Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Award Winner

Recipient of the 2002 Outstanding Master's Thesis Award - Third Place.

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Open Access Thesis


The present study is an empirical cross-cultural investigation of the speech act of correction in Egyptian Arabic and American English. The purpose of the study is to examine how and why Egyptians and U.S. Americans modify the illocutionary force of their corrections in terms of mitigation and aggravation in different speech situations. A Discourse Completion Task/Test (OCT) was used to elicit corrections from 30 Arabic-speaking Egyptians and 30 English-speaking U.S. Americans. All the respondents were either university students or university graduates between the ages of 18 and 35. The six situations used to elicit corrections represented different settings (e.g., classroom, restaurant,• theater), different interlocutor relationships (i.e., equal and unequal status relationships), as well as different types of correction (i.e., both information and action correction). The findings of the study show that both Americans and Egyptians use mitigation strategies more frequently in lower-higher situations (i.e., when correcting a person of a higher status) than in higher-lower situations (i.e., when correcting a person of a lower status). However, there was a marked difference between the two groups in terms of style shift from lower-higher to higher-lower situations. Whereas the style shift in the American data was only 30% (i.e., there was a 30% increase in the frequency of mitigators from lower-higher to higher-lower situations), the style shift in the Egyptian data was 171 %. Another major difference was in the frequency of aggravation strategies: the Egyptians used aggravation strategies, especially in higher-lower situations, almost five times more than the Americans. In terms of the preferred mitigation strategies, the Egyptians preferred forms of address whereas hedging was the strategy most frequently used by the Americans. The results of the study can be explained in terms of the underlying cultural orientations in Egypt and the U.S. For example, in the Egyptian society, which is referred to as Collectivistic, there is a high degree of awareness of distinctions between people in terms of status and power. In other words, society is so arranged that nearly everyone is superior to someone. This can account for the use of mitigation strategies more frequently in lower-higher interactions than in higher-lower interactions. It can also account for the use of aggravation strategies in higher-lower interactions. In the American society, on the other hand, which is referred to as Individualistic, there is a strong emphasis on equality. This can account for the use of mitigation strategies similarly in lower-higher and higherlower situations. This can also account for the lack of aggravation strategies in the American data. The findings of the present study can contribute to the field of teaching English as second/foreign language by providing Arabic-speaking learners of English with a better understanding of how and why the illocutionary force of correction is modified in American English. In the same way, it can contribute to the field of teaching Arabic as a foreign language. It is also hoped that the insights the study provides can lead to a better communication between speakers of American English and Egyptian Arabic.

Year of Submission


Year of Award

2002 Award

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of English Language and Literature

First Advisor

Ardith J. Meier, Chair, Thesis Committee


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Date Original


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1 PDF file (xi, 141 pages)



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