Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2018

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Second Language Acquisition

First Advisor

Destruel Johnson, Emilie

First Committee Member

Shively, Rachel

Second Committee Member

Wesely, Pamela

Third Committee Member

Liskin-Gasparro, Judith

Fourth Committee Member

Muñoz, Kristine

Fifth Committee Member

Niño-Murcia, Mercedes


Complaining happens in all cultures, and offers a unique insight into the values, taboos, and communicative practices of a given society. The ways in which complaining is viewed and performed vary drastically not only cross-culturally, but across smaller communal groups and between individuals, too. This dissertation approaches complaining from a multilateral perspective to investigate how individuals in three different language groups – monolingual French speakers, monolingual English speakers, and native English speakers enrolled in upper-division university French courses – perceive and produce complaints as well as the influential role played by social context.

In the perception study, the researcher explores how individuals within the examined language groups identify the presence of complaints and perceive their naturalness when presented with contextualized scenarios involving native speakers. In the production study, the researcher examines both the frequency with which individuals complain and the strategies they employ to perform a complaint in various social situations. Additionally, within the production study the researcher examines the frequency with which participants opt out from complaining and their provided rationale for doing so.

This dissertation not only identifies a variety of universal linguistic and sociocultural features of complaints, it also uncovers several aspects distinctive to the individual language groups. At the core of this dissertation is the argument that to best understand complaint behavior, researchers should acknowledge the essential influence of social context on both the perception and production of complaints. Above all, future research must consider the complex and dynamic interplay that exists between cross-cultural complaint behaviors and social norms of politeness.


Interlanguage Pragmatics, L2 Complaints, Sociolinguistics, Speech acts


xiv, 232 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 220-232).


Copyright © 2018 Alexandra Courtney Shaeffer