Processing Indirect Disagreement
Keywords:indirect speech, theory of the strategic speaker, politeness theory, mutual knowledge
AbstractIndirect speech is a phenomenon in which a speaker says something he does not literally mean, knowing that the listener will probably understand it correctly. One of the most recent theories of indirect speech, the theory of the strategic speaker, states that indirect speech is not just a social ritual (a technique of politeness used to save the interlocutor's face), but also a logical strategy. Therefore, indirect speech provides the speaker with an opportunity to deny the real meaning of his words and protect himself when the words do not take root. The aim of this research was to investigate whether there is a difference between the perception of the clarity of the speech act, the listener's certainty about the real meaning of the speaker's speech act, and the perception of the mutual knowledge shared by the speaker and the listener with regard to the level of directness of the speech act. It was expected that the variable of directness of the speech act will affect the change in mentioned dependent variables. A total of 134 students (101 females and 33 males) from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka participated in the research. All respondents read two scenarios of conversation which described an event after which one of the actors gives feedback to another actor in the form of disagreement. In both scenarios the same feedback speech acts which varied from the most direct speech act (You are wrong.) to the most indirect speech act (It is really difficult to find the right solution to this problem.) were used. The research has shown that there is a difference in the perception of the mutual knowledge shared by the speaker and the listener with regard to the level of directness of the speech act. The more direct the speech act, the higher the perceptions of mutual knowledge. The same pattern was obtained for perception of the listener's certainty about the real meaning of the speech act as well as for perception of the clarity of the speech act.