a speech act. Specifically, for Austin the context of a speech act is conceived of as a cluster of actual states of affairs or events of different kinds, whereas Searle views the context of a speech act as a set of propositional attitudes of the participants, that is, the beliefs or intentions of the participants. In speech act theory, according to Searle, the nature of context is cognitive because the felicity conditions must hold prior to the performance of a speech act. In this respect, the notion of context is viewed as predetermined, unchangeable, cognitive, and as knowledge that may not be subject to the negotiation of face in social interaction.
1.3 The Speech Act of Refusal
The speech act of refusals represents one type of dispreferred response. Refusals shape a type of speech act that is projected as a response to another individual’s request, invitation, offer or suggestion which means it is not speaker-initiative (Hassani, Mardani, & Hossein, 2011). In essence, refusals are subset of the category of commissives since they commit the refuser to performing an action (Searle 1977). Chen, Ye, and Zhang (1995) believe that a refusal, as a reactive speech act, is a response to an initiating act and is considered a speech act by which a speaker fails to engage in an action proposed by the interlocutor.
Refusal, furthermore, is deemed as a face-threatening act to the listener, because its direction is against the listener expectations. Thus, not to be considered as offensive or impolite, non-native speakers often overuse indirect strategies that could be misinterpreted by native speakers (Al-Eryani, 2007). According to Al-Kahtani (2005), saying no is difficult for non-native speakers of a language. How one says ‘no’ is more important in many societies than the answer itself. Therefore, sending and receiving a message of ‘no’ is a task that needs special skills. The speaker must know when to use the appropriate form and its function depending on his and her interlocutor’s cultural-linguistic values.
Since, the interlocutors’ network of relations can be threatened by failure to refuse appropriately; the interlocutors can resort to variety of strategies to avoid offending. However, sociocultural appropriateness of these strategies differs in languages and cultures. Rubin (1981) as cited in Keshavarz, Eslami, and Ghahraman (2006) states that for language learners with limitations in linguistic as well as sociocultural norms of the target language, performing refusal appropriately necessitates a higher level of pragmatic competence than other speech acts. Thus, pragmatic transfer from the first to the second language is more likely to occur in uttering a complicated and face threatening speech act like refusal (Beebe, Takahashi, & Uliss-Weltz, 1990).
1.4 Explicit instruction for developing pragmatic knowledge
Research has witnessed an ongoing debate about what kind of instruction can help learners develop their pragmatic awareness. Among various studies, the intervention studies have typically strived to go deep into action to examine how direct teaching affect the acquisition of pragmatic knowledge (Taguchi, 2010). Comparison of effect of instruction across the studies reveals that explicit instruction is more beneficial to language learners (Yoshimi, 2001). As an approach to enabling language learners to choose linguistic resources to express their message in ways that are socially acceptable, Yoshimi (2001) proposes that explicit instruction can assist learners in building a knowledge base that is inclusive of information about 1) how linguistic resources in the target language (TL) can index one’s stances in interaction and 2) what the local cultural expectations concerning the stances to be displayed are. In other words, it can be said that explicit instruction which contain inclusive pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic information enabling learners to express their stance with TL resources could facilitate the learners’ pragmatic development. Cook’s (2001) study reflect the fact that teaching strategies which embrace explicit instruction might be helpful in enhancing learners’ understanding of contextually-sensitive ways of indexing stance with the forms .
1.5 Statement of the problem
Teaching pragmatic competence in instructed settings has been considered as an essential way to facilitate learners’ pragmatic developmental process (Alcon & Martinez-Flor, 2008; Kasper & Roever, 2005). Traditionally, instruction in second or foreign language classes has focused on formal aspects of language and less attention has been given to pragmatics. For the purpose of training pragmatic competent language learners, teachers enriching their classrooms with social and cultural aspects of target language will prepare the ground for more competent learners who are equipped with required knowledge to handle various aspects of communication actions. For Hymes (1972), pragmatic knowledge constructs one component of ‘communicative competence’, interacting with sociocultural knowledge and other types of knowledge, so that the task of a language user in his/her performance of verbal action “is to select and combine elements from these areas in accordance with her illocutionary, propositional and modal (or social’, ‘politeness’) goals’. Kasper (1998) argues that to account for the acquisition or development of pragmatic abilities “pragmatics needs to relate (product) description not only to social processes but also to the psychological processes of speech production/reception, as well as to language learning and acquisition” (Faerch & Kasper 1985: 214). Having considered the significance of pragmatic knowledge as a way to reach communicative competence and the fact that little has been devoted to highlight the effects of instruction on the development of pragmatic awareness of Iranian EFL learners, the present study aims to investigate the role of instruction in developing the learners’ ability to achieve the goal of mastering refusals.
According to Kasper and Schmidt (1996), a great majority of studies in pragmatics has not been developmental; focus has rather been given to the ways in which non-native speakers’ pragmalinguistic and socio-pragmatic knowledge differ from that of native speakers and among learners with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
1.6 Research question and hypothesis
Due to the delimitations of the studies carried out on refusals in the English language and because of the fact that such studies in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) context, especially in the context of Iran is quite limited, the present study will be carried out with the purpose of investigating the effect of teaching refusals explicitly to Iranian EFL learners. Therefore, the question to be answered is as follows:
1. Does explicit instruction have a significant impact on Iranian EFL learners‟ production of linguistically accurate and pragmatically appropriate refusals?
Considering the above research question, one research null hypothesis is formulated:
H1: Formal instruction of pragmatic knowledge plays a significant role in the enhancement of Iranian intermediate L2 learners’ use of speech act of refusal at p 0.05.
1.7 Significance of the Study
Undoubtedly, pragmatic knowledge can smooth the path for EFL learners to achieve the desired goal of being communicatively competent target language users. Theoretically, this study can contribute to the increasing body of research on the effects of instruction on EFL learners’ pragmatic knowledge and development, by providing detailed description not only of the research study, but also complete information about the instructional treatment, particulars of Iranian EFL setting. Pedagogically, the uniqueness of this study may stem from its vast application to a variety of educators including language institute teachers, material designers, test developers and SLA researchers in general and pragmatics researchers in particular.
Review of the literature
2. Review of the literature
Pragmatics is the field of linguistic that examines how language is used in interactions. Since language can be used in various situations in various ways, the definitions of pragmatics are subject to variation. In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the field, this chapter reviews definitions that have been commonly cited and can be seen as the most influential presentation of the field.
Pragmatics is a new area of linguistics when compared to phonetics, morphology, syntax, or semantics. In the 1960s pragmatics was not an established field and it converted issues that could not be placed in to other areas of linguistics (Leech, 1983). Although today the importance of pragmatics in linguistics acknowledged, it does not frame a coherent field of study since it overlaps with many other linguistic areas and consist of various different aspects of language use (Cristal, 2010).
Linguists tend to define the field according to their own interest. Cristal (1987) writes that pragmatics is the study of language form the point of view of the users, especially of the choices they make, the constraints they encounter in using in social interaction and the effects their use of language has on other participants in the act of communication. Thomas (1995) criticizes Cristal’s definition by stating that Cristal’s main focus is other producer of the message while interaction contains other important aspects as well. According to Thomas, Cristal takes a