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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton February 13, 2008

Cultural schemas in L1 and L2 compliment responses: A study of Persian-speaking learners of English

Farzad Sharifian
From the journal


This paper explores the relationship between speech acts and cultural conceptualizations by examining the degree to which compliment responses produced by Persian speakers in their L1 and L2 (English) are informed by the Persian cultural schema of shekasteh-nafsi ‘modesty’. The schema, which appears to be rooted in certain cultural-spiritual traditions of Iranian society, motivates the speakers to negate or scale down compliments, downplay their talents, skills, achievements, etc., and return the compliment to the complimenter. The schema also encourages the speakers to reassign the compliment to a family member, a friend, God, or another associate. In this study, a Persian and an English version of a discourse completion test (DCT) were used to collect data from a group of Persian speaking learners of English in Iran. The participants completed the English DCT first and then received and completed the Persian version after an interval of two weeks. The results revealed that speakers of Persian instantiated the cultural schema of shekasteh-nafsi, in varying degrees, in their responses to compliments both in their L1 and L2. A significant finding of the study was that even where this cultural schema is reflected in a speaker's compliment response in his/her L2 it may be absent from the corresponding L1 response. The findings also suggest that the schema may be instantiated differently according to the context of receiving the compliment. These observations point to the dynamic nature of the relationship between language and cultural conceptualizations. The paper ends by presenting a discussion of the implications of the findings for the teaching and learning of English as an International Language.

Published Online: 2008-02-13
Published in Print: 2008-01-01

© Walter de Gruyter