Subject: Compliments and compliment responses in Israeli Hebrew: Huji students in interaction
Supervisor: Aldina Rodriguez Quintana
Abstract: This dissertation will examine how Hebrew speakers respond to compliments by examining Hebrew speaking students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a sub-group of Hebrew speakers. This focus on a micro-level speech act is part of a wider understanding of the importance of pragmatics to intercultural communication. By examining linguistic choices in socio-linguistic interaction a lot can be learned about the pragmatic motives of speakers. Understanding pragmatic motivation is extremely beneficial in preventing pragmatic failure, which occurs when speakers apply the pragmatic patterns of their native language (L1) on the spoken foreign language (L2) (Thomas 1983).
When receiving a compliment, it is expected to show happiness or embarrassment, the latter is more expected from women. External compliments, on appearance, performance and possession are the most welcomed, while physical appearance, talent and personality compliments are perceived as interior and therefore less welcomed. A simple /to’da/ will always suffice, especially if you are men, but expressing your pleasure with the compliment is a good choice too, especially if you are a woman and the giver of the compliment is a woman as well. Try to avoid denial of the compliment, as acceptance is much preferred. The least expected sub-strategies are ‘return compliment’, ‘magnified acceptance’ and ‘soliciting confirmation’. If you wish to choose ‘acceptance with amendment’, your best bet will be ‘tempered acceptance’. If you wish to ignore the illocutionary force of the compliment and address it as discursive, the best option is to view it a ‘topic introduction’.
The comparatively large variation in response choice in the Israeli culture, compared to the Spanish culture for example (Siebold 2008) is a result of two things: 1) the relative newness of the Israeli society, which means cultural expectations are not yet fully established, and 2) The importance of the individual over the importance of the group; Israel has become very diverse and Capitalism and North-American influence raised the importance of the individual over the collective.