Requesting behaviour of Saudi Arabian women in contemporary Arabic-speaking situations

Al-Ageel 2016, Requesting behaviour of Saudi Arabian women in contemporary Arabic-speaking situations, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Requesting behaviour of Saudi Arabian women in contemporary Arabic-speaking situations
Author(s) Al-Ageel
Year 2016
Abstract Based on socio-pragmatic, sociolinguistic and linguistic perspectives, this research project aimed to examine requesting behaviour and linguistic interaction in contemporary Arabic amongst Saudi females in various contexts. To provide a wider scope on those different contexts and to examine emerging phenomenon resulting from globalization through examining the practices of requests, the study was divided into four studies: one main study and three sub-studies. The main study aimed to examine politeness behaviour and to focus on the speech act of requests in Saudi Arabic using Brown and Levinson’s model of politeness and applying it in the Arabic context. The coding scheme of Blum-Kulka, House and Kasper (1989) in the Cross Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (CCSAR) was adapted for the data analysis of the main study.

The role play method was used to collect data because of its effectiveness in controlling the social variables in addition to being more comprehensive in eliciting oral production data. The main study also aimed to provide an insight into the cultural aspects and the impact of the social variables of gender of the hearer, social distance, power status and the degree of imposition on spoken requests amongst Saudi women. The study investigated whether there were any potential differences between two generations of Saudi women: the first is in the age range of 20-39 and the second from 40-60. Forms of address were also examined since they play a vital role in politeness behaviour and provide an interesting reflection on the cultural and social norms according to age, social and power status and gender. The study focused on the impact of religious values related to politeness among Saudi women.

The role-play scenarios were designed to elicit data within the dimensions of the social variables. For the main study, both qualitative and quantitative methods were used for the data analysis through the socio-pragmatic lens in comparing and contrasting the request strategies of two age groups using ANOVA and T-tests in the quantitative analysis.

The results showed that there was a preference for using direct strategies by the two female age groups when making requests and this suggests that the Saudi spoken form of Arabic has a tendency towards positive politeness. The socio-pragmatic analysis showed that there was a significant impact of the social variables of power status, social distance, and the degree of imposition on requesting behaviour in social situations and study/work contexts and this impact was manifested in the positive relationship between the factor of power status and negative strategies. The data of the main study also showed that there was a positive relationship between the degree of imposition and the use of the strategies of negative politeness. The analysis also showed that in a social context the impact of the gender of the hearer was particularly evident in distant relationships through the preference of negative politeness or opting out strategies.

Further analysis showed that using forms of address and religious expressions also varied in accordance with the changes of the social variables. The statistical analysis showed that the most influential and significant factor was social distance. The impact of power status and degree of imposition was also significant in the analysis of the data of each pair of scenarios measuring high and low power status and high and low degree of imposition. There were significant differences between the two age groups in their request behaviour in some situations. The statistical analysis also revealed that the informants showed behavioural differences in their use of politeness and request strategies although all their requests in both social and study/work contexts were to female hearers which means that the contextual differences and other surrounding circumstances can affect politeness behaviour amongst the individuals of one culture.

In relation to Hofstede’s framework on cultural dimensions, the analysis showed that Saudi culture is classified as a culture with high acceptance for hierarchical status with a collectivist nature. Regarding the dimension of masculinity/femininity, the results of this study showed that Saudi communicative patterns show a greater tendency towards femininity.

As previously mentioned, this project aimed to explore various issues that surround the practices of requests in contemporary Arabic. For this reason, the other three sub-studies were designed to shed light on the linguistic features and on sociolinguistic issues that distinguish two linguistic forms of communication i.e. Saudi Pidgin Arabic (SPA) and the emerging phenomenon of Arabizi (using Latin letters and the Arabic numeral system) in addition to Arabic written requests in its formal context i.e. exchanged emails in a Saudi governmental institute.

The first sub-study focused on requests made by the female Saudi participants to non-native female speakers of Arabic by using SPA. The data for this sub-study were collected by recording the participants in natural conversations with female Asian workers. The results showed that this variety is characterized by some features in relation to its linguistic system. The use of SPA is restricted by a limited structure of vocabulary items, simple verbal expressions and noun phrases and is not subjected to the system of verbal and noun phrasing in spoken Arabic.

The second sub-study focused on the linguistic features and sociolinguistic dimensions that distinguish informal written requests amongst Saudi females. Authentic mobile texting messages exchanged between twenty female participants and some of their friends and relatives were collected and analysed. In addition, there were another twenty participants who answered a number of questions in a questionnaire for the purpose of exploring additional features about the phenomenon of Arabizi.

The findings showed that the use of Arabizi is distinguished by the representation of some Arabic consonants by Arabic numbers and this feature results from the lack of equivalents for these consonants in English. The second sub-study also showed that there is a flexibility in spelling words that include vowels because of the shared linguistic background that both interlocutors have (Arabic), so they can distinguish the words that they use in the spoken variety. The analysis of the data of the questionnaire showed that the use of Arabizi is a fashionable style that has been created by young people using modern technology. However, the analysis of the questionnaire also showed the use of Arabizi might have a negative impact on the Arabic language and its Islamic identity because it destroys its beauty.

The third sub-study examined some of the linguistic features of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) by focusing on politeness strategies through formal written requests that were exchanged by emails. Sixty written formal emails were collected for the data of the third sub-study from female employees in a Saudi governmental educational institute. As in spoken requests, the data showed that the use of formal Arabic written requests has a tendency towards directness.

Politeness behaviour in written Arabic requests also includes the use of external and internal strategies such as politeness markers and religious expressions that function to make the requestive expressions sound more polite. The data showed that the use of forms of address reflects formality by employing various occupational and formal terms in addressing other employees. In addition, the data focused on the general structure of formal letters in MSA i.e. the receiver’s details, the sender’s details, the subject, the opening section (Islamic greeting/opening greeting), the content, the closing section (respectful/closing salutation) and the electronic signature.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global, Urban and Social Studies
Subjects Language in Culture and Society (Sociolinguistics)
Religion and Society
Applied Linguistics and Educational Linguistics
Keyword(s) Sociolinguistics
Saudi Pidgin Arabic
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Created: Thu, 30 Jun 2016, 14:36:56 EST by Keely Chapman
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