This study investigates the cross-cultural pragmatic differences in realizing the speech act of sympathy. Specifically it examines: (1) the similarities and differences in strategies used for expressing sympathy by both males and females in the Egyptians and Irish groups and (2) the kinds of pragmatic failure expected to occur among the Egyptian male and female EFL learners when expressing sympathy in the target language.

Two types of data were collected: spontaneous and elicited. Spontaneous data were collected by audiotape recording and note taking. Elicited data were collected by a ten-item discourse completion task (DCT). Subjects of the elicited data were 40 Egyptian native speakers of Arabic, 40 Irish native speakers of English and 40 EFL students from the Center for Adult and Continuing Education (CACE) at the American University in Cairo (AUC). The independent variable was expressing sympathy by Irish contrasted with Egyptians. The dependent variable was the similarities and differences in the strategies used by the subjects in expressing sympathy. The data collected were analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively by trained raters according to two rating scales: one for the Irish and Egyptian data and the other for the EFL data. Results showed that the both Egyptian and Irish groups exhibited almost similar frequencies in their use of offering assistance, questions, exclamations and opting out. On the other hand, the Egyptian group showed a high incidence of the use of politeness formulas, giving advice and expressing negative sympathy, while the Irish group showed a high incidence of the use of agreeing/commiserating, suggestions and minimal responses. Also, the evaluation of EFL responses indicated pragma linguistic and socio-pragmatic errors which were not too serious to cause pragmatic failure. Findings of this study are suggestive since research on the speech act of expressing sympathy has not yet been thoroughly investigated. More research needs to be done to determine the strategies used by both Egyptians and Irish when being told of an unfortunate incident that has just occurred in a spontaneous setting. Also, research needs to look into the strategies both groups use when sympathizing with an absent third party


School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Date of Award


Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Paul Stevens

Committee Member 1

Paul Stevens

Committee Member 2

Yehia El Ezabi

Committee Member 3

Amira Agameya

Document Type



1 v. [pagination various]

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

English language

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Arabic language


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Call Number

Thesis 1997/50