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two people arguing

Reprimands & Responses to Reprimands


Reprimands are communicative acts in which one person scolds another for something he or she has done. They can be very uncomfortable and require a lot of pragmatic skill. This section includes a summary of what we know about reprimands in Argentinean, Peruvian, and Venezuelan Spanish in a boss/employee situation. This information should be used as a starting point for further exploration of these issues.

    • Overall, when reprimanding, the boss tended to exhibit authority and assert the position of power. This is often done by threatening the employee's freedom of action as well as the solidarity of the relationship.


    • In Venezuelan Spanish, reprimands tended to be more verbose than reprimands in Peruvian Spanish, and used mitigators to soften the reprimand. The Peruvian Spanish group preferred aggravators to increase the intensity of the reprimand (more assertion of power).


    • In Venezuelan Spanish, there are three clear stages of a reprimand: (1) present the reprimand, (2) respond to the interaction, and (3) conclude the interaction.


    • In Peruvian Spanish, there are three components of a reprimand: (1) reprimand, (2) justification, and (3) response to the justification. These do not necessarily have to occur in order.

boss reprimanding an employee


Responses to Reprimands

In addition to learning how to reprimand, it is important to think about how to respond to reprimands, especially if you are planning on working in a Spanish-speaking country. In this section, we will briefly explore what we know about responding to reprimands in Spanish. Again, the summaries below refer to boss/employee relationships in Argentina, Venezuela, and Peru.

    • When responding to reprimands, all three groups used a variety of different strategies, but tended to recognize the authority of the boss.


    • In Peruvian Spanish, the responses tended to be less aggressive and demonstrated a preference for the authoritative position of the boss. Males and females differed in that males tended to view the reprimand as a "challenge" and respond in a more confrontational nature than females. The females balanced the confrontation with admission of responsibility.


    • Venezuelan responses to reprimands tended to be more verbose and demonstrated a preference for direct response strategies. Overall, the group was more aggressive and tended to prefer self-defense.


    • The Argentinean group approached the response in a cooperative manner and participants preferred to threaten their own image as opposed to that of the boss.



As you can see, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Much more information regarding how to reprimand and respond to reprimands in different contexts is needed. As you improve your pragmatics skills, try and pay attention to the reprimands and responses you encounter.



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