Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This study compares the performance and perception of the speech act of complaints by American native speakers of English (ASs), Russian native speakers (RSs), and American learners of Russian as a second language (L2).The primary goals of this study are to establish a baseline ofperforming the speech act of direct complaint by native speakers of American English and Russian in order to investigate the L2 learners‘ perception and performance of direct complaints. Within a framework of cross-cultural and interlanguage pragmatics, the dissertation identifies some of the key linguistic and cultural differences which can hamper effective communication between Americans and Russians and between L2 learners and RSs in complaint situations.

The data were elicited through a combination of oral open-ended discourse completion questionnaires (DCQ) and an assessment questionnaire.There were 30 ASs, 30 RSs, and 37 L2 learners at the advanced and intermediate levels included in the cross-cultural and interlanguage analyses. The degree of directness in complaints was analyzed based on a coding system developed in the Cross Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (1989) with Trosborg‘s (1995) modifications for complaints, as well as Owen‘s (2001) modification for directness in requests in Russian.

The interlanguage analysis in the present study shows that RSs and L2 learners made different choices in their complaints at the structural and linguistic (directness) levels in terms of socio-cultural constraints. L2 learners approximated strategy selection of American speakers, which showed the influence of transfer from their L1 at the sociopragmatic and pragmalinguistic levels. However, L2 learners also used strategies that were closer to the behavior of RSs than to ASs, which could have been triggered by their everyday-life interactions with native speakers. The study demonstrates that L2 learners at both proficiency levels had difficulties adjusting their strategy selection and their degree of directness (politeness) to the parameters of social distance and social power. However, the advanced learners showed better control over linguistic strategies to mitigate the offense; thus, they more effectively negotiated a problem than the intermediate learners. The findings suggest that new curricula designed to increase learners‘ cross-cultural awareness and pragmatic competence will help L2 learners to avoid pragmatic failures and become more efficient communicators with native speakers in everyday-life situations.


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