Exploring compliments and compliment responses formulated by L1 and L2 speakers of English

31 May 2024
Room H1

Exploring compliments and compliment responses formulated by L1 and L2 speakers of English

Adapting Spencer-Oatey, Ng, and Dong’s (2008) and Ren and Gao’s (2012) questionnaires, this study investigates how its participants, L1 speakers of English and L2 learners from Poland: 1) realized the speech act of complimenting in English and 2) evaluated responses to compliments. The group of participants was comprised of 20 L2 learners of English from a university in Poland and 20 English L1 speakers, students from a university in the USA who were taking part in a virtual exchange. Although there has been research on the cross-cultural perspective of compliments with native speakers of Polish (Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, 1989) few studies focussed on an updated view of the use of compliments and compliment responses among L1 and L2 speakers of English. The analysis of the data collected in this study revealed that compliments were used in the discourse of virtual exchange in a balanced way, by both the L2 learners and L1 speakers when the participants were complimenting each other while mutually sharing personal experiences. The analysis of the participants ‘responses to Discourse Completion Tasks revealed that the compliments formulated by L2 learners showed a greater verbosity (Kecskes, 2000) and were examples of hyper complementing (Al Masaeed, Waugh, & Burns, 2018). In addition to that, the students’ L1 conversational principles played a role when formulating responses to compliments (Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, 1989). Finally, the proportions of the syntactic structures in the L1 data did not correspond closely to those reported by Manes and Wolfson (1981). The emergence of Pattern 4 (what/such a ADJ NN, e.g. What a wonderful present!) and Pattern 5 (ADJ NN! e.g. Good job!) may indicate a shift in preferences in the complimenting behaviour among L1 speakers of English.



Al Masaeed, K., Waugh, L. R., & Burns, K. E. (2018). The development of interlanguage pragmatics in L2 Arabic: The production of apology strategies. System, 74, 98-108.

Kecskés, I. (2000). Conceptual fluency and the use of situation-bound utterances. Links & Letters, (7) 145–161.

Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, B. (1989). Praising and complimenting. In: Wieslaw Oleksy  (ed.). Contrastive pragmatics, (pp.73–100). Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing  Company.

Ren, J., & Gao, X. (2012). Negative pragmatic transfer in Chinese students’ complimentary speech acts. Psychological reports, 110(1), 149-165.

Spencer-Oatey, H., Ng, P., & L. (2008). British and Chinese reactions to  compliment responses. In: Helen Spencer-Oatey (ed.), Culturally speaking: Culture,  Communication and Politeness Theory (2nd ed.), (pp. 95–117), London, New York:  Continuum.