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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter April 23, 2021

Jordanian graduate students’ complaints on Facebook: Semantic formulas and politeness

Fathi Migdadi, Muhammad A. Badarneh and Laila Khwaylih
From the journal Lebende Sprachen


This study examines Jordanian graduate students' complaints posted on a Facebook closed group and directed to the representatives of Student Union at Jordan University of Science and Technology to be transferred to the officials concerned. In line with Boxer (1993b), the study considers the students' complaints to be indirect speech acts, as the addressee(s) are not the source of the offense. Using a sample of 60 institutional complaining posts, the researchers have analysed the complaints in terms of their semantic formulas, politeness functions and correlations with the gender of the complainers. The students’ complaints are classified into six semantic formulas of which the act statement element is indispensable as the complaint is stated in it. The other five formulas, ordered according to their frequency, are opener, remedy, appreciative closing, justification and others. Despite the negative affect typically involved in the complaining act, the semantic formulas identified in this study are found to signal politeness and fit into Brown and Levinson’s (1987) pool of face-saving strategies rather than face-threatening acts. Specifically, when the graduate students direct their Facebook complaints to the students' representatives, they tend to offer camaraderie with them to be encouraged to pursue the problems specified in the complainers’ posts.


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Published Online: 2021-04-23
Published in Print: 2021-04-09

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