Disagreeing in english and vietnamese: a pragmatics and conversation analysis perspective

I am indebted to many people without whose help the present thesis could not have been completed. First of all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisors Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hoang Van Van and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Phan Van Que for their invaluable guidance, insightful comments and endless support. I wish to express my deep indebtedness to Prof. Dr. Luong Van Hy, the chair of the Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Canada for his brilliant scholarship, demanding teaching and supervision. His unending help greatly encouraged me before and during my one-year study at this university. I am most grateful to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sidnell, who worked at UCLA for some time with Schegloff, one of the founders of conversation analysis, for his productive course of conversation analysis, his kindness and generosity in providing naturally occurring data and responding literature. I am deeply thankful to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Quang for his invaluable suggestions, and helpful advice. I have greatly benefited from his scholarship, encouragement and generosity. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Hoa for his discerning comments, knowledgeable suggestions and kind-heartedness. My sincere thanks go to all my teachers at CFL – VNU for their profound knowledge and outstanding teaching during my long study at the Department of Graduate Studies (DGS) from 1998 to 2005. My special thanks are due to Ms Sandra Harrison, the country director of ELI Vietnam for her kind support and valuable correction of all this work in manuscript. But for her, I would not have had any access to ELI teachers working in Vietnam.

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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY – HANOI COLLEGE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES  DISAGREEING IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE: A PRAGMATICS AND CONVERSATION ANALYSIS PERSPECTIVE By KIEU, THI THU HUONG A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Supervisors: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hoang Van Van Assoc. Prof. Dr. Phan Van Que HANOI - 2006 CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY I certify my authority of the study project report submitted entitled DISAGREEING IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE: A PRAGMATICS AND CONVERSATION ANALYSIS PERSPECTIVE In fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Except where the reference is indicated, no other person’s work has been used without due acknowledgment in the text of the thesis. Hanoi - 2006 Kieu Thi Thu Huong ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am indebted to many people without whose help the present thesis could not have been completed. First of all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisors Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hoang Van Van and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Phan Van Que for their invaluable guidance, insightful comments and endless support. I wish to express my deep indebtedness to Prof. Dr. Luong Van Hy, the chair of the Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Canada for his brilliant scholarship, demanding teaching and supervision. His unending help greatly encouraged me before and during my one-year study at this university. I am most grateful to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sidnell, who worked at UCLA for some time with Schegloff, one of the founders of conversation analysis, for his productive course of conversation analysis, his kindness and generosity in providing naturally occurring data and responding literature. I am deeply thankful to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Quang for his invaluable suggestions, and helpful advice. I have greatly benefited from his scholarship, encouragement and generosity. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Hoa for his discerning comments, knowledgeable suggestions and kind-heartedness. My sincere thanks go to all my teachers at CFL – VNU for their profound knowledge and outstanding teaching during my long study at the Department of Graduate Studies (DGS) from 1998 to 2005. My special thanks are due to Ms Sandra Harrison, the country director of ELI Vietnam for her kind support and valuable correction of all this work in manuscript. But for her, I would not have had any access to ELI teachers working in Vietnam. My thanks are also extended to all my informants in Hanoi and North America, my friends and students, my colleagues at Hanoi-Amsterdam High school, the school principal Mr. Do Lenh Dien, and all the people who have assisted my research work, especially Dr. Ngo Huu Hoang and the DGS staff. To Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Hung Tien, the chair of the DGS, I extend my enormous gratitude for his scholarship and sincerity. I sincerely thank Dr. Vu Thi Thanh Huong at the Institute of Linguistics for her efficient assistance, intellectual support and continual encouragement. I especially express my heartfelt gratitude to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tran Huu Manh, who supervised my MA thesis, which is considered the very first step to the present Ph.D. dissertation, for his distinctive guidance, constant encouragement and benevolence. Finally, I owe the completion of this dissertation to my parents and my siblings, my husband and my two children, who have always given me their love, understanding and encouragement throughout my study. To all mentioned, and to many more, my heart extends the warmest thanks. ABSTRACT This thesis takes as its main objective the description of the native perception and realization of the speech act of disagreeing in English and Vietnamese within the theoretical frameworks of pragmatics and conversation analysis and the help of SPSS, version 11.5, a software program for social sciences. It aims at yielding insights into such issues as politeness, its notions and relations with indirectness, strategies and linguistic devices used to express disagreement tokens in the English and Vietnamese languages and cultures. Linguistic politeness is carefully examined in its unity of discernment and volition on the basis of the data obtained from elicited written questionnaires, folk expressions, interviews and naturally occurring interactions. The meticulous and miraculous methods offered by conversation analysis are of great help in describing and exploring the structural organization of disagreement responses in preferred and dispreferred format, the relationships between disagreements and the constraint systems, and negotiation of disagreements by native speakers. The findings exhibit that the differences in choosing politeness strategies to perform disagreements by speakers of English in North America and speakers of Vietnamese in Hanoi result from the differences in their assessment of socio-cultural parameters and social situations. Although indirectness might be used in some contexts as a means to express politeness, there is no absolute correlation between politeness and indirectness in the two languages and cultures under investigation. Despite the English general preference for direct strategies and the Vietnamese tendency to indirect strategies, the former may be indirect in some contexts and the latter are prone to be direct or even very direct from time to time. Consequently, the study of politeness should be conducted in close relation to the study of the speakers’ wider socio-cultural milieus with systems of local norms, beliefs and values. In proffering disagreements to the prior evaluations or ideas, native speakers not only deploy individually volitional strategies but also observe socially determined norms of behavior, especially in the choice of formulaic expressions, speech levels, address terms, deference markers etc. Therefore, the deployment of the normative-volitional approach to politeness study is appropriate and reasonable. Conversation analysis sheds light on disagreements as dispreferred seconds to first assessments and opinions, and as preferred seconds to self-deprecations. English and Vietnamese speakers adopt the same strategies in regards to preference organization, compliment responses and negotiation of disagreements. On the whole, disagreements are inclined to be hedged or delayed by a variety of softeners and/or other devices. However, they tend to be overtly stated in responses to self-denigrations. It is of interest to explore the conflicting effects caused by the correlation between preference organization and self-compliment avoidance in responses to compliments. The English informants show a trend towards compliment acceptance and appreciation, while the Vietnamese prefer to refuse and negate prior complimentary tokens in spite of their similar strategies in adopting mid-positions. The accounts for this phenomenon can be found in the Vietnamese community-based solidarity and the Anglophone individualistic satisfaction. Conversation analytic tools help highlight the use of address terms (in Vietnamese), intensifiers (in English and Vietnamese) and other supportive means. By and large, the combined pragmatics and conversation analysis perspective is strongly recommended to speech act study as this integration maximizes the strengths and minimizes the weaknesses of each approach. TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF TABLES AND CHARTS Table 11: The five general functions of speech acts (Yule 1996: 55) 16 Table 12: Gender correlation between English and Vietnamese respondents 33 Table 13: Age group correlation between English and Vietnamese respondents 33 Table 14: Assessment of socio-cultural factors: Age of co-conversants 37 Table 15: Assessment of socio-cultural factors: Manner of communication 38 Table 16: Assessment of socio-cultural factors: Setting 39 Table 17: Assessment of socio-cultural factors: Gender of co-conversants 40 Table 18: Assessment of socio-cultural factors: Social status 41 Table 19: Assessment of socio-cultural factors: Length of time you know your co-conversants 42 Table 110: Assessment of Social Situations - Sit. A1. Praise on Nice-looking Spouse 44 Table 111: Assessment of Social Situations - Sit. A2. Self-praise on New Hairstyle 45 Table 112: Assessment of Social Situations - Sit. A3. Disparagement of New Italian Shoes 45 Table 113: Assessment of Social Situations - Sit. A4. Miss X Is Getting Too Fat 45 Table 114: Assessment of Social Situations - Sit. B2. Bigger Pensions 46 Table 115: Assessment of Social Situations - Sit. C1. Mr. Y's Promotion 46 Table 116: Assessment of Social Situations - Sit. C4. Voting for Mr. X 47 Table 117: Assessment of Social Situations - Sit. D1. Car Expert 47 Table 118: Assessment of Social Situations - Sit. D2. Favorite Team's Failure 48 Table 119: General Assessment of All Situations by Respondents 49 Table 21: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.1. 'She's all right, I suppose.' 71 Table 22: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.3. 'Fashions change, you know.' 72 Table 23: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.4. ‘We’re very much in agreement, but ….' 73 Table 24: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.5. 'Not me, I totally disagree. ' 74 Table 25: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.6. 'That's pretty good.' 74 Table 26: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.7. 'That may be so, but....' 76 Table 27: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.8. ‘Really?’ 77 Table 28: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.9. 'No, grandpa, no, no, you're wrong.' 77 Table 29: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.10. 'Boring people get bored.' 78 Table 210: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4. 11. 'Do you really think so?' 78 Table 211: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.12. 'Sorry, but I think it was interesting.' 79 Table 31: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Close Friend (Miss X is fat) 104 Table 32: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Close Friend (Tax increase) 105 Table 33: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Close Friend (Boring party) 106 Table 34: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Someone You Dislike (Miss X is fat) 107 Table 35: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Someone You Dislike (Tax increase) 107 Table 36: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Someone You Dislike (Boring party) 108 Table 37: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Colleague, same age & gender (Miss X) 109 Table 38: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Colleague, same age & gender (Tax) 109 Table 39: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Colleague, same age & gender (Party) 109 Table 310: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Older Acquaintance (Miss X is fat) 111 Table 311: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Older Acquaintance (Tax increase) 111 Table 312: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Older Acquaintance (Boring party) 112 Table 313: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Older Boss (Miss X is fat) 112 Table 314: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Older Boss (Tax increase) 113 Table 315: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Older Boss (Boring Party) 114 Table 41: Correlations of content and format in adjacency pair second 121 Table 42: The preference ranking of the repair apparatus (Based on Levinson 1983: 341) 127 Table 51: Interrelatedness between acceptances/agreements and rejections/disagreements 160 Chart 21: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.1. 'She's all right, I suppose.' 71 Chart 22: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.3. 'Fashions change, you know.' 72 Chart 23: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.4. 'We're very much in agreement, but ....' 73 Chart 24: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.5. 'Not me, I totally disagree.' 74 Chart 25: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.6. 'That's pretty good.' 75 Chart 26: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.7. 'That may be so, but....' 75 Chart 27: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.8. 'Really?' 76 Chart 28: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.9. 'No, grandpa, no, no, you're wrong.' 77 Chart 29: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.10. 'Boring people get bored.’ 78 Chart 210: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.11. 'Do you really think so?' 79 Chart 211: Assessment of Politeness Level. 4.12. 'Sorry, but I think it was interesting.' 80 Chart 31: Possible strategies for doing FTAs 83 Chart 32: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Close Friend (Miss X is fat) 104 Chart 33: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Close Friend (Tax increase) 105 Chart 34: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Close Friend (Boring party) 106 Chart 35: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Someone You Dislike (Miss X is fat) 106 Chart 36: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Someone You Dislike (Tax increase) 107 Chart 37: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Someone You Dislike (Boring party) 108 Chart 38: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Colleague, same age & gender (Miss X) 108 Chart 39: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Colleague, same age & gender (Tax) 109 Chart 310: Choice of Politeness to Disagree with Colleague, same age & gender (Party) 110 Chart 311: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Older Acquaintance (Miss X is fat) 110 Chart 312: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Older Acquaintance (Tax increase) 111 Chart 313: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Older Acquaintance (Boring party) 112 Chart 314: Choice of Disagreeing Strategies to Disagree with Older Boss (Miss X is fat) 113 Chart 315: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Older Boss (Tax increase) 114 Chart 316: Choice of Politeness Strategies to Disagree with Older Boss (Boring Party) 114 ABBREVIATIONS AND CONVENTIONS # Number & and CA Conversation analysis CCSARP Cross-cultural Speech Act Realization Project CP Cooperative Principle D Relative distance DCT Discourse Completion Task EFL English as a foreign language FSA Face saving act FTA Face threatening act H Hearer P Relative power R Rating/Raking of imposition S Speaker SA Speech act S/F Second or foreign SA Speech act SDCT Semi- Discourse Completion Task Sig. Significance (a term used in SPSS) SPSS Statistic Package for Social Sciences VFL Vietnamese as foreign language INTRODUCTION 1. Rationale 1.1. Necessity of the study 1.1.1. Problem statement Humans are endowed with language, a very special gift, with the help of which they communicate their ideas, feelings and transmit information. However, successful communication requires not only pure linguistic competence but also knowledge of social norms, social values and relations between individuals known as communicative competence. Communicative competence presupposes ability to use the language correctly and appropriately. This pragmatic competence seems as crucial as linguistic competence. The lack of it may lead to impoliteness, misinterpretation, culture shocks or even communication breakdown. In the past few decades, the rapid development of technology and communication systems has greatly shortened the distance between countries and offered more chance for inter-cultural interactions besides intra-cultural interactions. It is English that has become the most international and the most widely used language. Colleges and schools in Vietnam have witnessed a sharp increase in the number of people teaching and learning English. The evolving situation of Vietnamese economics and politics demands a change in how to teach and learn foreign languages in general, and English in particular. There is an urgent need to improve students’ communicative competence besides grammatical knowledge. Recently, verbal communicative competence has been taken into consideration in any English teaching program. The emphasis on speaking, one of the early forms of man’s communication, has resulted in an awareness of developing a sense of socio-cultural factors in learners to help them become successful in interaction. Thus, this study is conducted with the hope of contributing to the socio-cultural aspects of spoken English-Vietnamese communication for the avoidance, or at least, the reduction of pragmatic failures. The speech act of disagreeing has been chosen for investigation in this study as it is of great interest to the researcher and of great help to language teachers and learners. In everyday life, native speakers talk to each other, exchanging ideas, evaluations or assessments of things, events and other people. Their interlocutors may agree or disagree with them. The way second speakers express their disagreement with prior speakers is both language-specific and culture-specific. The differences in the ways in which native speakers of English and Vietnamese realize disagreements seem to make it problematic for cultural outsiders to say the right thing at the right time. Therefore, a comparison of the ways used to realize disagreeing by native speakers of English and Vietnamese is considered essential and valuable in the teaching and learning of English by Vietnamese learners and Vietnamese by native speakers of English. 1.1.2. Society, culture and language Social acts or ‘speech acts’ (Austin, 1962) are thought to be performed via strategies which are mainly the same in all cultures (Fraser, 1985). However, this universalistic view is doubted and rejected by some researchers who contend that different cultures conceptualize speech acts differently according to differences in cultural norms and values as well as social constraints (Wierzbicka, 1990). It has been said that language of a community is part or a manifestation of its culture, which is viewed as the system of ideas and beliefs shared by members of a community (Bentahila & Davies, 1989). Society, culture and language are closely related and interact between themselves. Their relationship and interaction have been researched into and focused on in prior papers. Sapir (1963: 166) states that language is ‘a cultural or social product’. Consequently, the interpretation of the social meaning of a certain linguistic expression should be done with reference to the bigger socio-cultural background of the speaker. Due consideration of the socio-cultural values and perceptions of the society and culture involved should be made to adequately understand the way to realize speech acts in general, and disagreeing in particular, for disagreeing is normal assumed an act that may cause negative reactions or feelings in interpersonal communication. To eliminate and/or to limit pragmatic transferences and inferences, language learners should be provided with necessary knowledge of socio-cultural constraints and factors governing the choice of strategies used to perform disagreements. These problems call for a careful investigation of disagreeing and its related issues like politeness, constraint systems, preference organization and negotiation of disagreements on the basis of the analytic frameworks of pragmatics and conversation analysis. 1.2. Merits of the study 1.2.1. Academic merits - To thoroughly study different dimensions of a specific speech act in light of pragmatics and conversation analysis (henceforth CA). The meticulous methods of CA carried out in excerpts of natural speech provide deep insight into the structural organization of disagreement tokens in English and Vietnamese. - To suggest a new way to investigate the similarities and differences of a speech act across languages and cultures, using the combination of pragmatics and CA. - To use SPSS (Statistic Package for Social Sciences) in data processing. - To emphasize the importance of utilizing naturally occurring

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