Date of Award

5-1-2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Charkova, Krassimira

Abstract

The present study aimed to find out which compliment response types Saudi learners of English would use in particular situations within an academic context and to identify possible cultural and gender differences in the compliment responses between Saudi learners of English and native speakers of American English. In order to examine the two main variables of the present study, which were cultural and gender differences, the study used a Multiple Choice Discourse Completion Task (MDCT). The instrument included four imaginary written situations related to an academic context. Specifically, the first two scenarios involved a compliment on student achievement by a male and a female professor. In the third and fourth scenarios, the compliment was offered by a male and a female classmate, respectively. The compliment response types were based on Herbert's (1990) taxonomy. The participants included 104 American native speakers and 71 Saudi English speakers, all of them enrolled at a US university. The analysis of the data involved calculating descriptive statistics and multiple chi-square tests to elicit possible differences between native and non-native in each situation. Descriptive statistics were used to provide a detailed description of the results in terms of percentages. In addition, the value of Phi was calculated for each chi-square test in order to provide further evidence about the effect size of the observed differences. Overall, the results for the comparisons of cultural differences revealed that there were more similarities than differences between the American and Saudi participants in their compliment responses in all four situations. Furthermore, the results of the gender comparisons showed that there were more gender differences within the American sample than within the Saudi one. The lack of or very small number of cultural and gender differences was attributed to the fact that the majority of the Saudi participants had spent a substantial amount of time in the US and were all enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs at a US university. Another speculation that emerges based on the results of this study is that the similarities between the Saudi and American students, and the male and female participants, could be attributed to the changing definition of culture in the present day globalized world. Particularly, it appears that cultural differences may be fading away, especially among the younger generations, under the influence of globalization, advanced technology, and the Internet.

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