Interlanguage refusals and the initiating acts


Shu-Chu Chen


National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, National Chengchi University, Taiwan


Ming-Nuan Yang


Chang Gung Institute of Technology, Taiwan


In order to find out the complexity of refusals, we investigated cross-cultural similarities and differences of refusal performance by 40 EFL learners and 40 native speakers of American English with the variation of the initiating acts. The two groups of participants were asked to react by writing in the format of discourse completion task (DCT), which consisted of 12 scripted dialogues with the manipulation of the initiating acts. The results were coded based on the taxonomy developed by Beebe, Takahashi and Uliss-Weltz (1990), and were analyzed in terms of the means on direct, indirect and adjunct main categories. Both groups preferred to use indirect refusals, and the type of initiating acts had significant differences on groups in indirect refusals and adjuncts. Among the three initiating acts, requests elicited the highest mean of indirect refusals, followed by refusals to invitations, and refusals to suggestions. In direct refusals, a higher mean was observed in refusals to invitations than the rest of the two initiating acts. The results showed some cross-cultural similarities and differences in refusals for groups, and the type of initiating acts affected refusal strategy selection to a certain extent. The results were discussed from the perspectives of politeness and face.


refusal speech acts; initiating acts in refusal; cross-cultural differences

Publication Date

December 20, 2007


Volume 1, Issue 2

Citation information

Chen, Shu-Chu, and Ming-Nuan Yang. 2007. “Interlanguage refusals and the initiating acts.” Language. Text. Society 1 (2): e43-e58. (Journal title at the time of publication: SamaraAltLinguo E-Journal.)


author = {Chen, Shu-Chu and Yang, Ming-Nuan},
title = {{Interlanguage refusals and the initiating acts}},
journal = {Language. Text. Society},
year = {2007},
volume = {1},
number = {2},
pages = {43–58},
url = {},


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