17) 6: 759-769.
Sadler, R. W. and B. Erz (2002) I refuse you! An examination of English
refusals by native speakers of English, Lao, and Turkish, Arizona
Working Papers in SLAT (9): 53-80.
Salazar, P., M. P. Safont and V. Codina (2009) Refusal strategies: A proposal
from a sociopragmatic approach, Revista Electrnica de Lingstica
Aplicada (8): 139-150.
Sasaki, M. (1998) Investigating EFL students production of speech acts: A
comparison of production questionnaires and role plays, Journal of
Pragmatics (30) 4: 457-484.
Takahashi, T. and L. Beebe (1987) The development of pragmatic
competence by Japanese learners of English, JALT Journal (8) 2: 131-
155.
Tjeerdsma, B. L. (1997) A comparison of teacher and student perspectives of
tasks and feedback, Journal of Teaching in Physical Education (16) 4:
388-400.
Turnbull, W. (2001) An appraisal of pragmatic elicitation techniques for the
social psychological study of talk: the case of request refusals,
Pragmatics (11) 1: 31-61.
Turnbull, W. and K. L. Saxton (1997) Modal expressions as facework in
refusals to comply with requests: I think I should say no right
now, Journal of Pragmatics (27) 2: 145-181.
Vellenga, H. (2004) Learning pragmatics from ESL and EFL textbooks: How
likely?, Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (8) 2: 1-
13.
Yamagashira, H. (2001) Pragmatic transfer in Japanese ESL refusals.
Retrieved February 11, 2010, from http://www.k-
junshin.ac.jp/juntan/libhome/bulletin/No31/Yamagashira.pdf
Yinger, R. J. (1986) Examining thought in action: a theoretical and
methodological critique of research on interactive teaching, Teaching
and Teacher Education (2) 3: 263-282.
248 Patricia Salazar-Campillo

Appendix 1
Situation 1
A. You are a student at the university. You have been sick and
couldnt attend classes last week. You want to know if one of your
female classmates can lend you the class notes. You ask your
classmate:
B. You are a student at the university. You have attended all classes
during this semester. One of your classmates wants to borrow your
class notes. Although you understand he/she has been sick, you do
not want to lend your notes. You refuse by saying:

Situation 2
A. You are a waitress who works in a cafeteria located close to the
university. A research assistant, whom you have never seen before,
wants to buy a doughnut. You tell him/her it costs 2 Euros and ask
him/her if he/she could give you the exact amount of money since
you only have banknotes. You ask the research assistant:
B. You are a research assistant at university. You go to a cafeteria,
where you have never been before, to buy a doughnut. Since you
dont know the exact price of the doughnut you have only brought a
20 Euro note. When you are about to pay, the waitress tells you it
costs 2 Euros and asks you to give her the exact amount of money.
You refuse by saying:

Situation 3
A. You are a professor who is in the middle of a lesson. At that
moment, a student walks into class half an hour late and interrupts
the lesson. The course policy states that late arrivals are not
permitted, except for documented excuses. You tell the student that
his/her behavior is disruptive and ask him/her to leave the class. You
ask the student:
B. You are a student who arrives half an hour late to class because you
had to go to the doctor for an important health issue. The course
policy states that late arrivals are not permitted, except for
documented excuses. The professor tells you that your behavior is
disruptive and asks you to leave the class. You refuse by saying:

Situation 4
A. You are a student at the university. You are about to go home when
you see a student parking the car you are so eager to buy. You have
not had the opportunity to go to the local car dealer for a test drive.
Although you do not know this student, you ask him/her if he/she
Production of refusals: Insights from stimulated recall 249

could lend you the car just to drive it for a while. You ask the
student:
B. You are a student at the university. You have just parked your car
when a student, whom you have never seen before, explains that
he/she is very eager to buy the same car you have. He/she asks you
to borrow it and drive for a while within the university campus. You
refuse by saying:

Situation 5
A. You are a first-year student at the university. You have a paper due
in 3 days and you havent started working on it yet. The day you
start working, your laptop doesnt work. A close friend of yours
works as a research student in the department of Computer Science
at university. You ask him/her if he/she can urgently fix your laptop.
You ask your friend:
B. You are a research student in the department of Computer Science at
university. While you are working, a first-year student, who is a
close friend of yours, asks you whether you can urgently help
him/her fix his/her laptop. He/she explains that he/she has a paper
due in three days and therefore needs his/her laptop. Although you
understand how urgent the matter is, you cannot do it. You refuse by
saying:
Notes on contributors
Eva Alcn-Soler is a Full Professor of English Language and Linguistics at
the University Jaume I (Castell) and leader of the Research Group in
Applied Linguistics to English Language Teaching. She holds a B.A. in
English Philology, a M.A. and a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from the
University of Valencia. Her research interests include the acquisition of L2
pragmatics and the role of interaction in L2 learning. She has published
widely on those issues both at an international (Communication and
Cognition, International Review of Applied Linguistics) and at a national
level (ATLANTIS, Revista Espaola de Lingstica Aplicada, Revista
Espaola de pedagoga, among others). She is the author of Bases
Lingsitcas y Metodolgicas para la Enseanza de la Lengua Inglesa
(2002), has edited Learning how to Requests in an Instrutcted Language
Learning Context (Peter Lang, 2008) and co-edited Intercultural Language
Use an Language Learning (Springer, 2007), and Investigating Pragmatics in
Foreign language Learning, Teaching and Testing (Multilingual Matters
2008) Together with Prof. Garca Mayo, she has guest-edited two special
issues on the topic of interaction and language learning in a classroom
context (International Journal of Educational Research, 2002; International
Review of Applied Linguistics, 2009), and, together with Dr. Martnez-Flor,
an special issue on the topic of pragmatic instruction (System, 2005). She is a
member of the scientific committee of Language Value.

Victria Codina-Espurz (B.A. in Psychology, Universitat Autnoma de


Barcelona; M.A. in TESOL, West Virgina University; Ph.D. in Applied
Linguistics and Language Teaching Methodology, University of Pittsburgh)
is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English Studies at the University
Jaume I in Castell, Spain. She has taught a variety of both Spanish and
English language courses as well as many undergraduate and graduate
courses on applied linguistics and SLA research methodology. She has co-
edited several volumes on the teaching and learning of English. Recent
publications include The effect of explicit instruction on mitigators and its
relationship to the learners language proficiency in English (Peter Lang,
2008), Refusal strategies: A proposal from a sociopragmatic approach
(RAEL, 2009) with P. Safont and P. Salazar, and Measuring pragmatic
knowledge: Have written and oral DCTs outlived their usefulness? (in press)
with O. Mart and P. Salazar. Her main research interest embraces the area of
second language acquisition, mainly the role of affective factors and
individual learner characteristics in L2 learning. She is now working on
interlanguage pragmatics, in particular the role of instruction in fostering
pragmatic development in a foreign language. She is a member of the
research group LAELA (Lingstica Aplicada a lEnsenyament de la Llengua
252

Anglesa), and currently the coordinator, together with P. Salazar of the


MELACOM (Mster en lEnsenyament de la Llengua Anglesa en Contextos
Multilinges) masters program.

Ana B. Fernndez-Guerra is a Senior lecturer in the Department of English


Studies, Universitat Jaume I of Castell (Spain), where she teaches both
undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Her research focuses on Second
language acquisition, Translation Studies and Contrastive analysis, areas in
which she has published several books and articles.

Csar Flix-Brasdefer is an Associate Professor of Hispanic Linguistics and


Adjunct Associate Professor of Second Language Studies at Indiana
University. His research interests are in cross-cultural and interlanguage
pragmatics, politeness theory, speech act theory, conversation analysis and
instruction of pragmatics. He has published widely on those topics. His
publications include the following books: Pragmatics and Language
Learning (2006) in University of Hawaii Press, and Politeness in Mexico
and the United States: A contrastive study of the realization and perception
of refusals (2008), in John Benjamins Publishing.

Josep R. Guzman i Pitarch is a Senior Lecturer at Universitat Jaume I


(Castell de la Plana, Spain). His research ranges from discourse analysis to
translation studies. He has translated several books, movies and TV series.
His publications focus on language learning, pragmatics and translation for
language teaching. He has coordinated several research projects on the use of
corpora in translation.

Otilia Mart-Arnndiz is an Associate Lecturer of Didactics of English


Language and Literature at the Department of Education (Universitat Jaume
I, Castell, Spain). She holds two B.A. in Contemporary History (from the
University of Valncia, Spain) and English Philology (from Universitat
Jaume I, Castell), two M.A. in the same fields; and, a Ph.D. in Applied
Linguistics from Universitat Jaume I in Castell. Her investigation interests
include the acquisition of pragmatics with a special focus on learners
proficiency level and gender, as well as the role of English as an additional
foreign language in infant school and primary education from a multilingual
perspective. She has participated in books developing the aforementioned
issues, such as Leire Ruiz de Zarobe and Yolanda Ruiz de Zarobe (eds.)
(2012) Speech acts and politeness across languages and cultures, Bern: Peter
Lang; Gabriella B. Klein e Sandro Caruana (eds.) (2008) Intercultural
Communication in bureaucratic and institutional contexts, Perugia: Guerra
Edizione; or, Eva Alcn Soler (ed.) (2008) Learning How to request in an
Instructed Language Learning Context, Bern: Peter Lang. She also co-
Notes on contributors 253

authored with Maria Pilar Safont Jord (2008) Achieving multilingualism:


wills and ways, Castell de la Plana: Collecci e-Estudis filolgics/2 de la
Universitat Jaume I, a book resulting from the organization of ICOM
(International Conference on Multilingualism). The last publication, still in
press, is Gender Reality and Interlanguage Pragmatics: EFL Learners
Polite Use of Request Modifiers. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Alicia Martnez-Flor is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English


Studies, Universitat Jaume I of Castell, Spain, where she teaches both
undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EFL teaching methodology. She
has co-edited the special issue Pragmatics in Instructed Language Learning in
the international journal System (2005) with Eva Alcn Soler, as well as the
volumes Pragmatic Competence and Foreign Language Teaching
(Universitat Jaume I, 2003) with Esther Us-Juan and Ana Fernndez-
Guerra, Current Trends in the Development and Teaching of the Four
Language Skills (Mouton de Gruyter, 2006) with Esther Us-Juan,
Investigating Pragmatics in Foreign Language Learning, Teaching and
Testing (Multilingual Matters, 2008) with Eva Alcn Soler and Speech Act
Performance: Theoretical, Empirical and Methodological Issues (John
Benjamins, 2010) with Esther Us-Juan. Research interests are in second
language acquisition and interlanguage pragmatics.

Sabela Melchor-Couto is a Lecturer in Spanish at Roehampton University,


London. Sabela graduated in Translation and Interpreting from the
Universidad de Vigo (Spain) in 2003 and holds an MA in Conference
Interpreting from Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh). Sabela is now
completing her PhD Thesis on the impact of affective variables in language
learning at Universidad de Vigo (Spain). She is exploring the use of Second
Life as a platform for language learning and teaching.

Laura Portols-Falomir studied English philology and was further


specialised in English learning and teaching in multilingual contexts. She is
an Associate Professor and member of the LAELA research group at the
Universitat Jaume I (Spain). Her research interests include third language
acquisition, affective factors, pragmatic development and multilingual
education. She has recently published the book A Multilingual Portrait of
Language Attitudes in Higher Education:The effect of internal and external
factors ( VDM Verlag Dr. Mller, 2011)

Maria-Pilar Safont-Jord is an Associate Professor of Sociolinguistics and


ELT Methodology and Coordinator of the Masters programme in Teaching
and Acquiring English in Multilingual Contexts (MELACOM) at the
Universitat Jaume I in Castell (Spain) from its beginnings to the end of
254

2010. Her research interests involve the development of pragmatic


competence by third language learners of English, factors influencing third
language use and early multilingualism (ages 2-7). She has carried out
various studies on the acquisition and use of specific speech acts by third
language learners of English, and she has published part of her work in
international journals like The International Journal of Multilingualism or
The International Journal of Bilingualism, has authored the book Third
Language Learners. Pragmatic production and awareness (2005) published
by Multilingual Matters, and has co-edited the volume Intercultural
Language Use and Language Learning (2007) published by Springer. More
recently, her publications include Pragmatic Competence in Multilingual
Contexts (in press) In Chapelle, C. A. (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Applied
Linguistics. Wiley-Blackledge and Early pragmatic development in
consecutive third language learning presented at Bloomington Roundtable on
The Multiple Faces of Multilingualism, 24-25 June, 2010, Birkbeck-London.
She is also a reviewer of the following journals: TESOL Quarterly, the
Modern Language Journal, System, International Journal of Multilingualism
and International Journal of English Studies.

Patricia Salazar-Campillo is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of English


Studies (Universitat Jaume I, Castell, Spain). She holds a Ph.D. in Applied
Linguistics from Universitat Jaume I entitled Interaction and Language
Acquisition: The effect of corrective feedback and focus on form tasks in the
EFL context. Her main research interests include foreign language
acquisition, negotiation of meaning and form, collaborative discourse and
interlanguage pragmatics. She is co-editor of the book Teaching and learning
the English language from a discourse perspective (2005). Her research has
appeared in national and international publications, for example, Maria Pilar
Safont and Eva Alcn (eds.) (2007) Intercultural language use and language
learning, Dordrecht, Springer, Eva Alcn (ed.) (2008) Learning How to
request in an Instructed Language Learning Context, Bern: Peter Lang,
Revista Electrnica de Lingstica Aplicada (2009), Rosario Caballero and
M. Jess Pinar (eds.) (2010) Ways and Modes of Human Communication, and
Javier Prez et al. (eds.) (2010) Analysing data, describing variation. She is a
member of the research group LAELA (Lingstica Aplicada a lEnsenyament
de la Llengua Anglesa) since its foundation, and currently the coordinator,
together with Victria Codina of the MELACOM (Mster en lEnsenyament
de la Llengua Anglesa en Contextos Multilinges) masters program.

Naoko Taguchi is an Associate Professor of Japanese and Second Language


Acquisition at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA. Her primary
research interests include pragmatics in SLA, second language education and
classroom-based research. Her publications are extensive, with over 20
Notes on contributors 255

articles in refereed journals and handbooks. Naoko is also the author of the
books Pragmatic Competence (2009) in Mouton de Gruyter series and
Context, individual differences, and pragmatic development
(contracted/under review).

Esther Us-Juan is a Senior Lecturer in the English Studies Department at


Universitat Jaume I in Castell (Spain) where she teaches both under-
graduate and postgraduate courses in EFL teaching methodology. Her
research focuses on the development of learners communicative competence
in instructed language settings, with a special interest in the role of the
language skills and the acquisition of pragmatics. She has published in The
Modern Language Journal, Applied Language Learning and ELT Journal,
and co-edited the volumens Current Trends in the Development and
Teaching of the four Language Skills (Mouton de Gruyter, 2006),
Pedagogical Reflections on Learning Languages in Instructed Settings
(Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007) and Speech Act performance:
Theoretical, Empirical and Methodological Issues (John Benjamins, 2010).

Elina Vilar-Beltrn (Batista i Roca Fellow, Cambridge & Language


Instructor, Queen Mary, London) is a research fellow who is currently
investigating issues related to the teaching of foreign languages to pupils with
Special Educational Needs. Her PhD (2008) was entitled Pragmatics in
English as a Lingua Franca. An Analysis of Request Modifiers. She is
interested in the teaching of foreign languages at university level and has
taught English, Catalan and Spanish in different countries. She was the Editor
in Chief of the Proceedings of the Cambridge Third Postgraduate Conference
in Language Research and was on the editorial board of the Proceedings of
the Cambridge Forth Postgraduate Conference in Language Research. Her
publications have emerged from research on focus on form in EFL
environments and interlanguage pragmatics with contributions as the
following: (2008) The Use of Mitigation in Role-play Activities: A
Comparison Between Native and Non-native Speakers of English in Alcn,
E. Learning how to request in an Instructed language learning context. Peter
Lang, AG Bern pp. 127- 142; Alexopoulou, Teodora, Parodi, Teresa and
Vilar Beltrn, Elina. (2007) Variables and Resumption in Child Spanish CLS
Proceedings, Reading pp. 15- 25; (2007) Teaching English as a Lingua
Franca: an intercultural context. CD: Formacin en competencias de
ciudadana Europea. Universidad de Granada; (2007) Analysing EFL
classroom transcripts: the codification of Incidental Focus on Form Episodes.
Porta Linguarum, 7. Granada