Cross–linguistic Comparison of Refusal Speech Act: Evidence from Trilingual EFL Learners in English, Farsi, and Kurdish

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Shiraz University

2 Yazd University


To date, little research on pragmatic transfer has considered a multilingual situation where there is an interaction among three different languages spoken by one person. Of interest was whether pragmatic transfer of refusals among three languages spoken by the same person occurs from L1 and L2 to L3, L1 to L2 and then to L3 or from L1 and L1 (if there are more than one L1) to L2. This study aimed to investigate the production of refusals in three languages and to specify the impact of linguistic knowledge on pragmatic transfer of refusals. To this end, 161 participants in 5groups filled out a Discourse Completion Test (DCT). Data was coded and analyzed according to semantic formula sequences. The data obtained from Kurdish learners of English who were also fluent in Farsi (Trilinguals) were compared with those in other four groups: 1)Native English speakers; 2)Monolingual speakers in Farsi; 3) Monolingual speakers in Kurdish; and 4) Bilingual Farsi learners of English. The results revealed that pragmatic transfer exists in choice and content of semantic formulae. It was also found that the sociocultural norms of English, Farsi, and Kurdish languages differ with respects to the refusal speech act and that individuals’ social power and relative distance play a critical role in performing such a speech act. This research suggests that, in spite of the norm differences existing among these languages, transfer of refusals mostly occurs from Kurdish as L1but not from L2 (Farsi) to L3 (English).