Saying no: refusal strategies of native Arabic speakers and native English speakers
The majority of the extant literature claims that native Arabic speakers are typically more indirect in their refusal strategies, a specific speech act, than are native English speakers. The present study examined the level of directness in the refusal strategies of native Arabic speakers, living in the United States and the Middle East, compared to that of native English speakers using Matsugu’s (2014) multiple-choice discourse completion test. The role of refusing in Arabic compared to refusing in English, for native Arabic speakers, was also examined. It was predicted that native Arabic speakers would be significantly less direct in their refusal strategies in English than would native English speakers. It was also predicted that native Arabic speakers, living in the United States and the Middle East, would be significantly less direct in their refusal strategies in Arabic compared to in English. Finally, it was predicted that native Arabic speakers living in the Middle East would be significantly less direct in their refusal strategies in English and Arabic than would native Arabic speakers living in the United States. The findings of this study challenge previous research, in that as a whole there were no significant differences in the directness of the refusal strategies used by native Arabic speakers, in English and Arabic, and those used by native English speakers. Therefore, the present study supports the importance of studying speech acts as small units of discourse and not making generalizations about the communication style of a culture/language. The results of this study indirectly show the need for continuous instruction of pragmatics throughout a course. Moreover, this study recommends that future research examine similar research questions with a larger sample size of participants and using multiple methods to assess the directness of speech acts.