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Complaining and Commiserating

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This book provides an in-depth ethnographic analysis of the social functions of indirect complaints (ICs) and commiserative responses as they are used among speakers of American English and one group of Japanese learners of American English. The speech acts of complaining and commiserating are analysed as a function of the sociolinguistic variables of gender, social distance and relative social status. Indirect complaints were found to be ubiquitous in the ordinary conversation of the native speakers studied. The vast majority of IC exchanges were found to establish solidarity between interlocutors based on a shared view.
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Table of Contents

Contents: The book provides a descriptive analysis of indirect complaints and commiserations among native speakers as well as a discussion of the social distributions of ICs and their responses. Non-native IC-commiseration use is compared with native speaker use. Implications for TESOL pedagogy are drawn.

About the Author

The Author: Diana Boxer received her Ph.D. in educational linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. She is an assistant professor of linguistics and academic coordinator of the English Language Institute at the University of Florida. Dr. Boxer has thought foreign languages and English as a second and foreign language both in the U.S. and abroad.


This is a very solid speech act study, showing an everyday phenomenon in a new light. Anyone wanting to look deeper into language use than the Deborah Tannen books should benefit from reading it. (John Fought, University of Pennsylvania) The information gained from these studies not only provides insight into the reasons for the failure of learners to achieve solidarity and form a common bond in NS-NNS interactions, but also points to what learners need to know if they are to achieve such solidarity. Thus, the book would be useful to both ESL teachers and to researchers in applied linguistics, particularly those interested in pragmatics. (Margaret A. DuFon, Journal of Pragmatics)

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