Speech Acts Bibliography:
Coulmas, F. (1981). "Poison to your soul": Thanks and apologies contrastively viewed. In F. Coulmas (Ed.), Explorations in standardized communication situations and patterned speech (pp. 69-91). The Hague, the Netherlands: Mouton.
The author considers thanks and apologies, and argues that a contrastively informed analysis can help to reveal typological relationships between them. He draws on materials from European languages and from Japanese. He makes the point that both thanking and apologizing are linked to the notion of indebtedness, through gratitude and regret respectively. He notes that in Japanese culture, the concept of gifts and favors focuses on the trouble they have caused the benefactor rather than the aspects which are pleasing to the recipient. So leaving a dinner in a Japanese home we might say, O-jama itashimashita 'I have intruded on you.' The response, Iie, iie, do itashimashite 'No, no, don't mention it' is a responder for both apologies and thanks. Coulmas notes that sumimasen 'thank you' or 'I'm sorry' tends to be appropriate for a host of occasions. It is noted that in Japan the smallest favor makes the receiver a debtor. Social relations create mutual responsibilities and debts. Both thanks and apologies stress obligations and interpersonal commitment. In fact, gratitude is equated with a feeling of guilt. The Japanese language has a large range of routine formulae for exhibiting sensitivity to mutual obligations, responsibilities, and moral indebtedness.
Eisenstein, M. & Bodman, J. (1995). Expressing gratitude in American English. In G. Kasper & S. Blum-Kulka (Eds.), Interlanguage pragmatics (pp. 64-81). NY: Oxford University Press.
The authors point out that expressing gratitude is a complex act, potentially involving both positive as well as negative feelings on the part of the giver and receiver. They note that thanks is a face-threatening act in which the speaker acknowledges a debt to the hearer thus threatening the speaker's negative face. Thus the very nature of thanking, which can engender feelings of warmth and solidarity among interlocutors stands as well to threaten negative face (a desire to be unimpeded in one's actions). They report on four studies that they conducted on expressions of gratitude. In the first they audiotaped or wrote field notes on 50 situations in which expressions of gratitude occurred. They then prepared 14 vignettes which they had 56 NSs of American English write written responses to. These natives were found to draw from a finite pool of conventionalized expressions and ideas. In the second study, the same questionnaire was administered to 67 nonnative speakers in advanced-level ESL classes. Twenty-five of them also provided L1 responses, so that they could check on transfer from the L1. In their report of the findings, they focused on the seven situations that were problematic. The Japanese respondents were found to have a low percentage of acceptable responses. One explanation given was the lack of cultural congruity and the fact that this written DCT did not allow for nonverbal cues and prosodic features which could soften the response. In addition, they might have wanted to apologize instead, since that would be acceptable in Japanese given the indebtedness implied in an expression of gratitude in Japanese culture. In a third study, the questionnaire was administered orally to 10 NSs. They found the results almost identical to the written DCT results for NSs. In a fourth study, they set up role plays 34 by NS pairs, 40 by NNS pairs, and 24 by NS with NNS pairs. They found that the role plays contained the same words and semantic formulas as in the written data, confirming that the written data were representative of oral language use as well. NNS role plays were 50% shorter than those of natives, most likely because they lacked the words. Also, they lacked the warm and sincere tone conveyed by NSs. NNSs sometimes lacked the expression of reciprocity that NSs gave or did not convey it in an appropriate manner. They conclude that expressing gratitude involves a complex series of interactions and encodes cultural values and customs.
The researchers looked at 6 DCT situations out of 14, administered first to 56 NSs and then revised and administered to 67 NNSs from five countries. The study found native speakers to show consistent use of expressions of gratitude within specifically defined contexts, often in the form of speech act sets. For example, the thanks was accompanied by other functions such as complimenting, reassuring, expressing surprise and delight, expressing a lack of necessity or obligation. The speech act sets ranged from two to five functions. Shorter thanking episodes sometimes reflected greater social distance between the interlocutors. Longer episodes would come under conditions of social disequilibrium when the perceived need for thanking was great. Advanced nonnative English speakers had considerable difficulty adequately expressing gratitude in the target language. They found limitations at the sociopragmatic level that were severe because they created the potential for serious misunderstandings. Other problems arose at the pragmalinguistic level: divergence at the lexical and syntactic levels and inability to approximate native idioms and routines. They had the most difficulty with a situation involving a lunch treat. Almost all native speakers stated in general terms an invitation to reciprocate ("Thank you very much. Next time it's on me.") NNSs rarely said this, though some indicated in interviews afterwards that they intended to do this but felt it unnecessary and inappropriate to mention it. When this was omitted, native speakers felt the responses were incomplete or lacking the appropriate level of gratitude. The researchers were struck by the fact that the Japanese respondents had the lowest percentage of acceptable and native-like/perfect responses. The researchers speculated that they either could not find the words, were perhaps not comfortable socializing in the US, or had not had opportunities to express gratitude.
Ferrara, K. (1994). Pragmatic transfer in American's use of Japanese thanking routines. Unpublished manuscript. Department of English, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.
Report on two studies, first an ethnographic observational one where it was found that 15 native English speakers persisted in verbal patterns established in their base culture and ignored native Japanese models with regard to apologies. She presents the American and the Japanese views as to when apologies are called for. Then she reports another study involving a discourse completion test and an attitude questionnaire given to 15 JSL faculty in residence in Japan for 2 years with one year of formal study, 7 JSL faculty back in US -- had 2 mo. of study and resided in Japan 10 months, 14 JFL who had 1 year of study and half had been to Japan, 4 J1, 7 E1. They all rated both cultures on politeness and propensity to apologize. On a DCT found that the Americans tended to use thanks where a quasi-apology form was the preferred token. When a professor is given a small gift, Americans chose to give thanks whereas Japanese would apologize for being unworthy. Naturalistic learning was found to provide a slight advantage over classroom learning of quasi-apology thanking routines. Also, awareness of the norms was seen to evolve. Conflict of a rights-oriented vs. an obligation-oriented culture. Recommendation that more overt instruction in cultural differences be offered.
Reviews several cultural differences in the implications of expressing thanks, e.g., in South and East Asian languages (not including Chinese), expression of thanks implies social indebtedness that is not connoted by a thank-you in Chinese or English. In some Arabic cultures, certain forms of thanking establish a social debt while others do not. Gender differences exist as well, e.g., in Hispanic countries (75-76). Knowledge of how to say thanks in a second language does not necessarily translate into knowledge of when a statement of thanks is appropriate (73-74). To examine nonnative-speaker (NNS) use of thanking with respect to native-speaker (NS) norms in English, a study was conducted with 233 graduate and undergraduate students at Ohio State University, with 1 to 5 years of residence in the U.S. Of the sample, 199 were NNSs from Chinese, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, and Arabic backgrounds, in decreasing size of sub-samples. The remaining 34 comprised a native English control group (77). Data were grouped according to a taxonomy of thanking from Coulmas (1981), which gave these features of thanking: expression before or after the stimulus action had occurred, thanks for material or immaterial goods, action initiated by the benefactor or the beneficiary, and thanks that do or do not imply indebtedness (77-78). Participants were presented with 24 situations involving a fictitious fellow student, "KC," with whom participants were to imagine that they were acquainted. Each situation gave a choice of three responses that involved zero, one, or two direct expressions of thanks (78-79). Responses with one statement of thanks were omitted from the analysis; responses with either zero or two thanking statements were analyzed with Kendall's Coefficient of Concordance (W), which ranges in value from 0 (random) to 1 (high consistency/correlation).
For the response categories analyzed, W was very high: .981 and .851 (p<.001) for zero and two thanks, respectively. This indicated that each sub-sample was highly consistent in its preferred response, although it did mean that persons in different cultural sub-samples responded similarly (80). Analysis with Kendall's Tau (T), with values ranging from -1 (inversely related) to 1 (directly related), showed Chinese and English NSs to be most similar in their choice of responses, with T=.84 and T=.86 for one- and two-thanks responses, respectively (p<.01). The correlations for no other pairs of sub-samples were higher than the critical value of T=.64 (p<.05) (81-83). The results of the first analysis with Kendall's W present negative evidence for Blum-Kulka's notion of a pragmatic interlanguage that conforms to neither L1 nor L2 norms, since sub-samples are highly consistent within themselves. Rather, L1 appears to provide the basis for forming responses in the L2 in every case (83), in which case it is the rules for thanking in the L1, learned at a very early age, which predominate. Thus, NNSs who have resided in the U.S. for long periods still may not render a thank-you appropriately (83-84). The implication for teaching is that appropriate pragmatic use of thanks and other speech acts must be explicitly taught and is not acquired incidentally. This begins with making NNSs aware of the implications of their nonnative-like productions. NNSs can also learn from observing NSs offering thanks and taking note of what is said in what contexts. While the pragmatics of thanking are quite complex, their relative linguistic simplicity allows them to be presented at intermediate, as opposed to advanced, levels of language learning (84-85).
Ide, R. (1998). 'Sorry for your kindness': Japanese interactional ritual in public discourse. Journal of Pragmatics, 29, 509-529.
The study examines the social and metapragmatic functions of sumimasen (lit., 'there is no end' or 'it is not enough'), a conventional expression of apology in Japanese that is also used to express the feeling of thanks. Using Goffmans (1971) notion of remedial and supportive interchanges as the conceptual framework, the paper first describes seven pragmatic functions of sumimasen based on 51 instances of sumimasen recorded through ethnographic participant/non-participant observations of discourse in an ophthalmology clinic in Tokyo. The professionals were two female doctors, a female nurse, and a female receptionist. Fifty-eight patients participated, males and females of many ages. The seven functions were: 1) a sincere apology, 2) quasi-thanks and apology, 3) a request marker, 4) an attention-getter, 5) a leave-taking devise, 6) an affirmative and confirmational response, and 7) a reciprocal exchange of acknowledgment (as a ritualized formulas to facilitate public face-to-face communication). These seven functions are presented not as mutually exclusive but rather as overlapping concepts, ranging from remedial, remedial and supportive, to supportive in discourse. The author also cites Kumagai, Kumatoridani, Coulmas, and others to account for the concept of indebtedness that emerges from the shift of point of view from the speaker (the benefactor) to the listener (the provider of the benefit) (debt-sensitive society). The paper also demonstrates the exchange of sumimasen as a metapragmatic ritual activity, an anticipated and habitual behavior in public discourse in Japanese society. The author also reframes the multiple functions of sumimasen in accordance with the folk notion of aisatsu, which constitutes the ground rules of appropriate and smooth Japanese public interaction. The author notes that historically arigato 'thank you' was a form of excuse, derived from ari 'exist, have' plus gatashi 'difficult,' literally meaning, 'it is hard to accept/have.' Shitsurei shimasu 'I intrude' is a similar expression when leaving or entering one's space in public.
Kim, Y. (1994). Nihonjin jyakunensouno kansya to wabino aisatsuno hyougenno anketo cyousa to sono kousatsu (A study of the expressions of gratitude and apology in Japanese young generation: In comparison with those in older generation). Kokugogaku Kenkyuu (The Japanese Language Review) 33, 23-33.
This study used a questionnaire to survey 20 native speakers of Japanese in their 20s to 30s (younger generation) in comparison with another 20 in their 50s to 60s (older generation) regarding their use of apologizing and thanking expressions. The frequency of the expressions and intensifiers (adverbials such as doumo, taihen, hontouni, makotoni) were analyzed in terms of: the semantic categories (apology, or thanks, although sometimes combined), magnitude of thanks and apology, and status of the interlocutors. Among the younger speakers, the prototypical expressions of thanks were variants of arigatou, whereas typical apology expressions (variants of gomen, sumanai, and moushiwake nai) were sometimes used for thanks as well. The larger the magnitude of thanks/apology was and the older the hearer was than the speaker, the more intensifiers were likely to be used and apologetic expressions were preferred (rather than pure expressions of thanks like variants of arigatou).
Kimura, K. (1994). The multiple functions of sumimasen. Issues in Applied Linguistics, 5 (2), 279-302.
The article describes the functions of sumimasen, expressing both apology and thanks in everyday Japanese conversation. A database consisting of 10 hours of daily conversation was used, yielding a total of 44 tokens of sumimasen (41 uttered by women, 3 by men). The database had been collected in 1984 and consisted of audiotaped conversation between a housewife in Tokyo and people she interacted with for a week. Five functions of sumimasen were found: request marker, attention-getter, closing marker, regret marker, and gratitude marker. As a gratitude marker, "the speaker, recognizing that s/he is the cause of some trouble for the addressee, attempts to redress the threat to the addressee's face by producing sumimasen. If sumimasen is not uttered by the speaker, the addressee may feel that s/he has lost face through the imposition" (p. 287). The study also relates sumimasen to at least ten other strategies for expressing apology and to eight other ways to express gratitude in Japanese (e.g., arigatou 'thank you,' osore irimasu 'thank you so much,' and kyoushuku desu 'thank you so much.').
Kumatoridani, T. (1999). Alternation and co-occurrence in Japanese thanks. Journal of Pragmatics, 31, 623-642.
The paper compares usages and functions of two Japanese apologizing and thanking expressions, sumimasen and arigatou, based on: 1) 140 collected interchanges including naturally occurring gratitude and apology exchanges; 2) findings from the questionnaire give to 189 native speakers of Japanese; and 3) his own native speaker intuition. Although sumimasen can replace the gratitude expression arigatoo, the two are not completely interchangeable. The author first accounts for the applicability of alternation, and discusses the more formal and thus polite nature of sumimasen as an expression of gratitude. The use of sumimasen as a gratitude expression occurs as a result of a shift in the focus (empathy operation) from the speakers to the hearers perspective. This shift is considered a conventionalized strategic device to repair the politeness imbalance between the interlocutors. However, the use of sumimasen tends to be appropriate only in expressing acceptance of the offer combined with gratitude and not refusal, whereas arigatoo can be used for both acceptance and refusal of the offer. Use of sumimasen is also inappropriate in response to affective speech acts such as congratulations, condolences, compliments, and encouragement. Finally, the author explains the sequential preference in using the two expressions in a single event (sumimasen first, and then arigatoo). While sumimasen functions to repair imbalance locally, arigatoo has dual functions both to repair imbalance and to close a conversation.
Miyake, K. (1994). "Wabi" igaide tsukawareru wabi hyogen: Sono tayoukatno jittaito uchi, soto, yosono kankei (Formulaic apologies in non-apologetic situations: A data analysis and its relation with the concept of uchi-soto-yoso). Nihongo Kyouiku (Journal of Japanese Language Teaching), 82, 134-146.
This is a questionnaire study reporting the occasions in which apologies like sumimasen are likely to be used (as well as non-apologetic occasions in which apologies are used) and the effects of social variables on such occasions. English and Japanese questionnaires were given to 101 British and 122 Japanese participants respectively. The questionnaire presented 36 situations that elicited expressions of gratitude and/or apologies. Closeness and status of the interlocutors, and severity of the offense/indebtedness (benefits and losses) were manipulated in those situations. The participants first wrote down the responses they were likely to give (most like in speaking, although this is not specified in the article) and indicated on a 5-point scale what their feelings would be (strong gratitude/slight gratitude/neutral feeling neither gratitude nor apology/slight apology/strong apology/others). The paper reports only the idiomatic expressions found in the data, excluding additional expressions. Major findings: 1) the language forms for apology expressions (e.g., sumimasen) in Japanese are used not just to express apology but also gratitude; the Japanese form for apology can co-occur with the form for thanking (arigatou) where both are intended as part of an apology (thanking apologetically), and as a way of phatic communication (like greetings); 2) Japanese speakers tend to feel apologetic in more situations than British English speakers; 3) Japanese speakers tend to feel the more apologetic when their feeling of indebtedness is greater. However, apologies are often employed when the hearer is relatively older in age and in a soto outside relationship (e.g., an academic advisor), as opposed to uchi inside and yoso somewhere else.
Moriyama, T. (1999). Oreito owabi: Kankei syufukuno sisutemu toshite (Gratutude and apologies: A system of repair). Kokubungaku: Kaishakuto kyouzaino kenkyu (Japanese Literature: Interpretation and Material development), 44 (6), 78-82.
This article is an essay on gratitude and apology expressions in Japanese as a repair strategy in interpersonal communication. The motive for both gratitude and apologies is caused by a psychological imbalance (or a sense of indebtedness) between the speaker and the hearer. Expressions of gratitude and apologies both attempt to adjust that imbalance. An expression of gratitude repairs the sense of imbalance accompanied by a certain benefit on the part of the speaker offered by the hearer. Apologies also repair the offense caused by the speaker. Section 1: conceptual understanding of gratitude and apologies. Section 2: analysis of various expressions of gratitude and apologies. Section 3: sumimasen as an expression of gratitude. Section 4: responses to expressions of gratitude and apologies. Section 5: phatic greeting expressions including gokuro sama, otsukare sama, omedetou.
Nakata, T. (1989). Hatsuwa kouitoshiteno chinshato kansha: Nichiei hikaku (Apology and Thanks in Japanese and English). Nihongo Kyouiku (Journal of Japanese Language Teaching), 68, 191-203.
This study compares English and Japanese apologies and thanks collected in movie and TV drama scenarios (400 apologies and 400 thanks in English and Japanese each). Major differences between the two languages: 1) Japanese were more likely to thank for voluntary assistance offered by the hearer; 2) Japanese more often apologized for someone close to themselves than English speakers; 3) Japanese thanking expressions included versatile expressions like sumimasen that can be used both for apologies and thanks.
Ogawa, H. (1995). Kansha to wabino teishiki hyougen: Bogowashano shiyou jitttaino cyousa karano bunseki (A study of Japanese formulaic thanks and apologies: A data analysis of the use by Japanese native speakers). Nihongo Kyouiku (Journal of Japanese Language Teaching), 85, 38-52.
This paper investigates formulaic expressions of gratitude, which includes not only the variants of arigatou but also those that can also convey apology (such as sumimasen). Utilizing a questionnaire containing 19 thanking and 9 apologizing situations, this study surveyed native speakers in their 20s to 80s to reveal their usage of formulaic expressions of thanks and apology. The informants were 221 females and 51 males of similar educational backgrounds who spoke the standard variety of Japanese. The variables manipulated in the survey were high/low status, in-group/out-group, and closeness/distance. The findings suggest that the use of sumimasen is not suitable for all thanking situations. Whereas in this study the younger generation of speakers used sumimasen to express slight thanks or apology to someone older and/or in out-group (soto such as strangers), the older generation used it to friends or those younger than themselves. Younger speakers used more formal apology expressions (such as moushiwake arimasen) with someone older (and higher in status) for a major infraction, since sumimasen was used to express relatively slight thanks and minor apology.