Manusya, Journal of Humanities

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This paper investigates what Thai speakers say when they prefer to reject a request and how they make their refusal less face-threatening. Five different situations including refusing a high status teacher, a low status housemaid, a close friend, a classmate, and a stranger are examined. The study has found that for Thai speakers, a teacher and a close friend are more difficult to reject than a low status, a classmate, and a stranger. Even though most of the respondents are not reluctant to reject people at further distance, they prefer to appear polite in refusing their requests. In the politeness model of Brown and Levinson (1987), a refusal is an act which threatens the requester's positive face. In Thai society where people place high value on 'being kind and helpful', an act of refusal might damage the refuser's self-image as well. It is hypothesized here that politeness strategies are used not only to save the requester's face but also to prevent the refuser him/herself from being considered unkind or unrefined.

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