Saying 'No' Without Saying 'No': Indirectness and Politeness in Shona Refusals
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Indirect communication patterns are often a means to save the interlocutor’s face: avoiding open refusals is a clear example of that. The Shona of Zimbabwe, like other African peoples, sometimes avoid direct responses to favour-expressing speech acts in view of the dangers such responses pose to the participants’ ‘face’ as well as to social and interpersonal harmony. The reluctance to say ‘no’ may take a number of forms. This article focuses on the way Shona speakers communicate refusals through indirect communication styles. Indirect styles refer to strategies that camouflage and conceal speakers’ true intentions in terms of their wants, needs, goals and attitudes in the discourse situation. The investigation has two aims. First, this is an exploration of the strategies and the relationship of the strategies and two factors: the type of favourexpressing speech acts, which include requests and invitations; and the closeness, social status, age, and gender of the interlocutors. Secondly, this is an analysis of the role of positive politeness in determining the interlocutors’ preference for indirectness. We use an Afrocentric version of Brown and Levinson’s (1987) politeness theory to explicate the motivation for preferring indirect strategies. Data are collected using the Discourse Completion Test (DCT), follow-up interviews, group discussions and observation. The questionnaires were answered by thirty adult male and female Shona speakers drawn from randomly selected University of Zimbabwe undergraduate students and employees.
Additional Citation InformationMashiri, Pedzisai.'' Saying 'No' Without Saying 'No': Indirectness and Politeness in Shona Refusals.'' Zambezia 29.2 (2002): pp. 2-33.
University of Zimbabwe Publications