Examining mitigation in refusals: A cross-cultural study of Iranian and American speech communities


  • Parisa Abdolrezapour University of Isfahan Author
  • Hossein Vahid Dastjerdi University of Isfahan Author




mitigation devices, perception, politeness, refusal speech act


This study investigates the type of mitigation devices employed by Persian and American native speakers in refusal interactions in a number of formal/informal situations. Twenty two American and thirty Iranian university students participated in four role-play interactions. The production data were supplemented by verbal reports and questionnaires completed by 45 Americans and 50 Iranians to examine speakers’ perceptions of mitigation devices. The results obtained from the analysis of data revealed that, in identical situations, Iranians use more mitigation devices and more specifically make more use of external mitigation devices in comparison to Americans. Moreover, social variables such as social power and social distance made a difference in the way Iranians refused while Americans’ refusals did not change considerably with regard to social variables. It is suggested that foreign language teachers help learners enhance their communicative competence to avoid communication breakdowns which might occur due to inappropriate use of speech acts.

Author Biographies

  • Parisa Abdolrezapour, University of Isfahan
    Parisa Abdolrezapour is a doctoral student in applied linguistics at the University of Isfahan, Iran, where she also teaches undergraduate courses. She has published a number of articles in academic journals like Discourse Studies, Australian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching and International Journal of Applied Linguistics. Her research interests lie primarily in cognitive aspects of language teaching and learning as well as cross-cultural studies.
  • Hossein Vahid Dastjerdi, University of Isfahan
    Hossein Vahid Dastjerdi teaches in the English Language Department at the University of Isfahan, Iran. He is associate professor of applied linguistics and has taught courses of variegated character, including translation courses, for years. He has been a fellow of the English Centers at the universities of Isfahan and Shiraz where he has investigated issues related to materials preparation for GE and ESP courses. He is the author of a number of books in this respect. He has also published a number of articles on discourse, testing and translation in local and international journals. Dr. Vahid’s current research interests include testing, materials development, translation, the metaphoricity of language, discourse analysis, pragmatics and critical discourse analysis. He is presently involved in a number of projects concerning translation studies as well as figurative language use.






How to Cite

Abdolrezapour, P., & Vahid Dastjerdi, H. (2013). Examining mitigation in refusals: A cross-cultural study of Iranian and American speech communities. Sociolinguistic Studies, 6(3), 519-541. https://doi.org/10.1558/sols.v6i3.519