Using data provided by a group of Canadian undergraduate university students, the present study expands research on regional pragmatic variation in English. It focuses on types, frequencies, pragmatic functions, realization forms, and situational distribution of invitation refusals in Canadian English. Results show that the invitation refusals collected appear either as single speech acts or as communicative acts/speech act sets in which refusals are combined with other types of acts. The analysis also reveals the use of direct refusals and/or indirect refusals and/or supportive acts in the production of refusal utterances, with significant differences regarding their frequencies, realisation patterns, pragmatic functions and situational distribution. The use and combinations of these invitation refusal strategies are also examined, from the perspective of politeness and rapport management. Limitations of the study as well as avenues for future research are outlined in the conclusion of the paper.
The present study is a quantitative analysis of refusal strategies in Canadian English. Some 32 university students and native speakers of Canadian English were randomly selected for the study. A written questionnaire, in form of Discourse Completion Task, was used to elicit refusals from the participants. The overall findings suggest that the participants use direct refusals, indirect refusals and adjuncts to refusals to decline invitations, offers, and requests. It was found that the respondents mostly prefer indirect refusals. Statistical differences also emerge with respect to the use of direct refusals, indirect refusals, and adjuncts to refusals when declining offers, invitations and requests. The analysis also reveals preferences with respect to realization types of the three major pragmatic strategies. The most common direct refusal strategy employed to decline invitations and requests is the expression of inability to accept the invitations or requests, while “no” is the most preferred direct strategy to refuse offers. The findings also suggest that the respondents make different choices regarding the three most frequently used indirect strategies to decline invitations, offers, and requests. The results also show that expressions of willingness and expressions of gratitude are the most common adjuncts employed with direct and indirect refusals. Finally, the analysis reveals that factors such as degree of familiarity and power distance also have an impact on the distribution of the refusal strategies. The limitations of the study’s findings are highlighted, and directions for future research outlined.