Social and Religious Functions Performed by the Ritual Speech Act of “ya Allah” in Iranian Interactions

Document Type : Research Paper


Ferdowsi University of Mashhad


The current study was carried out to investigate the functions of the ritual speech act of ‘ya Allah’ (literally meaning ‘O God’) employed by Iranians in social interactions. To this end, sixty-two Persian native speakers of different age groups, ranging from 35 to 85, of both genders were observed in 250 natural situations such as daily interactions, gatherings, public or private places and local TV programs until the saturation point. Their verbal interactions were recorded, transcribed and later analyzed. Moreover, in order to corroborate the representativeness of samples, ten people were interviewed and were asked directly when they utter ‘ya Allah’. It was concluded that the speech act may be employed in either religious or non-religious contexts to serve two major functions: to ask for permission (to enter a place) or call for an action. Moreover, the two major functions of the speech act in question may be broken down into nine minor functions: (1) Declaring one’s entering a house/apartment/orchard, tent or the like to be allowed or welcomed by the owner/insiders; (2) Warning intimate women to observe their hijab, when a strange man is to enter; (3) Entering a place in general, especially employed by men; (4) Being late to join community prayers; (5) Greeting someone who has just joined a group; (7) Commencing an action; (8) Asking someone to hurry up and (9) Doing something difficult with the help of others unanimously.


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