Karen Grainger, Zainab Kerkam, Fathia Mansor, Sara Mills
February 2, 2015
This paper examines the conventional linguistic practices involved in everyday hospitality situations. We compare offers in Arabic and English and, rather than focusing on the differences between the ways interactants in these two cultures make offers, we challenge the notion that offering is in essence differently handled in the two languages. We argue instead that we should focus just as much on the similarities between the ways offers are made, since no two cultural/linguistic groups are diametrically opposed. Furthermore, no cultural or linguistic group can be argued to be homogeneous. Through a detailed analysis of four naturally occurring hospitality encounters, we explore the nature and sequencing of offering and receiving hospitality in each cultural community and discuss the extent to which offers and refusals are conventionalized in each language. In this way we hope to develop a more contextual discursive approach to cross-cultural politeness research. Drawing on Spencer-Oatey’s notion of sociality face, we examine the conventions for being hospitable in order to appear sincere. A qualitative analysis of the data reveals that, while there are similarities in offering behaviour in both English and Arabic, in Arabic, the interactional moves of insisting and refusing are slightly more conventionalized. This however does not constitute a radical difference between the offering norms of these two cultural groups.