PRAGMATICS AND CULTURAL INTERPRETATION IN SPOKEN ARABIC: FEEDBACK AS A DISCOURSE PHENOMENON
Samarah, Abdullah Yaqoub
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This study deals with linguistic feedback (see Wiener/48, Fries/52 and Allwood/93) which falls within the domain of cultural description. Feedback can informally be described like this: when a speaker performs a linguistic action which requires a linguistic response from a receiver, the given response has an important function for the speaker. In the ideal case, the listener’s response gives information to the speaker that the listener has perceived and understood the communicated content. However, the receiver can also signal that he/she has failed to hear or understand what has been said. As well as that, the receiver can ignore the speaker’s action and initiate other actions or get involved in a different conversation. It has been noted, in particular, that if a speaker performs an action that requires a response, it is less certain whether both the speaker’s performance and the receiver’s responses will succeed. When a receiver does not give a coherent or clear response, then the sender sees that the receiver is experiencing some problem(s) that deserves to be dealt with. For this reason, there might be several alternatives which the sender can initiate, e.g., to abandon the attempt to get the listener's feedback, to misinterpret the answer, or to take the listener's response into account. By increasing awareness of the significance of feedback, we may hope to understand better problems in communication between cultures. The present study focuses on verbal feedback actions and discusses briefly non-verbal feedback actions. The following aspects are central in the study: I) Feedback expressions in spoken Arabic: - Feedback turns and non-feedback turns. This subsection will include the following items: feedback consisting of a one-word utterance, complex feedback consisting of an utterance of more than one word, eliciting feedback, giving and eliciting feedback, self-feedback and nonfeedback turns II) The semantic and pragmatic analysis of feedback actions: - Criteria for deciding the function of feedback III) Studies of six kinds of conversation and one form of communication, which give examples of feedback in spoken Arabic. This thesis deals also with sociolinguistic feedback and sociolinguistic variations will be described for each individual in conversation. These variations will be described with the help of tables and several selected examples from the data. These examples have to be connected with the main topic (feedback) and related to each social variant. A number of theoretical assumptions about FB and related studies which fall under the same linguistic phenomenon i.e., human response, and possibly have universal relevance, are presented. The need for further empirical research is expressed. The present work is divided into six chapters and based on live conversations recorded in Jeddah (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).