In a world where the importance of borders may be declining, knowing what is appropriate behavior for the native speakers of a target language, and being able to apply this “appropriateness”, is of the utmost importance, if learners are to communicate effectively with native speakers (Wolfson, 1983). Second language (L2) cultural values and social relationships, knowing when to talk, what to say, what is conventional in a language, and what is not, how and to what extent to be indirect (Tannen, 1984) are only some of the considerations that learners should acknowledge when performing a speech act in a foreign language, and which determine whether they will succeed in communicating an intended pragmatic intent without facing the risk of pragmatic failure. Cultural variation in speech act behavior and, consequently, pragmatic failure can cause not only serious communication breakdown between interlocutors, but also the birth of cultural and/or sexist stereotyping. Therefore, due to the magnitude of the consequences of pragmatic failure, the present study has attempted to examine how two linguistically and culturally different groups, namely female Greek-Cypriot learners of English and female native speakers of British English vary in their realization of requests, under varying degrees of social distance. Additionally, under the same social constraints, a comparison of request formation by advanced female Greek-Cypriot learners of English and female native speakers of Cypriot Greek were also carried out. 54 Discourse Completion Task (DCT) were completed and used, of which 18 comprised the group of native speakers of British English (BE), 18 constituted the group of Greek-Cypriot, native speakers of Greek performing in English (GE) and the remaining 18 belonged to the native Greek-Cypriots group performing in Greek (GG). Coding of the data was based on a coding scheme devised by Blum-Kulka, House and Kasper (1989) for their cross-cultural speech act realization project (CCSARP), according to which the Head act is classified into nine levels of directness whereas the various modifications seen can be seen as either internal or external. After coding the Request Head Acts and the Request Internal and External Modifications, the total frequency rate of each of the categories was counted in order to show how common certain categories were across the three groups and for each social situation. Moreover, in light of the aforementioned investigation, and to detect any instances of learners’ transfer of their L1 patterns into L2 production, a comparison of GE’s realization patterns of the speech act of request with that in the Greek production data collected from the GG group, was also carried out. In addition to the quantitative analysis, a qualitative investigation of the data was also performed. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of the data have shown that even though the BE and GE groups favored the same strategy types and modifications the extent and the way that these were used differed. Influenced by their L1 but also due to lack of confidence with regards to their English proficiency level, the GEs’ request realization did not always resemble that of the native speakers. It was therefore assumed that these discrepancies might be the cause of pragmatic failure and possible communication breakdown.

Date of Award


Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Stevens, Paul

Committee Member 1

Stevens, Paul

Committee Member 2

El Ezabi, Yehia

Document Type



125 p.


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