Native speakers’ assessment of (im)politeness of non-native speakers’ requests

2014 IJRSLL – Volume 3 Issue 4


Mohammadi, Mohammad
Urmia University, Iran (

Tamimi Sa’d, Seyyed Hatam*
Urmia University, Iran (


Inter-language pragmatics (ILP) and politeness have long been of considerable significance in language learning research. The present study investigated the notion of polite and impolite requests among Iranian EFL learners. The participants, 30 MA students of English, responded to a discourse completion task (DCT) realizing the speech act of request and the utterances were analyzed in three phases. First, the request strategies and politeness strategies were identified based on Blum-Kulka, House and Kasper’s (1989b) taxonomy of request strategies and Brown and Levinson’s (1987) politeness theory, respectively. Next, a sample of 149 request utterances were evaluated by two native English speakers in terms of politeness on a three-point politeness Likert scale as such: 1)Polite, 2)Partially polite and 3)Impolite. Finally, the request utterances were qualitatively analyzed. The results of the first phase indicated that the most frequent request strategies were mood-derivable, query-preparatory and strong hints and the most frequent politeness strategies negative and positive politeness. The native speakers’ evaluation showed that only 21.5% (32 utterances) of the requests were rated as polite with partially polite and impolite request constituting 58% and 20.5%, respectively. The findings also demonstrated that there are both conformities to and deviations from the native speaker norms in the realization of the speech act of request by Iranian EFL learners. The study highlighted the need for instructional intervention in pragmatics in classroom settings. Furthermore, the results showed that there are serious potential of breakdowns in Iranian EFL learners’ intercultural communication, hence the need for explicit teaching of pragmatics.

Keywords: impoliteness; inter-language pragmatics; native speaker evaluation; politeness; request



*Corresponding Author