Refusals: Research Notes

Refusals can be used in response to requests/invitations/offers/suggestions (Beebe, Takahashi, & Uliss-Weltz, 1990)

American Refusals

Classification of American Graduate students’ rejection of academic advisors’ suggestions (Bardovi-Harlig & Hartford, 1991)

Direct

Hm. Not actually, I’m avoiding it.
Well, I’ve decided not to take...

Indirect

Excuse, reason, explanation
That’s the one that conflicts with what I have to take.
Yeah but...

Statement of alternative
But anyway, I could look into the possibility of having that requirement waived...
What would I take in the summer if I didn’t do that?
(question form asking for an alternative)

Acceptance that functions as a refusal

  1. Unspecific or indefinite replay: Lack of enthusiasm
    That might be a solution.
  2. Avoidance: Hedging
    I don’t know.
  3. Avoidance: Postonement
    Can I think about it? (question form)

Students’ rejections of their advisers’ suggestions in academic advising sessions is an out-of-status act which requires the use of status preserving strategies. It is important for students to take their own status into consideration and employ appropriate status congruent strategies (Bardovi-Harlig & Hartford, 1991). Native English speaking graduate students generally employ status preserving strategies and reject an advisor’s suggestion while maintaining the status balance.

Status preserving strategies include linguistic strategies (1 and 2 below) and nonlinguistic strategies (3 to 6).

  1. Appear congruent with interlocutors’ status
  2. Use downgraders
  3. Use appropriate timing
  4. Use appropriate frequency
  5. Be brief
  6. Use appropriate content

Giving an explanation is probably the most common strategy for rejection used by native- speaking American graduate students. The content should be appropriate and relatively brief. Here are some of the most common explanations the native speakers used.

Repetition of courses at the same institution (I’ve taken that.)
Schedule conflicts (That’s the one that conflicts with what I have to take.)
Lack of availability (Yeah but in Spain they don’t offer courses in the structure of language outside the European family.)
Ability (Yeah, but, the books are probably in German, and my German isn’t too good.)

British Refusals

Kitao, S. K. (1996)

Over half of British refusals include an expression of regret and an excuse/reason. The most common combination of refusal strategies is found to be an expression of regret followed by an excuse or reason (30%). Other variations of reason and regret occur one fifth of the time (20%). The breakdown of the variations is:

  • excuse/reason + expression of regret (19%)
  • expression of regret + excuse/reason + promise or suggestions of future agreement (17%)
  • expression of regret + excuse/reason + statement of negative willingness (8%)

Giving a reason is probably central to refusals in British English as in American English. A concrete and specific reason tends to be necessary. For instance, in response to a request for a ride home, specific reasons can include that the speaker was not going home directly and/or why s/he was not doing so. Some examples are:

  • I’m not going home straight away. I’ve got to go meet someone first.
  • I’m not going straight home tonight. I was going to do some late night shopping.
  • I’ve got to pick some friends up from out of town straight after work.
  • I’m meeting my sister at the apartment.

In response to a small request, an expression of regret is likely to be offered (over 50%) to equals in particular (64%), rather than people of higher status (36%) or lower status (53%). For a larger request, apologies are sometimes offered.

Chinese Refusals

Chen, Ye, & Zhang (1995)

Substantive Refusals

Overall Distribution of Chinese Substantive Refusal Strategies

 

Reason

33%

Alternative

14%

Direct Refusal

13%

Regret

11%

Dissuade Interlocutor

10%

Avoidance (verbal)

7%

Acceptance that Functions as Refusal

4%

Principle

1%

Folk Wisdom

0.3%

Others

7%

Distribution of Chinese Substantive Refusal Strategies in Response to Requests, Suggestions, Invitations, and Offers

Strategy

Initiating Act

Request Rank

Suggestion Rank

Invitation Rank

Offer Rank

Reason

30%

1

44%

1

37%

1

15%

3

Alternative

15%

2

21%

2

5%

6

3%

4

Direct refusal

11%

4

8%

4

17%

2

28%

2

Regret

15%

3

3%

5

13%

3

2%

5

Dissuade interlocutor

10%

5

2%

6

2%

7

30.5%

1

Avoidance

7%

6

14%

3

6%

5

2%

5

Acceptance as refusal

2%

7

3%

5

10%

4

3%

4

Others

11%

4%

10.5%

15%

Distribution of Chinese Substantive Refusal Strategies in Relation to Refuser’s Social Status

Strategy

Refuser's Status

Higher Rank

Equal Rank

Lower Rank

Reason

26%

1

32%

1

39%

1

Alternative

13%

4

12%

3

17%

2

Direct refusal

14.5%

3

11%

4

14%

3

Regret

6%

6

19%

2

7%

5

Dissuade interlocutor

18%

2

10%

5

3.5%

6

Avoidance

7%

5

6%

6

10%

4

Others

15%

11%

11%

Ritual Refusals

Below is an example sequence of invitation-refusal. The refuser starts the refusal focusing on the trouble and cost the inviter will have to bear. Other oriented strategies are used, which indicates that the refusal is a ritual one. Then the inviter reinforces the invitation as is expected. This invitation/offer-refusal sequence is played out three times before acceptance of the invitation. (A is the inviter; B and C are the invited married couple.)

A:  Look, there are still so many noodles left. Why don’t you take some.
B:  It is not necessary. You can save them for yourselves.
A:  There are so many left; we cannot finish them all.
B:  This is not right; we’ve already had a lot, and now we are going to take more.
A:  Don’t be polite. Since they taste good, why not take some. This kind of noodles cannot stay too long, or they become tasteless.
B:  Then, we will stop being polite.
C:  OK, we will only take some.
A:  Take more; if you do not take more, we cannot eat them all.
B:  You are really being too polite.
A:  Take more.

Japanese Refusals

Ikoma & Shimura (1993); Shimura (1995).

Native speakers of Japanese tend to use direct refusals less frequently than native speakers of American English. Japanese often do not complete their sentences, avoiding expressing direct refusal (chutosyuryoubun, omission of the end of the sentence or incomplete sentences). The most commonly used structures of incomplete refusal expressions are:

  1. Excuse/reason + te/de (23%)
    Mou Xsan ni kashicyattete… (I’ve already lent it to X and…)

  2.  
  3. Excuse/reason + node/kara (18%)
    Watashimo benkyo shinakucya ikenaikara…(Because I have to study myself…)

  4.  
  5. Excuse/reason + ga/kedo+ne (8%)

  6.  
  7. Excuse/reason + shi/shi + ne (8%)

  8.  
  9. Negative response/connotation (8%)
    Cyotto…

  10.  
  11. Statement of positive opinion or agreement + kedo/ga (5%)

  12.  
  13. Alternatives + ga/keredo+ mo (5%)

Most of these incomplete refusal expressions give an excuse or reason for the refusal (61%), present negative response/connotation (17%), suggest an alternative (7%) or state a positive opinion or agreement (3%). Some other strategies such as using idiomatic expressions or stating empathy are rarely used. The incomplete sentences typically occur at the end of the speech act of refusal (61%).

Almost one fourth of the Japanese refusal expressions (23%) are incomplete, whereas only 1% of American English refusal expressions are of this kind. Such incomplete sentences are more often used in Japanese when speaking to someone of higher status (54%) than of equal (15%) or lower status (31%).

Beebe, Takahashi, & Uliss-Weltz, 1990

In Japanese refusals, speakers tend to offer many more alternatives (I’ll do X instead) and they do so more often than Americans speaking in English (also in Ikoma & Shimura, 1993). Japanese offer alternatives more often when they are higher in status than lower in the interaction.

When refusing a request of a higher status interlocutor, Japanese might use an expression of apology more often than Americans speaking in English. In a situation where a boss asks an employee to work late, approximately 95% of Japanese would include an expression of apology/regret in their refusals while only about 40% of Americans would.

When refusing an offer from a cleaning woman who suggests paying for a broken vase, Japanese speakers might add two additional elements that Americans would not use: a statement of philosophy (Things break anyway/This kind of thing happens) and a suggested future alternative (Be careful from now on). An American might just say, "Don’t worry/Never mind. I know it was an accident," letting the woman off the hook.

Expressions used in refusal of suggestions in English and in Japanese as native languages seem to be similar, and therefore, there may be little likelihood that Japanese learners of English would violate the norms in English.

Spanish Refusals

Examples of Mexican Spanish Refusals

(Félix-Brasdefer, 2002)

A Mexican employee refusing an invitation from his boss

Lamento decirle, y perdón por este comentario, pero no puedo ir
‘I am sorry to tell you this, and forgive me for what I’m about to say, but I can’t go.’

A Mexican employee refusing a boss’ request to stay at work late

Sinceramente no creo que pueda quedarme dos horas más, es decir, tengo un horario establecido y ya después de ese tiempo, después de ese lapso, ya sinceramente no puedo, no puedo quedarme. Por eso fue precisamente que fue de repente que estoy en este horario. No obstante, más aún que yo vivo lejos, y dos horas después me quedaría completamente sin un modo de transporte para llegar a mi casa, y sinceramente, pagar un taxi pues está difícil y pues, la verdad, este, el trabajo es, este, para mis gastos personales, pero no creo que me alcance para pagar un taxi y más aún que vivo bastante retirado.
‘Honestly I don’t think that I can stay two more hours, in other words, I have a fixed schedule and then after that time, after that period, I honestly can’t, I can’t stay. That was exactly why all of a sudden I’m on this schedule. Even so, I also live far, and after two hours I would be completely without a means of transportation to get home, and honestly to pay a taxi is difficult and well, the truth, um, my job is, um, for my personal expenses, but I don’t think it would be enough to pay the taxi and even more so because I live pretty far away.’

Me es imposible quedarme y pues, apoyarlo por esta vez; en serio discúlpeme.
‘It is impossible for me to stay and well, help you out this time; really, forgive me.’

A Mexican Spanish speaker refusing a friend’s invitation to a birthday party

La neta, discúlpame.
‘Honestly, forgive me.’

A Mexican Spanish Speaker refusing a classmate to lend the notes

En realidad, este, pues me da pena, pero pues, no puedo.
‘Really, um, well, I feel really bad, but well, I can’t.’

Híjole, la verdad es que son puras notas y están en borrador; pero no traigo ahorita mi libreta.
‘Gosh, the truth is that they are just notes and they are only in draft form; but I don’t have my notebook right now.’

Stages of the Spanish Invitation-Refusal Sequence

Spanish invitations are often initially refused, leading to further invitations issued by the inviter. Therefore, a Spanish invitation-refusal sequence can be divided into two stages: (1) invitation-response followed by (2) insistence-response, and uses the following strategies.

In both invitation-response and the insistence-response stages, Head Acts and Supportive Moves are used. Head acts consist of strategies to refuse the invitation and help mitigate the effect of the utterance. They are characterized by hedges, downtoners, in-group markers, etc. Supportive moves accompany head acts after the refusal is made and modify the impact of the head act making it either more mitigating or imposing (Garcia, 1992, p. 210).

Invitation-Response

Head acts
The first segment of the Invitation-Response section, head acts, includes the following strategies to refuse invitations.

Deference Politeness Strategies

Mitigated Refusal -- Refusals are often mitigated by hedges that diminish the negative effects that a direct refusal might have.

Este yo creo que no va a ser posible porque yo y mi mama ese día nos vamos a ir de viaje a Churín.
‘Uhh…I think it isn’t going to be posible because my mom and I are going on a trip to Churín today.’

Indefinite Reply -- Numerous replies are indefinite to avoid a direct refusal.

Ay, voy a hacer todo lo posible.
‘Oh. I will do everything I possibly can.’

Expression of Sorrow/regret -- In refusing an invitation, Spanish speakers often express regret or sorrow for not being able to accept the invitation. Such expressions sometimes function as indirect refusal which eventually lead to an explicit refusal.

A: el sábado, el sábado de - entre siete, ocho, ocho y media ‘Saturday, Saturday from 7, 8, 8:30.’
B: uy. qué mala suerte tengo ‘Oh, what bad luck I have.’
A: qué pasa? justo el sábado tenemos una reunión en la oficina todos los jefes de departamento ‘What’s happening? As it turns out, Saturday all the department heads have a meeting at the office.’
A: (h)
B: a las seis de la tarde y va a haber una comida ‘at six pm and there will be a meal.’
A: ‘h’ ay ‘oh’
B: desgraciadamento no puedo dejar de ir ‘Unfortunately I can’t not go.’
A: Cará! qué pena ‘Oh dear! What a shame’

Non-verbal refusal -- Spanish speakers might rarely express refusals non-verbally by frowning and moving their head from right to left.

A: para ver si te das una escapadita pues para estar reunidos ‘Let’s see if you can just get away a bit so we can be togeher.’
B: (frowning and moving his head)
A: no me vas a decir que tienes otro compromiso. ay! te chanc ‘Don’t tell me you have another commitment. Oh! Are you kidding me?’
B: efectivamente ‘Really’

Reasons/Explanations

A: ay Anita, este, yo estoy ocupado el sábado. ‘Oh, Anita, uhh, I am busy on Saturday.’
B: ay. ‘Oh’
A: mis hermanos sí, encantado no? Pero me hubiera gustado asistir. ‘(I won’t be able to make it) but my sibblings will be there, isn’t that delightful? But I would have been pleased to attend’
B: ay. ‘oh’
A: tengo una situación. Es muy personal. ‘I have a situation. It’s very personal.’
B: claro bueno, yo comprendo a veces no se puede pues. ‘Sure, ok, I understand. Sometimes you just can’t then.’

Solidarity Politeness Strategies

Inquiry to Third Party -- Some speakers might respond to the invitation by expressing the need to check with someone else such as spouse or another family member.

ya ya tengo que preguntarie primero a a mi esposo porque tú sabes lo difíícil que es eso

Direct Refusal -- Sometimes refusals of invitations are direct without hedges that would minimize any negative effects. Such unmitigated direct refusals are sometimes preceded by certain indicators of the refusals.

pero sabes qué? tengo una difícultad. No voy a poder asistir porque me he comprometido para asistir a otra reunión de otro tipo
‘But you know what? I have a problem. I won’t be able to attend because I’ve agreed to attend another get-together.’

Token Agreement/Acceptance -- Some might accept invitations even when refusals are necessary.

sí. yo sí puedo ir
‘yes. I am able to go.’

Criticism -- Some refusals may be made indirectly by criticizing the invitation, responding sarcastically to the invitation, or giving negative evaluation of the invitation.

A: Oye mira ya que te veo este sábado es el mi cumplea----ños y pienso hacer una pequeña reunión una cosa tú sabes de mis hermanas, mis hijas, y un grupo muy muy pequeño. Entonces yo te iba a llamar por teléfono. Ya que te encuentro entonces para ver si te das una escapadita el sábado es de siete, ocho, nueve, un ratito una cosa sencilla. El hecho es estar todos juntos un ratito no más.
‘Listen, look, now that I see you. This Saturday is my birthday and I am thinking of having a small get together – something, you know, with my siblings, my daughters, and a real small group. So I was going to call you. Now that I’ve run into you, so let’s see if you can get away on Saturday at 7, 8, 9, for a moment, a simple thing. The idea is to have everyone together for just a little while, no more than that.’
B: fierecita ‘a little fiesta.’
A: ah? ‘Huh?’
B: ES es fiestecita? ‘It’s it’s a little fiesta?’
A: no-tomar una torta y una bebida ‘no – have some cake and a drink’
B: ya ya ‘ok, ok’
A: y punto nada más. una cosa muy sencilla ‘that’s the point and nothing more – something very simple’
B: pero siempre la fiestecita van van con su musiquita y su bailecito ‘but a little fiesta always comes with music and dance.’
A: no no no no si mi casa – el departamento es tan chiquitito. No hay sitio para nada,
‘no, no, no, no if in my house – the department is real small. There’s no room for anything.’
B: aparte aparte de eso tengo un compromiso y no puedo ir pero ‘aside aside from that, I have an engagement and I can’t go but...’
A: ay tú con tus compromisos. ‘oh, you with your engagements.’

Supportive Moves
Some utterances follow after the refusal is made and further mitigate or support the impact of the refusal. The strategies used are:

Deference Politeness Strategies

Expression of Sorrow -- After refusing the invatation some speakers express sorrow at not being able to accept the invitation.

ay mira justamente el domingo? Al día siguiente es el santo de mi madre y nos vamos a ir a Naplo y todo ( ) algo programado ( ) el sábado en la mañana porque es ( ) una hora ( ) así que nos vamos a pasar el fin de semana. ay qué lástima y si hubiera sabido esto bueno.
‘Oh, look, it happens to be on Sunday? The next day is my mother’s saint’s day and we are going to Naples and have something scheduled for Saturday in the morning because it’s …one hour…so that’s what we’re going to do on the weekend. Oh, what a pity and if I’d known this, well…’

Reason/Explanations

A: ay, mi amor, sabes qué? ahora me acabo de acordar que este sábado no voy a poder, Anita. Qué pe:na y cuánto tiempo hace que no nos veíamos. ‘oh, my love, you know what? I just now remembered that this Saturday I won’t be able to, Anita. What a pity, and how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other.’
B: eso. Yo dije voy a llamar a Elenita con tiempo y todo. ‘There it is. I said I’d call Elenita ahead of time and all.’
A: y ver a toda la familia pero este sábado en la noche va a ser no? ‘And see the whole family but it’s going to be this Saturday evening, right?’
B: ocho ocho y media si te puedes. ‘8, 8:30 if you can make it’
A: sabes cuál es mi problema? que el viernes vamos a Huacho, toda la familia casi todos los fines de semana vamos a Huacho. ‘You know what my problem is? On Friday we are going to Huacho – almost every weekend the whole family goes to Huacho’

Indefinite Reply

así que vamos a procurar = ‘So we are going to get…’
vamos a procurar ‘Let’s get…’

Gratitude

te agradezco te agradezco la deferencia
‘thank you for your deference’

Solidarity Politeness Strategies

Expression of Willingness to Comply -- Spanish speakers sometimes express their desire to accept the invitation if it were possible after refusing the invitation.

ay mira justamente ?el domingo? al día siguiente es el santo de mi madre y nos vamos a ir a Naplo y todo ( ) algo programado ( ) el sábado en la mañana porque es ( ) una hora ( ) así que nos vamos a pasar el fin de semana. ay qué lástima y si hubiera sabido esto bueno
‘oh, look, it happens to be on Sunday? The next day is my mother’s saint’s day and we are going to Naples and have something scheduled for Saturday in the morning because it’s …one hour…so that’s what we’re going to do on the weekend. Oh, what a pity and if I’d known this, well…’

Positive Opinion/Well Wishing

A: si pero sabes que tengo una difícultad que no voy a poder asistir porque: me he comprometido para asistir a otra reunión de otro tipo
    ‘But you know what? I have a problem. I won’t be able to attend because I’ve agreed to attend another get-together’
B: ay qué pena ‘oh, what a shame’
A: no es una fiesta, es otra clase de reunión ‘it isn’t a party, it is another kina of get together’
B: ya ya comprendo. ‘yeah, yeah, I understand.’
A: así que [0.20] espero que te diviertas mucho ‘so I hope you really enjoy yourself’

Promise of Future Acceptance/Making Future Plans

sí pues en otra oportunidad encantada
‘yes indeed, I’d be delighted another time.’

Promise to Comply/Try

 para ver si lo puedo aplazar si no yo te ( )
‘let’s see if I can postpone it. I I can’t I will ( ) you’

Direct Refusal

a aparte aparte de eso tengo un compromiso y no puedo ir pero ‘
Aside aside from this, I have an engagement and can’t go but’

Above passages from Garcia (1992), pp. 213-224.

Distribution of Male/Female Refusal Strategies at the Invitation-Response Stage

At the first stage of the refusal, Invitation-Response, Peruvian Spanish speakers often prefer deference politeness strategies that satisfy the interlocutor’s desire to be respected as head acts (65%) more often than solidarity politeness strategies that would satisfy the interlocutor’s desire to be liked and approved of (35%). This tendency was virtually the same for both males and females.

     

Male

 

Female

 

Total

Deference Politeness:

     
 

Mititgated Refusal

     
 

Indefinite Reply

     
 

Expression of Sorrow

     
 

Non-Verbal Refusal

     
 

Reasons/Explanations

     

Total

70%

60%

65%

 

Solidarity Politeness:

     
 

Inquire to Third Party

     
 

Direct Refusal

     
 

Token Agreement/Acceptance

     
 

Criticism

     

Total

30%

40%

35%

Data from Garcia (1992), p. 217.

Peruvian Spanish speakers follow these initial head acts of their refusals with supportive moves. At this stage, deference strategies are used slightly more often (57%) than solidarity strategies (43%), but both types of strategies are generally mixed to satisfy both the inviter’s desire to be respected and to be liked and approved of. Female speakers seem to use deference politeness more often (62%) than solidarity politeness (37%) while males generally make equal use of both (50% and 50%).

     

Male

 

Female

 

Total

Deference Politeness:

     
 

Expression of Sorrow

     
 

Reasons/Explanations

     
 

Indefinite Reply

     
 

Gratitude

     

Total

50%

62%

57%

 

Solidarity Politeness:

     
 

Expression of Willingness to Comply

     
 

Positive Opinion/Well Wishing

     
 

Promise to Comply in the Future/Making Future Plans

     
 

Promise to Comply/Try

     
 

Direct Refusal

     

Total

50%

37%

43%

Data from Garcia (1992), pp. 224.

Insistence-Response

After the initial Invitation-Refusal stage, Peruvian Spanish speakers often go into a second stage, the Insistence-Response. When the inviter requests the refuser to make an effort to comply with the invitation, the refuser typically responds with one of the following strategies:

Head Acts

Deference Politeness Strategies

Mitigated Refusal

Solidarity Politeness Strategies

Acceptance/Token Agreement -- Most speakers tend to either accept the invitation or made a token agreement to comply with the invitation after the inviter’s insistence.

Promise to Comply/Try -- After the inviter’s insistence, some speakers might say that they will make an effort to attend.

Direct Refusal

Supportive Moves

Deference Strategies

Gratitude

A: de todas maneras tú sabes que si hay un imprevisto te das una escapadita
‘in any case, you know that if there’s any change in plans, do get away’
B: ah ya regio (Token Agreement) ‘oh, yeah, great’
A: chau, cariños por tu casa, chau ‘bye, send my expressions of affection to your family, bye’
B: gracias por la invitación ah? (Gratitide) ‘thanks for the invitation’

Reasons/Explanations

A: no creo que pueda ‘ I don’t think I can’ (Migitaged Refusal)
yo ahora estoy viviendo lejos de tu casa
(reasons/explanations)‘I’m now living far from your house’
B: eso ‘precisely’
A: y no creo en el transporte (Reasons/Explanations) ‘and I’m not sure about transportation’
B: Eso todo se complica todo en la vida. Se ha vuelto muy complicado. ‘That complicates things in life. It’s become very complicated.’

Expression of Pessimism

A: si por una casualidad no vas para ver o si va Anita y entonces la recoges y te das una escapadita
‘if by chance you might give it a try or if Anita comes, and she picks you up, and it gives you a way to slip out’
B: haré el intento (Promise to Comply/Try) ‘I will do what I can’
A: aunque será imposible (Expression of Pessimism) ‘even if it’s impossible’

Indefinite Reply

A: ay en serio no puedes no? ‘Oh, seriously, you can’t?’
B: no no (Direct Refusal) ‘no, no’
A: bueno mira si te ves libre del compromiso o que se pospone o cualquier cosa para ver si te das una escapadita pues
‘good, look, if you find yourself free from that engagement or if it’s postponed or whatever to see if you can get away, then…’
B: sí, sé ‘yes, I know’
A: un ratito...si se presentara la oportunidad pero. ‘a moment, if the opportunity arises, but…’
B: Claro ‘sure’
A: es difícil ‘it’s difficult’
B: bueno pues. nada nada es imposible, si puedes te das un saltito ya? ‘good, then. Nothing, nothing is imposible, if you can, then hop over, ok?’
A: vamos a ver, vamos a ver, vamos a ver (Indefinite Reply) ‘We’ll see, we’ll see, we’ll see’

Apology

A: no te olvides. Pues gusto en verte ‘don’t forget. So it’s been a pleasure seeing you’
B: mil disculpas más bien ‘I’m really very sorry’
A: chaucito. qué ocurrencia, chau ‘bye bye, what an accident, bye’

Solidarity Strategies

Making Future Plans

A: bueno si por una casualidad se pospo:ne algo y todo te das una vueltecita por la casa. Estaría
‘good, if by change something is postponed, pass by the house. I will be there.’
B: ya, Anita, comprendo ‘Ok, Anita, I understand.’
A: encantada ‘delighted’
B: este, te estoy llamando por teléfono ‘uh, I’m phoning you.’

Promise to Comply/Try -- Spanish speakers sometimes suggest that if the reason for their refusal changed, they would try to accept the invitation.

A: mira, si cualquier cosa hay algún inconveniente y no vas y todo, ya tú me avisas o vas no más a la casa que con todo gusto, un ratito aunque sea te das un saltito ya?
‘look, some inconvenience arises and you don’t go, then you are most welcome to let me know or just come to my house, even if it’s just for a moment, hop on over, ok?’
B: si acaso se suspende la reunión ‘if by chance they cancel the meeting’
A: Claro, encantada ‘Sure, delighted’
B: que tengo programada, en ese caso voy ‘In case they cancel the meeting, I have planned to come (to yours)’
A: Ya encantada ‘OK. Delighted’
B: con mucho gusto ‘with great pleasure’

Above passages from Garcia (1992), pp. 227-232.

Distribution of Male/Female Refusal Strategies at the Insistence-Response Stage

Approximately two-thirds of the Peruvian Spanish speakers follow their refusal when the inviter insists on the invitation and go into the second stage of the refusal. The vast majority of speakers, both male and female, generally use solidarity politeness strategies (92%). This may be due to the insistence itself, which expresses solidarity between the interlocutors. It also assumes familiarity in the relationship that allows imposition and the refuser might simply respond in kind (Garcia, 1992, p. 229).

 

     

Male

 

Female

 

Total

Deference Politeness:

     
 

Mitigated Refusal

     

Total

14%

0%

8%

 

Solidarity Politeness:

     
 

Acceptance/Token Agreement

     
 

Promise to Comply/Try

     
 

Unmitigated Refusal

     

Total

86%

100%

92%

Data from Garcia (1992), p. 229.

The last segment of the refusal more often includes deference politeness strategies (74%) than solidarity strategies (26%). This tendency was similar between male and female speakers. However, most female speakers tend to accept the invitation (albeit with an indefinite reply or with token agreement), while some male speakers might prefer to be more direct in their refusal (Garcia, 1992, p. 233).

     

Male

 

Female

 

Total

Deference Politeness:

     
 

Gratitude

     
 

Reasons/Explanations

     
 

Expression of Pessimism

     
 

Indefinite Reply

     
 

Apology

     

Total

78%

70%

74%

 

Solidarity Politeness:

     
 

Making Future Plans

     
 

Promise to Comply/Try

     

Total

22%

30%

26%

Data from Garcia (1992), p. 233.

In Peruvian Spanish, it may be culturally expected that the inviter insists on the invitation and that the interlocutor accepts. Not insisting may even indicate rudeness or lack of sincerity. Similarly, not accepting the invitation might be considered an offense (Garcia, 1992).

 

References

Bardovi-Harlig, K. & Hartford, B. (1991). Saying "no" in English: Native and nonnative rejections. In L. Bouton and Y. Kachru (Eds.), Pragmatics and Language Learning, Vol. 2 (pp. 41-57). Urbana, IL: University of Illionois.

Beebe, L. M., Takahashi, T, & Uliss-Weltz, R. (1990). Pragmatic transfer in ESL refusals. In R. Scarcella, E. Andersen, S. D. Krashen (Eds.), On the Development of Communicative Competence in a Second Language (pp. 55-73). New York: Newbury House.

Chen, X., Ye, L., & Zhang, Y. (1995). Refusing in Chinese. In G. Kasper (Ed.), Pragmatics of Chinese as a Native and Target Language (pp. 119-163). Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press.

Félix-Brasdefer, C. (2002). Refusals in Spanish and English: A cross-cultural study of politeness strategies among speakers of Mexican Spanish, American English, and American learners of Spanish as a foreign language. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota, Minnesota.

García, C. (1992). Refusing an invitation: A case study of Peruvian style. Hispanic Linguistics, 5(1-2), 207-243.

Ikoma, T., & Shimura, A. (1993). Eigo kara nihongoeno pragmatic transfer: "Kotowari" toiu hatsuwa kouinitsuite (Pragmatic transfer from English to Japanese: The speech act of refusals). Nihongokyouiku (Journal of Japanese Language Teaching), 79, 41-52.

Kitao, S. K. (1996). Communicative competence, preference organization, and refusals in British English. Sougou Bunka Kenkyujo Kiyou, 13, 47-58.

Shimura, A. (1995). "Kotowari" toiu hatsuwa kouiniokeru taiguu hyougentoshiteno syouryakuno hindo, kinou, kouzouni kansuru chuukanngengo goyouron kenkyu ‘Frequency, function, and structure of omissions as politeness expressions in the speech act of refusal.’ Keiougijyuku Daigaku Hiyoshi Kiyou (Keio University at Hiyoshi, Language, Culture, Communication, 15, 41-62.

 

 

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