Impoliteness and threat responses in an Iraqi-Kurdish EFL context

Author: Shurooq Abboodi Ali

Keywords: Impoliteness, Iraqi-Kurdish EFL context, mitigators, responses to threats, social power


This study shows impoliteness as a form of face-threatening that can be intentionally caused by verbal threats in a particular setting. It investigates: what strategies and mitigators do Iraqi-Kurdish English as a foreign language (EFL) learners use in situations of threat responses? The present investigation paper aims to examine impoliteness strategies and mitigators by these learners when they respond to threatening situations in their context. Thus, it fills a gap in pragmatics literature by investigating the reactions to threats in an Iraqi-Kurdish EFL context. To this end, 50 participants have participated in this study. An open-ended questionnaire in the form of a Discourse Completion Task (DCT) is used to elicit responses from the participants. Besides, a focus group interview is conducted to support the data analysis. The data are coded based on Limberg’s (2009) model of impoliteness and threat responses to figure out the strategies used by the learners. Blum-Kulka, House, and Kasper’s (1989) taxonomy of mitigators is adapted to analyze the mitigators. Overall, the findings reveal that the preferred responses surpass those which indicate dispreference by the learners. They tend to use face-saving acts when they comply with the threatener’s demand and opt for face-threatening acts when they reject that demand indirectly. Moreover, these learners use mitigators to attenuate the illocutionary force of their responses. Finally, this study provides some recommendations and pedagogical implications.