Monash University

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Compliments and compliment responses: a study of Malay ESL graduates

posted on 2017-02-09, 05:10 authored by Abdul Karim, Nor Suharti binti
The present study investigates the semantic formulas used in compliment giving and the strategies in compliment responses in both Malay and English produced by Malay ESL speakers. Using the semantic formula categories, an analysis of more than 2000 compliment tokens obtained from Discourse Completion Task and open roleplays was conducted. It was discovered that explicit compliments were widely used but are often bounded with information questions and requests. Non-formulaic compliments such as teasing in interactions are adopted for the purpose of maintaining solidarity and preservation of face. In relation to compliment responses, it was found that the preferred strategy in Malay compliment response is acceptance, followed by amendment. This is in contrast to the previous literatures in Malay discourse which suggest that rejection is the preferred strategy in compliment response. Such findings seem to reflect a tendency for a shift away from Malay traditional discourse to a more Western style of accepting compliments. However, a much closer investigation revealed that even in accepting a compliment, elements of malu still persist in that Malay speakers maintains a preference to shy away from upgrading the praises or would simply amend the complimentary force conveyed to them. In this way, positive face politeness will be maintained not only between individuals but also with the society and particularly with God which allows for the creation of religious face – another dimension to the framework of politeness principle All of the strategies adopted reflect the intricacies of Malay cultural values in compliment behaviour, particularly niat, malu and ikhlas, which can be interpreted in a form of a cultural-pragmatic model. These discoveries clearly have important implications in cross-cultural communication and in the field of English as an International Language because they provide insights to further enhance the understanding of the socio-pragmatic principles of Malay language use.


Principal supervisor

Farzad Sharifian

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Languages, Cultures and Linguistics


Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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