In-directness and Politeness in American English and Saudi Arabic Requests: A Cross-Cultural Comparison

Ayman Tawalbeh, Emran Al-Oqaily


This article examines the notions of (in)directness and politeness in the speech act of requests among Saudi Arabic native speakers as compared to American English native speakers. To elicit data on the requestive strategies that the two groups employed, a randomly chosen group of 30 Saudi and American undergraduate students were given a discourse completion test that consisted of twelve written context-enriched situations. The results revealed that conventional indirectness was the most prevailing strategy employed by the American sample. On the other hand, the Saudi sample varied their request strategies depending on the social variables of power and distance. The results also showed that the level of directness differed cross-culturally. American students used direct requests when addressing their friends on the condition that the request was not weighty; however, directness was the most preferred strategy among Saudi students in intimate situations where directness is interpreted as an expression of affiliation, closeness and group-connectedness rather than impoliteness.

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Asian Social Science   ISSN 1911-2017 (Print)   ISSN 1911-2025 (Online)

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