Cross-Cultural Differences and Pragmatic Transfer in English and Persian Refusals

Document Type: Research Paper


Assistant Professor, TEFL Shahrekord University


This study aimed to examine cross-cultural differences in performing refusal of requests between Persian native speakers (PNSs) and English native speakers (ENSs) in terms of the frequency of the semantic formulas. Also examined in this study was whether Persian EFL learners would transfer their L1 refusal patterns into the L2, and if there would be a relation between their proficiency level and the transfer of refusal strategies. To do so, 66 PNSs (studying Archeology and Law) and 59 ENSs from both genders filled out the Persian and English versions of the same discourse completion test (DCT), respectively. Also, the Oxford Placement Test (OPT) was used to form 2 groups consisting of 61 high proficient (HP) Persian L2 learners and 81 low proficient (LP) ones, who all filled out the English version of the DCT. The refusals strategies used by the participants were turned into semantic formulas, and then classified into 3 groups of Direct, Indirect, and Adjuncts to Refusals. Findings showed no significant differences in the use of Direct refusal strategies between the ENSs and the PNSs. Unlike the PNSs who outweighed the ENSs in the use of Indirect strategies, the ENSs employed substantially more Adjuncts to Refusals. Findings also indicated the occurrence of pragmatic transfer in the use of Indirect and Adjuncts to Refusals by both the HP and LP L2 learners. However, the LP group was found to transfer their L1 refusal patterns more than the HP group.