Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Education

First Advisor

Donald Dyer

Second Advisor

Esim Erdim

Third Advisor

James Payne

Relational Format



Cultures have been shown to vary drastically in their interactional styles, leading to different preferences for modes of speech act behavior. Culturally colored interactional styles create culturally determined expectations and interpretative strategies, and can lead to breakdowns in intercultural and interethnic communication.

This dissertation investigated the differences between Germans and Americans in the speech act of rejection which can be explained by the general cultural differences. The native speaker subjects in this study were graduate students enrolled at four American Universities and at four Universities in the Federal Republic of Germany. The elicitation method used for this data collection was a discourse completion test, originally developed by Blum-Kulka that has been widely used for the collection of data on speech act realization both within and across language groups.

The 18 situations included four stimuli for eliciting refusals: requests, invitations, offers, and suggestions. Each situation consisted of three different variables: social status (low, equal, high), social distance (stranger, acquaintance, intimate), and gender (same, opposite). The results indicated that Germans and Americans can be distinguished on the basis of their refusal strategies, since the choices of refusal strategies reflected the different characteristics of each culture: (1) Americans varied their refusal strategies according to status rather than social distance while Germans varied their refusal strategies according to social distance rather than status; (2) Germans employed fewer semantic formulas than did Americans in all 18 situations; (3) Germans employed more gratitude as well as more politeness strategies, positive and negative, than did Americans; (4) Germans employed an Avoidance strategy more often than Americans while Americans used the word ‘no’ more often than Germans; (5) German refusals were less direct and resorted to explanations other than their own inclinations in refusing, also German excuses were more vague than those given by Americans; (6) American refusals tended to be more direct and often gave their own inclinations as reasons for the refusal; (7) Germans used a third party for their explanations while Americans relied on their own decisions for their explanations.


Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Education, with a major in TESOL

Included in

Linguistics Commons


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