Gender Differences in Using Hedges and External Pragmatic Modifiers of "Taarof" in Persian Native Speakers' Refusals

Maria Shobeiry


This study revealed the effect of gender on distribution of forms and frequency of using two mitigating devices of hedges and ritual politeness “Taarof" in Persian refusals and elaborates on "Taarof" as an external pragmatic modifier of refusals according to the classification of Blum-Kulka, House, and Kasper (1989) within the framework of Brown and Levinson's (1987) politeness theory. 62 hours of naturally occurring conversations of adult Persian native speakers were audio recorded, transcribed, and analysed with regard to the social distance and social status of the speakers. 236 refusals were found in the data of which 127 were made by women and 109 by men. A mixed method of quantitative and qualitative analysis is employed to analyse the data. The results revealed that: 1) there is no lexical difference between men and women speakers in employing various structures of Taarof or hedges in refusals. 2) men showed sensitivity to the social status of the addressees by talking less certain with higher status women and employing more other exalting forms of "Taarof" with speakers of higher status. 3) men did not display sensitivity to the social distance of their addressees. 4)Women did not attend to the social status of the addressees in their intimate same-gender interactions. 5) women cared about the social distance of the addressees in their same-gender and cross-gender socially distant interactions. Three categories of expressions of self-degradation, expressions of causing trouble, and expressions of embarrassment were found to be added to the classification of Blum-Kulka et al. (1989).


social status; social distance; expressions of self-degradation; expressions of causing trouble; expressions of embarrassment

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