Patterns in Declining an Invitation: Cross-cultural differences in Korean and Thai refusals

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Nattapra Wongsittikan


The present study examines refusal strategies and patterns of refusals to invitations by Korean and Thai native speakers, as well as how it is affected by the power hierarchy and social distance. Sixty Korean native speakers and sixty Thai native speakers participate in the data collection. A six-situation discourse completion task is used to elicit the refusal speech act in the participants’ first languages (Korean and Thai).  The results show that both native speaker groups employed indirect refusal strategies the most in turning down an invitation.  In terms of the refusal patterns, the refusal strategies are categorized into the head (H) and the supportive move (S). The analysis reveals that the pattern of refusals by the two native speaker groups are different. The Korean native speakers (KNS) are more sensitive to the change in social power as their refusals become more S-initial as the levels of the addressee’s social power become higher. On the other hand, the pattern of refusals by the Thai native speakers (TNS) change when the relationship between the interlocutors shifts from distant to close. The TNSs tend to be more direct with the more frequent use of H-initial utterances towards people whom they think they are close to, regardless of their social power level.


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