First Advisor

Majorie Terdal

Term of Graduation

Fall 1998

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages




Speech acts (Linguistics), Intercultural communication, Interlanguage (Language learning)



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, ix, 123 pages)


This study investigates cross-cultural production of speech acts of complaints. Speech acts are considered culture-specific. Speakers of different cultural background may have different ways of dealing with speech act situations. It is important for language educators to be aware of such differences. Previous studies show that second/foreign language learners tend to transfer their first language habits when performing speech acts in a target language. In this study, the complaint speech act performance of Japanese English as a second language students was compared to the performance of native speakers of English and native speakers of Japanese to see if first language speech act patterns were transferred to the second language production of speech acts.

A written discourse completion questionnaire was prepared, based on Olshtain and Weinbach's (1993) study, with changes in content to suit the subject groups for this study. The subjects of the study were twelve Americans responding in English (AE), twelve Japanese responding in English (JE), and twelve Japanese responding in Japanese (JJ). All subjects were students in universities in Northwestern United States and in Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan. The data were analyzed qualitatively according to the discourse functions of each sentence in the responses.

The results of the study showed that pragmatic transfer occurred in some areas of their production of speech act of complaints, most obviously in the opening moves, which was used by the speaker to get hearer's attention. Other discourse moves did not show obvious signs of transfer; however, there were several minor characteristics which indicate that JEs transferred speech act patterns of their first language. There were several points in which JEs used more discourse moves than AEs or JJs. This may be because of JEs' conscious efforts to make the speech act less threatening by giving more information to the hearer.

These findings add to previous research that suggests the occurrence of pragmatic transfer in the production of second language speech acts. This justifies the need for more instruction of pragmatics for the second and foreign language classrooms.


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