• Ema Živković



refusal, social distance, power, pragmatic transfer, Serbian EFL learners, English, Serbian


The present study explores refusal strategies used by advanced Serbian EFL learners and compares them to refusal strategies produced by English and Serbian native speakers in a relevant study (ŽIVKOVIĆ 2021). The aim is to identify potential pragmatic difficulties learners might have as well as the potential transfer of pragmatic norms from their native language. The participants completed a written Discourse Completion Test which introduced twelve everyday situations to which the participants were expected to respond by making refusals to requests. The situations were generated based on different combinations of two sociological variables: social distance and power. The results showed that while the frequency of direct and indirect refusals was similar for all three groups of participants, there were some differences in terms of the frequency and content of particular strategies. For instance, the EFL learners tended to overuse statements of regret/apology. They also provided more family-oriented excuses and used explanations that were less specific than the ones produced by the English native speakers. Furthermore, they produced fewer expressions of willingness and gratitude/appreciation. Apart from describing similarities and differences between the participants’ refusal strategies, the results also highlight the importance of incorporating pragmatics in EFL classrooms and working on learners’ pragmatic competence even when it comes to high-proficiency learners.


Download data is not yet available.


AL-ISSA, Ahmad. “Sociocultural transfer in L2 speech behaviors: Evidence and motivating factors.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 27 (2003): 581–601. DOI: 10.1016/S0147-1767(03)00055-5

AL-KAHTANI, Saad Ali W. “Refusal realizations in three different cultures: A speech act theoretically-based cross-cultural study.” Journal of King Saud University 18 (2005): 35–57.

ALLAMI, Hamid, and Amin NAEIMI. “A cross-linguistic study of refusals: an analysis of pragmatic competence development in Iranian EFL learners.” Journal of Pragmatics 43 (2011): 385–406. DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2010.07.010

BARDOVI-HARLIG, Kathleen. “Evaluating the empirical evidence: Grounds for instruction in pragmatics?” Pragmatics in Language Teaching. Ed. Kenneth Rose, and Gabriele Kasper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2001. 13–32.

BEEBE, Leslie, M., Tomoko TAKAHASHI, and Robin ULISS-WELTZ. (1990). “Pragmatic transfer in ESL refusals.” Developing Communication Competence in a Second Language. Ed. Robin C. Scarcella, Elaine S. Andersen, and Stephen D. Krashen. New York: Newbury House. 1990. 55–73.

BROWN, Penelope, and Stephen C. LEVINSON. Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

CHEN, Hongying. “Cross-cultural comparison of English and Chinese metapragmatics in refusal.” Diss. Indiana University, 1996.

COHEN, Andrew. “Developing the ability to perform speech acts.” Studies in Second Language Acquisition 18 (1996): 253–267. DOI: 10.1017/S027226310001490X

DALMAU, Maria Sabaté, and Hortènsia Curell GOTOR. “Form “sorry very much” to “I’m ever so sorry”: Acquisitional patterns in L2 apologies by Catalan learners of English.” Intercultural Pragmatics 4, 2 (2007): 287–315.

FÉLIX-BRASDEFER, J. César. Politeness in Mexico and the United States: A Contrastive Study of the Realization and Perception of Refusals. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2008.

FERNÁNDEZ-GUERRA, Ana B. “Using TV series as input source of refusals in the classroom.” Refusals in instructional contexts and beyond. Ed. Otilia Marti-Arnandiz, and Patricia Salazar-Campillo. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi. 2013. 5–22.

GASS, Susan, and Noël HOUCK. Interlanguage Refusals: A Cross-cultural Study of Japanese–English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1999.

HALUPKA-REŠETAR, Sabina, and Ljiljana KNEŽEVIĆ. “Refusals in the Production of Serbian ESP Learners.” Facta Universitatis, Series Linguistics and Literature 14, 2 (2016): 103–116. DOI: 10.22190/FULL1602103H

ISHIHARA, Noriko. “Exploring the immediate and delayed effects of formal instruction: Teaching giving and responding to compliments.” Minne-WI TESOL 21 (2004): 37–70.

KASPER, Gabriele. “Classroom research on interlanguage pragmatics.” Pragmatics in Language Teaching. Ed. Kenneth R. Rose, and Gabriele Kasper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2001. 33–60.

KESHAVARZ, Mohammad Hossein, Zohreh Rasekh ESLAMI, and Vahid GHAHRAMAN. “Pragmatic transfer and Iranian EFL refusals: a cross-cultural perspective of Persian and English.” Pragmatics and Language Learning. Ed. Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig, J César Félix-Brasdefer, and Alwiya Saleh Omar. University of Hawaii Press. 2006. 359–403.

KWON, Jihyun. “Expressing refusals in Korean and in American English.” Multilingua 23 (2004): 339–364. DOI: 10.1515/mult.2004.23.4.339

MAESHIBA, Naoko, Naoko YOSHINAGA, Gabriele KASPER, and Steven ROSS. “Transfer and proficiency in interlanguage apologizing.” Speech acts across cultures. Ed. Susan Gass, and Joyce Neu. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 1996. 155–187.

MORKUS, Nader. “The realization of the speech act of refusal in Egyptian Arabic by American learners of Arabic as a foreign language.” Diss. University of South Florida, 2009.

NELSON, Gayle L., Joan CARSON, Mahmoud AL BATAL, and Waguida EL BAKARY. “Cross-cultural pragmatics: strategy use in Egyptian Arabic and American English Refusals.” Applied Linguistics 23 (2002): 163–189. DOI: 10.1093/applin/23.2.163

ROSE, Kenneth. “On the effects of instruction in second language pragmatics.” System 33, 3 (2005): 385–399. DOI: 10.1016/j.system.2005.06.003

SAVIĆ, Milica. Politeness through the Prism of Requests, Apologies and Refusals: A Case of Advanced EFL Learners. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.

SEARLE, John. Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

SHERMAN, Jane. Using Authentic Video in the Language Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

SIEBOLD, Kathrin, and Hannah BUSCH. “(No) need for clarity – Facework in Spanish and German refusals.” Journal of Pragmatics 75 (2015): 53–68. DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2014.10.006

SPENCER-OATEY, Helen. “Reconsidering power and distance.” Journal of Pragmatics 26 (1996): 1–24. DOI: 10.1016/0378-2166(95)00047-X

TAKAHASHI, Satomi. “Pragmatic transferability.” Studies in Second Language Acquisition 18 (1996): 189–223. DOI: 10.1017/S0272263100014881

TAKAHASHI, Satomi. “The role of input enhancement in developing pragmatic competence.” Pragmatics in Language Teaching. Ed. Kenneth R. Rose, and Gabriele Kasper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2001. 171–199.

TAKAHASHI, Satomi. “The effect of pragmatic instruction on speech act performance.” Speech Act Performance. Theoretical, empirical and methodological issues. Ed. Alicia Martínez Flor, and Esther Usó-Juan. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 2010. 127–141.

TANAKA, Keiko. “Developing pragmatic competence: A learners-as-researchers approach.” TESOL Journal 6, 3 (1997): 14–18.

TROSBORG, Anna. Interlanguage pragmatics: Requests, complaints, and apologies. New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1995.

USÓ-JUAN, Esther. “Effects of metapragmatic instruction on EFL learners’ production of refusals.” Refusals in instructional contexts and beyond. Ed. Otilia Martí-Arnándiz, and Patricia Salazar-Campillo. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi. 2013. 65–99.

ŽIVKOVIĆ, Ema. “Variation in refusal strategies produced by English and Serbian speakers.“ Studia Neophilologica 93, 3 (2021): 269–286. DOI: 10.1080/00393274.2020.1780939